December 27, 2008

Photo Album

I'm in St. Louis, visiting family and having some wonderful down time. Because I still don't have a permanent boss to whom I can hand over complete responsibility, I found myself once again in charge of the Christmas Eve service for young families: six weeks of preparation for twenty minutes of memories that young children just love. We had 50 cast members this year (angels, sheep, shepherds and "main" cast) who slowly created a tableau for about 900 people this year. Exhilarating and exhausting. 

Now that I have a few moments of quiet time, I present to you some photos from my album. I have some friends with whom I walk every week during good weather. When that came to an end, we celebrated our collective fitness by having a Night of Chocolate. There was salad around there somewhere, but here is the important food. I highly recommend an event such as this.

When I was driving Ben to school a couple of weeks ago, an airborne river of starlings was pouring across the sky. There had to be thousands of birds in this flock, a few of which perched briefly on a tree. The picture is marginal due to the fact that I was also driving in traffic in the rain at the time, but hey. There is not one leaf on this tree.

Ben's girlfriend invited me (Yes!) to dinner with her dad and grampa. I needed to bring some wine as a host gift. While I didn't select the ones pictured below—ask yourself why—I had to show you what's on the rack. Note which one was selling and which was staying on the shelf.

Ben didn't want to help decorate the Christmas tree, but he eventually succumbed to the Christmas spirit and festively decorated the front entry. Abe, being the humbug he is, quietly took it down. Ben quietly put it back up a few hours later. Abe took it down again. I think it took three tries before Ben gave up. (This is one of the skills he learned in the desert.)

This is the mystery gift I gave my sister. If I can find the one she gave me, I'll put it up too. It took her only eight yes/no questions to guess what it is. Can you?

December 19, 2008

It's Just Not Christmas...

...without certain things we come to expect every year. In our house, we have to view our small collection of Christmas movies. The top of the list for me is "A Christmas Story." Abe can't live without Charlie Brown. We all enjoy three different versions of "A Christmas Carol, " my favorite being the Muppet tale. We've already had our annual viewing of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

Movies aside, we've developed a few traditions that some may not have. My favorite is exchanging a "mystery gift" with my sister. All year we're on the lookout for something odd that must be guessed by the recipient. We can ask any number of yes/no questions. If I'm stumped, I can ask what it is after New Year's Day. Not that I ever have. Give up? Never! It took two years to guess the stupid shoe thingy. It gets harder every year as we exhaust gimmicky kitchen tools. Now I've moved on to hunting accessories. (Shhhhh.) Last year's portable spittoon lid for a beer can was a hit. Top that.

December 15, 2008

Framing Your Words

 Concolor, Java's spousal unit aka Superman, asked a good question in his comment on "After The Rallies, Then What?" He wanted to know how a straight ally might also promote gay rights. Here's a distillation of a part of the presentation I made to my pastors, talking about strategy.

A "frame" is a way of looking at an issue. There are several frames from which to choose when talking about gay rights, and all of them are viable for different audiences: politics (civil rights), religion (what the Bible says), and families (the stories of the GLBT community). In reaching the straight, uninformed population, it is the frame of "families" that will be most effective. Straight people need to hear stories and put faces to the reasons behind why we need to fully embrace the gay community, in civil rights and in church.

Before I go further, let's address terminology. There are words that are hot buttons that need to be avoided. As my husband and I discuss the issues, we have reached a terminology truce: I may not say "homophobia" and he may not say "agenda." As funny as that sounds, it does make us think of new ways to express ideas which carry a great deal of negative weight and trigger an emotional reaction. We all must do our best to avoid these hot buttons.

There are other words that the Religious Right has co-opted and now carry a negative connotation to the GLBT community. Because we have no desire to be associated with their message, we must not use their terms.  The word "homosexual" has in the past year or so taken on the status of a pejorative, almost equivalent to the word "fag." In any case, it is a clinical term at best. We must avoid using it in talking with our friends. Instead, use the words "gay," "lesbian," "bisexual," and "transgender" as adjectives only and not as nouns. Talk about PEOPLE who are gay, people who are lesbian, people who are bi, and people who are transgender. After all, they are people first, and their orientation/gender identity is secondary to their personhood.

A note about the word "transgender." You will see it everywhere with -ed added to it. That is an incorrect usage of the word. It is an adjective, not a verb or a noun; it is not something you do to someone and it is not a thing. You may find that using it properly as an adjective will form a different picture in your mind about these individuals. If you have a friend who has confused "transgender" with "transsexual," consider this: "sex" is male or female; "gender" is quality of femaleness or maleness (often applied to nouns in other languages). "Sex" is biological; "gender" is psychological.

In discussing whole populations, you can talk about the GLBT community or gay community. I've seen the acronym LGBT used equally, with a "ladies first" appeal. It's easier to say GLBT aloud, for what it's worth. The phrase "gay community" is interchangeable with GLBT in most cases, and it is more easily accepted since it has fewer political connotations and is self-defined.

Equally loaded terms are "lifestyle" and "family values." If you find yourself leaning toward using those expressions, use descriptions instead. Understand that "lifestyle" implies choice. It is an appropriate term for behaviors but not for inborn qualities. Don't even approach anything that could be mistaken for "family values." The phrase is so corrupt that it brings forth a rush of emotion from just about anyone on either side of the issue.

The sentiment "Love the sinner, hate the sin" is an example of false piety that elevates the one who believes it above her intended target of so-called love. It is an example of barely-concealed condescension and must be avoided, much like "tolerance." Do not mistake tolerance for acceptance. If you tolerate me, you find something about me that is unpleasant but bearable. I am not an ill-fitting shoe to be tolerated for the sake of fashion. I am not a boisterous child to be tolerated because I don't know any better. I am a fully-human being. Lovingly tolerate my bad habits, my mistakes, and my annoying idiosyncrasies; but my sexuality and gender identity are who I am—who God made me to be—to be accepted and respected as a child of God, just as I accept and respect you.

When I was struggling with Biblical interpretations, it was my desire to understand difficult passages in a way that is consistent with my understanding of the nature of God. Being forgiven and loved in all of my complex brokenness, how could God select me and not someone else? My brother who was gay is loved every bit as much as I am. That informs my interpretation as much as the context in which the passages were written, and they are in agreement. Knowing my brother and his friends, however briefly, helped inform my understanding of the Word.

Now that we have the language and the frame, how do we put forth these ideas? I use the stories of people I've met and those I've read on the web from personal blogs. When someone asks about gay marriage, I tell them the story of Jake in Chicago; there is hardly a more poignant cry for why we need marriage equality. (Please note that I said "we" and not "they." It is in everyone's interest for this couple and those like them to be married.) When the topic of gay adoption arises—perhaps with a push from me—I tell the story of Ron and Kevin in NC, who adopted four siblings no one else would adopt together as a family. Again, it is in everyone's best interests for these men and others like them to be able to adopt. When I want someone to understand why our churches must open their doors and arms, I tell them of the incredible young woman who was cruelly rejected by her mother and found a loving home in her church.

Learn the stories and tell them. Talk about people who are GLBT as family. They are our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters, our fathers and mothers. They ARE family, yours and mine, and it's time we welcomed them home.

December 13, 2008

After The Rallies, Then What?

Let me tell you how to reach a straight person on the issue of gay rights.

It isn't with a rally. I say this having protested for the first time in my life in the No to Prop 8 demonstration on November 15. The gathering of like souls who share a common goal serves to bond and empower those who assemble. A rally is a necessary beginning to bring civil injustice into public awareness. Having gathered together and embraced their common goal, those fortified people anticipate the next step.

But the next step isn't another rally, although they continue to empower and channel energy. Rallies serve the people who already agree on what change they desire. The energy rallies produce must be focused into the strength required to shift the fight into a new phase: changing the hearts and minds of those who can be moved.

I think that most of the straight population has been complacent on the issue of gay rights primarily because they think they don't know someone who is gay, and they don't understand how the issue hurts a fellow human being. Catchphrases, shiny mass-produced signs and rhyming chants are not going to positively influence most of those who aren't already in agreement. Straight people need to know the stories behind those signs, songs, and slogans.

After and between the rallies, whether you attend or not, you have the critical moment of public awareness. How do you use it? By telling your story. Not necessarily to the world, although some will take that risk. But step up and tell your story to those who already know you. Tell them what it feels like to be left behind; how it feels to struggle for rights that straight people take for granted like breathing; and what it is to be made to feel less than fully human for being different. Put a face on this issue. Come out, come out, wherever you are. This war will be fought on many fronts, but it will be won in heart-to-heart encounters by people like you.

December 8, 2008

In The Beginning

Woohoo! I'm on fire with the outcome of our meeting this morning. I met with our senior pastor and four associate pastors to tell them what I've discovered over the past year of seminars and conferences. They were attentive and eager to understand. I learned too what our senior pastor has planned.

"Pastor" said he has planned from the beginning of his ministry here to make our church welcoming. When he started here almost five years ago, he said that all are welcome; and he has developed enough history and relationships now to take the first steps of intentionally addressing the GLBT community. Last month he took our governing body, the Session, through the process of discernment to approve the proposed changes in our denomination's constitution, to allow churches to ordain persons who are openly gay. (The fact that we are leaders in our synod may help swing the decision in what is a normally conservative area.)

I learned that in February he will specifically address that issue from the pulpit and invite discussion that evening in a special gathering. I will not be here for that—dang it—but I have been asked to be one of the teachers in a series of classes that month on GLBT issues.

We have just started, by word of mouth, a support group for parents of GLBT kids. It is too soon in the process to advertise in writing, but that will come after the sermon and class series. The pastors are now charged (after our meeting) with finding people whose testimony will show the "personhood" of the community we are intent on welcoming.

I brought about half of my library of resources for them to examine, and Pastor asked me to recommend five or six titles for our church library (which is large and well-used). Those titles are published in a monthly flyer, so subtle clues are being placed here and there as we move forward.

Pastor has taken my action plan and timeline seriously. All of those at the meeting will be reading the book I've asked them to read. All of them have access to my library and see me as a resource to which they can turn.

I'm high as a kite right now. I can't stop smiling. And I remember my brother David and wonder if he can see what is happening. This is for you, David, and for your family of choice, and because it is the right thing to do. I love you.

December 7, 2008

Screw The Green Bike

It was late fall and Ben was eleven ("Almost twelve!"). He had been bugging me for weeks on end to get him this bike he had seen at Target.

"It's green!"

"It's the same size as your own bike."

"It's got hand brakes!"

"I'm not buying you a bike so much like your own. Yours is in fine shape."

"It's not the same! It's different!"

"No way."

This was getting wearisome, but Ben didn't know that we had already bought him an awesome 26" red bike with gears, hand brakes, rack, the works.

Christmas morning. I was right behind Ben as he approached the tree and saw the red bike parked in front of it. From the look on his face, I'm guessing the clouds parted, God rays shone down, and angels sang.

"WHOA! Screw the green bike! This one's better!"

I couldn't believe my ears. "What did you say?!"

He explained patiently, "Screw the green bike, this one's better." Hello. Duh.


I let it go, and he fell to examining all the perks on his new bike.

The next day I took an opportunity to speak to Ben privately.

"You know, yesterday you used a word that I'm pretty sure you didn't understand fully."

"Huh? When?"

"When you said 'Screw the green bike.'"


"So 'screw' means the same thing as the F word."

Big eyes. "IT DOES?"



"I was pretty sure you didn't. Just try not to use it again."

"Yeah! Okay! I really didn't know that!"

* * * * *

Ah, Christmas memories. This reminds me of my own favorite Christmas moment when I was a kid. I also got a bike: a beautiful blue StingRay bicycle. God rays shone and angels sang when I saw the banana seat and high handlebars. I could crank up to speed in two powerful pushes on the pedals, tooling through the neighborhood in the Florida sun. I managed to pop a wheelie a few times, too. I loved that bike past the time I outgrew it.
What's your favorite Christmas memory?

December 3, 2008

I'm Banned From YouTube For Life

Yeah, you read right. 

I'm using Abe's computer while my laptop's in the shop, and since my cookie isn't on this computer, I had to sign in on YouTube. I haven't had to do that in months, maybe over a year. But instead of my account popping up, I got a message on a red bar that read "Your account has been permanently disabled." There was an explanation that this occurs when YouTube finds "violation of copyright laws, community guidelines, or evidence of predatory behavior." They went further to state that I am banned from establishing any new account under any email address, and if I attempt to do so that account will also be banned for all time. Or words to that effect.

WTF?! Excuse me?! ME?! Well, no. Not me. I need to find out how long this has been in effect and for what reason. If it's for viewing something, I need to talk to my son. If it's for uploading or flaming, I need to talk to my daughter and/or her friends. Either way, I'm the one who's banned, for the rest of my life, from having a YouTube account.

I've also been barred from getting an answer from them too, apparently. I cannot post a question because I don't have an account. I tried the phone number, but they gleefully admit they have no live customer service and refer me to the online "Help" menu. 

I can still view videos that do not have a warning or an age requirement. So thank heaven, Barney the dinosaur is still available to me.* But I can never upload (for the first time) or post (again) any YouTube video. I may try a new account, just to see. But can they actually detect my new account through a different email address? Anyone out there know anything?

*Bitter, party of one.

Gay And Christian Online Resources

Below is the list I will be giving my pastors at next week's meeting. Clearly this is not exhaustive and it is intended for where we are right now: a church seeking to start the conversation that leads us to becoming open and affirming to the LGBT community.


Reconciling Ministries Network of the United Methodist Church
IntegrityUSA of the Episcopal Church
DignityUSA of the Catholic Church
New Ways Ministry: Catholic advocacy
Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons
Emergence-International: Christian Scientists
Christian Gays: a place to connect
Whosoever: an online magazine for GLBT Christians
The Fellowship: multi-denominational

ACTIVISM and SUPPORT, Christian and otherwise
Heartstrong: for GLBT from religious-based ed. institutions
End The Harm: blog for Faith In America
Youth Resource: Exploring issues of concern for GLBTQ youth
Teach Ministries: to educate against the consequences of homophobia

Updated 3/09/10

November 30, 2008

A Place For Everyone

I'm preparing materials this week for a very important meeting next week. I asked my senior pastor for a chance to sit down and report on the conferences I've attended this year. He responded that he has asked four associate pastors to be there as well. This has turned from a debriefing into a presentation, and it's critical that I have everything ready.

I'm sorting out the books, web links, and sources into those for GLBT persons (especially youth), inquirers, advocates, and pastoral/program staff. I have depended on you, my online friends, for some of those resources. Because it was a gay man who introduced me to the online gay community, virtually all of my GLBT contacts are men. I've perused some lesbian blogs, but I know of only one here with whom I might discuss growing up gay in a Christian church. She has been a member of our church since birth. I met with her and her mom yesterday.

"Dale" is the daughter of very good friends. She came out to them several years ago, but only recently did they reveal this to anyone. They are struggling to reconcile this new information with the assumptions they had lived with for over twenty years. It is clear that they love their daughter very much, and for that I am grateful.

Dale is an assistant professor of women's studies, and we talked at length about the general topic of growing up gay. I asked what she wanted from our church when she was attending here. Dale said what was missing was a "safe" person that she knew she could come out to. She wants it in print, on our website, and on the door of a staff member that here is someone who is trained to address the myriad difficulties of growing up GLBT.

Dale is the final link in my chain of stories for this presentation. Hers is the face I need to present to our pastors, of one who needed our welcome and didn't get it. She is not bitter (bless her) and wants to know, when the time comes someday for her to commit to a life partner, that our church will preside over and bless her commitment ceremony. That has become another goal for me, to see that she gets her wish.

I feel like I'm a servant in a fine home and that plans for a very important banquet are being prepared for the not-so-distant future. It is up to me to see that there is a place of honor for everyone at this banquet. The meeting is next Monday. If you are so inclined, your prayers would be appreciated.

November 27, 2008


We just put the last dish in the dishwasher. We had "the usual:" turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas, rutabagas (Abe's tradition), cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and whipped cream. This year we added Morningstar tofu "chicken" for Ben and ham for Sheba, both of whom did not want turkey. I am pleasantly sated, not overstuffed.

After an early-morning blowup over old tensions between the two kids, things have been pleasant. I'm glad Abe and I were here to defuse and discuss the situation with them. (Divide and conquer.) It's been brewing for quite some time, but now it's all in the open and everyone feels heard.

While the bird was roasting, Sheba and I made Ur-spo's hot chocolate mix. It was a tad too sweet for our tastes so we added more of the other ingredients. Let me say this about that: Oh. My. Gosh. It tastes exactly like Starbucks' Signature Hot Chocolate without the high fat content. And you know, I don't miss the rich fat taste like I thought I would. The simple way to make it would be to lessen the sugar content, but since I couldn't do that, here's the original recipe with my additions in parentheses:

Incredibly Good Hot Chocolate

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup Girardelli unsweetened cocoa (plus 1/8 cup)

2 cups nonfat powdered milk (plus 1 cup)

3/4 cup Original Coffeemate creamer (plus 1/4 cup)

1/4 tsp. salt

Add 1/4 cup mix (two coffee scoops) to one cup boiling water.
This recipe makes enough to just about fill one quart-size ziploc baggie.

I'm going to make several batches and put some in pretty cellophane gift bags with a coffee scoop for Christmas gifts at work. Thank you, Ur-spo!

Speaking of thanks, here's a partial list of what I'm thankful for:

I'm thankful that it was our son and not someone else's who had the ordeal with defiance and drugs. Because it was Ben, he was able to get the help he needed and come out a stronger and more confident young man. Because it was Ben, many of our friends know firsthand the outcome of their emotional, spiritual and financial support. Because it was Ben, Abe and I have had our marriage tested in the fire and found pure.

I'm thankful for the family of origin and family of choice that I have. Both have proved over the long haul to be loving and supportive and a lot of fun to be around.

I'm thankful that I'm in the right place at the right time to do what I'm being called to do. The rightness of it centers me and keeps me going in spite of the conflict it sometimes causes.

I'm thankful for my online friends who have taught me so much over the past couple of years (even though I've been blogging for only six months). I've met a number of you, but not enough; and I am looking forward to meeting as many as I can. You've been warned.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

November 23, 2008

The Guthrie Theater

I promised a post about the Guthrie, the theater in Minneapolis famous for the caliber of its plays and for the building itself in which they are performed. I had arrived a day early for a conference and took advantage of the extra time to see a play.

The theater was built in 2006 to replace the 1963 building named for Tyrone Guthrie. The new structure is sheathed in polished blue steel, etched with shadowy portraits of playwrights and prominent figures in the history of the theater.

The interior has a stark geometric quality made warm with lighting and texture. Clean lines and open spaces are marked with islands of seating, each in its own pool of muted light. Every public level (of five) has some physical/visual connection to another level.

I took the incredibly long escalator up to Level Four to the structure variously labeled the "Bridge to Nowhere" and "Endless Bridge." Either way, way cool. The floor is cantilevered in a tunnel marked with small irregular windows designed to frame their particular views as you position yourself to see properly. Mirrors reflect the image from certain viewpoints. The end of the bridge is an open-air observation area with a concrete bleacher section poised to overlook the Mississippi River. At night, the view is just beautiful: the Stone Arch Bridge over the river, backed with a modern bridge and the remnants of the industrial district left and right.

The Level Five Cafe is linear with spot lighting and fully mirrored walls. Ghostly portraits of actors from productions in the old theater are spotlighted in the mirrors. A suggestion of detail becomes visible only upon deeper inspection, a feast for the eyes if you look with intent. The large open dining room is made intimate with lighting.

After dinner I found my way to the gloriously red Proscenium Theatre to watch "Shadowlands." I know the story and I was eager to see it onstage. Sadly, the pacing was glacial and I could  not make it through the first act without literally falling asleep. I've never done that before in my life. Granted, I was tired, but please. I was excited to see this play. Shame on them for turning a great story into a lullabye.

I left at intermission and went to ground level via that long escalator. A short cab ride to my hotel left me to entertain dreams about where the upcoming conference would take me. But you already know about that. A visit to the Guthrie—with a better play—is the first thing you must schedule on your trip to Minneapolis. Forget the Mall of America, where you will only see every store already ensconced in the mall next door to you. There is nothing else in the world like the Guthrie Theater.

All photos except escalator courtesy of

November 19, 2008

Need To Laugh?

Rather than steal her thunder, I'm posting a link to this video posted by Patricia. It is absolutely hilarious, especially if you're a dog lover. You have GOT to see it.

November 17, 2008

Meet Jack

Everyone, meet Jack. (Jack, this is everyone.) He appeared on Towleroad this morning as the only protester to show at Ft. Myers City Hall on Saturday. He's a friend of mine.

Jack is the man who, along with one other, helped me almost three years ago through an emotional crisis. He nurtured me and then gave me a swift kick, encouraging me to grow and change. He is one of the main reasons I am here today, trying to change the status quo in my church and my world. He also offered wise counsel as I dealt with Ben this past spring and summer. This "Tough Old Bird" has a heart of gold, helping anyone he sees in need as he struggles to make ends meet with his retirement and a mother in need of health care. Go say hello at the Towleroad post to a man who deserves everyone's respect.

November 15, 2008

What's Your Sign?

My plans for Saturday changed late Friday night, so I had nothing but work planned for midday. When I finished there, I made a last-second decision to join the protesters downtown. I hastily put together a sign on a yardstick and drove downtown. Abe was watching a game and didn't miss me. Here's my sign:

The protesters who showed up at the City-County courthouse were enthusiastic but few, no doubt due in part to the wet, cold and windy weather. I would guess about 60 were there when I finally was able to make it at about 3:00. For a metropolitan area of 1.7 million, that is pretty disappointing. (I have since learned that early demonstrators numbered about 250.)

The only counter-protesters were a single man across the street and a black family with very young children holding signs with their version of Christian messages. I stood next to the family with my own sign. I had a great talk with the "Don't hate love" boys. 

I'm a child of the 60s, but this was my first protest. I'm glad I was there. At the end of our alloted time, a number of people asked to shake my hand. I didn't expect that, but it was a great way to end the day.

November 12, 2008

Love Louder

The following is a comment I left on Father Geoff's web page.

An Open Letter to Affirming Christians

What? I'm sorry, I can't hear you. I think you're saying that God loves—who? Everyone? No matter what? Is that it? I'm sorry, I'm not sure I'm getting the message clearly. I'd like to get closer to hear what you're saying, but I keep getting pushed away by those who cry out that God has limits on His love. They're spending a great deal of money, time and effort to make sure that message is loud and clear. The only other ones who are just as deafening tell me there is no God. What? I'm sorry, but if you want me to hear you, you're going to have to speak louder than they are. If you can find me. With my hands over my ears, I'm outta here.


November 10, 2008

Walk Hand In Hand

I experienced a paradox this past week in Minneapolis. Immersed in a conference that celebrates inclusiveness and the joining of hearts and hands, I took an online break and read posts of heartbreak and righteous anger. The men who wrote those posts join the thousands who cried out when they learned of the passage of legislation in three states that further restrict the rights to a normal life for same-sex couples. They have had their rights stolen from them by self-righteous zealots who claim to be following the word of God.

Those misguided, misinformed miscreants could not be more wrong. They have hammered their cultural bias upon Scripture and forged it into a weapon. They brand LGBT persons as outcasts, unlovable by God and therefore by Christians. I cannot—I will not— accept the status quo. Tradition does not in itself imbue truth. It is possible to be wrong for a long time. The Bible is being used by some to keep the world the same; but Scripture is a starting point, not an ending point. We must add to the structure begun by Scripture, a dynamic framework upon which we build.

This conference helped me learn more how to take my church on the journey to intentionally welcome the LGBT community. Framing the workshops were a number of worship services. Sitting in worship, knowing that every person in attendance was committed to welcoming everyone—and especially the gay community—was a rich experience. In one service the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus overflowed the choir loft behind the chancel and filled the flanking stairways up to the balcony. Just prior to the sermon, the men in the chorus put down their folios and grasped hands to sing "Walk Hand In Hand." These men of all ages, all shapes, all sizes, dressed in jacket and tie and joined hand by hand by hand, were beautiful. They lifted up their voices in glorious song. It gave me chills (again as I write this) and brought tears to my eyes to witness the moment. This, this, is what I want to see every Sunday in my church. This is where I feel welcome.

It struck me that, because of the silence on homosexuality, I do not feel fully welcome in my home church. As long as I keep my feelings closeted, I am greeted with smiles and open arms; but it feels like it's under false pretenses. I want to shout out what I know and still see those smiles and feel those hugs. Will it happen? We shall see. I am burning with hope and purpose, that this is what I will help bring to fruition.

November 8, 2008

The Faces Of Hope

She is a tall, athletic young black woman: articulate, intelligent, Christian, and gay. She finally sat her mother down just a few years ago and told her she is a lesbian. Her mother's response? To tell her daughter that she is an abomination that she would rather see dead than gay. (My god. What mother could wish that upon her child?) This young woman has found a home in her church, where she is welcomed as a child of God.

They are a couple in their late fifties. They're here to find support for their son, a young adult who was born their daughter. They are active in their church to find a place for him, as God has provided a place at the table for him. They are open and determined that their son will be made welcome.

He is a theologian who believed homosexuality was sinful until he examined the contemporary studies that concluded otherwise. And he changed his mind. He is spending his retirement writing books on the subject and traveling the country to share his newfound knowledge. He has been met with cheers and jeers, and he continues on.

These and hundreds more were the faces of hope that attended the Covenant Network of Presbyterian Churches this week in Minneapolis. Many were pastors who were here to find fellowship with like-minded religious leaders. Many were laypeople, here to be recharged with hope before going out into the world again to fight the Good Fight. And many like me were here to learn, make new friends, and find new resources to take home to their churches.

I am the face of hope. I join thousands taking action to make a change, to guide millions in understanding the effect of legislation and doctrine that segregates and excludes. It is time to intentionally, openly include all and share the communion of Spirit.

Graphic courtesy of Terry Inc.

November 6, 2008

City of Bridges

I'm in Minneapolis for a few days; it's cold, gray and wet. They predict snow tomorrow. Good thing I'm here for something besides the weather.

Christopher, who is a student of city planning, has described Minneapolis as one of his favorite cities. What little of it I've seen certainly backs him up. I've been here for less than a day and have seen the city only from taxis in the rain, but it is beautiful.

The city planners have connected most of downtown through hamster bridges they call Skywalks. I can do most of downtown without going out in the rain. (At least I could if my hotel was connected. I'll figure it out if I have time to get out.)

The Stone Arch Bridge was built around 1850 and straddles the Mississippi River behind the world-famous Guthrie Theatre. A new bridge behind the Stone Arch carries motor traffic now.

The Guthrie Theatre houses three stages, three restaurants and a gift shop. The "endless bridge" that juts from the building toward the Mississippi River is just one of the unique architectural features of this amazing building. I attended a show last night; later I will write about the Guthrie. It easily earns its own post.

The conference starts in about an hour. Gotta go.

November 4, 2008

Bits and Pieces

• The colors this year were delayed about two weeks. Usually the trees would be bare by now, but many of them are sporting their brightest colors. This is my back yard, where Sophie runs.

• I almost didn't get to vote today. My name was not on the registry next to my husband and daughter. I haven't moved in over 25 years. What gives? After lengthy discussion and a longer phone call, we found my name on a different registry; they had filed it with my middle name as last name. They were very nice about the whole thing, but one woman before me stomped out in disgust, having waited "too  long." Working the polls has to be one thankless job.

• I voted split ticket, apparently like most of Indiana. Performance counts more than party affiliation here. My ballot was approximately 50/50. (I voted for a Democratic president and Republican governor, among others.)

• I'm leaving pre-dawn tomorrow for sunny Minneapolis to attend a Covenant Network conference. This organization of churches affirms the LGBT community as a part of its charter. I'm hoping to expand my own network of contacts and meet those clergy affiliated with large churches. I'm looking for advice about pitfalls to avoid and effective strategies. I'll report from on the road if I can.

• Abe brought me more chocolate turtles from Fort Wayne. Who needs Halloween?

November 2, 2008

Oh, What A Night

The Damien Center had its annual Grande Masquerade last night, and it was a great success as the prime fundraising event for our AIDS support center. This was the second event I have attended as a volunteer. What a hoot.

The theme was "Moulin Rouge," and the decor was fabulous in every sense of the word. The table centerpieces were either a dozen red roses in a slender black vase or a woman's leg topped  with red ostrich feathers. The whole thing offered a carnival atmosphere that belied the purpose behind the event.

The entertainment began with the Bag Ladies, a local group of guys who dress in drag and dance. They were hilarious and, in some cases, disturbingly beautiful. One of the Bag Ladies helped me put on my wig, since it was my first time. (I was dressed in a huge hoop skirt and a wig with enough curls for three. I felt like I was in drag myself.)

After the local dance troupe pranced, twirled and leaped, the entertainment closed with Flava. When I asked about him, no one could quite describe what I could expect; so forgive me if I have the same difficulty. (And I wish I had pictures!) Flava is a gorgeous young black man who entertains by singing and dancing to pounding disco music. He's not in drag per se (is he? No dresses or any attempt to look female), but he does wear makeup and a ton of feathers: feather headress, feather tail and shoulders, ostrich cape. He has various skintight outfits that show off his finely sculpted body. I'd call his talent strutting. That boy can strut his stuff. You can't help but grin and cheer when you watch him. There's nothing sexier than confidence. (That's why the bad boys always have dates. But I digress.)

After we closed down the silent auction, I went (in street clothes) to the afterparty at the local gay bar, anticipating meeting some of my fellow workers who'd promised to attend. Upon arriving I walked around a police cruiser and van with flashing lights as they cuffed an inebriated perpetrator near the front door. Naturally, not one of my friends was in the place; but I stayed for about an hour just cuz. The music was loud and always backed by a thundering beat, accompanied by swirling lights. I wandered upstairs to survey the dance floor below and nurse my drink. Clusters of people behind me struggled to chat over the loud music.

From reading gay men's blogs, I didn't know what to expect of the most popular gay bar in the city. (I have learned, however, never to enter any bar named Eagle.) Honestly, except for the drag shows in the side room, what I saw of this bar is just like the ones I used to attend in my twenties. It's been that long since I've been in one like this, but it was familiar. The atmosphere was primal and tribal; everyone was joined by the beat.

There were a couple of raised platforms on the dance floor for anyone who wanted to be seen. Just like the magic T of the classroom, those who were most confident were closest to the front and middle. As I wandered through the bar crowd, smiles were abundant. It was an interesting time; not having friends to chat with allowed me to observe. I do like people-watching.

Time was pressing. It had been a long night, and I had to get up early for work. I finished my orange juice and drove home. Evening inventory: finery, fabulous feathers, friends, and fun. What a night.

Postscript: I've learned from one of the hardest-working volunteers that this Masquerade was the highest attended and one of the most profitable. What a night.

October 30, 2008


I don't believe in astrology of any kind, but this was kind of fun. And I must admit that I am filled with hope for what might be.

You are The Star

Hope, expectation, bright promises.

The Star is one of the great cards of faith, dreams realized.

The Star is a card that looks to the future. It does not predict any immediate or powerful change, but it does predict hope and healing. This card suggests clarity of vision, spiritual insight, and—most importantly—that unexpected help will be coming, with water to quench your thirst, with a guiding light to the future. They might say you're a dreamer, but you're not the only one.

What Tarot Card are you?

October 29, 2008


Well, it's finally happened. I am now a customer at Starbucks. Until yesterday, that was not the case. I don't like coffee, and I've never had a cup. They don't offer fountain sodas, so they had nothing to offer me—until yesterday, when I saw snowflakes on my windshield and the car heater was taking way too long to warm up. And I thought, "Hot chocolate. I need hot chocolate." There was a Starbucks next to the office supply store I had to visit. And they apparently have a new drink they call Signature Hot Chocolate. Oh my. I'm hooked. So now I'm Starbucked. My dilemma is threefold:

1.  It costs $4 for this drink.
2.  There are 470 calories in a Grande (made with 2% milk and NO whipped cream)
3.  Now that I'm a customer, does that mean I can't make fun of them?

Postscript: Blogger has added all kinds of new options for me with my Mac. But it won't let me paste text in the box. Keep working on it, guys.

October 27, 2008

The Futility of Fear

In an interview this past weekend with Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times, Father Geoff Farrow closed with a simple expression of a great truth.

When he was in seminary, Farrow interned as deacon at St. Vincent's Medical Center and worked with terminally ill patients. As the end nears, Farrow told me, people say the things they never could utter. They are "more alive than ever . . . because they realize the futility of fear." He found them all contemplating the same questions.

"Were you true to your conscience? Did you do what you felt was right?"

And one more.

"What do you have in the end but the love you gave away?"

Life With Ben

It’s 9:00 p.m. I’m calling Ben from the car to tell him I’m here to pick him up.


“Hey, baby, I’m in the drive.”

“Huh? ...I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“What do you mean? Very funn–“

“I don’t even know who this is.”

“What? It’s your mom, you–“

“I’m going to hang up. Bye.”

What on earth? What’s the matter with that boy? I call again.


“It’s your mother, you nut. I’m in the drivew–“

“Huh? ...I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Very funny. I’m... ohhh.”

“I don’t even know who this is.”


“I’m going to hang up. Bye.”

It’s his outgoing message. I’m going to kill him. Then I’ll ground him. But he made me swear not to tell Abe yet.

October 23, 2008


Weakness? Defenselessness? Helplessness? Webster—and most of society —has got it all wrong. Intentional vulnerability isn’t weakness; it requires great inner strength to be willing to be open and present oneself at risk of possible harm. The price one pays in remaining vulnerable is the occasional harm from those who take advantage. Those with the ready blade of a sharp word will cut the exposed throat, not realizing that they themselves are the victims of a facade, populating a world that exists only superficially and is easily shattered. The victory doesn’t even last to the next encounter.

Those who choose to be open—to be vulnerable—chance being hurt in exchange for the possibility of intimate connection. This is not to encourage indiscriminate openness, for the scars can accumulate to create an almost impenetrable shell. But careful and selective revelation of self can elicit a like response, and the reward is another link in the ethereal chain of human intimacy. It is what all of us seek, at least those who haven’t given up in despair that it is unattainable. This genuine intimacy is the closest we can come to a spiritual experience in corporeal form.

The choice is ours, with every personal encounter. To what degree do we reveal ourselves? I think we are richer for choosing vulnerability.

October 21, 2008

Wallace & Gromit

Cruising the Web last night, I found this video. Why didn't y'all tell me there was new Wallace & Gromit stuff?

October 19, 2008

Thumbs Up

I went to lunch with a bunch of colleagues at work to celebrate a birthday. Mind you, most of these colleagues are ordained pastors. Since the rest of the time they “pray for pay,” no one pounces on the chance to offer grace before the meal when we all gather. So the game is when the first food is served, fists go on the table with thumbs pointed up. The last one to notice and act has to offer the blessing. That’s right: the loser has to talk to God. Honestly, I think God gives it a thumbs up.

October 17, 2008

Through The Door

As I watch events unfold surrounding Father Geoffrey Farrow, I can’t help but think how I might feel in a similar situation. So many speak in awed tones of courage and compassion, and I am the first to admit I am among them. A combination of integrity, anger, determination, fear and anticipation had to accompany that moment when there was no turning back.

We all have moments when we stand at the open door, having to decide whether we will walk through, for the door will close shortly, whether in our faces or at our backs. The decision is irrevocable and sends us on our way.

I walked blindly for so many years, swept along past doors of decision at the whim of the currents of life. I dealt with what life handed me reactively and not always well. Frequently badly. Regrets? Honestly, only for those times when I hurt others. All else is learning. Boy, have I learned a lot.

Stepping through that door can be uncomfortable to terrifying. But you already know that, don’t you, whether you’ve taken that step or not. It is equally comforting to exhilarating to have passed through. That is not to say it always turns out well. But to have taken the step, to have gone through the mental and emotional contortions required to be able to step, is a life-giving moment regardless of the consequences.

You stand at that open door for this moment in time for civil marriage for same-sex couples. You stand at another door when you see or hear someone being hurt by discriminatory behavior. You stand at a door when you face the choice to speak or write or say nothing.

You can be swept along in the tides, passing those doors of decision. If you do, you may not complain with my earshot—or anyone else’s, for that matter—about the state of things. You think you have no power? You’re right—as long as you choose not to act. Do one small thing. (Don’t look over your shoulder; I’m talking to you.) Step through the door and know what it is to act for your own good or the good of others.

October 16, 2008

October 14, 2008

My Husband Loves Me

Here's the latest proof.

Okay, one is missing. Can you blame me? Caramel and pecans wrapped in melt-in-your-mouth chocolate. He has earned some serious bonus points here.


Final update. It was just as good as you think it was.

October 13, 2008

Today's Front Page

The story of Father Geoff Farrow appeared on today's front page of the Los Angeles Times.

If you are moved as I am by this man's sacrifice, post a link to his blog or to the article on your own blog and in comments. Email it to your friends. By keeping this story alive we can effect change. Informed people make informed choices, in California and elsewhere. We must do this.

October 12, 2008

Good Numbers

With all the bad news about the economy, I thought I'd post the one good thing I've seen.

UPDATE: Today's price! Fill 'er up!

October 11, 2008

Where Is God?

It is no surprise that Father Geoffrey Farrow has been suspended and removed from his pulpit. The Church had to silence this man as quickly as possible lest others follow his example. Never mind that his is a Christlike example of sacrifice for the sake of those who cannot speak for themselves.

In the face of such injustice at the hands of the powerful, many wonder why God does not intervene and dispense some powerful justice of His own. There is incredible and cruel injustice carried out all over the world, and millions are suffering daily—even losing their lives—because of it. We ask, “Why does this continue? Where is God?”

Where is God? He is right here. He is in me. He is in anyone who allows Him in. And we are His hands, His voice, His power on earth. We have the power to effect change. And yet so often we stand and cry for “someone” to do “something.”

I think often it’s because we don’t understand the authority we’ve been given; and we don’t understand the compelling strength behind change from within. The army that is capable of defeating powerful evil is comprised of simple soldiers like you and I. Our weapons are words, fired calmly and accurately to any ear who will hear. You do not know who will be the one who needs to hear what you have to say in protecting the weak, welcoming the outcast, loving the hated, bringing justice to the oppressed.

It is as simple as bringing it up in conversation. “Have you heard about the priest in Fresno? Let me tell you about it…” Do not let the sacrifice of Father Geoff go unheralded. Tell your friends. Link the story in your blog. In keeping this story alive, our outrage can spread to those whose station allows more to hear. Righteous anger leads to righteous acts. We can do this.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.* Where is God? He is here, ready to act through you.

*Edmund Burke (quoted by Martin Luther King)

October 8, 2008

Overheard: Married Life 2

As lunch ended at a restaurant, I put on my sunglasses to leave.

Me: “International Woman of Mystery.”

Abe: “You sure ARE.”

That's as it should be.

October 7, 2008

The World Is Watching

Father Geoffrey Farrow, a priest in California, has gone against official Church policy and urged his congregation, on camera, to vote against Proposition 8 in California. At the end of his homily on acceptance he said, "I know these words of truth will cost me dearly. But to withhold them would be far more costly and I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights but of their human dignity as well. Jesus said, 'The truth will set you free.' He didn't promise that it would be easy or without personal cost to speak that truth." In the interview that followed, Father Geoff told the world he is gay.

Father Tony was able to have a conversation with him and has urged other gay priests to follow the example set by this courageous man. I am in awe of Father Geoff’s grace and courage, and I pray that other priests will see this as a catalyst for change. Now.

Update: Father Geoff has started a blog. Please visit to read the text of his homily and to offer him support. I don't doubt that he will need it.

October 6, 2008


Well, it’s official, dammit. I have inner ear damage resulting in hearing loss, probably permanent.

A couple of months ago in the dead of night, a storm came through the city. Lightning was cracking all around us, and being a deep sleeper I was only vaguely aware. But then a bolt struck in our back yard and the boom got us out of bed. The percussive wave of the strike turned on my bedlamp, which is activated by a pressure-sensitive rheostat. My head was ringing from the shockwave, and my ears hurt. It was like a large-bore cannon had gone off next to my head.

Two days later my ears still ached, so I saw my doctor. He saw no physical signs of damage, but my ears were ringing with a couple of loud tones that muffled some sounds. He sent me to a specialist, but I already knew the outcome. There is no cure for tinnitus.

I’ve had a very mild case of tinnitus since I was a kid, no doubt due to dropping out of trees a bunch of times. Those little tones—there were four distinct notes—were easy to ignore and really were discernible only in the quietest of times. No problem.

Not so anymore. This noise is so loud that it cannot be drowned by hubby’s white noise machine he uses at night. (He’s got radar dishes for ears and can’t sleep without it.) I’ve had to ask people to repeat themselves a number of times, especially on the phone. I have to avoid other loud sounds, as I’ve learned they make the noise louder. (Ben popped a balloon near me. Never again.) That means no more rock concerts or rocking out in the car on my commute.

Shit. This isn’t old age. This isn’t a cautionary tale. There is nothing to be learned here. This just sucks. I’m having a momentary pity party that I’ll get over. I’ve got so much going for me, and I can still hear most things. I wish I could hear what good will come of it.

October 5, 2008

The Final Form of Love

"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime;
therefore, we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; 
therefore, we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone;
 therefore, we must be saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint;
 therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness."

The Irony of American History - Reinhold Niebuhr, 1952

October 1, 2008

Finding a Purpose

On my last irreverent post, it was pointed out that some people’s purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others. (That could have been me in my twenties.) Those people who seem to be disaster magnets are those who are at the whim of the currents of life. They make no plans; they have no goals; they don’t think past the moment to possible consequences of their actions. When the inevitable happens and bad things occur, they moan over the “bad luck” they seem to attract.

Have you ever noticed how the goal-driven, purposeful people have seemingly such good luck? It’s no accident. Having a clear goal in front of them guides their decisions daily. Knowing what you want gives you direction, energy, and a sense of control. Even when uncontrollable events interfere, it’s only a momentary distraction. They swim where they wish, mindful of the currents but in control of their direction. These are the people with purpose.

Purpose does not have to be grand. You don’t have to save the world. But why are you here? Do you know? What is important in your heart? How do you express that daily in your dealings with work, people, and leisure? Can someone who knows you well name your purpose? Can you?

Your purpose can change with your circumstances, but there is an underlying principle in all you do. What is yours? Is it directed inward—to reward yourself—or is it directed outward?

I challenge you to find one thing, only one thing, to place in your daily life that is for the good of others. Such a simple act as always smiling when you make eye contact can be the one thing that makes another’s day better. Perhaps you can always allow a merging driver into your lane—even the jerk who speeds past everyone and puts others at risk. Say “You’re welcome” every time someone says “Thank you.” In a long line, be patient and calm with the cashier. Ripples in a pond, good acts are replicated and passed on.

There was a drive-through I visited several times a week to pick up a diet Coke. (It has since closed.) They greeted me enthusiastically every time I came. But it wasn’t like that at first. What was the difference? One morning I was in a really good mood and I started my order with a shout of “Good morning!” The person at the speaker responded, “Well, good morning to you too! How can I help you?” This was certainly perkier than the greetings I had been getting. So each morning I came, I started my order with "Good morning!” The server commented over time how nice it was to be greeted so warmly, so I’ve tried to do it whenever I stop at a drive-through. Does it always make a difference? I don’t know. But I know it made a difference to one person, so why not continue?

Such a small thing. I’m certainly no saint, but it fits my purpose of finding the good in people and letting them know. It builds bridges, and that’s what I want to do.

What’s your purpose?

September 27, 2008

The Presidential Debate

My husband has a degree in political science with an emphasis on international relations. He has been a wonderful help to me in understanding the politics of elections. Last night, we sat down to watch the debate. About ten or fifteen minutes into it, Abe turned off the TV and we made love instead. Politics makes great bedfellows.

Who won the debate? Oh hon, I did.

Squir— uh, Rodent!

(My thoughts are running a bit on the light side these days. When I get back to Deep Thoughts, you’ll be the first to know.)

The other morning, when I was watching the Rodent of Unusual Size on the neighbor’s lawn, a rodent of normal size came scampering up. We have four kinds of squirrels in our back yard, probably because we have a slew of black walnut trees. Big fox squirrels, gray squirrels, tiny red squirrels and chipmunks enjoy the banquet our trees provide. This year's weather gave us a bumper crop; there are over a thousand of those heavy green tennis-ball things in our yard. (The walnuts are inside.)

This fox squirrel came bouncing onto the lawn with a walnut, looking for a place to bury it.

He found a spot near the groundhog’s burrow. I wonder if he’ll ever find it again.

It has been determined that squirrels have no idea where they’ve buried their nuts. (If you go for this cheap joke setup, I get ten percent.) Apparently they find their buried treasure purely by accident, smelling them out if they get close enough. That’s why we have a tree growing a foot from our mailbox. Oops! Missed that one.

The squirrels are a major source of entertainment and exercise for our dog Sophie. Every time we let her out into the fenced back yard, she runs the perimeter, barking at each spot where she has ever seen a squirrel. First that corner, then the two trees, then the back spot, on around the yard. Sometimes she does the Pepe LePew bounce on all fours, looking for potential victims. Having run her course, then she can get down to business doing her business.

Sophie actually caught one once, briefly. The fox squirrels like to tease her, coming down the trunk to taunt her with chatter and tail-tossing. One got too close to the ground and Sophie lunged. It squealed in her grasp and she let go in surprise. That was enough to encourage her for a lifetime. She investigates every tree, and we have forty trees in the back yard.

We can’t even say the word “squirrel” in her presence; she runs to the back door and barks like crazy. We have to say “rodent” instead. It’s ridiculous, speaking in code around the dog. But she brings a joy to the household that has been wonderful to have, especially this year.

Here’s Sophie, exhausted from her efforts to keep the yard squir rodent-free. (I've been told she looks exactly like the Simpson's dog, Santa's Little Helper.)

September 24, 2008

Dashboard of Doom

The world has one less spider in it tonight. You're welcome.

I was driving in the dark to pick up my son when a small spider started climbing up the windshield in front of me. INSIDE THE CAR. While continuing to drive, I kicked off my left shoe, picked it up and started swatting at the thing on the glass. It dropped to the dash, so I pounded it into oblivion. I clicked on the ceiling light when I came to a red light. Yeah, that sucker was arachnopaste. Victory is mine.

Instantly I thought of Java and her recent entomological adventure. The timing is...interesting. Is this a sinister plot? Have they targeted our group of bloggers? Be very careful.

No accompanying graphics. You're welcome.

September 23, 2008

Worst. Lyrics. Ever.

Responding to a part of Tornwordo’s latest post, readers are commenting on misunderstood lyrics. This got me to thinking about lyrics that I wish I could say were misunderstood. Or that could be rewritten well enough to make sense. There are a number of songs I could list, but I thought I’d leave that up to you. Here’s my vote for worst lyrics ever written, to a melody comprised of two notes.

"Horse With No Name" by America

On the first part of the journey 

I was looking at all the life 

There were plants and birds and rocks and things 

There was sand and hills and rings 

The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz 

And the sky with no clouds 

The heat was hot and the ground was dry

But the air was full of sound


I've been through the desert on a horse with no name

It felt good to be out of the rain 

In the desert you can remember your name 

'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain

La, la ... 

After two days in the desert sun 

My skin began to turn red 

After three days in the desert fun 

I was looking at a river bed 

And the story it told of a river that flowed 

Made me sad to think it was dead 

(Maddeningly inane chorus)

After nine days I let the horse run free 

'Cause the desert had turned to sea

There were plants and birds and rocks and things 

There was sand and hills and rings 

The ocean is a desert with its life underground 

And a perfect disguise above 

Under the cities lies a heart made of ground 

But the humans will give no love 

(There's that chorus again)

What’ve you got?

September 22, 2008

"Westley, What About the"

"Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist."

Westley would be wrong. This guy comes out from the hedge next door every evening at dusk.

Update: He was out again this morning. Here's a better shot.

September 20, 2008

Recommended Reading

Meet Timbo, a blogger who lives in Washington state. He’s a writer and former trucker whose blog captured me almost two years ago. His writing about life is eloquent, but when he writes about people, he sings. He offers beautiful pictures that speak of his love for the western mountains and the open sky of the high plains. Take a look at his blog, Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, where this view from his house is one of dozens of gorgeous photos.

You can read his book Graced By Amazing online. The first thing I ever read of Tim’s writing was Chapter 4 of this book, “Cody,” a vivid portrait of a man of the West who lives on his own terms. Enjoy.

Postscript: With Cody's permission, Tim wrote a followup story that revealed "the rest of the story."