August 31, 2008

Playlist: You Gotta Hear This, part four

8. Tambourine Man / William Shatner
I saved the best for last. This song, deserving of its own post, was produced as a serious attempt at making money music. The mind boggles. You MUST make yourself sit through it—once is enough—to hear that last line at the end. A cultural imperative.
Click on playlist samples to play.

August 28, 2008


I have been guilty of letting fear stop me from moving forward. Again. And I didn’t know it until this week.

I have just returned this afternoon from a three-day retreat for our church staff, in which we learned more about ourselves and each other. We came together knowing what each other did; we left knowing better who each person was.

For all that I learned this week, one thing struck me the moment I heard it, so much so that I stopped my colleague in the parking lot and asked him to tell me the story again. He had recounted it as an example in a discussion we were having about purpose.

A man visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta to help for a few months in her mission. He was there to learn more about his purpose in life. When he sat with the nun on his first day, he asked her to pray for him. When she asked what he wished for, he said, “Clarity.”

She responded, “No. I will not do that. Clarity is the last thing you cling to when you need to let go.” He told her that he wanted the clarity she had and she laughed. “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

That story would not leave my head. A desire for clarity is what has prevented me from moving faster in acting on God’s call in my life. Those highly-educated colleagues of mine whose lives seem so purposeful have no greater clarity than I. They simply work hard at trying to discern their purpose as best they can and act on faith that they are doing what they should.

I must have faith that my purpose will unfold for me and that I must act accordingly even when fear raises its ugly head. When the leader put out the question to the staff on the first day, I knew I had to answer. “What do you hope for in our church and in our congregation?” I had thought it was far too soon to speak up in a group setting about LGBT acceptance. But I would never really know for sure. And here sat the entire pastoral and program staff of the church. So, deep breath. Twenty-four pairs of eyes looked at me when I raised my hand.

“My heart is heavy with the knowledge that our church should welcome a group of people who are considered outcasts. My brother was gay and would not come out to us, his family, for fear of being rejected. I learned from his friends when he was dying that he was especially afraid of me because I am a Christian. That is untenable. My faith should be a magnet. I want the church that I love to offer a loving, grace-filled welcome to the gay and lesbian community.”

After several chimed in with support, I told the group that I believed our congregation was, for the most part, ready to learn how to be open and affirming. Another pastor told of his gay brother's rejection of organized religion. Four people approached me on the next break to high-five and shake my hand. Discussion over the next two days included comments about LGBT-related support. If there was dissension, it was never voiced in the group setting. The ice has been broken.

I think David instinctively saw the conflict I was having and said so in his comment here. That’s why I need you all, to be held accountable. Challenge me, push me, teach me, and don’t let me get away with anything. I need you.

Rainbow eye graphic courtesy of Noodlez.

August 24, 2008

The Woman Who Knows Everything

No, it isn’t I. (I know! I was surprised too!)

In every organization, there is one person who is plugged into the pulse and knows who does what, what’s going on and when it’s happening, where everything is, how everything works, etc. In my personal experience, that person has always been a woman. (And, for what it's worth, it has never been me.)

Find this woman in your organization and make her your friend. She is an invaluable ally, perhaps the most important one, in helping you do your job well.

August 22, 2008

Playlist: You Gotta Hear This, part three

I think it's time for a little comic relief, don't you?

6. Wicked Sensitive Crew / Dropkick Murphys
Celtic Punk song about sensitive manly men. Gimme a big hug.
Click on playlist samples to play.

7. The Critter / Mr. Obvious
One of the bits on the Bob and Tom radio show, this is one of their best.
Click on playlist samples to play.

August 19, 2008

Crossroads: Where I Am Going

How I Got Here
Where I Am Now

This post has been more difficult to write than I would have guessed. And it’s because I really don’t know where I’m going. Yet.

Let me back up a little bit and tell you what I’ve done in the past year. I was privileged last fall to attend a talk presented by Jack Rogers, retired theology professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary and former moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA. He is the author of Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church. He talked about the recent scholarly studies that examine the contextual meaning of the passages in the Bible that mention homosexuality—and how those studies changed his viewpoint. I highly recommend this book for those who need assurance that the Bible does not at all condemn same-sex relationships*.

The audience—consisting primarily and interestingly of men in their forties and women in their fifties and sixties—were gathered in tables of six for discussion. At my table were two gay men and four straight women. Our group leader was the son of a pastor; his partner of twenty years was the leader at another table. They have a nine-year-old daughter and appeared very much content with their circumstances and who they are. The other man at our table clearly was there for affirmation. He teared up several times as we talked about loving acceptance. What a crime that he had to find it among strangers. What a gift that he could find it among strangers. He grasped my hand as we were leaving and thanked me profusely for being there. My gosh. My heart aches for him and those like him who hurt so much.

This spring I learned from the Bilerico website that a seminar was being held locally about how to address the public about LGBT issues in a way that is noninflammatory. At that OUTSpoken seminar, I met a woman who said there was someone else I needed to meet. That friend is a member of a Presbyterian church in Columbus, IN, and she is taking her church through the process of becoming open and affirming. In addition to pointing me to dozens of resources, she told me about the Welcoming Church conference I recently attended in Ohio.

I am empowered by my experience in Ohio. I believe I can begin to help my church become intentionally welcoming to the LGBT community. It will be an incredibly slow process, given the starting place. That’s okay; bulldog perseverence is one quality that’s served me well over the years—to some people’s exasperation, but hey. I liken this process to turning an aircraft carrier: it takes a huge amount of energy to turn the rudder, and then the ship eventually, ever s-l-o-w-l-y, turns. But it does turn.

Within that conference I had an eye-opening experience. One of the activities in which we participated was a role-playing exercise. Each of us was given a description of the committee member we would portray to discuss whether “our church” should form a task force to create a statement of welcome. (Read that last sentence again. The discussion is about appointing another group to discuss it. Quite typical of my experience in church.)

My character was a closeted gay man who was afraid of being discovered and, as a result, being excluded from the church community where he was currently welcomed. He wanted the task force to be formed but was afraid of the conflict that might be engendered. Our “committee chair” opened the discussion. I found it excruciating to try to express my opinion as a gay man who wanted to remain closeted. Every word had to go through the filter of “Would this reveal who I am?” I had to vet each sentence before I spoke, and as a consequence said little as conversation sped past me. I had strong opinions but I couldn’t find a way to express them without revealing myself. It was emotionally exhausting.

As time drew to a close, each of us at the table disclosed our characters. Cries of “You’re gay?!” came from just about everyone. I had succeeded in staying in the closet but at great cost to myself and to the process of moving “our church” forward. What a revelation.

I don’t pretend for a minute that I understand what it is to be gay; I would never presume such a thing. But I think I had a tiny glimpse for a few minutes of what so many men and women go through every minute of their lives. Some never escape that prison while others feel free only when removed from the general population. Let me profoundly apologize here for any role I have ever had in that sentencing, however ignorant I might have been. It’s time for the end of ignorance.

(By the way: the discussion exercise illustrated beautifully how traditional methods in the church will doom this effort to failure: “discussion” devolved quickly into heated arguments; not one person changed his mind about his stance; and absolutely no consensus was met on how to proceed further. We went on to practice the method that works, a way for all to be heard without rancor—an incredibly valuable experience.)

At each of the three events I’ve attended in the past year, my initial reaction upon arrival was the same every time: Where is everybody? Why are so few attending? This is not right. But we’ve got to start somewhere.

When I tell my story it is clear that there are people I meet along the way who affect the direction I take. They’ve been there in every pivotal moment of my life, and I call them signposts. As I stand at a crossroads, trying to decide which road to take, signposts point the way. So here I stand. I think I have a path to follow for my church, even if I have to hack away at the undergrowth with a machete. But which way should I go for you? What would you have me say or do? Every single one of you who reads this blog and comments is a signpost to me. (And if you’re a lurker, I welcome your email.) So:

Which way should I go?

*For the same message using the same sources but less-formal language, read The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships by Rev. Jeff Minor and John Tyler Connoley.

Postscript: David recommends Wrestling With God & Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition as an excellent book for Jews interested in learning more about faith and sexuality.

August 15, 2008

Playlist: You Gotta Hear This, part two

While I struggle with the next part of Crossroads, enjoy these bits from the Bob* and Tom radio show.

4. The First Baseball Game / Dan St. Paul
"Harry Carey" announces the game between the Jerusalem Giants and the Bethlehem Braves. I play this for every new boss I get at church. And I’m still employed! (Wait. I get a new interim boss at the end of the month. I’ll let you know.) Click on playlist samples to play.

5. Wiper Blades / Heywood Banks
I understand that a state trooper got a confession from a perpetrator in the back of his cruiser by playing this song over and over. Click on playlist samples to play.

*Brush With Greatness: My daughter and Bob Kevoian's son were born on the same day in the same hospital. How do I know? Bob wears that baseball cap everywhere.

August 13, 2008


I am crazy. About the entire Lacey family. Patrick asked me to join them on my way home from a conference in Ohio last Sunday.

I had the great privilege of being welcomed into their home (technically, Patrick's sister's home) and it felt like I was one of the family from the start. Patrick ushered me through a sumptuous garden into the house, where he and I sat and talked (how long?) before sitting in the back yard with the rest of the family: parents, siblings, and other honorary family members.

Eventually we were called to the dinner table, where we were served two kinds of delicious homemade pizza and a salad. Conversation was brisk and witty. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so long and loud. (And I had only one glass of wine.) This is one sharp crowd; I had to pay close attention to keep up with the one-liners, wordplay and allusions. I told them about someone in the conference who had shown us great hospitality, but this family exceeded even that. They truly have a gift of hospitality: making me so at ease that I forgot my own anticipated discomfort. Patrick was solicitous and mindful that I was walking into a roomful of strangers; and yet it never quite felt that way. His sister warned, "This is Laceyland, the World's Scariest Theme Park." It was quite a ride, I grant you, but I never wanted to get off. I could do it with my hands in the air all the way. My cheeks actually hurt from smiling and laughing for so long.

After dinner, the guests went home and our hosts left Patrick and me alone to talk. And talk we did, about ourselves and our hopes. And yes, we talked about you—always kindly and with respect, for Patrick in person is just like Patrick online: intelligent, gentle, insightful and humble. We went on and on until the lateness of the hour forced me to finally admit I had to leave (about two hours after I'd figured we'd run out of things to say).

The evening with Patrick and his family will always be one of my favorite memories. I hope we can have more like it, whether in Indiana or not. My meetings with fellow bloggers have gone so well that I cannot wait for another. Who's next?

August 8, 2008

Crossroads: Where I Am Now

How I Got Here

In December 2005 I experienced a catharsis that I may someday be willing to write about here. Suffice it to say that in a stunning moment of self-awareness, I realized that fear had been running my life; and that if I didn’t do something about it, I will have wasted an opportunity to make things right—in my life and in my world.

In trying to figure out what was happening to me, I went online, where I was befriended by some sweet and caring gay men who gave me a swift kick in the seat and challenged me to change and grow.

I had been unhappy in my marriage for a long time. I made arrangements to see a counselor. We had seen counselors before, but this time was different: we were ready; he had us talking to each other instead of him, asking the right questions; and for the first time I was not hiding away from the hurt. I faced it with the question that has become my mantra for making difficult decisions:

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

By moving past the fear—that still sometimes presents itself until I step through it—I have found purpose and energy. I have fallen in love again with my husband and he with me. (We celebrated our 30th anniversary this week, and honey, let me tell you we had a wonderful time. I mean, wonderful.) Our renewed commitment to each other has given us the strength to deal with the turmoil of our home life this past year.

At the same time, I needed change in my career as well. After having done the job I was hired to do—write a five-year curriculum for our church’s elementary Sunday School—I was restless. I was feeling a pull but I wasn’t sure the direction it should take. I was looking for the peace that comes with fulfilling one’s purpose. I’d realized that inner tranquility when I was plucked from the congregation for this job. I have come to know that of all the wonderful and exciting pleasures in this world, there is none greater or more lasting than doing what is right and good in service to others. I knew that an even greater joy of service waited for me again in some other form. I had to find it.

During all this, I was in conversation with my gay buds online. And with their friendship I was reminded again of the injustice engendered by the hatefulness spewed in public in the name of Christianity. Because most Christians are not publicity hounds, the feelings of the majority stay silent. But silence is exacting a high price in the gay community.

Eventually I understood that I am in a unique position to be a bridge between the Christian and gay communities, two groups who—while not mutually exclusive—believe they have reason to distrust each other. I can do this; moreover, I am being pulled inexorably, and it gives me great peace to act on it. Slowly, slowly, it has become part of my consciousness: it is my call.

In my conversations online, one of the guys included a link to a post on a blog. Sure, I’d heard of blogs, but I’d never read a personal one. This blog was written by some guy who called himself “Joe.My.God.” I looked it over, a little squinty-eyed in assessment, and found it smart, funny, moving, sexy, informative, and really really angry at Christians. If I am to be a bridge, then I need to know what I’m talking about. While I continued to read Joe’s posts, I investigated the links on the side column. Links led to more links. (Oh my—not that one.) I gravitated toward those which were open, literate, and moving.

So here I am today, running a Sunday School while aiming for so much more. I have made friends online; and while I recognize the imperfect perfection of the online persona, I believe I have begun genuine friendships that I hope to deepen.

Where will this take me? I’m not at all sure, but I will tell you what I hope for.

Next: Where I Am Going

August 6, 2008

Crossroads: How I Got Here

In his comment on Blue Ridge Blog, part two, Paul asked me a number of questions that got me thinking. I’m going to do my best to answer how I got here, where I am now, and where I’m going.

Late in 1995, my family learned that my older brother David (his real name) was HIV+. We learned at the same time that he was fighting lymphoma. We were reeling from this news when, in a matter of only a few weeks, David was hospitalized with dementia and released to a hospice care center.

Apparently he’d been diagnosed positive in 1984 and never said a word. For that matter, he’d never come out to us, his family, although it was hardly a secret. (It was the elephant in the room whenever we were together.) As I began regular visits to Atlanta every three weeks to see him at Haven House, I got to meet a number of his friends. I had long, honest talks with them as we processed our progressive grief. I learned that David was afraid of being abandoned by his family and so lived as though he’d already been rejected, making rare and brief tension-filled visits over the years. His friends confessed that David was especially afraid of me because I am a Christian. I had come to my faith late—age 30—and it joined me to the world for the first time. But that which had given me a sense of connection separated me from my brother.

I was determined that David know he was not alone. Many times in my visits, he did not recognize me. Other times he did, but conversation between us—strangers, really—did not flow easily. He wanted to pretend that he was going to go home soon, and that fiction prevented us from talking about the important things. But there came a moment when the door opened to really talk, and I stepped through. I told David that we’d known he was gay since high school. We knew and didn’t care who he loved; we loved him.

I wish you could have seen the change that happened literally before my eyes: David’s body went fluid as he relaxed and his smile reached his eyes. He became a man I had never seen before: loving, open, and content. We had three months—five more visits— together before he died in May 1996, a week before he would have turned 49.

I returned home from his funeral in a depression that took almost a year to lift. As was my way at the time, I responded to the pain by hiding inside myself. But my anger at the injustice that had cost me a relationship with my brother festered for a long time. It would be many years before I realized I could help to perhaps stop that schism from happening in other families.

Next: Where I Am Now

August 4, 2008

Name That Tune

Our daughter Sheba* came home yesterday from spending the summer with her grandmother in San Diego. She is as gorgeous as ever, having dyed her hair once again back to auburn, her original color. (When she left, her hair was red. Not redhead red, not even clown red. Superhero red. And it actually looked good.)

We chatted into the night and continued this morning when she arose at the crack of 11:00. She couldn’t wait to show me her pictures, so after she downloaded them she called me over.

“That’s me with my friends who came to visit. And that’s me with my boyfriend.” (He flew over for a long weekend.)

“What’s that?”

“Well, that’s my tattoo.”

Oh. Oh my. My daughter’s got ink. To be honest, this wasn’t much of a surprise. She’s been wanting a tattoo for about three years that I’m aware. And—thank you, Lord!—this one is not going to challenge her employability, as some I’ve seen on her friends.

The tattoo is a few measures from a song that she loves, one that was a hit when I was a teenager. No words, just notes on a staff curved over her right hip. The words to this line are:

“Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.”

Can you name that tune? And no fair googling.

*If you haven’t already guessed by now, I have changed the names of family and friends to protect their privacy. FWIW, Abe means “father;” Ben means “son;” and Sheba means “daughter.”

August 3, 2008

Playlist: You Gotta Hear This, part one

This is the list of songs that, after I’d heard them, I forced other people to hear too. To give you time to hear the ones I could find, I split the list into several parts. You'll find them on the playlist in the righthand column Let’s begin, shall we?

1. Title Of The Song / Da Vinci’s Notebook
A meta distillation of every song that has been sung by every boy band, as rendered by a cappella guy group Da Vinci’s Notebook. Click on playlist samples to play.

2. Enormous Penis / Da Vinci’s Notebook
You’ve heard this toe-tapper on my blog playlist. Need I say more? Click on playlist samples to play.

3. Orange Barrels / Electric Amish
Construction traffic woes. (Can't find this track on

August 1, 2008

Blue Ridge Blog, part three

The remainder of our short stay in Highlands was predictably serene for the most part. There was that last night when I couldn’t get a WiFi signal at the parlor. And I even had some ice cream (vanilla with peanut butter and brownie mix-ins)!

The cottage we stayed in was part of a boarding house that was built in 1885. The tiny bathroom Abe and I used had a clawfoot tub. Don’t get too impressed. You know those short demo beds they use in stores to show off linens? This had to be a demo tub. I kid you not: the base of the tub could not be more than three feet long. It’s like bathing in a bucket. I suppose I can call it quaint.

A multimillionaire has discovered Highlands and is buying it up lot by lot, rebuilding the town—for fellow millionaires. All the charming old structures are disappearing, being replaced by pretty stone and wood buildings for which you must don Prada in order to enter. It’s turning into Vail. Before the old Highlands disappears, let me show you around.

Downtown Highlands

Old Edwards Inn

Flower photography inspired by Greg, Joe, and Jeepguy. Now, who can name these flowers?

Pretty purple things with a swallowtail butterfly

Shastas? Purple pansies? Yellow marigolds

Pretty red things

Day lilies?

Main Street walkway

Behind our cottage

This new house on the lake holds two households. Price: over two million dollars each.

East of town is a stone bluff called Sunset Rock, rising 300 feet straight up from the plateau on which Highlands sits. It is a very popular spot for people of all ages for overlooking the town, watching the sun set behind the peaks, and stargazing.

Highlands Plateau

View of Main Street and two of three traffic lights

Flowers and grasses on Sunset Rock

Sunset silhouette

It’s time to head back to real life, richer by one new friend. I hope to meet more of you in my travels.