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.