Sunday, January 27, 2013

Only kinda...

glitter-izing my bra for AIDS Walk 2012 to cover my top lady-bits

1 Corinthians 12:12, 26 "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. ... If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it."

The title of my blog is "One of the boys... kinda".  But tonight's post is called "Only kinda" because it is inauthentic of me to claim to be fully "one of the boys".  This goes beyond pointing out that I have lady bits and I'm straight. One difference is that I live as a person of privilege in the church. My journey has been rocky at times, I walked away from becoming a pastor and I almost quit going to church at all, but it is still a safe place for me. Not only is it a safe place, it is a place where I have been recognized as a leader and given positions with titles like President (though I still think that should come with a tiara). Unfortunately, my LGBT friends do not always have the same experience of safety, respect, and recognized leadership.

Why do I mention this? Because today, January 27th, is both a celebration and solemn remembrance.

It is a joyful day because it is Reconciling in Christ (RIC) Sunday in the ELCA (Lutheran church). Today we celebrate that God's love is bigger than our desire to build up walls. We rejoice that God loves, welcomes, and affirms everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.  It is exciting because my church is now on the roster of these welcoming churches.

Today is also a sorrowful day because it is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Holocaust was a period during which humanity's desire to have insiders and outsiders caused unfathomable cruelty and suffering. Gay men and lesbians were among those targeted, tortured and murdered, alongside Jews, political dissidents and others.

Why do I mention all of this here? For a few reasons.

First an apology. I am truly sorry that the church has excluded and vilified the LGBT community, at times even to the point of death. I know I am not personally responsible for all of the oppression that has occurred, but I am saddened, angered, and frankly, pissed off that any of my beloved friends have been made to feel less than worthy and less than whole. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians in the verses above, "If one member suffers, all suffer together with it."  I believe this to be true.

I also write this post today because as much as I fiercely love my gay and lesbian friends, I don't want to pretend that I understand all of your experiences. I have been humbled and blessed by the stories of your own faith journeys you have shared with me and I pledge to fight as long as I live for LGBT equality, inclusion and welcome. I am grateful for you and ask that you continue to be my teachers in my advocacy and activism. To quote Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke who preached at our RIC service this afternoon, "the church needs you, and so do I."

We are all a part of the body of Christ. We are all beloved by God. No matter what anyone says. Period. The days on which we live out that exuberant welcome are truly a time to rejoice.

God of healing, Forgive us for all of the times we have built up walls against "outsiders", whoever they may be.  Heal the wounds, physical, spiritual, and emotional, of those who have been damaged by the church. Help us all to remember that we are in this life together, and your love extends to us all. Thanks, and Amen.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What's Your Super Power?

The Tooth Fairy and Genie at AIDS Walk 2012
(This post is inspired Pastor Robyn Hartwig's sermon today.  Thank you, Robyn!)

1 Corinthians 12:4 "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit."

If you had a super power, what would it be?  I would love to be a super athlete.  Or possibly to be able to teleport.  What about you?

In today's second lesson (1 Corinthians 12:1-11), Paul is talking to the church in Corinth about how not everyone has the same gifts. This is a good thing. I am good at some things, but if I get caught in the trap of comparing myself to others, I have definite gaps. Let me give you a couple of examples... I am a clutz. I am directionally impaired. I stress out cooking for more than just myself. If God needed me to be a graceful, geographically-awesome, gourmet chef, then I wouldn't be any use.

But no! God has created a diverse world in which we have so many different kinds of people, and so many varieties of gifts. What I find amazing is that God can use my wacky sense of humor, my willingness to wear crazy costumes and my joy in riding my bicycle, all to make the world a better place. What a gift it has been to find a place where I can make a difference through the gifts that make me unique.

Frederick Buechner describes this as vocation. "Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need." I won't lie, sometimes it takes some searching to discover our gifts and where they are most needed. Sometimes we go down one path only to find out that it is not quite the right fit (speaking from experience). But that does not negate the fact that each one of us has unique gifts to bring to the world, and that each of us is needed.

We do already have super powers. I've met many of you and see them in you: the gift for building community, the talent for making others laugh, the capacity for caring, the gift of critical thinking, the ability to navigate emotional conversations, to inspire, to organize, gifts for public speaking, for generosity and for loyalty. You are musicians, dancers, artists, and athletes. And that's just a start of the list of the gifts I see in you.

So here's the deal. You are loved. You are needed. You bring something special to the table. Just the way you are.

Creative God, You made us each so different! Thank you for making us unique, but loving us all with the same unconditional love. Help us to know we are loved. Inspire us to share this love with others. Help us to know we are needed. Show us how our individual gifts enable us to respond to the world's needs. Remind us every day that we matter. Thanks, and Amen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

So Who's Greatest?

Luke 22:27: "For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."

"A hero fell, but good prevailed."  photo taken by
For New Year's Eve, we had a superhero birthday party with a photo scavenger hunt.  Here I am with my dear friend Mark posing for a picture as a fallen hero. Yes, I am so noble that I gave my life to save the planet. Or something like that.

The verse from Luke above is from the Last Supper after a squabble among the disciples about who was greatest.  This happens before Jesus' arrest and subsequent crucifixion. The struggle to be seen as the best is not unique, and neither is the story of someone dying for his cause or laying down his life for others. In history and literature, there are many examples of both power-struggles and selflessness.

I look to the stories of Jesus to help me understand who God is. The dominant culture encourages us to try to be the greatest, and to seek after the biggest and the best seat in the house. But this verse shows us that this climb to the top does not describe the way of God. Rather than showing up with a lot of power and pomp, God chose to enter this world as a servant. Jesus dined with the outcasts, the tax collectors and sinners, and advocated for the poor. Jesus did not seek power over others but worked for reconciliation and healing.

Where does this leave me? I want a God who enters the world and cleans up injustice with a mighty sweep of a powerful arm. And I want to be, myself, the greatest, top of my class, the one with the most blog views, etc. But God is not who we expect, and calls us to a life we may not have bargained for. Jesus came as a servant and worked for liberation, peace and healing. God calls us to do the same.

Unexpected God, You do not always come into the world in the ways we want. Show us where you are. Lead us in the life of a servant, following the example of Jesus. Walk with us today and always as we try to find meaning and belonging in our lives. Thanks, and Amen.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Not Even Wolverine

Romans 8:38-39: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Wolverine attack on Halloween 2012
I'm sure Paul, the writer of Romans, would have also added "nor attack by Wolverine can separate us from the love of God."  He probably would have put something in there about Storm's long speeches too.  (In tonight's  picture, the part of Wolverine is played by the ever fantastic Andrew Shayde).

But seriously, the alternative title for tonight's blog post is "Why I Think Theology is Important." Hang in there, it isn't as boring as it may sound.

Theology is an attempt to understand who God is, and how we live our lives in response to that interpretation.  For example, if one sees God as angry, one may make life choices to try to appease God.  Unfortunately, people have used their definition of God to oppress, to discriminate  to wage wars, and to seize power. And truthfully, that pisses me off.

It is important to ponder and talk our concepts of who God is, especially in the midst of many voices that preach a God of hate or intolerance.  I want to add my voice of dissent to that kind of theology.  I understand God to be loving, accepting, and full of hospitality and welcome.  That belief dictates how I live my life.

Today's verse from Romans 8 is my favorite verse in the Bible, and tells us something of who God is.  It is a great reminder that no matter what, God loves us.  No matter what people say about who we are, no matter the success or failures we have, no matter our struggles with fear, depression, insecurity, alcohol, or drugs, no matter the names people call us...  that is *not* how God sees us.  Nothing can stop God from loving us like crazy.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Not even a wild Wolverine attack.

God of love, Sometimes it is hard to believe that you love us, especially when we hear voices of judgement.  Help us to know the depth of your compassion, and that you will never take that away from us.  Show us your love in our lives, especially if we have difficulty seeing it.  Please give us all big metaphorical hugs, and help us to love one another too.  Thanks, and Amen.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Reset button

New Year's Eve Super Hero birthday party
Luke 3:21-22: "Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus had also been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven saying, "You are my Son, my Beloved, with you I am well pleased."

Well, it looks like the whole "daily" part of this blog isn't exactly working.  But I'm ok with that.  I'm just going to start again and hit the reset button.  So here goes...  today's verses are a from the gospel reading today when Jesus has been baptized.

I love the picture above.  It is me "photo-bombing" the picture of two of my fantastic friends on New Year's Eve.  They were doing a superhero pose and I jumped in.  Bwahahahaha....

Life is full and busy and often full of surprises. On the downside, sometimes that means our plans are derailed or our goals aren't met.  (Of course sometimes, the surprises in life are wonderful and awesome, like the photo above)...  But sometimes we may feel like we keep falling short and make the same mistakes over and over.

That's where the reset button comes in. One of the things I like about being a Lutheran is that we talk about how each day we get to start over, remembering that God loves us.  We know we're going to mess up - being human means we aren't going to be perfect. But God loves us no matter what, and each day we begin anew.

Martin Luther is often referenced in this discussion, reminding us to each day remember our baptism.  Baptism is an outward sign that reminds us how much God loves us and that we have a home in the church and an identity as Christians.  But it is only an outward sign, because the love and the welcome exist regardless of whether water has poured over our foreheads. The verses above are spoken at Jesus' baptism, but you are also God's beloved.  Every day.

So tomorrow we begin anew, again. We don't have to earn God's love by being good enough, by meeting our goals or achieving success.  Every day we get a reset button as our own reminder that we can start over and try again, but God's love is constant and unconditional.

God of love,  Help us to remember that you love us, no matter what, no strings attached, always and every day.  Help us to love each other as a response to your love.  Please be with those who struggle with feeling unloved and surround them with your compassionate presence.  Thanks, and Amen.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ah, happy...

Psalm 34:8: "O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him."

Happiness, 2013, taken by
So I'm sitting here, watching a British murder mystery (PD James, Devices and Desires) and looking at pictures of my weekend at the beach with my friends. I'm surrounding myself with images that bring me happiness (Yes, it's true, British murder mysteries make me happy.  But you know I'm not the only one). Yesterday I had a great spin class and today I had a good yoga class with a friend. Life is full of blessings.  But tonight I'm still searching to try to feel happy in the midst of feeling a little bit of a funk. (and not being effective at blogging with a mystery on TV).

Watching TV is not the best solution to cheer me up, but it's what I'm doing.  I think there are frequently times we try to cheer ourselves up with the less-than-best choice, causing us to spend too much money, drink too much, watch too much TV, eat too much junk food.  It is a completely human response to dissatisfaction or gloom, and so easy to do.

Reading Psalm 34, it sounds like the the writer has overcome some grief or depression and wants to share how God brings us out of gloom.  Verse 4 reads "I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears."  I mentioned in another post that the psalms can express in poetic language our longings for the strength and healing that we do not yet have, or the reassurance that is not yet here. Not yet.

This psalm points us to a future we can hope for, when we find happiness in the Lord.  I would hope that in my funk and gloom I would turn to God and find consolation by reading, or blogging (without distraction), or reaching out to a friend.  Instead I surf  the internet and watch drama on TV, staying up way past my bed time and wishing I'd made better choices.  I don't have a good ending to this blog.  But I guess that's how life is, and sometimes we're just in a funk.

When I posted on Facebook that I didn't know how to end this blog post and was thinking of not posting at all, a friend suggested ending with a cliff-hanger.  I think that's actually very appropriate here.

So we will leave our blog heroine in a British-TV-induced brain-numbed state (laughing now to Vicar of Dibley) and let her go to sleep for the night.  Stay tuned until next time to find out what happens in her pursuit of happy and deep theological thought...

Gracious God, You are with us when we are in a funk and when we are happy.  You love us when we do the noble thing and spend time in deep thought on spiritual things. You love us just as much when we watch too much TV or otherwise choose the easy out. You long to deliver us from our fears, even when we don't know how to let you.  Assure us of your presence in the long nights and in the brightest day.  Thanks, and Amen.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Beautiful Wheels

Isaiah 52:7a: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news..."

Ride4CAP 2012
Tonight I went to spin class for the first time in a couple of months.  It was definitely hard - and harder still because I haven't been pedaling for a while.  But it was worth it. I left the class in such a good mood!  Cycling is definitely one of my best anti-depressants, and showing up at class with the regulars and my favorite teacher helped.

Thinking about my blog post for tonight while spinning, the verse above from Isaiah popped into my mind.  I recently signed up to ride from Seattle to Portland (STP) and raise funds for Cascade AIDS Project (CAP) for my second time.  I do this for many reasons.  As I mentioned, cycling is my anti-depressant, and it also helps me stay in shape. And I've definitely written poetry about my bike and the love I have riding it.  But that's not what gets me to sign up for this ride, to train for the event and to ask my friends and family for donations to CAP.

Ride4CAP is my opportunity to put my faith in action, to preach, without words, the gospel of love and hospitality to all.  It helps me to have meaning in life knowing I am making a difference in the lives of others.  There are many ways to help, and this is certainly an awesome organization and cause to which I am committed. Tonight, I paraphrase the verse from Isaiah:
"How beautiful upon the roads from Seattle to Portland are the wheels of the cyclists who announce love and acceptance for all, who fight to eliminate stigma, who bring the good news of donations that provide essential services for those affected by HIV, who won't stop riding until the end of AIDS."
There's still time (not much, though) to join our team - to be a part of something bigger than yourself and make a difference.  And there is time until July 13th to donate to our goal.

God of healing, Thank you for the opportunities you give us to help others in the world.  Please help each of us to find our own unique way to share the good news of love and peace with those in need.  Please bless the work of Cascade AIDS Project and all those seeking to fight stigma and end AIDS.  Please bring healing and hope to those affected by HIV/AIDS, and remind them that they are not alone.  Thanks. and Amen.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Unconditional Love

1 Corinthians 13:13 "And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."

Today I got back from a fantastic weekend with the boys; 17 of us in a house on the beach on the Oregon coast. The weather was amazing, and I laughed so hard all weekend long! For our beach party action shot, we all staged goofy poses, including a hair-pulling fight between Tim and myself. I think this picture is hilarious! (and is perfect for tonight's post. Thank you, photographer and organizer Andrew Shayde).

This weekend was filled with so much fun and good humor. But living in community and maintaining friendships is not always easy in real life.  In any family, friend group, or community, at some time or other, fights, drama and misunderstandings are inevitable.  Heck, that's also true across the nation and the planet.  Part of our human nature is our proclivity to see the faults and frailties of others.  This can definitely prevent us from connecting with each other in loving ways.

I feel it is a gift when a friend can recognize your faults and frailties, and love you as you are. Today I had an anxiety freak-out moment but I know my friends still love me.  They know my weakness and it doesn't change their love.  That is a blessing for which I am grateful.  This weekend had multiple grace-filled moments in which the love in our friendships was evident to me.

Now I'm not going to claim that we were a bunch of saints this weekend, with not a single unkind word spoken. (I'm not sure that's even a realistic expectation with 17 people in one house). But I chose tonight's blog theme because this weekend reminded me of the power and importance of love which abides, "regardless" and "in spite of" and "because of" our common broken humanity.

It is helpful for me to get reminders of love that is stronger than our brokenness.  It renews my desire to work for that love in my friendships, family, and community.  What would our world look like if had an infusion of faith, hope, and love in our relationships?

God of grace, Thank you for those moments in our lives when we feel loved and accepted.  Please be with those who struggle with feeling left out or unloved.  Help them to know they are not alone, but are good enough just as they are. Fill our hearts with the confidence that you love us no matter what.  Help us all to reach out to one another with grace and love.  Thanks. and Amen.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

In the night.

Psalm 91:5 "You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day,"

Friends at the beach, 2013,  photo taken by
So one of my struggles is with nighttime anxiety, especially if I am alone. I know others share this fear. It is manageable for me but something that does crop up.

I am not expecting my nighttime fears to be a problem this weekend, when I am sharing a beach house with 15 guys. (This is also why my posts will likely be short this weekend.). My nighttime fears vanish in the midst of so much laughter and conversation. But this kind of intense, beautiful community is more of a "mountain top" experience, not everyday life. (Now if I ever win the lotto, that's a different story).

But in real life, when I'm not surrounded by this posse, I am alone with my nighttime fears. One of my favorite books of the Bible, the psalms, speaks to our longings and our fears. Sometimes they speak from the place of our weakness. Sometimes they speak from a point of strength, even if we don't feel strong.

This psalm reminds me that I am not alone in the night with my fears, as much as it may seem that way. God is present with me, even in the darkest longest night. I may prefer to be surrounded by a gang of friends, but even alone I can find the strength in the night.

God of day and night, Grant us the strength to face our fears and the knowledge that we are not alone in our struggles. Remind us that you are there. Build our communities so we can support one another in our journeys. Thanks. and Amen.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Even Then...

Daniel 9:9: "The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;" (NIV)
My lovely ensemble from Bat'n Rouge - raising money for CAP
I don't know about you, but I find a certain joy in rebelling. I am not someone who has rebelled in radical ways, but I definitely march to the beat of my own drum. There's something pleasurable in doing that which is not expected.. If you tell me I can't do something I want to do, it can be so much more enticing.  If you tell me I must do something, it becomes a chore to avoid. Maybe that's why New Years Resolutions fail. We tell ourselves what we are supposed to do to accomplish our goals, but defying that expectation is more fun.

There are other ways that we do our own thang that are definitely not loving towards our fellow human beings or the planet. We all mess up at one time or another, hurting each other in small and large ways. The good news is that no matter how often or in what ways we mess up, there is love, mercy and forgiveness greater than our screw-ups.  We are not defined by our mistakes.  We, ourselves, are not mistakes.  No matter what.

God of grace, Sometimes we hurt other people, sometimes other people hurt us. Help us to remember that your love and mercy are bigger than anything we can do, and that your forgiveness has no limit.  Help us to show your mercy and forgiveness to others, and to ourselves.  Thanks.and Amen.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Audience Participation

Psalm 102:7 "I lie awake; I am like a lonely bird on the housetop."

Row River, Oregon

DISCLAIMER: Today's bible verse is not how I feel. It is my example of a verse and a psalm that describe loneliness. Just thought I'd let you know.

So why do I want to discuss loneliness?  Because I think that loneliness and feelings of isolation are common feelings in our culture. I think many of us experience it at times, some more than others. We long for authentic connections, where we can be loved as our true selves, where we can find meaning. We long for a safe and caring community.  Or maybe it's just me.

One of the puzzles I've been turning over in my head is how to build community and reduce feelings of isolation.  I think about this from an academic and a practical point of view.  What should I study to contemplate this?  What should I do to work towards this?

This is where the audience participation comes in..... what are your thoughts?  Profound or silly, what do you think about loneliness and community?  Does it keep you up at night?  Or is it something you've never worried about?  Have you found any good ways to answer these questions?  Please share your thoughts!

And since I like to end my daily devotion with a prayer, here's today's:

God of us all, Be with us this night and always. Especially comfort those who lie awake in loneliness. Build up our communities to be safe and nurturing places. Give us creativity, wisdom, and grace so we may find new and meaningful ways to connect those around us. Thanks. and Amen.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Gratitude

Philippians 1:3: "I thank my God every time I remember you,"

Happy 2013!

As I start this New Year, I want to share my gratitude for each of you and the ways you have touched my life.  Tonight I got to see dear friends that I've known 19 years, and last night I got to celebrate New Years with amazing friends I met this summer (and I've never kissed so many boys at New Years!)  :-D

Old friends and new, church friends, downtown friends, grad school and old school friends, work friends, spin friends, family friends and everyone and everywhere in between, I am blessed to know each of you. There isn't enough time in the day for me to get to know all of you as much as I would like: for the rich conversations, the belly laughs, the personal stories, and the heartfelt words of friendship. I thank God every time I think of you and I'm really glad I have another year to deepen our relationships and strengthen our bonds of community.  I guess what I'm saying is Thank you for being a friend.

God of love, bless us all with the gift of friendship. Be with the lonely and isolated, as well as those whose social calendars are full. Let all of us know we are loved, valued, and not forgotten. Build our communities, grant us true and lasting friendships, and bless us with your grace and love in all of our relationships.  Amen.