Bread

Last week, I felt like giving up. But, I didn’t. And now I am resolving not to.

We have been celebrating the joys of having full marriage equality in many areas of our lives. In some ways, it seems surreal. But, in the midst of all that joy, I have been incredibly disheartened.

I have seen friends, family, and strangers say some pretty rotten things about people like me & my wife. I have seen people say some very excluding things. I have seen people put objects and the chance to tell someone, “you are wrong, and I am right” above the feelings of others. I have seen people touting tough love as if Jesus Christ said “thou shalt be forceful in telling others how wrong they are” rather than “do not judge…”

I’ve felt like screaming when I’ve seen pictures of a duck hunting celebrity paired with a quote about “lifestyles” and loving people. So much so, I made my own response complete with a sunglasses wearing Jesus.

jesus meme

All tongue-in-cheek humor aside, I’ve felt pretty miserable.

I’ve really been affected by words that were said directly to me by a family member, as well as the words said on social media by other family members. I hate that I have been cut so deeply, but then I think again – why wouldn’t I?

Last week, near the end, I kept coming back to the same thought and the same image.

My family on my dad’s side does this really awesome bird call thing. I looked it up and found out it’s called an ocarina. A hand ocarina.

When they put their hands together and blow air, it makes a beautiful quail-like bird call. Then, they can manipulate the sound by moving their hands. My grandfather taught them how, because some could not whistle. It was a way for them to call out if they were lost in the woods.

No matter how much I tried, and still try today, I can’t do it.

As a kid, I wanted nothing more than to be able to do it. No matter who tried to teach me, I couldn’t. As a musical person and a person who loves nature, it was incredibly hard for me to not be able to imitate this sound, so I would do my best with singing the tones.

It wasn’t the same.

The last time I remember being shown how was when my wife and I were at my grandfather’s before his health deteriorated quickly. He, my aunt, my dad, all able to do it in the room.

I couldn’t do it. Neither could my wife.

We are different from my other family.

Our wedding was bare bones. Hardly anyone related to me came or even sent a card. I remember going to elaborate weddings for my cousins.

Family doesn’t think anything of saying things which might cause us to feel excluded.

“Family” thought it was okay to tell me that I chose to be gay and split our family because I didn’t want to be lonely. That we are a house of sin and lies and that our daughter’s soul is in trouble because we are gay.

I’m in the woods of hate, spite, and prejudice, and I can’t make the sound to let everyone know that I need help. And I don’t know if they would care anyway.

Because of this and continual posts on social media, articles, etc, I want to distance myself so far from the church that there is no resemblance.

“Love the sinner. Hate the sin.” is not in the Bible.

Christ always had the harshest words for the religious people and he embraced the marginalized.

Christ.

I do still believe.

My dear dear friend, Mary Ellen, makes amazing sourdough bread. She gave me some starter last week.

Yesterday, I fed the starter, and I watched it activate and come to life in a jar on my counter.

In the afternoon as I made the dough, I thought of Mary Ellen, and I thought of her making the bread “with Christ’s love for ALL.”

As I punched down the dough, separated it, and formed it last night, I thought of “This is my body – broken for you.”

God, how the body is so broken.

My body. The church body.

Broken.

I saw Mary Ellen today, and she spoke words to me that I couldn’t believe – exactly what I needed someone to tell me – that my redemption and the redeeming love of Jesus does not hinge upon the views and actions of others. That the work Christ has done and is doing in me is real and valuable and will continue and will continue to affect others.

I sure hope so.

As I baked the bread this morning before work, I thought of more.

“The Kingdom of God is like yeast…”

The miracle of the feeding five thousand.

The parable about a child asking for bread, and why a good parent would never give a stone.

And finally:

“I am the bread of life.”

bread

And I choose today to believe that.

“Give us this day, our daily bread.”

Love,

C.

Waking Up

In the wee hours of the early morning, I found myself unable to sleep, and a memory came to me that I had not thought of in quite some time. There was a bluish tint to the light, and it reminded me of when I was in youth group, and the color blue had a special significance for me.

Growing up in a pentecostal or charismatic tradition can certainly have some weirdness, and I am not sure how I feel about some of the things I saw, heard, and was taught. I do remember, though, that I became incredibly focused on God, engulfed by my own passion for Christ, and I craved any sign of God’s presence.

In the circles of teachings brought to my church and my youth group, a mystic experience was sometimes talked about – actually seeing the presence of God. The presence of God was described as a blue mist or blue smoke hovering in a room. I desperately wanted that experience. I wanted so much to see the God I loved, and sometimes I would awaken in the middle of the night wondering if I might catch a glimpse – much like children dream of catching a glimpse of Santa Clause in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve.

I read books on “being saturated in God’s presence” (Tommy Tenney) and even over the first part of my twenties, I sought an encounter with God.

After being part of a church which was spiritually abusive, things started to change, and over the years since then, I have gone through a crisis and subsequently a growth of my faith.

Now, when I woke up this morning, I thought on that period in my life, when I was looking for blue smoke, and I realized something very important:

I have seen God.

I saw God when my grandmother died suddenly, and my friends held me while I cried, visited the funeral home, surrounded me with love, and supported me.

I saw God when I stood with my family in the freezing cold one night, watching meteors shoot across the sky at my uncle’s house on the mountain.

I saw God when I first came out to a few people, and I was loved – not loved anyway, but just loved.

I saw God when I married D, and when our friends and family surrounded us with prayers, flowers, and love.

I saw God when D and I had difficulty with conceiving, and friends, family, and strangers supported us.

I saw God when we saw our daughter on a screen, secure in my womb.

And this morning, as I am growing more and more awake, I realize another truth:

I still see God.

When my wife looks at me with love.

When I see my belly leap up with the baby’s kicks and rolls.

When I look out the window and see the frost on the ground.

In the changing leaves of Autumn.

In the stillness of the night and brightness of the moon.

We are surrounded and inundated by God. Emmanuel – God with us.

I only recently discovered Pema Chodron, and I have listened to a couple of interviews with her now. She talks about the Buddhist idea that we have the power to wake up.

I find that idea very encouraging and applicable, no matter what religion or way of life we are part of.

We do have the power to wake up.

I find myself waking up more and more, as I am learning what battles to fight and what battles not to. (A true challenge, though, with current pregnancy hormones!) I am finding myself growing in tune with love, and with life and goodness. More and more, I want to shut out the noise and just be.

Maybe if we all started to wake up, it would offer us some clarity in understanding and in relating to one another.

One of my favorite prayers is the “Breastplate” prayer of St. Patrick. There is a particular stanza that seems most appropriate while I am reflecting this morning:

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

 

And as I arise, and as we all arise, let’s wake up.

Love,

C.

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Hope

Pregnancy is one of those phenomena I find difficult to describe. Everyday, I feel our daughter growing stronger and bigger inside of me, as I grow larger and more excited and more curious about what she will be like. Along with all that growth, my energy and my ability to focus has not been what it was, and so, writing as often as I’d like has not been possible.

There is so much I have wanted to say over the past several weeks. I had a whole post planned out in my head for Vicky Beeching, who recently came out and has faced quite the backlash, but also some wonderful support. I still plan to write out everything I wanted to say, but not today. So for now, let it be said that I was so encouraged by her bravery and touched by many of her supporters.

I have had a lot on my mind as far as sexual assault and domestic violence. The recent NFL controversies, sexual assaults on college campuses, and an assault involving local high school students has had me reflecting and also planning on what all I can do as an education professional and a counselor. I have worked closely with sexual trauma for several years now, and I am always looking for ways to help more, prevent more, and educate more.

I could say more about the international conflicts, about LGBT homeless, about my own frustrations with my career and wanting to use my counseling skills on a full time basis again – desperately.

I could talk about the economy, the election season, freedom of speech, and  – Ferguson- My God, help us. There is so much to say.

The truth of the matter is that there are so many horrible things going on in the world right now. And the truth is also that there are good things – acts of courage, acts of kindness, acts of selfless giving.

Throughout the Gospels, we read about “the Kingdom of God.” When I was younger, I always pictured a palace, a crown, gaudy royal things that didn’t much appeal to me. Honestly, those images still don’t.

But now that I understand more, I see the simplicity, and I realize that the simplicity and the smallness is the point.

The Kingdom of God is like…

a mustard seed…

yeast…

a pearl…

a buried treasure…

little children…

Small, beautiful, full of potential.

Always growing and working behind the scenes.

This week was not very good for me. I had my hopes up for a big positive change, and those hopes were let down on Friday morning. A family member has made some horrible choices and is self-destructing. Illness was bad.

But still, through being sick, through being told I didn’t get the position, through hearing the latest bad decision of a loved one,

our daughter kicked, and moved, and grew inside of me.

Life, even in the darkness, was growing and is still growing behind the scenes.

I am so quick to forget that the good is still at work, that the sweet will soon come to contrast the bitter, and that the sun will, indeed, come up again.

Yesterday, we dug up our sweet potatoes. To be completely honest, D dug them up while I watched and went back and forth to get things as needed- bending over and working isn’t as easy now that I am about to move into my third trimester!

We neglected the bed of potatoes. The weeds had all but completely taken over. We hardly watered them. We had way too large of a garden this year, and it was more than we could manage. So, the potatoes were left on their own.

We were pretty sure we would have a very small amount of sad little scrawny sweet potatoes. But, we were wrong. We had a good amount overall, many small, but several large.

Even among the choking weeds, drought, and neglect, life was still at work – growing and becoming full of more life to give.

Right now, the life growing inside of me serves as my reminder, as does the garden we plant and tend to. What reminders can you use to continually remember that the good is at work behind the scenes? That life and hope are growing? And that the sun will shine again?

I hope you’ll think on it, and that you will share in the comments if you are willing.

With much hope and anticipation for the better.

Love,

C.