Bee Mine (A Valentine’s Post)

Today is Valentine’s Day, a day to commemorate Saint Valentine.

I’ve seen a lot of buzz today about the Saint behind the day, about being single on Valentine’s day, and about what to buy or give your partner.

Saint Valentine is the patron saint of bee keepers and happy marriages, so it’s only fitting I would pay a little homage on this blog.

What’s on my mind today is how we should remember.  Remember someone who was arrested for performing Christian marriages.

I can’t help but immediately think of Reverend Frank Schaefer and many others who have dared to defy authority and perform marriages. Marriages they are losing their rights over. Christian marriages, despite the fact that some of the church and most state governments refuse to recognize them.

Marriages like mine.

A good marriage.

Last night, my sweet wife and I exchanged our small gifts to each other. I made hers, and she got a very thoughtful book for me, one I had seen and wanted a while ago.

Drew Barrymore’s “Find It in Everything.”

It’s a beautiful collection of photographs she has taken over the years, and each photograph contains a heart. Some of them are obvious and intentional, while others are accidents which convey a message of beauty and hope and love. I am so moved by Drew’s attention to such simple, and often hidden, beauty and hope.

After we looked through the book last night, we started noticing hearts everywhere, too.

I keep thinking today, that maybe the best way we can remember Saint Valentine is to do three things.

We can stand in solidarity with those who are persecuted for their love, and those who stand on the side of love, though it cost them greatly. We can remember the LGBTQ people around the world that face varying levels of oppression and injustice, and the ministers, justice workers, and ordinary citizens who stand with them. We can remember people who have no or very limited rights, the bullied, and the Ugandans and the Russians who are beaten and/or killed for their love. We can stand with them. And we can remember Frank Schaefer and other ministers who face defrocking because of their stand for love.

We all can find it in everything. We can look not just for hearts, but for other signs of hope and love, and we can do as Drew suggests, and make symbols of love and hope of our own.  Then maybe others, will start to find it, too.

We can be kind to bees, and help the bee keepers. Let’s not just buy flowers, but plant them. Flowers that have not been treated with pesticides, and flowers and herbs that they feed on. Buy local honey.  Support a local bee keeper.

Maybe if we engage in all of those things, Valentine’s Day will become more than a day for cute little hearts with messages like “Be Mine” and “Sweetheart” or over-priced teddy bears and chocolate.

Maybe it will be a day that reminds us that love wins.

Love always wins.

❤ ❤ ❤

Love,

C

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Celebrating the First Year of My Amazing Lesbian Marriage

On a cool Saturday – October 6th, 2012,

I took a walk, holding the hand of my best friend, my soul-mate, and the love of my life.

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I stood in front of my friends and family, and hers.

VLPlr_77There were passages read,

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~~~

Homilies were presented.

Underneath a natural chuppah

of leaf and limb.

As God’s presence

became visible

and felt

in light

and gentle

Autumn breeze.

~

~

~

We made promises.

Solemn vows.

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And we placed rings on our fingers.

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Flowers were placed at our feet.

As our friends placed them around us, as an act of prayer, and symbolizing support, eternity, unity, and trinity,

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while “Holy,

Holy,

Holy”

played in the background.

Prayers were prayed.

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And just like that…

with much prayer, reverence, humility, and gratitude,

a marriage began.

It’s been one year of Christian marriage. The federally legal will come soon, as we wait for the state.

We have laughed until tears have streamed down both of our faces.

We have held each other through loss and pain.

We have prayed prayers together, and sung hymns.

We have learned how to agree and how to disagree.

We have learned how to appreciate, to inspire, and to challenge each other.

We have grown, and are continuing to learn how best to help each other grow.

It has been one year of Christian marriage…

a holy

good

Christian

marriage.

And we are celebrating and thankful for our friends and family who have supported us, and are continuing to surround us with the love and support those flowers at our feet represented.

One year, D…

and counting for eternity…

Love Always,

C.

Losing My Faith to Find It

A couple of days ago, I had a thought come to me and asked for others to contribute their thoughts, and I had hoped for more discussion, but I understand these things don’t always go as planned or hoped for – but even with this longer post, I still hope for more dialogue.

But with the dialogue I did have – with the couple of posters, a couple comments on facebook, and a very long conversation with my wife – something became very clear – our view of, our experience of, and who we believe Christ to be (we can pretty much sum all of that up by saying our Christology) is central.

Lately, I have found myself angry – because of injustices and excuses for injustices – more specifically, I have found myself incredibly angry at racism, homophobia, immigrant-phobia (more racism with a twist), politics, and in all honesty – angry at the Church for its participation in some cases, and its silence in others. I became angry at people (usually people seen as leaders in the Church) who seem to talk more about conservative politics, “old glory” (the flag) and “God and country” more than the risen Christ and the hope we have in him.

Another place I find myself often these days, and I think because of the sins of the Church – is a crisis of faith.

James Fowler, a minister in the UMC and someone who has studied psychology has a model of faith development in which we have a crisis and possibly (depending on what we do with that crisis) – grow. For anyone who has taken a basic psychology class, this model is very similar to Erik Erikson’s model of identity development. Fowler has an entire book on the topic, but I also highly recommend this article: http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/fowler.htm

Though I know this theory rather well, and though I believe it to be true – it hasn’t been what is on my mind. What has been on my mind the most is asking myself the question: why do I hold on to my faith, anyway? Why don’t I just quit and stop associating myself with a religion, that in this country, isn’t what it says it is? Many of us have become disillusioned and disgusted with the American brand of Christianity that seems to disenfranchise and demonize rather than provide real hope and love in the world. It seems to focus more on what we shouldn’t do, rather than what we should be doing. The book of 1 John and Jesus’ command to love God and love neighbor seems to get lost in a rhetoric that is overly political and even more so: us vs them.

Last year, when extremely hurt by the Church over a very sad and ridiculous day of political action, I even toyed with a chorus to a song which really went nowhere because I thought it sounded too angry, but I will share it now:

I pledge allegiance to the Church
Of the United States of America
And to the Republican whom it serves
One God inside our box
Divided between the sheep and goats
Justice only inside this flock

———————————————–

It isn’t my finest, I know. And in case you were wondering, that republican, of course, was Mike Huckabee.

What I wanted to share was the feeling. The anger and the sorrow. Anger is an interesting emotion in that it is usually covering up something else. (A nice bit of information I learned in my training as a therapist.) Here, it is covering sorrow.

I was sorrowful because so many people were standing against rights of human beings, sorrowful that the Church was participating in such a sad and pitiful act while people were starving (gluttony, anyone?), sorrowful that people did not look into the real reason behind the boycott (money going to a hate group. don’t believe me? look up the FRC at the Southern Poverty Law Center site), sorrowful at all the hate coming out of people’s mouths, very sorrowful for Christ being so misrepresented.

So am I losing my faith in Christ over a bunch of conservative (and many believed they were well meaning) Christians eating chicken sandwiches in my face about a year ago?

No.

But I know some people who did.

Pat Robertson said this week he wished there were a vomit button (instead of a like button) for pictures of gay couples on facebook. People protested against marital rights, in the name of God. People have started the process of limiting voting rights in states throughout the country. Russia passed some scary laws against LGBT people. So-called evangelists have helped, in recent years, to ignite so much hate in Africa, that some countries made being gay a crime punishable by death.

Am I losing my faith because of all of this?

No.

But I know some people who did and are, and let me tell you – it is a daily struggle for me.

Why do I hold on to my faith in Christ?

I have thought in recent weeks about stopping, but then I think of my church, in the UCC (United Church of Christ), and the wonderful supportive loving community I have found. I just can’t leave.

And I think of the gospel and what it really says about loving God and neighbor and about all those commands to live out that love in a tangible way.

But even more, I think of Jesus.

I think of what all I have learned about Jesus through my union with D. How her love for me, and mine for her have taught me about intimacy, vulnerability, steadfastness, loyalty, joy, and companionship more than any other life lesson I could have imagined. (Though I know we will learn even more when we become parents together.)

In all honesty, since I have been with D, my love for Christ has only grown, and continues to grow – exponentially.

Christ – it is my love for Christ that drives me to be so sorrowful for the church. It is my deep knowing him that aches my soul when I see him painted so negatively and misrepresented.

Christ asked his disciples a question –

They told him what other people thought he was – a prophet, sometimes a specific one reincarnated.

Prophets tell us things; they see things; they sometimes had these amazing and seemingly impossible things happen when they were near.

But Jesus got real specific, “Who do you say I am?”

Bless Peter’s heart. He was pretty bold: “You are the Christ (the Messiah).”

The Messiah.

Messiah is much more than prophet. Saying someone was the Messiah could get you killed. And it did.

Messiah – not just someone to tell us things or give us rules.

Someone to know. Someone to love. Someone to follow.

Who do I say Jesus is?

Well, like the ones who said something earlier this week, I believe Jesus is the Christ. I believe he is risen, and I believe this changes everything.

One poster so beautifully said “he commands my life and my death.” – so true.

Another so wonderfully stated that his belief impacts how he cares for others – that he strives to be kind. Yes, and amen.

I do not walk away from my faith because of the Church at large. I stay with my faith in Jesus because of Jesus Christ himself. Because I have known his love. Because I have literally felt his love and known him to sing over me, rejoicing. Because I have known his beautiful gifts and sacraments in community, friendship, marriage, and communion.

I do not walk away from Christ, because Christ is my center, and he is the center of marriage with D.

I truly believe that it is our answer to the question, “Who do you say I am” that will determine how we relate to ourselves, to God, to each other, and to our environment.

When we see God’s great love and we know it, when we see Christ literally make all things new, when we see the beauty of the Creator – it is the working out of our salvation that will flow out of us – living as God’s great work of art, loving God and loving others – truly loving them (See my post: “Confessional” for more on what that love should look like, or for that matter, read 1 Corinthians 13). We will care for our environment, because we love the Creator who made it.

Mike, someone who wears a lot of hats at the college I went to- church leader, professor, student development vp – said something to a group of students, “what if people know the wrong Jesus?”

It has stuck with me through the past few years since he said it.

I think it is true – some people do not know the real Jesus – they know someone presented and misrepresented by the Church. If we don’t do our own searching, how can our faith be our own?

Deanna and I have started watching a new show on ABC Family, called “The Fosters” – I recommend it. It’s a drama about an interracial lesbian couple raising a family – adopted kids, a biologically related child, and foster kids. It is a beautiful picture of family, and I think the kind of picture of how family is a picture of Christ and the church.

This week, there is a quote (spoiler alert) that I was surprised about for a TV drama to get so right.

One half of the couple was talking to her father, and he started talking about sin and how she was away from God and he didn’t understand why she didn’t go to church anymore. She relayed a story of when he made her talk to a youth minister when he found out she was gay (when she was still an adolescent.) She then said it was so wounding, that she never went back to a church again. The conversation stayed tense and a little heated, and she left.

Later, her dad shows up unannounced at the couple’s house, looking remorseful and bothered, and her partner invites him to stay for dinner. To my surprise, the other dinner guests are a catholic latino family, and when the dad asks, they defend the lesbian couple – saying, “What is more Christian than family?” – they go on to press the dad for how he can love his daughter but not stand for her equal treatment. Beautiful – but that isn’t the quote.

When he leaves, his daughter walks him out, and they have a few words about him being welcome, then he says, “If my sending you to that minister all those years ago drove a wedge between you and God – well, that’s the biggest sin of all.”

I almost fell off the couch.

This show captured what I had been trying to say. It captured the difference between Jesus the prophet who does signs and miracles and has all this power and all these rules – and Jesus Christ – the Messiah – the real Jesus – who is our good shepherd, and who often told the disciples about how he had other people, all people – drawing them unto him, not rejecting them or taking an us and them approach.

There was this song in the red back hymnal (if you don’t know what that is, it is a whole other story) called “This Same Jesus”

Well, this same Jesus,

who spoke to the woman at the well when men shouldn’t talk to women, especially not Jewish men talking to Gentile women

who touched those considered untouchables

who chose the outcasts and hated of society as his disciples

who loved those who were looked down upon

who said all people – all people

this

same

Jesus

has come.

is present.

and will be.

And there is always room at his table.

For all of us, whoever we may be.

And he calls us to do the same.

And that is why I believe.

Love,

C.