Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Some New Years Reso-ma-lutions

An Ebenezer!
I promised to actually write on my own blog instead of always linking to my work on other blogs, and I'm following through.  This one's for here.

I can't help it; I'm a sucker for new year's resolutions.  I know January 1st is really no different than any other 24-hour day.  I know I can "start my best life now," whenever "now" happens to be.  But there's something about New Year's Day that feels like the first crisp page of a journal.  Plus it's a memorable marker in time.  So here I raise my Ebenezer.

You may have no interest in reading my resolutions, and you're welcome to stop reading now - I'm just using you for my own purposes.  When I make these resolutions public, it helps me keep them - it worked for me a couple years ago when I posted my resolution to blog each month.  Even if no one reads this, I'll still behave as though someone did.  It's like having an unknown number of accountability partners, which is great for a people-pleaser like me.    :)

In 2015, here's what I want to especially practice:

1. I will practice gratitude.  
I recently read Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts."  I had been hesitant to read it, despite many recommendations.  Maybe it was just the cover with the dress and the bird's nest, but "30-something lesbian" did not seem to be its target market.  Expecting it to be fluffy Christian mom stuff, I sampled chapter one, and ended up reading the whole book in one sitting.  Without skirting around the suffering and depression we all experience, Voskamp convinces you of your need to practice gratitude, to document specific things you're grateful for in your day as they happen.  This has the lovely side effect of making you fully present in those moments, "weighing them down with your full attention," so that instead of feeling like you're always running out of time, you actually start to feel like you're filling up with these exquisite slivers of time.  I've been trying this a bit during the Christmas season, and it totally works.  It's reminding me of times in my life when I was so much more aware of and grateful for God's presence... my very first sermon was about "praying with your eyes open," but I lost practice.  On Christmas morning, I got a little notebook in my stocking, and I knew instantly what it would be for.  My list begins tomorrow, and we'll see how long it takes to get to one thousand. I'm also going to carry my camera around a lot more, so I can document the things I'm grateful for in more visual ways.

2. I will practice contemplation.

I'm one of those people who gets the Richard Rohr e-mails every day, but who rarely puts his words into practice.  He writes a lot about contemplation - having short times of silent meditation built into your day, time to simply and wordlessly sit with God.  Over a lifetime, this actually begins changing the pathways in your brain and helps you react differently to stress, and develop more of an ability to listen to God.  I've tried this on and off in the past, but with my current work and its "word-iness" and increased potential for situations of conflict and criticism, I think it's time to make this a regularly scheduled morning activity.  

3. I will practice seeing God as female.  

I believe God has no gender.  But despite this head-belief, I've spent my entire life imagining and referring to God as male.  Because patriarchy.  To be honest, I've always thought that Christians who used feminine terms for God were New Age-y and weird, but lately I've realized it's equally weird to default to masculine God images.  I'm not very good at imagining gender-less beings, so I figured that one year of picturing a female God would at least begin to bring some balance to my thirty years of male God.  For this year, when I pray, I will try to focus on God's feminine characteristics.  When someone uses male pronouns for God, I will change them to female pronouns in my head.  I say "in my head" because being a gay Christian makes me edgy enough, and I want to keep building bridges like Sarah Bessey, so I will refrain from publicly referring to God as "She" for now.  Maybe that will be an experiment for 2016...

4. I will practice using social media in ways that don't make me crazy.

I actually have no idea how to do this, so this is more of a confession of un-health and a request for suggestions.  Here's the problem: I was barely managing my online life with email, Facebook and blog-reading. Just barely.  But then Eric Garner happened, and I realized that my Twitter feed was all over it, while my Facebook feed remained silent on the topic.  So now I have taken up tweeting and following Twitter regularly, and guys, it's pushing me over the edge.  The digital chatter is constant and hard to escape.  Every time I dip my toes into the online stream I feel swept away by its current. When I see unread blogs, tweets, or Facebook posts, my brain treats them like things on my to-do list, and reading them is like checking them off, which becomes addictive.  I am not ready to give up social media altogether - not only do I use it for work, but I learn a lot from the blogs and tweets I read, and I depend on Facebook to keep up with people I love who live far from me.  I know I want to unplug and stay offline on my Sabbath, but what other practices do you guys suggest to keep healthy daily checks and balances on social media?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Lesbian & the Virgin Mary

Today I have a guest post over at Candice Czubernat's blog...

"Two years ago, I was co-pastoring a little church in inner-city Vancouver. That Advent season, my co-pastor was leading us in imaginative storytelling: we’d take turns choosing a person from the Christmas narrative and telling the story from that character’s viewpoint. I enjoyed listening to other people’s reflections, but whenever I tried to decide which character from the story I could best identify with, I lost focus.

My brain kept getting snagged on the fact that this would be my last closeted Christmas.

Let me back up a bit. Seven years earlier, I had moved to Vancouver to study theology at an evangelical grad school. Although I had hoped seminary would provide a pool of potential Christian husbands, I ended up slowly falling in love with my female roommate and classmate, Danice, who had introduced me to the ocean, good music, and good beer, and who had also fallen in love with me. This unexpected turn of events shed unavoidable light on our lifelong attraction to women, which, like good Evangelicals, we’d both semi-successfully repressed.

Eventually we completed our MDiv degrees and found jobs in two Baptist churches, all the while living together as mostly-closeted, celibate roommates. I spent my free time devouring every book I could get my hands on about homosexuality and faith. Discovering good hermeneutical points in both the affirming and non-affirming camps, I doubted whether I’d ever land conclusively on either side of the fence.

After seven years of this uncomfortable fence-sitting, a couple of things were becoming clear. Our ministry was suffering because we didn’t feel free to be authentically ourselves. Our relationship was suffering because we were in constant flux over how to ethically express our love. Despite our lack of theological certainty, it was time to make a decision.

As we waited and prayed about whether to pursue marriage, our sense of peace and confidence in God’s blessing was strengthened. We agreed to spend the following year coming out, culminating in an announcement to our congregations, with full knowledge that our intent to marry would mean the loss of these pastoral roles.

There I sat in our circle of plastic church chairs, quite distracted by this imminent and ominous “year of coming out,” surrounded by beautiful people who would sadly no longer be my congregants come next Christmas.

In that moment, I did not expect to be drawn to Mary.

Honestly, up until that point in my life, Mary had been very domesticated. Sure, she got some airtime around Christmas for the Magnificat and the whole “birth of Christ” thing, but most often Protestants kept Mary safely tucked away, lest our interest in her reach unhealthy (read: Catholic) levels. Plus, I was coming out as a lesbian, one without a noticeably ticking maternal clock, so it seemed even less likely that I’d be drawn to this consummate heterosexual wife and mother.

But the more I thought about Mary and her ro
le in the plot, the more I found links between our lives..."

Click here to go read the rest at Candice's page!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The (Un)expected journey - my reflections on our New Direction Epic Road Trip

I've got another new post on my work blog (I promise I'll come back and write here too one day!).  Here's the start, and you can head over to the New Direction site to read the rest...

It’s been two and a half weeks since our staff returned to Toronto, and I’m still sitting here, trying to make sense of what happened during the three weeks of our Epic Road Trip across western Canada. At risk of stating the obvious, the trek, for me, was a mix of the expected and the unexpected.

I expected to bond with my co-workers, and I did. We enjoyed so many shared experiences: the hotels (good and bad), the restaurants (good and bad), listening to the addictive Serial podcast (always good) as well as Danice’s highly educational musical playlists – overviews of music through the decades – and of course, lots and lots of Tim Horton’s, the one blessed constant across the many miles and time zones of Canada. There were many “firsts” for us – Danice got her first speeding ticket, Wes tasted his first Vancouver sushi, and for the first time, I held up traffic while driving off a docked ferry because I couldn’t figure out how to disengage the parking brake. Among other things, I learned that Wes always finishes eating one dish on his plate before moving on to another (leaving his tomatoes uneaten), and that Wendy observes “licorice-o-clock” almost daily, at least on road trips, though the actual hour varies.

What I didn’t expect was how well our team members would perform under pressure...

Read the rest over at the New Direction blog.