Monday, June 29, 2015

Deafening Silence

Can you hear the silence?

I can and it's been deafening.  I, for one, have been grateful for that.  Since SCOTUS was passed, decided on, whatever, last week, I have noticed very little what some would label hate, in my newsfeed.  I breathed a sigh of relief as my family members and friends, who I know don't agree with gay marriage, chose to keep their mouths shut and their fingers stilled.

I come from, what I would freely label as a conservative Christian family, notice I did not say fundamentalist, no that label wouldn't describe us.  (This is how we were raised, not what all of us believe now)  There are a lot of us, 60+ people on just my mother's side.  They could make a lot of noise if they wanted to.  I also attend an Evangelical Seminary, again not fundamentalist but yes, conservative would be an apropos description.  So I am well aware that within my circle there are many people who disagree with gay marriage.  Yet through all of this, they have remained quiet.

Which got me to wondering why?  If I read what some of my proudly SCOTUS supporting friends are saying I would be led to believe that all of my friends and family who still hold conservative Christian values are walking around spewing hate.  But they're not, they're not saying anything at all.  It is as if they now have adopted the opinion that their voices are irrelevant, because they have become counter-cultural.   It is wiser to be silent than to speak.  I think the reasons for this collective silence is fear.  They are afraid to say anything disagreeing with what appears to be majority public opinion, less they be labeled a bigot or a freak and be bullied into adopting a belief they don't really agree with.  I'm sure many of my gay friends can identify with that emotion, with that experience.  I have been afraid to speak my mind and my opinion isn't even dissenting, it's just of the food for thought variety.

But just like I don't want my gay friends to have to live in fear, I will choose not to do so either.  I have an opinion and some thoughts on this issue and while they may differ from yours I hope you can hear me out as respectfully and thoughtfully as I will endeavor to hear you.

Let me start by saying, I am not against adult men and women having the legal right to marry any other adult man or woman they choose.  As I see it, this is a legal issue and it has very little to do with my faith.  I base this on my interpretation of Jesus' interactions with his government while he was here on the planet.  As I see it, he had very little to do with the government except to say "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and give back to God what is God's (Mark 12:17 NLT)."  I tend to take the same approach.  I don't believe that the government is my agent of change, nor do I believe it is a tool I will use to further the cause of faith nor is it something I will use in an attempt to benefit humanity.  It is simply there, I submit to its authority, am grateful for its protection but the government can in no way hinder my ability to live out my faith, so whether it makes various types marriages legal or not is irrelevant except in the way that law affects those I love and care about.

I don't believe the often quoted adage, "God will turn his back on this nation."  I don't believe that God is in the business of backing nations unlike Islamic extremists who seem to believe that and attempt to achieve acceptance from Allah by beheading those who don't covert, or throwing homosexuals off buildings.  I therefore believe it's not really possible for God to turn his back on a nation, this one or any other.  As I understand God, he's in the people business, nations are sort of irrelevant in his book.  Unless we're talking the Old Testament nation of Israel, which requires a whole other discussion not best served in this brief dialogue.

I also don't agree with the even more often quoted "we were founded on Christian ideals."  I'm no history expert but what I have read leads me to the conclusion that while the majority (not all) of our founding fathers (and mothers, let's assume they should get a mention) were Christians, what they wanted to start here was a nation that did two main things: freed them from religious persecution and gave them an opportunity to speak into their government.  Which is pretty similar to what we have now.  We can worship whoever, however, whenever we choose and we vote people who we believe will speak best for us into offices in our government in hopes that they will represent our voice.  

That is why SCOTUS happened to begin with.  The people demanded it.  I know the vote was a close one, but I have felt that the legalization of gay marriage was an inevitability in our country for quite some time.  It was desired by a large segment of our population and because of that it was going to happen.  Government for the people, by the people - I read that somewhere.  From what I understand, in a very limited capacity, the way in which SCOTUS passed has caused some consternation because it wasn't done in the most legally credible fashion.  I can see that, when I read it, my first thought was: state's rights, what about those?  The Supreme Court just totally trampled those.  However, again, the people demanded this and it was going to happen, one way or the other.  I will leave that debate to those who have law degrees and understand politics in a way I do not.  What I do hope for is that those who championed this cause, who do understand politics and the judicial structure, would step back and consider the how behind this coming into law and perhaps encourage a more constitutionally respectful approach for laws to be put into place in our future and now.  Because if we go around undermining the constitution now, there will be no stopping it later.

However that is not my bailiwick and certainly not my area of expertise. In our country the legal process of getting married does several things for us: gives us the ability to insure our partners, it helps with end of life issues such as wills, it ensures your spouse can be there in the ER, or ICU with you and it tells the doctors and nurses who is allowed to make decisions for you when you're unable to, it gives you some tax sheltering and it protects your assets in divorce supposedly, like it or not legal marriage has a lot to do with divorce in our country.  This is why the #lovewins seems like such a misnomer to many because our government was not saying before SCOTUS that you couldn't love whomever you chose.  What won with SCOTUS was legal protection, but #legalprotectionforgaycoupleswins doesn't have the same ring to it.

 What I have long deliberated as this issue has faced our country is the separation of Church and State.   But what many have failed to consider as they have asked the conservative Christian community to sit down and shut up about gay marriage is that the Church and State are completely married to one another in this issue.  Who MARRIES the majority of people in our country???  Pastors, Priests, Ministers, Rabbis, in short: our faith leaders.  We can wax poetically all we want about how this isn't a moral issue that other people shouldn't be able to legislate morality for us but the bottom line is, who can marry who has been legislated morally for us since the beginning of our nation.  Because our legal marriages have occurred in our churches and the churches, mosques and synagogues had an opinion on what marriage looked like.  We can say they're separate, but they never have been.  Yes, judges can marry us, but very few people actually go that route.

So perhaps what this discussion needs is some understanding behind why this issue is so upsetting to  many members of our community now.  This issue doesn't feel separate for them and in actuality, it's not.  If we want legal marriage to have nothing to do with morality, then we need to take the responsibility for legally marrying people out of our faith communities.  As long as our pastors are the ones performing the marriages, gay marriage will continue to be a moral issue.  How could it not be?  If Church and State are really separate then must they not be separate in this incredibly divisive issue?  Let's not pretend that they are and then have all of the parties involved in bed together.  Gay marriage has plagued every denomination in our nation for the last 20 years, they have all had to decide, have decided already (for or against) or are still debating their position on gay marriage.  Churches have split, people have lost their ordination, lots of feelings have been hurt, not to mention individuals' relationships with God have suffered.  But partly churches have been forced to debate this because our pastors are the ones marrying our people.

In my opinion, these two things should be distinctly separate the Church and faith communities over here and the legal process of marriage over there.  Perhaps because I love peace and I do believe that this would bring some peace to this issue.  Perhaps because I'm in seminary and I have actually had to think about whether or not I would marry a gay couple and what denominations do that and what don't and if I should choose a denomination based upon that factor.  I haven't had the luxury of just saying, whatever other people do over there doesn't effect me, because ultimately I may be put in a situation where I am told I can't marry this type of couple or where I am told I must marry this type of couple.  Perhaps I believe this is a solution because I really love people and think they should legally be able to marry who they want and no one else's belief system should determine that.  After all, I'm a divorced woman, there are plenty of belief systems that would love to tell me that I should not be able to get remarried.  Isn't that exactly what freedom from religious persecution is?  The inability of the government to inflict its chosen religious position on its people?  I don't know.  I certainly don't have all the answers.  I just would like us to stop pretending that suddenly with the passage of SCOTUS we now have all of them, because we don't.  There are many more questions now.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A letter to my girl

An open letter to my daughter.

Hello beautiful one.  

Good morning baby.  How are you?  I have been thinking a lot about you lately.  You turned 5 in March and I cannot imagine my baby being five. Still, 2.5 months later it's a head trip.  For a long time I wondered if you'd have a sister to navigate some of the trickier parts of womanhood with, but Mommy is not producing anymore siblings for you, (sorry, really I'm not at all sorry) so unless you gain a step-sister; I think you're probably SOL.   I love my little tribe of three and how you function as a unit.  (Although the bickering, for real, please knock it off.)  By the way, you're rocking (exploiting) the "baby of the family" position just fine.  That being said if you're not going to have a sister to figure out some of these things with so I'm going to make sure you know some things about how to be a woman in this world. 

I have a few more years before you hate me for saying this, so I'm going to get it in while I still can.  You are a mini-me, little lady.  You are made of the same resilient stuff I am.  The kind of fire and heat that doesn't burn out over time but instead has an unlimited fuel source that comes from within.  Baby girl, it's beautiful thing honey.  Not everyone will get you as you grow up.  There are those that will tell you that you're too intense.  Don't listen to them sweetheart.  Your fire scares them and makes them jealous.  They want to tame it or take it.  They wish they had the strength to be as undefeatable as you are.  They wish they could figure out how you speak your truth without appearing to fear the consequences.  They wish they knew where that passion within you came from, the passion that drives you to excel at whatever you put your mind to.  That nature of yours that will cause you to champion the cause of the underdog or never know grades less than a 4.0 or swim faster and run farther than the boys.  I'm not sure what you will set your mind to do, but it will be remarkable - it will intimidate some.  They will try to kill it.  Don't let them kill it.  It's beauty.  It's rare.  It's gold in a world that's made up of dark, ashy coal.  

Perhaps, it is your Irish stock that makes you this way, or that one strawberry-blonde lock that runs through your brunette hair that signifies the fire contained within, but it is there.  I see it burn and flash in those eyes every time you tell me "no."  I see it burn brightly when your brothers attempt to tell you that they're in charge.  It'll burn even more intensely when some idiot tells you later in life that women need to submit.  I have pity for him in advance. Try not to kill him with that icy glare you have, or take too much pleasure in highlighting his idiocy publicly.  

I had to learn not to do that, little one, not to use my intellect as a weapon.  Or my body, or my fire.  You will need to learn those things as well.  It can be tempting sweetheart, 2015 or 1985 or 2045; it will always feel like as a woman we have less power in this world.  It's tempting to exploit the power we do have.  We are born with the innate knowledge of how to do that.  Little lady, please let me caution you not to.  Although bringing a man to his knees with your glance and walk can be fun, it's not a sport and it is beneath you.  

There are other things that you must learn.  You have a sixth sense about you, we all do.  It's a blessing and I want you to promise me.  I want you to swear that you will not ignore it.  Ever.  If the back of your spine tingles or you get covered in goosebumps, or what feels like an icy breeze washes over you in the heat of July.  Eowyn promise me you'll get the hell out of wherever you are.  You can call me, at any time, any hour no matter where you are.  I won't ask any questions.  I won't care how you're dressed.  Or where you are.  I will come for you.  Let me tell you about this cruel harsh world we live in.  Ignoring your sixth sense can be detrimental, you could end up compromising your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.  I don't want that for you.  Please take my word and just trust me on this.  Your momma has lived through making this mistake.  It took a very long time to heal from the errors in my judgement.  

There's another lesson you need to learn.  Although I would love to spare you the actual life experience of figuring this out, chances are you're not going to take my word for it and you're going to insist that you know better than me.  Nonetheless, let me caution you against listening to the charming, smooth talking male that pursues you.  "His words are so sweet, he seems so genuine.  Nevermind that he says he's going to do things and doesn't followthrough", you will tell me.  "He meant to and it's the thought that counts, Momma."  Ummm, no baby girl, it is most certainly not.  When you enter this minefield called dating, when you start to desire that life-long love that makes your heart flutter.  Remember ONE THING, people tell you who they are all the time... with their ACTIONS.  Sure you can feel the butterflies, and rainbows, the sparks when someone touches you.  But girl, listen up, watch him!  Watch what he does.  How does he treat those he says he cares about.  Does he show up when he said he would?  Is he habitually late?  Does he only text or call you only when it's convenient for him?  Girlfriend, you are not an afterthought.  And I promise you if you allow yourself to be treated that way, you will piss your momma off.  You should be a top priority in any man's life if you're going to allow him to inhabit yours.  The second you sense that you have slipped off his priority list, stop making excuses and insist on better for yourself.  You are your own champion.  You are the one who has to use your voice to say what you won't tolerate and how you expect to be treated.  Don't leave anyone guessing, speak your truth.  

What most women forget is that we make the rules.  This isn't a 'women are better than men' thing.  That doesn't have a damn thing to do with it.  This is a fact.  A good man wants to be with you.  He expects you to tell him how he can make that happen regularly, if you don't tell him what's required he will assume that there are no rules.  He will believe that he can do whatever he wants and you'll just be there, accessible, available anytime it's convenient for him.  Do not do that.  The men worthy of your time will listen to what you need from them in order to let them inhabit your presence regularly.  If they want to negotiate your boundaries or expectations - adios.  No thanks.  Wait for the one who doesn't do that to you.  The one who treasures you.  The one who looks at you like you have hung the stars in the sky.  The man who listens and respects what you have to say.  I'm not sure what your expectations will be, but you should have some and they should not involve you dropping everything and running to some guy just because he decided he wants to see you now.  

You will not be one of many, no way.  I once had a boyfriend who used to refer to me as his Number 1.  He did this because when we started dating he was still seeing other people but I was his favorite.  No way, I am not one of many and neither will you be, whether you're in the number 1 spot or not.  If he isn't sure he wants to give up the others to be with you now, he won't give up the others down the road either.  Remember you make the rules.  

Unfortunately chica you will be catcalled, men will say hideous, vile things to you, in public, online, privately.  They will probably explicitly tell you what they want to do to you.  This is the one exception when you may absolutely publicly humiliate them.  Go for it.  Don't ever let anyone speak to you in a manner which you find repulsive.  Men can be pigs.  Don't keep your mouth shut and tolerate it.  If you need some help with phrases on how to achieve the desired reaction I have a whole closet full.  You set the rules in how you will be treated.  You do not have to put up with this just because that's the way men are.  Nope.  You sure don't.

Baby, there are 1000 different ways to have a romantic relationship with another person.  Hopefully you find one eventually that is worthy of your time, your heart and your affection.  But before you set off hunting to find that in this world make it your agenda to see this world.  To do something.  To become a person you respect.  Before a man, become the Eowyn you want to be.  That way, when it's time to join forces with someone else you won't find your identity meshing with his.  You'll know exactly who you are and the two of you will be even stronger together.    

I believe in you.  I'm already blessed to call you mine.  None of this is easy, but it all becomes easier by using our brains and having standards.  You got this.

I love you girly,

Your momma.

The previous letter to my sons can be found here

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Only the Lonely

Repost from a few years ago...

What's your experience with loneliness?  Do you feel it a lot?  How do you cope with it when you do?  Are you married and lonely?   Or single and thinking marriage will be the panacea to your loneliness?  Do you surround yourself with friends or pets or children?  Do you try to connect a lot with others or God?

I have been lonely or felt isolated regularly in life.  I've felt it a lot this week.  In a discussion with a friend about this she said to me I think that loneliness is part of the human condition.  And I thought: she's brilliant, of course it is.  We are isolated or alone in our hearts and minds and experiences because we are the only one experiencing exactly that at that moment.  I am the only one I know currently divorcing someone like my ex.  My friend is the only one I know who feels this holy discontent because she's living somewhere that's miserable and feels like she might be called to be doing something bigger, but can't figure out how to put that into action.  Another friend is the only one I know with five kids, running a successful business, homeschooling and has to stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning regularly to get things done.  Another friend woke up to the reality that her two year old has a tumor this week and has no idea what that means yet.   Then there are the myriad of other friends who just hate their job, are working hard to make ends meet with no success, can't find the answers they want from God, can't find a friend or just got dumped.  

This is not to say that everyone's life sucks because there is much to find pleasure in.  But if we don't actually talk about how we are feeling our hearts get stuck on repeat and it's difficult to move on and grow.  We need to face our loneliness or isolation and figure out what it's about.  Because even if our network of friends and family isn't experiencing our exact circumstance right now they can still be here for us.  And God is still here for us.

I have felt this.  I have sat with my friend Karen or Naomi and vented and talked and cried and they have done the same.  We've eaten chocolate and bitched about men and life and money and children being difficult.  But when they leave there it is again.... loneliness.  And as my friend Deb pointed out, I think this part of us is here to stay.

There is a purpose to our feeling this way.  And the purpose is to push us back to God.  Because He is the one who is ever communing with us.  He will be there when we've woken up for the 5th time last night.  And for that moment right after your friends walk out the door.  And for me, I feel like God understands no matter what I'm going through.  He meets me inside of my soul and there are no obstacles that I have not created for him having a complete understanding of my pain, or confusion or doubt.  He can never not understand what it's like to be poor, attacked by a worthy adversary or stay up all hours of the night doing what needs to be done.  And even if Jesus didn't have my exact experience while walking around on this planet; God is still our creator and so he understands us because he made us.

He wants to meet us in our pain.  He also wants to meet us in our pleasure.  He did after all create the most pleasurable experiences we can have on this planet. We should not be afraid of these moments on both sides of the mountain.  They both have a purpose in our life.

If I can get outside of myself long enough to think, I know exactly what can happen.  I can center my spirit, my breath, my being on God and I will feel Him meet me there.  There will be comfort and communion and peace.  This practice is more like meditation for me and less like traditional prayer.  I'm not speaking many or any words; it is a purifying of focus.  I have learned how to do that through my study of yoga: how to meditate and center.  Sometimes laying down and feeling the floor has given me an awareness of what is going on internally for me.  Then I can play the internal filing cabinet game: this goes here, this goes here, I need to do deal with this now (rarely the case) or this just needs to be thrown out (happens a lot).

After I've become present and accepted the mess of files lying on the floor, I can enjoy the feeling of the floor, the coolness of my breath and the warmth of God within my soul.  But as long as I'm hyper-focused on the feelings and the doings of life I forget about my being.  There's a lot for me to do in life.  There's a lot of responsibilities that I have.  And when I get stuck in these cycles of rinse, wash, dry, repeat, I get lonely.  I get overwhelmed and I forget.  I forget that I am a human BEING.  God has called me to do one thing on this earth and that is to love.  Loving is part and particle of being.  The more I produce the less I am.  My soul shrinks as my productivity increases.  And I get lonely, but I am lonely for me.  I have stopped communing with myself.

Note to all of us: enjoy your own company.  I like myself.  I like what I have learned about who I am.  I like that I'm a walking paradox, who loves Jesus, swears like a sailor and can sew a quilt.  If you're feeling lonely I challenge you to get to know yourself better.  Maybe the panacea for that ache is right in the middle of your heart, where God and you can commune together.  Communion isn't some funky Christian word that means bread, blood, wine and bones.  It's about being present.  Being present with God and with each other.  Sharing a meal and a life.  I encourage you to make sure you are living yours.  Living and not just surviving.