Monday, September 16, 2019

Wonder

I was recently doing some wordplay while writing values for a new project. The word "wonder" came up and I was so deeply inspired.

If you look up synonyms for wonder you'll find words that you never expect to be paired together-
Reverence and uncertainty.
Admiration and skepticism.
Astonishment and curiosity.

There's a non-dual quality to wonder, a collision of opposites. It gives us space to stand in awe even when we are unsure what it is we are in awe of.

What if we always lived with wonder? What if we could embrace what is now while also holding the uncertainty all that is still to come? What if we leaned into fullness of life with curiosity and reverence?


Saturday, August 31, 2019

Queer Humanity

I have been wanting to write a  piece about the "ex-gay" movement for a while now. The conversation around LGBTQ+ people in Christianity has resurfaced since a famous mega-church endorsed their version of conversion therapy. In case you don't know, conversion therapy is a "Christian" method of attempting to stop people from being gay through prayer, psychological manipulation, and shaming people for their "wrong desires". The rates of suicide and depression within and after these programs are heartbreaking, but they carry on anyway because the few "success stories" they offer give people hope that they can maintain their faith and religious communities if they only change who they are.

Since this movement resurfaced, I have had an influx of emails and messages on social media from well meaning Christians. They tell me I am sinning, they inform me that I am no longer welcome in ministry, and they urge me to leave this "lifestyle of sin". Usually they close the message by letting me know they will be praying for me. Their prayers feel like a hundred little splinters rubbing against me each time I try to come close to them.

But how can I blame them? I used to hold those same beliefs. Before I had done my own deep study of scriptures, I was certain that a hard stance on homosexuality was essential to the Christian faith. I was afraid that if I questioned this, my entire faith and community would come crashing down like a Jenga tower that's lost too many pieces.

I have struggled with how to stand strong in the midst of all of this. I don't want to just lay down and take the abuse or hate that people come against me with. But I also don't want to fight back or attempt to defend myself, because I understand where the people judging me are coming from. I've been asking myself if there is a way to respond that respects them but also allows me to respect myself.

I have found hope in non-violence... the path carried by so many great people that came before me, in MLK Jr. and Gandhi and Mother Teresa and my beloved Jesus. Non-Violence is the beautiful stance of resisting the urge to fight back while also refusing to be beaten down. It requires great courage and a patient heart and above all the deep knowing that we are already holy and wholly made in the image of God.

So here I stand, grounded in knowing that I am already exactly who I was made to be.

I believe that the journey to acceptance calls us to stand strong in who we are. Because existence itself is an act of rebellion when we are told we do not deserve to exist. It is by exposure to our humanity that we can finally be seen, known, and loved for who we are.

Someone recently said to me, "It seems to me that since coming out you're more like Jesus than you ever were... Now you know what it's like to love God and be hated by God's people."

I think they're right. And this is why I won't cut off the relationships with those who condemn me. Because I believe that those who are truly seeking truth will evolve over time. In us LBGTQ+ people embracing our humanity and our holiness they will come to see a reflection of the man who was wholly human and wholly god. And just maybe, we will come into a world that sees queer people as fully included in the Kingdom of God. 

Weaponized Scripture

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I've recently been trying to find a way to respond to the "ex-gay" movement that has resurfaced. It's a repackaged version of conversion therapy, suggesting that LGBTQ+ Christians leave their "lifestyle" and attempt to live straight lives.

It broke my heart. Then it got me reflecting on how much abuse and false doctrine has come out of the Christian church.

There were Christians at lynchings.
There were chaplains on slave ships.
There were pastors preaching that god supported slavery.

We would like to believe that times have changed, that the ugliness of the crusades and lynchings and crucifixion are in our past. Yet here we are, people are still being hated and killed for who they are, and for who we love.

I dealt with suicidal attempts and ideation for over a decade, it took coming out publicly for the thoughts of suicide to finally fade away.

One of my dear friends was psychically beat with a Bible growing up, in an attempt to "get the gay out".

Kids are bullied, kicked out of their homes and left homeless because they choose to come out.

People are attacked on streets and subways because of their sexuality and gender.

Rates of suicide, self-harm, and mental illness skyrocket for LGBTQ+ individuals because of the level of hate we are faced with on a regular basis, often by the people we loved most.

Countless people have been killed by bad theology. Whether it be the genocide of the old testament, the slavery of this past millennia, or the discrimination of queer people today- it's never okay to use religion as an excuse to destroy people who are different from us. Too often the Bible has been used as a weapon against the oppressed.

My Christian friends, I urge you to consider the entire narrative arc of our scriptures. There are so many stories in the bible where "god's people" excluded certain groups, only to later be called by God to include those they had harmed. Whether it be the story of Hagar, the Moabites, the Gentiles or the Samaritans- the outsiders were always brought to the inside. The Bible is the story of a people group whose theology was constantly expanding and changing to include more outsiders in the Kingdom of God. The Bible calls us to change our theology when it brings destruction, to seek fullness of life for all.. Because we are all made in the image of God.

I will not be quoting Bible verses at any of you in this post, because honestly there are already countless books on this subject, and if you do carry a deep love for scriptures you will want to learn this all for yourself. If you would like more resources for understanding scriptures around homosexuality, I suggest you begin with Unclobbered by Colby Martin, it is written by a straight pastor and brings deep theology to an accessible level. If you would like to dive deeper, you can find theologians discussing queer theology and several other authors such as Matthew Vines and Amber Cantorna. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions about other resources for understanding this.

The word that is commonly translated to "repent" in the Bible is actually the Greek word "metanoia", it means a change of heart and mind. Would you answer the call to metanoia

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Coming Out/Happy Pride Month

You know those moments where something is very wrong and you feel your entire body begin to clench? Your fists are strong and your muscles are tight, you are prepared to fight or flee.
And in the next moment, when you are finally safe, you begin to release all of the tension that you didn't realize was building within you. Your heart rate steadies and your body begins to feel like your own again.

That's what coming out feels like for me. It's the process of releasing pressure that has built up for too long. It's finally taking deep breaths and letting myself be.

It's been almost a year since I began telling people I was gay. Sometimes through whispers and tears, other times through laughter and excitement.

I've received the full range of responses.
Some told me I was still welcome in the Kingdom of God, others told me I made them question if the Kingdom of God still exists.
Some told me I was going to hell while others loved me completely as I am.
Some were shocked and others said they always knew.

It's been a journey, my friends. There's been a lot of heartbreak but a hell of a lot more healing, a lot of loss but so much more love. I have discovered so much about myself and the kind of life I want to live.

What I have learned is that I must always choose to be brave in the face of fear, I must choose to be myself instead of who I was told to be.
I have learned that I am made in the image of God, and to destroy or repress any part of myself is to put limitations on God.
Most of all, I have learned that coming out is more than a moment. 
Coming out is a way of living, it's constantly choosing to be myself. Not only as a queer woman, but in all aspects of my life. I am going to be bold, I am going to love out loud, I am going to speak truth to power, I am going to push through discomfort, and I am going to chase healing.

Coming out is announcing to the world that I refuse to be anything less than all of myself. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Breaking the Temple

There is a temple in Cambodia called Ta Prohm (ប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្). It is one of the most beautiful temples I have ever seen, not because it is ornate or glamorous, but because it is falling apart.

You see, this temple has trees all around and throughout it. For centuries the trees have twisted and contorted, using the temple as their template for growth. Their branches reach through the windows and across the walls, certain rooms and alleyways are more living wood than ancient stone. It's hard to tell where the temple ends and the trees begin.

Until recently, the trees that once grew within the temple are now growing beyond the temple. In the process the structure is beginning to fall apart. Entire sections are inaccessible because of the inevitable wreckage these trees have caused.

I've felt a lot like those trees lately.

The structures that once told me where to turn and how to grow have now become constricting. Every step toward healing destroys more of the structure I was born into. I am grieving the loss of a clear path, uncertain about what lies beyond these walls.

I'll keep going though. Trees know nothing but growth or death, maybe humans aren't so different.

And besides, I have to believe God exists more in the vastness of the Sun than the boundaries of the temple. 

And there will be some wreckage. Because we are breaking through the very structure that guided and contained us for so long. But it is a holy destruction, tearing apart all that made us small and allowing our limbs to stretch toward the Sun.

I can’t help but remember a middle eastern man who burst into a temple tearing apart all their false belief, claiming that he would destroy the temple and rebuild it. In the end he was killed for those words, he came into new life through that death.

So here we go, through the dying and the breaking, into new life. 

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Where'd you lose it?

I lost my faith on the mission field. I saw the devastation of child trafficking and typhoons. My heart broke knowing that there are people who hurt more than I ever will simply because of their birthplace. I realized that they didn't feel god in the same ways I did. I decided that any god who favors me over the marginalized was not a god I wanted.

I found my faith on the mission field. When I went across the world to help and realized I was the helpless one. When "the least of these" were my best friends and I realized I was so much less than them. Everything I was taught to fear, atheists and prostitutes and mentally ill and impoverished, they knew God more than I ever had. I learned that God is the force that always stands on the side of the marginalized and broken, I found that was the God I wanted.

I lost my hope for love in a relationship. I felt used and misunderstood. I decided that no amount of romance was worth being made small. I embraced being single and decided that was exactly what life was meant to be.

I'm finding my hope for love in a relationship. I'm learning that true love makes you more of yourself instead of taking from you, I feel anything but small. I am embracing what it feels like to be seen and known and realizing that life was always meant to be full of love.

I lost my voice when I was a child. In a world of rigid rules I became exactly what was expected of me. I created a life that filled the void in other people's lives. I abandoned myself in the hopes of becoming someone others wouldn't abandon.

I am finding my voice in going back to my childhood. In reliving the moments where I was bruised and bloodied, in remembering the times I fell apart on a bathroom floor. In looking at the memories that hurt the most, I am finding I am stronger than I ever realized. I am realizing I have a lot to say.

I'm learning that we always find what we lost in the same place we lost it. 

On days like today when I feel like I am reliving the same pains time and time again, I have to remind myself that I am simply going back to where I was lost. I am not moving backwards, I am healing. The path to healing is a winding road. I am doing the hard work of finding myself again. And even though the terrain looks familiar, I am altogether new. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

I Hope You Die (Happy Easter)

Often for Easter we celebrate as if to say to Jesus, 
"Congratulations, you have been resurrected!"
Really Easter is Jesus saying to us,
"Congratulations, YOU have been resurrected!"
-Richard Rohr

I grew up in a faith tradition that was obsessed with the resurrection. We saw it as proof of Jesus' divinity, our own religion's victory, and our main selling point for evangelism.... how holy. 

Lately though, I've found a lot more meaning in the Crucifixion. 
I've found solidarity in a God who stands on the side of the oppressed. 
I've found solace in a God who is persecuted by his own religion.
I've found hope in a God who is as human as I am.
I've found strength in a God who suffers. 

I've found myself in a God who dies, just as I've found myself in my own death. 

In the death of everything I was told to be, in the loss of all I believed and hoped for, I am finding that I am so much more. I am more human and more holy when I let go of all I once held onto. I think this is what Jesus meant when he told us to pick up our own cross. I think it's what Paul meant when he said, "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." I think the spiritual path was always supposed to mean dying to what we were told to be. 

The hope I hold onto this Easter is the possibility that in loss and dying, we are given new life. 

So to all my friends, I hope you die. 
I hope you experience suffering that reveals your great strength and I hope you lose everything that makes you small. And most of all, I hope you find your very own resurrection. 

"Resurrection is another word for change, 
but particularly positive change- which we tend to see only in the long run. 
In the short run, it often just looks like death." 
-Richard Rohr (again)