Friday, April 29, 2011

Hold On, Let Go

"In my Father's house, there are many rooms . . ."  John 14:2.
The last couple months have been really hard for me.  I feel like I have been stripped bare, and like I have to figure out who I am again.  A couple things contributed to this. 

First, I began coming out as bisexual:  by finally admitting it to myself and then by telling friends and family.  The responses ranged from wonderfully supportive and compassionate to downright awful, and I sometimes felt like a very small boat in a big storm.

Second, I engaged in some of the most painful and draining public ministry of my life.  I am still processing everything that happened, and I think that I will be for a while.  I know that I did my best to be faithful, but everything about the experience was hard.

Earlier this week, I met with my care committee.  It was not an easy meeting because I was in so much pain, but I felt much clearer afterward.  Here is a slightly revised version of an email that I sent the following day.  It was extremely hard to write, but it feels right:

Dear Friends,

In meeting with my care committee last night, it became clear to me (and I think to everyone) that I need to lay down traveling ministry.  I am still planning to visit Capitol Hill Friends in May, but after that, I know that I need to stay home and be where I am.

This is really hard for me because I love traveling ministry.  I have never felt so alive as I have when traveling among Friends.  But I am tired and depleted, and no longer feeling called to this work.  It is also hard because I am realizing how much being a traveling minister has become a part of my identity.  But I know that, whether I travel or not, I am still a beloved child of God.

This means that I will not be able to attend the workshop for young Friends traveling in the ministry at FGC Gathering.  I am sorry that I won't be there and sorry to disappoint those I told I would go.  My heart still longs to meet with other young Friends in a second day meeting, but I am clear that doing that within the context of the FGC Gathering would not be good for my soul.

I hope that the ways that I have helped spread the word about the workshop have been helpful.  Friends are welcome to use my paper on traveling ministry in any way they wish, and everyone gathered in this meeting will be in my prayers.

With love,

Sunday, April 24, 2011


For Jessica, my Southern Alter Ego:

Yesterday was the first warm, gorgeous day of spring, and I spent part of the afternoon laying out in the grass, contemplating resurrection.

Setting aside the question of whether Jesus physically rose from the dead on the third day, I think we too often forget what a miracle it is that he was alive at all.

Jesus was human, and as a man, he had a body.  That means that his body did all of the embarrassing things that bodies do.  And all of the lovely things.  Jesus could laugh and dance and sing and stumble, like the rest of us.  He sometimes felt abandoned by his friends and by God, but he also had an immense capacity to feel joy and love.

And we have bodies, which is pretty miraculous when you think about it.  Our bodies do all of the embarrassing things that bodies do, and all of the lovely things.  We can touch each other and comfort one another.  We get to fall in love and have our hearts broken just so that we can learn how much more we can love.  And we woke up this morning―joyfully or groggily, alone or next to someone we love.  That too is a miracle.

Happy Easter.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Cross

As Easter approaches, I have heard people talking about the cross again.  It is a difficult topic, and one that has a lot of baggage for many people.

Last May, at our spring residency, my School of the Spirit class spent five days on the theme of the cross.  It was a challenging but rich time, and I came away from that residency changed.  One morning we spent about two and a half hours in extended worship.  Out of that silence, I gave the following message:
I've been spending a lot of time at my own cross, last night and this morning.  I know that many of us have these―times of evil and pain in our lives.  My cross is a bridge.  It's the bridge in front of my apartment.  And when I am there, I can hear his voice, the man whose face I don't remember, mocking me, asking where I am going and if he can come too.  I crossed the bridge and I could see my apartment in front of me.  I thought if I could just make it there . . . but I couldn't.  And I can feel his hand covering my mouth and his arms pinning mine as he starts to drag me under that bridge.

For some people, this is not a story, because that is all that happened.  I wasn't raped and I wasn't killed.  But part of me died that day, and it is my story.

As we have talked about the cross, what has come to me is that we don't just tell the story of the crucifixion one time and then we're done with it.  We tell the story over and over, and at different times, it means different things.

Sometimes when I tell my story, I am so angry.  I am angry that this happened to me and I want to know, where were my angels?  Why did God let this happen?  I am angry and I do not want to think that this story can be redeemed.

But sometimes I do, and I can see little bits of Light.
And later, singing:
This is the day that the Lord has made,
I will rejoice and be glad in it.
Giving this message was a powerful experience for me and for the people who heard it.  It was also an important step for me in healing from my experience of sexual assault, which occurred when I was 20 years old.  Even nine years later, this is still a tender subject for me, but I am sharing it here in the hope that it will be of some use.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Music is very important to me when I travel in the ministry.  I love singing with Friends (Friends who sing, at least!), and from time to time, I offer singing vocal ministry.  I also find that listening to my ipod is a good way for me to get away from all of the stimulation that comes from traveling and for me to have some down time.  Sometimes when I am feeling upset or angry with God, I go for a walk and put my ipod on shuffle to see what I hear.

I tend to make playlists based on moods, and for the past few weeks I have been working on a playlist called "Ministry" (previous playlists include: "Beautiful but Sad," "Happier," and "Joy").  Some of these songs have stories that go with them, some remind me of particular people and places, some make me smile, and others just reflect how it feels for me when I am doing ministry.

It is a work in progress, like everything else.  Also, any music that makes me seem cool is there because I have good friends who give me music and because my brother, who has great taste, tells me what to listen to.

Ministry Playlist

The Wind, Cat Stevens
One Little Child, Kathleen Hannan
What Light, Wilco
Your Ex-Lover is Dead, Stars
All the Way Down, Glen Hansard
Hard to Be, David Bazan
Fidelity, Regina Spektor
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, Alivia Biko
Blackbird, The Beatles
Sing You Home, Kathleen Hannan
Family Tree, TV on the Radio
Sexyback, Justin Timberlake
Red Right Ankle, The Decemberists
Be Thou My Vision, Pedro the Lion
As Is, Ani DiFranco
It's Alright, Dar Williams
Dona Nobis Pacem, Alivia Biko
Curse Your Branches, David Bazan
One, Aimee Mann
Antichrist Television Blues, Arcade Fire
Kids, Mgmt
Samson, Regina Spektor
Neon Bible, Arcade Fire
Soul Meets Body, Death Cab for Cutie
I Am Always the One Who Calls, Pedro the Lion
Ostinato Del Caminito, Black Prairie
Let it Be, The Beatles
The Lord is My Shepherd, John Rutter
Letter From a Concerned Follower, Pedro the Lion
Disillusion, Badly Drawn Boy
Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley
Let it Be Me, Indigo Girls
Ask Me Anything, Alivia Biko
Morning Has Broken, Cat Stevens
God Takes Care of the Little Things, The Boy Least Likely To

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

After the Storm

My most recent foray into traveling ministry ended on Sunday and I am grateful again for Robin M's post on re-entry.  I think all traveling ministers should have a copy of this to read each time they come home.  So I am trying to follow Robin's advice and be gentle with myself and others as I go back to "normal" life.

Today, this poem spoke to my condition.  I thought I'd post it here for any other Mary Oliver fans out there (and there seem to be a lot of you).

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting―
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

Friday, April 1, 2011


One of the things that has been keeping me from writing much lately is that I have been serving as an elder for Noah M while he is serving as Friend in Residence for Multnomah Monthly Meeting.  I knew this was going to be hard work, but I didn't realize how hard.  

Part of what is making it hard for me is that I am continuing to do my full-time job while trying to elder for Noah, which is not easy for either of us.  He would like more support and I would like to give more support, but it's just not possible for me to be with him all the time in this ministry.

I also feel like I don't understand everything that is going on right now.  Noah and I are both around 30 years old, and most of the Friends we have been spending time with are more than twice our age.  I am feeling the generational disconnect more strongly than I usually do, and this is some of what it feels like for me:*

ME & NOAH:  Hey guys!

OLDER FRIENDS:  Wow, look at these cute little ministers!  Let's feed them.

ME & NOAH:  Things have to change.

OLDER FRIENDS:  Yes!  What do you think should change?

ME & NOAH:  Everything.

OLDER FRIENDS:  Huh.  But how do we get young people to be on our committees?

ME & NOAH:  No, seriously, you are going to die if you keep this up.  [You = The Religious Society of Friends]

OLDER FRIENDS:  Wait, what was the agenda for the workshop again?

ME & NOAH:  You will be surrounded by flames and overcome by floods and God is your only hope.

OLDER FRIENDS:  By "god," do you mean "nothingness"?

ME & NOAH:  No.  We mean God.

OLDER FRIENDS:  Well, that language makes me feel uncomfortable.  Let's meditate or talk about activism or something instead.

Please keep all of us in your prayers.

*I want to be very clear that, even though I am using Noah's name, these are a reflection of my experiences.  I am not in any way trying to speak for him.