Finding Joy

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This Sunday, I will be playing music and telling stories with my good friend, David Brewin. We will be playing at the UUF in Franklin North Carolina. They’re a great fellowship full of love, compassion, and welcome. The last time David and I were there, we talked about death. Not a cheery topic, but something we all have to face at some time. As they say in one of the shows I like to watch on Netflix, “…nobody gets out alive.” That being said, it doesn’t mean we always have to focus on the sadness in life. Because of the seriousness of the last event, we decided that we would present something more joyful. As a result, we talk will be on music and finding joy in life.

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Finding joy in life may seem like an odd topic after recent events in Orlando. However, life does go on while we work for the good of others. Even when life is difficult we must also work for our own good. If we don’t find the joy in every day life, it is hard to carry on even if we are working for issues of justice. I do want to say however, that Joy is not the same thing as happiness. Joy is being able to see the beauty in the ordinary. Joy may not bring happy feelings to us, but it does bring us to the hope we need to carry on.

 

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Joy can be as simple as a flower blooming in your garden. Joy can be as simple as a stranger’s smile that catches you off guard. Joy can be a song on the radio, a special word from a friend, a note or letter in your physical mailbox. Having time to read brings me joy. Sitting on the Couch with my wife and kids brings me joy. Silence always fills my heart to overflowing.

Taking time to notice joy, to listen and remember the things or people that matter to you is a vital way of energizing goodness in yourself and the world. What is it that brings you joy?
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My Bar Experience

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“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
~Joseph Heller, Catch-22

First, you must understand how challenging it is for me to post this publically as a religious person. Second, you must know that I am a lesbian. Those things being said, you might want to stop reading if you think this is going to be some kind of erotic or some gay conversion type of reading because it’s not. Go read something else.

I guess I should also say, third – I am in rage about what has happened in Orlando. Raging because it happened in the first place. Raging because the first thing I found out is how the media didn’t want people to know it was a gay bar. Why? It’s okay to shoot gays? Oh yea, and raging because some are going to blame Islamic terrorists when the truth is that this is about hatred of gays and lesbians. Anybody who is different, add your name here:

This shooting is because I, ____________, was different from those in charge.

Who is in charge would logically be our next question? Who indeed IS in charge our the United (or dis-united) States of America? Blame and pointing fingers is all that’s on the news. God, if only we would look in the mirror when we’re pointing! And yes, I include myself in that accusation. I have to say that I am guilty of being afraid of standing up for my brothers and sisters in the gay, lesbian, transgendered community in the past. Not any more.

As a writer, I have tried to write in such a way that I don’t offend anyone while also trying to stand up for my rights as a lesbian. Why? Because I am religious. Why? Because I also live in a rural Southern community and that also means lots of guns. Have I ever been afraid for my life? All the time. Why? Not because of Islamists, or gun control, but because of hatred.

From Celtic Christian Tradition Page

From Celtic Christian Tradition Page

Growing up, I knew I was religious before I understood what it meant that I was lesbian and that lesbian wasn’t acceptable. I’m just one of those people. I tried not to be religious after I lost my pastorate for coming out. That meant for me that instead of studying Christianity (the faith of my upbringing), I began to study Buddhism instead.

Still, I did go to bars. I was terrified the first time I went in college because I didn’t want the Christians to find out and also because I didn’t want to be caught up in an FBI raid. I had never been to a bar so I didn’t know what to expect. Of course, the kind college friends who took me to a bar for the first time were afraid too, but not of the FBI. They were afraid of me. Why? Because I was one of the Christians on campus who was on the Fellowship Team, President of the Baptist Student Union, and I led a dorm Bible study. Oh yeah, and I was a church music major. They were only scared of my condemnation and it must have been a pretty powerful fear because it was three of them and one of me. Still, they took me. I was really tame after all and part of them knew that.

I was afraid the first time I went to the bar in Charlotte also because I was afraid I might like it and then what? Or worse, what if it was awful and I didn’t really know who I was? Imagine my surprise when I went into this bar with loud music full of alcohol (which was a sin to the Baptist tradition at the time), and homosexuals (sinners of course) and all that I felt was RELIEF.

Yes, my first feeling upon entering a gay bar was one of relief. Finally, I was among my own people. Finally, I could relax and not be afraid that someone was going to tell me I was going to be hell (I didn’t understand the power of my inner tapes at the time). Finally, I could just breathe. At the time, I didn’t drink, but I did dance. Oh how I LOVE to dance! I was too shy to ask anyone to dance so only got to dance a few times because I didn’t want to seem aggressive. It was enough just to BE there and be safe.

What did I need to be safe from you might ask? I was raised in a rural community full of faith filled people. Lucky for me, people who grew up mostly spoke the truth when they spoke the truth so I wasn’t around a lot of liars. I was surrounded by good people. Why was I afraid?

One of the things that was spoken regularly in the area where I grew up was the derogatory use of “faggot” “gay” “lesbo” “bulldyke” and the word “homo” or “homo-SEX-ual” (emphasis not mine), on a regular basis. The people who said these derogatory things were in my family, were my friends, neighbors, church members who did not know that I was a homo. I heard every word of hatred. I remember the feelings they shared and how often homosexuals were the brunt of awful jokes. I heard these same “loving” and “good” people say that homos should be shot or gotten rid of. Add to that the religious messages sent that I was going to hell. When I was a child, I didn’t understand this at all. I was a quiet and quite literal child who felt I had not even done anything hell worthy as a kid. All that time, I was listening. All my life I’ve been listening to those around me.

As a result, I began to think and worry that every breath I took was a sin. I apologize for everything (also a challenge of most women). I repented as often as I could of thinking wrong. I have put every thought, feeling, word, etc. under a microscope in my fear of hell, that I began to realize later in life that I was a bit paranoid…and possibly neurotic. Hmmm. I wonder why.

How many times did I go to a bar after that you might ask? Three or four times in college to dance. Three or four times after college to dance and meet friends I made. Twice while in seminary to just feel like myself. Once on my church internship to dance with friends. I would buy A drink when I went, but not more. I did not like the out of control feeling I felt when I went to a bar. I JUST WANTED TO BE AROUND PEOPLE LIKE ME! I JUST WANTED TO FEEL SAFE FROM THE WORLD’S CONDEMNATION!

I capitalize that because I am raging and appalled that our world continues to ostracize people like me when we do not choose to be made how we are. We are born this way. I no longer go to bars, because it’s just NOT my thing and I hated the smoke. Also, I prefer meeting my friends at church. Luckily for me, there was a wonderful group of business professionals in Charlotte who had personally funded a safe place for the GLBT people to meet and make friends. It was a place for those of us who didn’t want to meet at a bar. Of course, as a pastor at the time, I REALLY scared people. Fortunately, God sent a table full of people who were not afraid of me as a Christian and we’ve been good friends ever since.

I go through all of this to simply say that a gay bar, like ANY bar, can be a pick up joint. But a GAY BAR is first and foremost a safe place to meet other people who have been estranged, fired, thrown out of the house. A gay bar can be just a place to make friends who won’t condemn you and who understand you…or at least it was before today.

What happened in Orlando is a hate crime! The massacre was one to kill those who are different. One AP news report said that what may have set the gunmen off was the sight of two men kissing. Which is more dangerous to our society: kissing or massacring? Dancing or massacring? Having fun or massacring?

Gays, lesbians, transsexuals, trangendered, bisexual people have stood for our civil rights in this country. They have also died for the cause like Harvey Milk. There have been family and friends of this community who stood alongside of them. However, until more of our families and friends are brave enough to stand up for their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, etc., until more straight people stand up alongside the GLBTQIA community, hate crimes will continue. Until all of us stop the hate talk, we will feed the fires of massacre.

I choose love. I choose kindness. Lord have mercy on us all.

 

The Nazis also targeted the LGBT
population. We must not be silent, and
we must not return hate for hate.

“…Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me,
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.”

— Pastor Martin Niemoller

Click to hear Bishop Curry of the Episcopal Church's prayer.

Click to hear Bishop Curry of the Episcopal Church’s prayer.

 

 

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Drawing a Blank

Speedy's Pizza, Sylva, NC

Speedy’s Pizza, Sylva, NC

Every time I come to write, this blank page causes me to draw a blank. If I was as devoted to the practice of art as my artist friend Robert Rhodes, I would draw something (besides a blank). Another artist friend of mine tells me to just draw anything. Of course, Pamela Haddock is a prolific and great painter who encourages anyone who wants to paint. She doesn’t say to compare my art to hers, only to show up to the canvas. Any writer teaching about writing says to just sit down and write. Show up! The same is true in all art, you have to show up. When the artist, writer, musician, believer, etc. doesn’t show up, nothing can happen.

The artist Degas, said that when he was beginning his craft, his master painter talked to him about drawing lines. Always draw lines. Or in Degas’s own words:

“Make a drawing, begin it again, trace it; begin it again and trace it again.” (Edgar Degas)

We all have to start where we are. What am I here for in this place, now? If there is an art I want to pursue, what does it mean for me to show up to that art? What does it mean to show up for my vocation? My family? The goals or people that matter most to me?

While this won’t be one of my best posts, I had to start to blog again. I needed a picture and chose one that was fun. While I’m not brave enough to share my doodles, I even drew some items on a blank sheet of paper after mentioning Rhodes’ name. He inspires me because he is consistently showing up for his art AND he’s brave enough to share those drawings/paintings with us. I also found out that he writes! More inspiration. Who are the people who inspire you?

One of the reasons a blank page is so hard is that a blank page forces us to reach into the depths of our being. Sometimes there’s nothing to be said. That’s okay. Write it, paint it, pray it, and let it go. It’s the process of showing up that matters. We don’t all want to be famous and success is only a “success” when it makes you happy or fulfilled. To be faced with a blank anything causes us to feel vulnerable. That’s not a bad thing, even if it’s a scary thing. All we have to do is be brave and show up. Okay, and START.

I had no idea what I was going to write when I started this blog. I only knew that I had to be brave enough to start it with something and also have the courage to let you see that I don’t know what I’m doing. Yet, it makes me happy to write. Even if no one reads this blog, it makes me happy. Why? I didn’t just show up to this blank page. I showed up for myself.

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
― Brené Brown

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

 

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