Coming out…

Two simple words…and yet with so much depth of meaning!

To “come out” can mean:

  • to come into public view
  • to become evident
  • to declare oneself
  • to make a debut
  • to openly declare something about oneself previously kept hidden

I think about these definitions in terms of my faith tradition, especially as I am learning what it means to live as a straight wife of a bisexual husband…

There have been several ways my faith tradition has “come out”…

We began ordaining women as ministers only about 30 years ago, but women were sensing those calls many years before that (as were some men for women). I am aware that at least one woman directly approached the then-leader of our church back in the 1930s to ask/tell him about the call she sensed to ministry. His response? My paraphrase of it is “You must be mistaken, because God doesn’t call women”…only white (mostly) men. Now…there are many, many women serving in various avenues of ministry, not just in my faith tradition but in many others–and we are richer for that. We “came out…”

While we didn’t have a ban on people of color being ordained–in fact there were some–there weren’t very many. There was just a sense that “it wasn’t the right time” or the right place…or something. Those few who were ministers “knew their place.” As I look back on that part of our history, I am ashamed and embarrassed for us. How many people were spiritually hurt? how much ministry were we denied? All because we were convinced that God could not possibly be calling many people of color to the ministry in our faith tradition. Now? It’s better. We still have a ways to go, but there are many people of color serving as ministers–both in this country and in other parts of the world. We “came out…”

Now we’re in the process of “coming out” again…Over the years, there have been many LGBT individuals called and ordained to ministry–but mostly if they kept a significant part of themselves hidden. Sometimes they were able to be more open because of where they lived…but not enough. Unfortunately, many have thought (and perhaps continue to think) that “That call to ministry must be a mistake because God can’t possibly call someone who is lesbian/homosexual/bisexual/transgendered to ministry.” And yet we do believe that calls to ministry come from God. How arrogant…to tell God that God is making a mistake in calling someone…that God just doesn’t know everything that’s important to know about an individual!

I am part of a faith tradition that has proudly proclaimed “The worth of souls is great in the eye of God” and “All are called”…but we are still struggling to live it out. We want to add our own restrictions to those simple statements.

I am part of a bigger faith tradition that is based on two great commandments: to love God with all my being and to love my neighbor as I love myself. The rest of that verse says that everything else–not just a few things, but absolutely everything else that is enshrined as law or commandment–hangs on those two commandments. Learning what that really means…learning how to truly live it… is the biggest coming out. I just hope and pray that we don’t take another two or three generations…because if we do, how many more people will find themselves turned away? How much more rich ministry will we lose?

The God I believe in and worship knows everything about me…and you. That God calls to ministry those God chooses to call–not those I might want called.

The God I worship reminds me that

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of
you are one in Christ Jesus. 

And…

When your willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds your natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, you will become who you are called to be. The rise of Zion the beautiful, the peaceful reign of Christ, awaits your wholehearted response to the call to make and steadfastly hold to God’s covenant of peace in Jesus Christ.

Coming out…becoming evident…making a debut…  May it be so.

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Where is God in all this….?

Sometimes when life is difficult, it’s tempting to ask “Where is God in all this?”

I’ve found it easy to see God in beauty…sunsets…flowers…waterfalls. 

But that’s not the answer…not the complete answer. God is in the questions…. That’s what I’ve come to realize.

Yes, God can be –and sometimes is–in the answers. But more often–at least in my experience–I’m finding God in the questions. Questions that I ask…questions that are asked of me.

That makes living life different in some ways from what I expected. I thought God was supposed to be the great comforter…the One who would smooth the rough edges of life out and make it easy.

Nope.

Often God is the great challenger…the One who forces me to question my assumptions, who calls me out of my comfort zones in order to continue growing into the person God wants me to be–and God and I don’t always have the same dreams / goals!

 Sometimes I want to tell God to go away…to leave me alone. And sometimes God obliges–I think to remind me of just how much I miss that constant presence.

I need to be reminded…reminded that while God is in the beauty I see every day, God is also present in the ugliness, as much as I would like to turn my eyes away from it. Sometimes that’s where God calls me to be. Not because I have the answers–I don’t. But because these situations need to begin to know that there is hope…

Hope that life can be better…hope that we can take better care of our world…hope that we can recognize that we are interrelated–humans and all nature.

I think that perhaps John Donne said it best:

No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee.

So where is God? In the best of us…in the worst of us…in the answers…in the questions…wherever we are found, trying to do our best to respond to what we sense as God’s call.

Steam locomotives

Last night we watched the largest active steam locomotive (Union Pacific’s Challenger 3985) in the world come through our town. Wow!

I remember steam locomotives as a child–and being scared of the release of steam and the sound of the whistle. I lived in England, and the local train station was a lot like the station in the Harry Potter films–covered, with lots of concrete to bounce the sound off of. And it bounced!

So it was fun to see the engine yesterday. We had seen it in another town earlier in the day, taking advantage of the opportunity to peer in the engine cab and see all the gauges…and feel the heat.

But when it came by last night, it was really moving! We had thought it would be on the farther track, moving slower. Nope. It was on the closest track, and they were really moving to get to the next stop where it would be on display. Our grandson was with us at the station–and it startled / scared him. I don’t think he realized how big it was going to be–or how much air it would be moving as it came by–and he retreated very quickly back closer to the station.

I’m glad we have cleaner transportation in many ways, but it was great to be carried back in time!

…where the buffalo roam…

 

We recently took a trip out to Washington, driving through the Badlands…stopping at the Custer Memorial and Mt. Rushmore on the way out, and Yellowstone on the way home. I’d been there before, but it had been a long time, and I’d forgotten just how stark–and yet how beautiful–part of that country is. 

We often drove for miles, seeing only an occasional house. Small towns…where you could buy the basics you might need, but you’d need to plan an all-day trip that would include significant driving time in order to do major clothes / grocery / appliance shopping. 

Lots of deer…periodic sightings of buffalo…bringing memories of what used to be. 

At night the stars were brilliant, because they didn’t have to compete with all the city lights that are so prevalent where I live. We stopped for a while one night to allow our grandson to see what it was really like to see stars. 

There’s a part of me that would love the solitude…but another part of me that would go stir-crazy after a while. I would not have made a good pioneer wife! 

And yet…maybe the best way to describe my reaction is to share some of what I journaled one evening: 

There’s an incredibly stark…awe-ful…lonely beauty about this country. I especially noticed it last night as were driving in. Houses few and far between–little light sources in the middle of the incredible darkness of night. 

It would take a special kind of personality to live comfortably out here! I’m glad for the visit–and while part of me would like the solitude, I would also find it very difficult. 

I have a renewed appreciation for the words of the song I learned as a kid. I really only remembered the first verse, but as I searched for it and found the other verses, I found that it truly catches up what I experienced on that journey: 

1. Oh, give me a home
Where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
Where seldom is heard
A discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day. 

Chorus:
Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
2. How often at night

2. When the heavens are bright
With the lights from the glittering stars
Have I stood there amazed
And asked as I gazed
If their glory exceeds that of ours. 

3. Oh, give me a land
Where the bright diamond sand
Flows leisurely down the stream;
There the graceful, white swan
Goes gliding along
Like a maid in a heavenly dream. 

4. Where the air is so pure,
The zephyrs so free,
The breezes so balmy and light,
That I would not exchange
My home on the range
For all of the cities so bright. 

5. Oh, I love those wild flowers
In this dear land of ours,
The curlew I love to hear scream,
And I love the white rocks
And the antelope flocks
That graze on the mountain tops green.