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A Spot of Tea and a Chat

9 Jan

(Dedicated to my cousin Janie Corcoran of Ireland, 1924-2007.)

Has anyone ever given anything to you
In your darkest hours
Did you ever give it back
Well, I have
©Stevie Nicks

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I shared a bedroom with my sister Michele many different times when we were growing up . The time that was the most fun was when I was about 10 and she was about 6. After we’d finally decide it was time to go to sleep and stop goofing off, we’d pick themes for the walls, the ceiling, and the floor – one might be “cartoons,” one “animals,” one “fairy tales,” and so on. Then we’d dream about whichever theme we faced when we went to sleep.

Lately I seem to dream about whatever I am doing or watching on television just before I go to bed. I was working on genealogy last night and had a vivid dream this morning. It took place in Ireland quite some time ago. A family member was mourning the loss of her young son, who had been shot. (It was a stone bullet, so that tells you how long ago this must have been.)

The most vivid part had to do with how the families around the grieving family responded with what funds they could scrape together to help bury the young boy. The funds and notes were kept in these special notebooks that I could read so clearly in my dream. I was particularly moved by a note from a neighbor widow who wrote, “Alas, I have no money to give, but please stop by for a spot of tea and a chat.” Continue reading

I Have a Vision of Love

5 Jan

Prayed through the nights, felt so alone.
Suffered from alienation, carried the weight on my own.
Had to be strong, so I believed.
And now I know I’ve succeeded, in finding the place I conceived.
I had a vision of love, and it was all that you’ve given to me.
I had a vision of love, and it was all that you’ve given me.
c. Carey, M. & Margulies, B.

At some point, vision boards, then action boards, replaced resolutions. I sort of noticed, but when you’re still not sure what you’re supposed to be (if and when you ever grow up) in the broadest sense, breaking it down into smaller pieces just does not seem worthwhile.

I graduated from seminary in 2011, and if you had asked me 4 years ago where I’d be today, I would have answered that I’d be pastoring a small congregation. I’d be doing a lot of pastoral care, and I’d be active in social justice. I would have a blog.

It’s 2014; I have a blog. I find myself doing a lot of pastoral care, much of it online. Social justice is still important to me, and my activism has taken a different form than I imagined, but I like it. That pastoring a church thing still gnaws at me, however.

I was alienated from church, no, it was worse than that; I was alienated from Christ, for many years because of my sexual orientation. I entered seminary with the spirit part and the higher power part, but not the Christ part. I left with the Holy Spirit, the God, and the Jesus. Not as much Jesus as most of those in seminary with me, but with Jesus nonetheless. Continue reading

Angels Among Us

1 Jan

Hebrews 13:2: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

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Rolled in a ball, more insect like than human, pressed into the corner of the darkness outside the Jersey turnpike rest stop entrance. Male? Female? Young? Old? Awake? Asleep?

Something just didn’t look right.

Scores of people, in and out, in and out; no one looked. I stopped. I saw a couple of men hovering nearby. Runaway? Prostitute? Addict?

A face looked out from the hooded jacket. Sullen. Crying. Fearful. “Are you in trouble?” I inquired? “Do you need to borrow my cell phone? Do you need gas money?”

“No, I’m not in trouble.” The men got closer. “Are these men bothering you?” “No, that’s my brother and his friend. We’re on our way back to Florida from New England. They brought me up there to see a psychic about my father.” Continue reading

Heart is Where the Home Is

18 Dec

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When people ask where I’m from, I’m never sure how to reply. Where do I currently reside? Where was I born? Where do I consider I “grew up” (particularly difficult since I am still growing).

Geographically and chronologically, I was born in California, moved to upstate NY after 1st grade, and moved to Western PA after 8th grade. I did the first two years of college in PA and the last years back in CA before moving back and forth (calling myself “bi-coastal” to avoid more important self-determinations I should be working on) between the East and West coasts several times. Now, at 55, I find myself at my 22nd address, if I have calculated correctly. And, after 9.5 years at my current address, this is the longest I’ve lived any one place.

So, “home” can be a rather abstract concept for me. Although my parents have lived in the same house for over 40 years, I’ve never considered it my home because I did not grow up there. Still, the older I get, there is something increasingly comfortable about the place “out in the middle of nowhere” on an almost acre, but as Professor Gerry used to say, “It’s not about the house.” Continue reading

We Are Not So Different

15 Jul

You look at me

You think I know nothing

Family worked fields on our land

Put on coffin ships starving

Sent to strange land

Need not apply

We don’t want your kind

Go nurse other babies

Clean toilets, dig graves

Invaders still hold our lands

Names changed language removed

Bearing names of killers

Facial features of masters

We are not so different

I clap on the downbeat

We all assume

We all need to ask

What’s your story?

Who Got Next?

14 Jul

Emmitt Till, July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955
Ron Settles, June 12, 1959 — June 2, 1981
Trayvon Martin, February 5, 1995 – February 26, 2012

Learning is experiential,

Education theoretical in some damn book;

Staying in your lily white halls,

In your upper class malls,

Don’t tell me about justice served.

Ron Settles drove his car,

Minding his own business;

He was in my class,

Cops beat his ass,

Dead at 21 for driving while black.

Your darkness don’t scare me,

Your whiteness just might;

It’s what it’s in your soul,

It’s what you can control,

That keeps me up at night.

Get out of your small towns,

Get out of your small minds,

Go meet some other people;

Stop chanting at your steeples,

Loving your neighbor ain’t staying with your same kind.

Some of my best friends are this,

Some of my best friends are that,

Don’t give me that bullshyte;

This land got a bad blight,

You part of the problem or part of the solution?

Happy Anniversary to My Ex-Husband

9 Jul

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“It is only normal human nature to want to marry and procreate.” – My college advisor, 1978

Today is a very strange day for me. If I had stayed married to my ex-husband, today would be our 30th anniversary. In retrospect, I got married young, at the age of 24. In retrospect, it feels like our wedding was yesterday, 50 years ago, and never happened.

Growing up, I really didn’t think about marriage very much. I never had the vision of the knight in shining armor, the two kids and the house with the white picket fence, or being a soccer mom. I assumed I would get married and have children (that’s what people do, after all), but it was never the first thing on my mind. I thought more about pitching for the Mets, being a professional boxer, or writing a sports column for the New York Times. (Talk about missed clues!)

I entered college in the fall of 1976, and it surprised me how so many of my female classmates were focused on their “Mrs.” Degree. Some dropped out after only a few weeks because they missed their boyfriends back home. I enjoyed college life – from marching band to softball (another clue!) to pledging a sorority – and while I dated a bit, I was not looking for a husband. First of all, there were just too many to choose from; I couldn’t imagine how you could narrow down the field. And, more importantly, I still had that uncomfortable feeling I had since I was young that there was something different about me that did not include the desire to find a husband and settle down into domestic bliss.

My high school was very small; there were 99 in my graduating class, and while there were several thousand in my class at college, after a few semesters, it too felt stifling. I decided I wanted to drop out of school. I didn’t know what I would do; I just knew I didn’t want to be in school anymore. I went to see my advisor and told him I felt out of place because I wasn’t looking for a husband. He looked over his glasses and said in his Kentucky accent, “Why Doreen, it is only normal human nature to want to marry and procreate.”

Wow, that was helpful. Continue reading

No Instant Forgiveness

2 Jul

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Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be broken beyond repair. – Psalms 29:1

Lately, my secular job has made me think about how much worse I am at accepting criticism than I used to be. You would think it would become easier to accept criticism as I get older, but I am finding it more difficult. Part of this is because I am more confident in my skills and abilities now, so when I receive criticism that is just plain incorrect (such as a college professor “correcting” grammar that is correct to begin with), I do not have a lot of patience. Part of it is because despite being managed predominantly by managers who never give feedback unless it is negative, I am still not comfortable with this management style.

As a recovering alcoholic, I am still sometimes guilty of “black and white” thinking in a world that has many more than 50 shades of gray. While younger, I not only took all criticism as valid; I took it as an assault on the very worth of my personhood. In my older years I have been guilty of blowing off criticism altogether, even that which upon further examination would have provided an opportunity for much needed growth. As I like to say about many things, “The truth is somewhere in the middle.”

I have also been thinking of criticism in light of the apology to the GLBTQ community by Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, and in light of the apology of Paula Deen for some of her reported racist language and behavior.

It bothers me that in both cases, some expect (or demand) that those hurt by the words and actions of Mr. Chambers and Ms. Deen should just accept the apologies and move on. Quite a few straight people have written that GLBTQ people should take Mr. Chambers at his word and that, in particular, GLBTQ Christians should not question his motives or his sincerity. Likewise, I have read many Ms. Deen White apologists who write that since Ms. Deen is from the South, she should be forgiven without hesitation.

I am not buying either of these directives. Continue reading

It must be Nice to be Perfect

19 Jun

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“There was only one perfect person in the history of the world, and look what they did to him” – Eleanor “Marie” Mannion (AKA, my Mom)

Surveys on our fears reveal that the number one fear is not death, but public speaking. Perhaps this is because people tend to be kinder to our dearly departed memory than they are to us when we misspeak, say something someone does not like or agree with, or are not politically correct.

You would think sharing the number one fear would mean not many people criticize verbal foibles, but the opposite seems to be true. I guess it is difficult to criticize someone for dying, right? (Although, I’ve seen that as well. It is true there are some you just cannot please!)

Every few years, a contestant in one of the scholarship/beauty pageants gets vilified for making a whopper of a statement. When asked if evolution should be taught in schools, a Miss Nevada replied, “Evolution definitely should be taught in schools … everything evolves, we evolve as communities … evolution can be taught in many different ways, it doesn’t necessarily have to be about people.” A contender for Miss South Carolina, when asked the most important event in U.S. history, responded, “Pearl Harbor, because it ended the great depression.”

Former vice president Dan Quayle famously could not spell “potato” and former president George W. Bush once told someone, “You’re working hard to put food on your family.” President Barack Obama once said he had visited all 57 states. Continue reading

Who is in YOUR Posse?

14 Jun

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I’ve been mesmerized by this quote since it appeared on my Facebook page a few days ago. The exact quote is, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” and it was written by the late motivational speaker Jim Rohn.

Does this mean the five people you’ve spent the most time with throughout your entire life? Does this mean the five people you are currently spending the most time with? I am not sure, but I would guess the latter.

The five people I’ve spent the most time with throughout my entire life are my parents, my sister Michele, my partner/wife (depending on which U.S. state we’re in), and whatever term you prefer for that which is holy. Alright, so the last one may not technically be a person, but the Holy is often embodied for me, so I’m taking creative liberty.

I really struggled to think of the five people I currently spend the most time with aside from my partner and the Holy. I suppose two of them would be the people who are in the office as often as I am. Who is my fifth? If anyone, I suppose it would be my partner’s son, but I only see him a couple of hours a month. Whoa; I don’t think I have a fifth! I am not convinced, however, that this is a bad thing. I don’t think there is any magic to having five as opposed to four or three or six. Only having one or having 10 would be problematic.

My online world has removed me from the goodness, and the challenges, of in-person, tangible relationships. Continue reading

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