Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Celebrating (Nehemiah 8:10)

     Nehemiah continued, "Go now and enjoy rich food and sweet wine, and be certain that you send a share to those who cannot provide for themselves, for this day is holy to Our God. Let no one be sad, for Our God's joy is your strength."
Nehemiah and the returned exiles to Jerusalem are celebrating. They are celebrating a resettlement of the land their grandparents and parents had been forcefully evicted from. They are celebrating that the presence of God, which had been with them in exile, is also with them in the resettlement. They are celebrating with joy not because of what they have, but because of whom they worship.

We, who are queer and allies, need to take note of this scene. "God's joy is your strength," proclaims Nehemiah to those huddled in the ruins of what was once a great city. Often when life is either less than expected or overwhelmed by the ruins of hopes and expectations unmet joy tends to slip away from us. We allow our surroundings to shape our inner being as oppose to allowing our inner resources to shape our environment. 

Nehemiah calls us to heed the very core of our being - the great Heart of the Universe beating within our own hearts. Openly and wonderfully the Sacred trips over the divine-Self just to say, "I love you." Here within this intimate relationship with the Holy lies the only sustained source of joy. Since it ignites from within we can easily miss it by looking without. The right partner, family acceptance, full legal rights, safe work place, these and others are certainly points of joy in our lives. Yet, as wonderful as they are we can never be assured of their presence in our lives.

Those to whom Nehemiah speaks are familiar with the fluidity of what makes for a comfortable life. Many, even though exiles, left good homes, assured food supplies, and friends to reestablish life in a "bombed out" Jerusalem. Everyday was a new struggle, presenting yet another obstacle or problem to overcome. For them joy was not something the outer world provided, as Nehemiah reminded them, joy comes from a deep, inner well of being.  

Anyone who has been marginalized realizes the wisdom of Nehemiah. Joy does not come from the world, although there may be great moments of personal contentment. Rather, joy wells us within us because the Sacred has so invaded our being that we cannot help but to celebrate this thing we call life, with all of its nobility and foibles. 

NOTE: if you are an explorer on the journey into the Sacred I inivite you to check out my other website SpiritQuests.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Unconventional (Ruth 1:11-13)

     But Naomi said to her daughters-in-law. "Go back my daughters. Why do you want to come with me? I have no more sons inside me that you can take as spouses. No, you must go back my daughters. I am too old to marry again. Even if I told you that there was still hope for me, if I were to find a spouse and have children tonight, would you be willing to wait until they are grown to marry them? Would you refuse to remarry for this far-off hope? No, if you did that, it would tear me apart, for the hand of the Most High has been raised against me."
Ruth 1:11-13

Many a queer person has been were Naomi is at: where the path forward seems clogged with insurmountable obstacles. We have felt her sense of hopelessness in the midst of mayhem. Life has crashed down around us as it crashes around Naomi. Why even pretend to hold out a thought that the pendulum will swing our way if we bleive the voice of the entrenched that God is set against us?

Naomi's dispair comes in the midst of the bleak reality of a life marginalized and adrift in the culture of her time. First her husband and then her sons died. She is a widow in a foreign land. All she can see is a road that leads to a life of poverty and begging. While Naomi's fate may not be a direct threat to us, as les-bi-gay-trans-queer-intersex-asexual people we also have been left bereft and adrift in the culture of our time. She is a sister, a member of the family, who has traveled the road of the disenfranchised before us.

Naomi's sight is on the conventional. Marriage is the best option, but she is old, and even if she can entice another, the chances of viable children are slim. Even less, is the chance that her daughters-in-law will wait around to be married to them. Woe is compounded with woe.

When I feel my hope slipping, when I lose my expectancy for the future, it is usually because I've set my sight on the conventional. Yet, our hope in the Sacred, as Naomi discovers throughout her story, often leads us into the unconventional. Her foreign daughter-in-law Ruth moves with her back to Israel - unconventional for the time. Ruth - a beggar widow - woos a prominent land owner - unconventional. Ruth will bear a son named Obed, and Obed a son named Jesse, and from Jesse's stem will come David - unconventional.

So it is with queer and allied people of faith, the Divine will goad us into the unconventional. We will be mocked and even persecuted as heretics for our oddity, yet our way forward is not the standard for that has been shut to us. Like Mallet's photo, once the way forward is cut off, we need to perceive the path from a new frame. Excitedly, we find the Great Heart of the Universe leading us into the eccentric, the unusual, the irregular, the "alternative," the avant-garde. And as with Naomi, so will great things be accomplished through us.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Relax, Let Go, Trust (Luke 12:22-31)

     Then (Jesus) said to the disciples, "That's why I tell you, don't worry about your life and what you are to eat. Don't worry about your body and what you are to wear. For life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Take a lesson from the ravens. They don't sow or reap. They have neither a food cellar nor a barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds? Can any one of you, for all your worrying add a single hour to your life? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why worry about the rest?
     "Notice the flowers grow. They neither labor nor weave, yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was robed like one of these! If that is how God clothes the grass in the field - which is here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow - how much more will God look after you! You have so little faith!
     "As for you, don't set your hearts on what you'll eat or what you'll drink. Stop worrying! All the nations of the world seek these things, yet your Abba God well knows what you need. Set your sights on the kin-dom of God, and all these other things will be given to you as well."

I start with a confession - I have always wrestled with these words: don't be anxious, don't seek to control, trust. This advice is hard enough in general, yet from a queer perspective they seem to have even more weight. There are a thousand things to fret about. For those just discerning their orientation the whole issue of managing the closet, of who knows, who doesn't know, when do we want someone to know, and each and every individual with which a potentially difficult conversation needs to take place with the risk of rejection. For those yearning and fighting for marriage equality and the constant and seemingly unending battle for respect and legal justice. For those who've mourned quietly over a break up, or even the death of a lover - not understood, or simply ignored by others. 

Into this mix of emotions and feelings comes this bit of odd wisdom: relax, let go, trust.  For none of your worrying, none of your obsessing, none of your controlling and grabbing tight can add an hour to your life. But if I'm not the one raising my blood pressure over these things then who will? 

Relax. Let go. Trust. These words fly in the face of the usual advice we receive: work harder, fight stronger, march longer. 

Relax. Let go. Trust. Reminds us that there is a buoyancy to life which AlicePopkorn captures in her image. You may call it God, or you may call it life, or you may call it the eternal force for justice, mercy, and love. Regardless of what you name it, it is there holding you as a child in the palm of the hand. Notice the joy and happiness signaled by the smile of the female figure. The hand solid yet transparent as if the buoyancy can be consciously known or totally ignored, yet remains to bear us up.

Relax. Let go. Trust. Moves us from straining to carry the world of our lives on our solders, and like Atlas, forever being pinned down by its weight. Relax. Let go. Trust. Moves us to enjoying this thing we call life, and for us this thing we call the queer life. Relax. Let go. Trust. Reminds us that our duty is not to be uptight as we fevorisly seek to control "things beyond your control," but rather to seek our inner alignment with this cosmic hand that bears us up. Or, as Jesus put it, seeking after the kin-dom of God.  

Relax. Let go. Trust. Allows us to place our values first and our fears second. What does life look like when we are chasing after what we want instead of running from what we don't want? How different would we be with others if we were to take care of our inner life before we take care of what others think of us? What pain would be releashed from our lives if we trusted instead of worried? 

Relax. Let go. Trust. That's the wisdom. May we all find peace in it.