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,
call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

—mary oliver

purple ball play

some song or something

birdsong brings relief
to my longing.

i am just as ecstatic as they are,
but with nothing to say.

please, universal soul, practice
some song, or something, through me.

"i need you to survive" bye hezekiah walker and the love fellowship choir

i need you
you need me
we're all a part of god's body
stand with me...
we're all a part of god's body

it is god's will
that every need be supplied
you are important to me
i need you to survive
i pray for you
you pray for me
i love you
i need you to survive

i won't harm you
with words from my mouth
i love you
i need you to survive

que(e)r(y)ing the call

“What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”(Mary Oliver). Living into this question led me to into ministry, shifted my sensibilities from biological and chemical to the theological and philosophical, directed me away from medical school and into seminary. What will I do with my one wild and precious life? With this question I deviated from the relative secured certainty of a future in medicine, where because of my aptitudes and privileges, I could count on myself, my own work and will, to palpate the promise in this possibility. Ordained ministry, however, took the future from my own hands, exposed this certainty as a fa├žade. “Part of the terror of a new future,” writes Marjorie Suchocki, “is the fear that it may not be a possible future: What if we let go of the past only to find out that the future we dared cannot be? Where are we then in terms of security? Will not our last condition be worse than our first? And so, we imprison ourselves in that past against the terror of a new order.”

A central theme in discerning, negotiating, and pursuing this call is cultivating resistance as a spiritual practice, resisting imprisonment in a safe and secure past, resisting the terror of a new order. When spiritually grounded, this resistance is embodied in all night wrestling with God, sometimes limping away like Jacob, marked on my body by my encounter with the divine. It is community on the margins, welcomed into open arms adorned with a rainbow stoll at 2004 General Conference, wordlessly, because of my tears. It is creating and growing an LGBT Christian Coffeehouse at the Wesley Foundation in Iowa City, supported by the community and campus ministers, even as this ministry put our funding and good standing with the Bishop at risk. When my spiritual grounding is shaken, however, when I allow gravitational pull to dislocate me from the margins, when I try to do it alone, to stoically hide my pain, to gain respectability by thinly veiling my radical, queer, difference in which I really, truly believe God delights, when I become so focused on finding a job, getting ordained, being approved that I forget the wild, precious risk which grounds this work, then I imprison myself in the past, safeguard myself against the terror of this new possibility.

William Sloane Coffin reminds me to delight in, not merely fear, this new possibility showing through the cracks of the old. “I love the recklessness of faith,” he writes. “First you leap, then you grow wings.” I wonder if he held this wisdom when he left Union Theological Seminary to become a CIA agent, fighting communism. Would it come later, when he enrolled at Yale Divinity School, disillusioned with the CIA and US Government? When he spoke out publicly against adhering to illegitimate authority? Passionately supporting rights, inclusion, and welcome for queer folk? I wonder how many times he leapt, terrified? Whether he ever stood on the sill, full of fear, before climbing back down?

And radically erotic Anais Nin proclaims, “…the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I long to cultivate resistance in which risk works with passion, longing, vision, possibility, connection, no longer confined to the realm of fear, hesitancy, failure, or timidity. Coming to Pacific School of Religion, residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, has been a life-giving and perhaps life-saving act. While some found their spark for activism, prophetic witness, and resistance ignited here for the first time, I came to know what it meant to rest, to trust others to do this work and support them in doing so. Finally free from being “the” queer Christian to initiate conversation, offer pastoral care, connect other aching queers, challenge communities to witness and welcome, I could blossom from the tight bud of always and only connecting LGBT issues with faith, and begin placing issues of economics, war and peace, race and culture, racism and imperialism, at the center of my learning and ministry. No longer expected to be “The Voice” of queer Methodism, I began to find my voice. And, perhaps, simultaneously, to lose it.

While certainly not without pain, this space has indeed been safer. But bearing this burden, for better and for worse, has become part of my call to ministry. I do not wish to be a martyr, to glorify or position suffering as redemptive. I am too responsible to my theology, to my feminist sensibilities, to a gospel that condemns violence and finds good news not on the cross but in the empty tomb. So scared of glorifying this suffering and thus justifying the spiritual violence of hegemony, heterosexism, and homophobia, however, I have often too quickly pushed out the possibility of any redemption in the midst of my suffering, forgotten how to make meaning of the crosses in my life. I have grown wary and weary of my own pain, and have tried to push it out rather than find appropriate space for this pain in the equation of my call. My training as a chemist has taught me the beauty of a balanced equation. Perhaps my training as a theologian and cultural critic can help me re-balance.

Last Sunday, my sister called me in tears, enraged by a youth group skit at her UMC in Iowa City that presented sexuality as something to be contained, constrained, feared, and forced into a tight, neat, box. Because she loves her queer sister, because she is becoming queer in her own right, my sister cannot find a spiritual home in the UMC in Iowa City. “You would do it differently,” she said. “I’m scared to,” I replied. And, for the first time, I felt a commitment not only to the other queer kids in Iowa, to creating and enabling spiritual spaces for nourishment for them, but also for all the Iowans I know and love. The United Methodist Church is not clearly divided into Us and Them, West and the Rest. The bodies I know and love do not fit into this tidy, binary equation.

I’m scared to start thinking about returning to Iowa. Doing ministry in that context would require a depth and sustainability of spirit and support I am only beginning to learn to cultivate. I fear returning, knowing it may well be a future not possible. It would require leaping first, and then growing wings. It would require trusting less in the safety of remaining tight in a bud, and trusting more in the risky business of growing pains, the flamboyant, queer dispersal of blooming vulnerable. Struggling to glimpse what I will do with this one wild and precious life, I come, again and again, to the image of an empty tomb, the stone rolled away. The gospel lure of daring to imagine, hope for, believe in, and embody, a possibly impossible future.

rumi's blessing

there is a strange frenzy in my head
of birds flying,
each particle circulating on its own.

is the One i love everywhere?

experience this beautiful universe poem, written by kayla bonewell



gratitude...

for kayla
for her beauty and wisdom and voice
for inviting the sacred into each day
for sacred power sneaking in, when the invitation is forgotten
for morning prayer
for the intimate depth of enduring friendship
for holy solitude
for knowing i am never alone

A Blessing for Equilibrium

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the music of laughter break through your soul.

As the wind wants to make everything dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.

Like the freedom of the monastery bell,
May clarity of mind make your eyes smile.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May a sense of irony give you perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May fear or worry never put you in chains.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
To hear in the distance the laughter of God.

John O'Donohue

choices

if i can't do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don't want
to do

it's not the same thing
but it's the best i can
do

if i can't have
what i want then
my job is to want
what i've god
and be satisfied
that at least there
is something more
to want

since i can't go
where i need
to go then i must go
where the signs point
though always understanding
parallel movement
isn't lateral

when i can't express
what i really feel
i practice feeling
what i can express
and none of it is equal
i know
but that's why humankind
alone among the mammals
learns to cry

--nikki giovanni

response to your questions

why ask about behavior
when you are soul-essence
and a way of seeing into presence?
plus you are with us. how could you worry?

you may as well free a few words
from your vocabulary: why and how and impossible.
open the mouth-cage and let those fly away.

we were all born by accident
but still this wandering caravan
will make camp in perfection.

you are soul and you are love,
not a sprite or an angel or a human being.
you are a Godman-womanGod-manGod-Godwoman.

no more questions now
as to what it is we are doing here.

--rumi