Sermon for Proper 11, Year A: Subtraction

It might help to read the scriptures before you read the sermon, although if I put them here, my word count is bigger. 😛


In researching for this sermon today, I accidentally came across something profound in a novel called Quantum Lens, by Douglas Richards. I have two free book aggregators that comes to me through e-mail every day, and though it is not on sale anymore, it is worth every penny ($6.99). As an aside, because I’ve gotten so many books for free, my Kindle is breaking under the “weight” of everything I haven’t read….. But the lines I came across that struck me so deeply are these, and I’ll have to paraphrase:

Character 1: How many colors are in the rainbow?
Character 2: Seven, but with combinations, infinite possibilities.
C1: What color do you get when you look at all of them together?
C2: White.
C1: Right. Water is blue not because of addition. Water is blue because of subtraction. The water is not blue because it was made that way, but because the water subtracts everything but blue. What if God is the same way? God is not God because of addition, but because of subtraction? That God is all infinite possibilities and creates by subtracting pieces of God’s self breaking open?

In another part of the book, my mind was absolutely blown. One of the characters says that on the first day of creation, Genesis says, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Ok, so we’re there. It’s one of the most famous passages in all of scripture… and here’s where it gets interesting.

The sun and the moon and the stars weren’t created until the fourth day.

What if, without knowing it, quantum physics is explained in Biblical terms by the 3rd verse of the first chapter of the first book in the Bible… God separating light matter from dark in a concept not truly understood even today… Again, God working through subtraction and not addition.

God dividing themself rather than multiplying.

When you think of scripture in this way, we are all subtractions of God… tiny pieces of divinity flung throughout the world, no matter what kind of deity to which you identify. Eastern, Western, it’s all the same. What changes is the way we subtract from God willingly. If God has many names, they also have none. There is no separation from God, because you are a piece of them, cut of the same cloth:

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there your hand will lead me *
and your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, surely the darkness will cover me,
and the light around me turn to night,

Darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day;
darkness and light to you are both alike.

Psalms 139: 7-11

What would Christianity look like if we all saw ourselves in this way? What if we threw out the idea of the grandfather in the sky and all realized that God themself is within us, and not without? How would that change theology as we know it? Not for the people that study it every day, but for the people who think they are worthless, or friendless, or needy, or insecure, or all of the things we tell ourselves in our moments of weakness

What would it look like to know for sure that you are not a multiplication of God, but a subtraction? That God themself is in the beating of your heart, divinity you do not have to seek anywhere but in your own heart? What would it look like if all of God’s subtractions stopped subtracting from each other, because as a human race, we are all the same pieces?

What if we were able to subtract negativity, toxicity, war-mongering, famine… all the horrible things that humans do to one another because we do not realize that we are literally hurting ourselves? If everyone on earth is a subtraction of God, we are all literally the same person, with enough difference to make things interesting. We lash out in fear, but what if we were all able to turn that fear on its ear and reach out in the knowledge that when we treat each other unfairly, or engender anger and fear in others, we are only using a knife to cut our own hearts?

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Letter in the Spirit of Paul to the Romans

Who hopes for what is seen?

If we are to believe in this letter, we have a lot of work to do. “Paul” is urging us to set our own creation free. Chapter 8, from which this excerpt is taken, deals with the problem of righteousness and entitlement… that being saved in hope does not mean that we are free to do whatever we want without consequences. His ambition in this letter is to show that the Jews of his time practiced their faith by strict adherence to the law, and to him, there was no way on earth this was possible, or even probable. What speaks to “Paul” is spiritual submission, the act of doing the right thing because the law did not always line up morally.

Jesus freed us from all Talmudic law, which is the basis for the new church that “Paul” is trying to create. In effect, he wants to subtract Christians from the legal bondage that the Jews have created, to be able to follow their own hearts and minds. Reading between the lines, “Paul” is calling out all the Jews who live to the letter of the law and yet, have no spirituality at all…. but he’s trying to fix it. He is trying to show the Romans that they are not a church of their own, but part of a larger body, all subtracted from the same being.

There is also self-motivation as well as mobilization. “Paul” was eager to preach in Spain as the West opened up, and he knew that establishing Rome as a base of operations was his best bet. He laid his heart bare, establishing his theology, because he knew that his “reviews” from Rome would be mixed based upon his reputation without even knowing him…. because who hopes for what is seen? He was trying to hope for something bigger than the churches he knew well (to paraphrase Wm. Barclay).

In order to do this, he establishes that we must be responsible for our own well-being and that of others. Not to be claimed, but to own the claim we already have. “Paul” calls us the first fruits of the spirit, just sitting there, waiting.

What are we waiting for if God has already subtracted a piece of themself into us, so that we may further the message of the Christ on our own? If “Paul” was reaching beyond the hope that was already established, what is stopping us? What is stopping us from reaching out to the poor, friendless, needy, insecure, or otherwise hurt in a world that sometimes knocks us flat? What is stopping us from subtracting pain? What is stopping us from subtracting fear? What is stopping us from subtracting unity?

Glory is not about to be revealed to us. It is already here. What are we waiting for?

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

Synecdoche

Everything is starting to feel more and more real as my ticket to Portland is secured, my ordination papers have arrived, and in the next week or so, my wedding wear will be delivered as well. After checking with the bride, I chose a simple white monk’s robe with alb and cinctures (ropes that go around the waist rather than a stole). An alb on the robe means it’s basically a long, Catholic/Anglican hoodie. If you’re not married by someone in a hoodie in Portland, is it really a Portland wedding?

I also chose the clothes of an altar boy (basically) rather than a priest, because though the Church of the Latter Day Dude is legal, I don’t feel like I’m ready to put on my big girl clothes yet. Let’s save the stole and the ministerial robes for later, when I am ordained “Dude CC.” I came up with that. You can use it. Free.

I would have chosen brown over white, but it wouldn’t have matched anything else anyone was wearing, and I wanted to blend in, not stand out… even though a brown hoodie is my synecdoche for the city.

A synecdoche is a device in poetry where you use the part for the whole, like calling a car “wheels.” In this way, the wedding is syndecdoche for what I believe is my whole life’s work. Even if I’m never ordained, I’ve learned more about what I think of scripture by writing to you than most people do in years of schooling…. because then, you learn a lot about what other people think of scripture and it takes another few years to develop your own spin.

I don’t do it without help, though. I have many volumes of William Barclay’s work on my Kindle, as well as John T. Robinson, A.W. Tozer, Paul Tillich, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Most of the books I’ve bought from smile.amazon.com (so that part of my purchase goes to Doctors Without Borders) have been recommended by guests on The RobCast and On Being with Krista Tippett.

What is interesting about Tozer is that he received his first call to serve a church without attending seminary or being ordained. I suppose the tradeoff was that it was in Nutter Fort, WV. There’s nothing wrong with West Virginia- it’s lovely. But when people ask where my church is, the last thing I want to escape my lips is “Nutter Fort.” Although, with my history of bipolar disorder, maybe it would be fitting. At the very least, hilarious.

It wasn’t until 1950 that he even got a degree. He taught himself everything he missed in high school, college, and grad school. It wasn’t until 1950 that he was given a Doctor of Letters from Wheaton College… and he began his ministry in 1919. We don’t believe a lot of the same things, but his story in and of itself is inspiring.

I also look to my father’s mother, who went to college while raising four kids and was invited to stay on as a biology professor, but didn’t want to move away from Lone Star and needed a job closer to home. She became a lab technician at the local hospital, where she jokingly called herself “the blood and tinkle lady.”

I learned this from talking to my grandfather on his birthday, another marathon conversation in which we covered everything from family stories to how we both reacted to Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. He said that he thought it was for younger people.

I’ve been thinking about that one line for days now, especially as I approach my 40th birthday and what I want my second act to become.

More kind, certainly. More loving. More open. Less quick to focus on the J in INFJ. Learning to ask for help before I need it rather than waiting until the absolute last second when I’m about to drown to admit that something might be wrong.

I can only think about what I want my life to look like emotionally, because physically, I am stuck. I am considering everything from high-power IT job to busboy. It doesn’t matter. What matters is being able to write every day, being able to further my work in the world that is only mine.

I think I need someone to look over my resume, because I’ve gotten a few bites, but not enough to actually lead to anything. It’s not fair- I’m too talented to be overlooked, and yet, I am. All the time.

Although I think I will go back to cooking, if only for a short while. I realized that I missed it when I looked at all my water bottle mix-in packages and I’d cut them all on the bias. I was also making pasta the other day and used food-grade scissors to chiffonade turkey and basil.

It was the first time I’d cooked anything in almost a year. I tend to run on sandwiches and snacks, because with Filipino, Indian, and Cameroonian roommates, the kitchen is rarely free. One of my roommates commented that she’d never seen me cook anything and wasn’t sure I knew how. I told her that I’d cooked professionally and she said, “well, you keep saying that, but I’ve never actually seen you do it.” I didn’t say anything. I just made aioli from scratch. I miss my Popeye forearms.

I also miss being able to eat whatever the hell I want because the job is such a workout that you need that level of caloric intake. Because first, there’s the dance with the brigade. Second of all, there’s the sauna that all kitchens are.

It’s like doing Zumba crossed with Bikram yoga for ten or eleven hours at a clip.

How did we get from A.W. Tozer to garlic mayonnaise?

It’s ok. I doubt I can turn water into wine at Bryn’s wedding. But if I do, I will go down in history as the second coolest preacher ever.

Sermon for Proper 10, Year A: Seeds and Stems

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Sperm is often called “seed,” especially in the Bible. Therefore, every single one of us starts out as a seed, and when, joined with an egg, takes root in the womb and stems outward. A lot of our personality is created when seeds become stems  and stems become branches and branches become the mature tree… a new person, ready to take on the world.

But have you ever stopped to wonder how the DNA handed down to you affects the type of roots you create? What kind of seed you might be? Do you consistently seek out people who you deem “in the same garden?”

The types of seeds that Jesus is talking about directly relate to personalities in people, and he says so directly when he’s explaining what he just said. This is because often, when Jesus uses an analogy while preaching, and even in just talking to his disciples, what he receives is a series of dumb looks.

This is not unusual even today, because without repetitive explanation, people get lost in their own minds and now have no idea what you’re saying. The best preaching advice I’ve ever gotten is, “first, you tell them. Next, you tell them again. Then you tell them again.” Of course, you use different illustrations, but they’re all the same point.

When people are firmly planted in their pews, completely tracking with you, they may not get the idea of repetition. People who are not often need it. As a preacher, I am competing with the personal stories that come up for the people listening, what to have for lunch, and, especially in Portland, a sunny day.

It’s the difference between how the seeds are planted, and what kind of personalities they create.

We can even expand past the personal to the local church. Are you invested with deep roots, or did your mother make you come? It’s at this point that we have to ask ourselves “are we the 30, the 60, or the 100-fold kind of church?”

What kind of church ARE we?

Are we so shallow in our commitment that a bird could swallow us up? That it would take so little to make us disband? We have nourished the bird, but have failed ourselves in a “give a man a fish” kind of way. We’ve sustained, for a moment, one being… and walked away. The gospel competes with the world, and loses… badly.

Have we planted ourselves on rocky soil, reaching for the sun? The best analogy I can think for this kind of church are those that initially are so gung ho that they over-commit, and six or 12 months later, leave, never to return… because it’s just so much work. Few can let go and listen because the running tab of things to do is so long, particularly for “the Marthas…” who place very little importance on the phrase don’t just do something, sit there.

Initial excitement in its exuberance is a wonderful thing, but it has to be watered carefully, as not to burn or drown. There is generally little room to add new crops, because people are already so mired between committees and choirs and teaching Sunday School and laying out vestments and ALL THE THINGS that new shoots spring up, and there’s no one with enough sunlight left to tend to them. The gospel just gets in the way of the running to-do list with no respite.

Churches with deep roots are not only self-sustaining, but have the ability to minister to others… and it’s a difference you can both see and feel. Deep roots mean there’s a group of people for each single thing, so that no one group has to do everything. The same 30 or 60 people are not the entire church, but just the choir or just a couple of committees. If you’ve ever been to a really small church, you know that there are at least ten people who are on every committee and in the choir, and have to say “no more.” Not out of malice, out of exhaustion. There are churches with deep roots who have the ability to create a committee just to shake new people’s hands as they come in the door, and that is their only function. There is enough room between rows, enough nutrients for everyone, that the seeds become stems and the stems become branches and the branches become the mature tree. The gospel is not working at us, but through us. We are able to welcome the stranger, give to the poor, fight racial inequality and GLBTQI rights… we have the ability to widen the net, teaching others to fish as we go.

Which invariably leads to the question of what kind of world we want to be.

For a lot of people, it’s starting to feel like being a 100-fold seed in a 30-fold world. But here’s the catch… it’s not a 30-fold seed world. Perception is not reality. There are enough people to do everything, enough people to be able to pick which causes to support, which battles to fight… and which governments need resistance. Resistance is not futile, it’s its own kind of protest.

Hundred-fold people create hundred-fold churches which give the individual a chance to grow into a community. So many people can and will get involved, but are overwhelmed when it comes to how to “jump in.” They are the hope and the future as to how a 30-fold seed can find its way from feeding one being to all of them.

This is where you are issued an invitation, in turn to give one. In my own life, I have never once had success with inviting someone to come with me to church. I have had success with showing them who I am and to whom I belong. For instance, I’ve invited friends to march with me in the Pride parade along with my church group…. or go to a political rally. Wide-eyed, they look at me as if to say, your church does THAT?

Of course. In a church with deep roots, the plants grow toward the sky, because the deeper the support system, the easier it is to say…

Jesus Has Left the Building.

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

It’s Been Awhile

It feels like it’s been eons in writing days since I’ve posted, but you have to know that it’s hard for me to come up with something to write ABOUT. My life is currently very small, and I like it that way. I don’t get into any trouble. Prianka and Dan are off traveling… well, that’s not exactly true. Prianka is off traveling, and Lindsay is, too (I think… last time I saw a picture of her, she was in Costa Rica). Dan is in Vermont at a Russian language immersion camp, and won’t be back for over a month. I have tentative plans to get together with Ingrid and Leslie #1, but we haven’t firmed up dates yet. However, Lindsay will come back soon and it is possible that she will be in Portland the same week I am (fingers crossed).

Before I finish this entry, though, I thought I’d post a picture of myself that I took with my web cam. The reasons are twofold. The first is to prove that the web cam on my computer is not as shitty as I thought it was. The second is that 2017-07-11-183845I haven’t taken a profile picture in a long time, just using old ones because I’m not as wrinkly (I’ll be 40 on Sept. 10th). In short, this is what I actually look like this year. I’m one of those lesbians that looks like a ten-year-old (maybe 15) boy until you get close enough to see that I’m going grey and I have bags under my eyes, and wrinkles that thankfully go up, because I got them from laughing so hard. In this picture, you can also tell that I actually own boobs. That’s a rarity, because the more I dress like a boy, the less I get hassled by them. It’s so odd to be a lesbian in the world these days, because if men think you’re “one of the boys,” they won’t even bother coming up to you. And yet, flirting with boys is one of my specialties, as long as it doesn’t go anywhere. Attention is attention, and their humor is different than women’s. Not better or worse, just different. But if I make the effort to look all girly and cute, it’s way more male attention than I ever bargain for. Thus, the strangeness. Also, when I’m “all nellied out,” men seem to think I’m hitting on them even when I’m just being nice, polite, and Southern… which is not always, but often, all the same thing.

Thus the conundrum of what to wear to Bryn’s wedding. I’ve never been an officiant before, although I have “worn it like I stole it” in one memorable worship service, and even though I am a Dudeist Priest, I doubt Bryn and Corey want me to do their wedding in a bathrobe and jelly sandals (well, I haven’t asked…. maybe they do). Believe me when I say that I’m going to be good at this. I have done just enough worship services to have confidence that this wedding WILL go off with a hitch (see what I did there?). For the rest of my life, no matter how many weddings I do (Dudeist or UCC), I’ll always be able to say that my best friend’s was the first. She says she already knew that… asking me wasn’t a coincidence. I told her I already knew that, because I could read her like a book. And it’s true. I had a feeling that was the case.

I believe in my talent because I was “trained” by the best. It’s not just having watched my dad all those years (although that helps, certainly). It’s having a UCC pastor that was OFTEN willing to hand over the pulpit to me, and not just that. Letting me do the whole service front to back, from bulletin to benediction. Throwing me into the fire was the best education ever, and I think the reason she did it was because she knew I was testing the waters for my own career, trusting in my past (it worked). The only thing I’ve ever wanted to prove to myself is that I am just as talented as my dad (it worked). Though preaching is my passion, there is nothing in the world like writing a call to worship and hearing the congregation read them back to you in unison. It is seriously better than drugs, even caffeine.

The thing I’ve got to work on is refining my style. There’s nothing like manuscripting a sermon and flipping two pages at once and not realizing it…. and yes, I’ve done it. I also fell down the stairs to the pulpit after one of my sermons, and that was even more memorable than anything I’ve ever said…. both to me and the 300 people watching.

I also really love doing children’s sermons. One Sunday I pulled out a map and asked the kids how many different ways there were to get from Portland to DC. They traced their fingers along the highways and said there were so many they couldn’t count them all. I said “that’s how many ways there are to get to God.” The light bulb smiles that followed were priceless.

At Bridgeport, the pastor does not usually give what we used to call “the offering pitch.” It’s a member of the congregation who generally tells a story about how much the church has meant to them. I told the story of Jamie Brabham, an usher at our church in Naples, who, if he thought you didn’t give enough money, would pass the plate down again. As people howled, I said, “no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” And that’s when I realized I didn’t have one damn dollar on me. #dumbassattack

This reminds me of my favorite Lindsay story. I’d just gotten my driver’s license, and it was my job to shuttle her back and forth to church. One Sunday she was the one who put money in the plate, and then leaned over to me and whispered, “can we go to Subway for lunch?” When I nodded yes, she said, “but you have to pay for lunch because I paid for church.” Dear Jesus did I have trouble keeping it together after that.

That was the year my father was pastor of Christ United Methodist in Sugar Land, where it would be remiss of me not to celebrate Lahonda Sharp’s retirement after 33 years. Lahonda was my choir director, as well as my mother’s. Though she and my mother got along famously, what I really remember about that time in my life is the comedic routines that exist between a choir director and a pastor. My dad and Lahonda routinely cracked people up like Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. Bonus points if you get that reference, and the bonus is that you’re old.

I hope that by the time I’m ready for my own call, or ready to start my own church plant, that I have someone I can “shake and bake” with, too.

Now that my mom is gone, I have run out of ideas. But that’s ok. I will meet that man or woman someday. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t met them yet. One step at a time.

Starting with a wedding.

How to Even Tag This One…..

I haven’t heard anything from Blackboard, and I’m starting to get very frustrated, because of all the companies I could work for in all the world, this is where I straight up belong. Helping Scott and Andrew set up the Academic Technology Support Center at University of Houston was one of the greatest years of my life. Scott even sent me to University of Minnesota for a WebCT conference, complete with nine inches of fresh snow on the ground, and I learned more in that one weekend than I did in five weeks of trying to teach myself. At first I thought I’d end up becoming an instructional designer myself, and got to do a little bit of that with Evangelinux and again going out on my own with Udemy.

I haven’t posted anything to Udemy yet, and will let you know when it’s available, because I have an issue I need to clear up first. I have to figure out how to evade online pirates, who will download your videos and take your course for free, offering it to others through direct download and torrenting.

If I can’t figure out how to do it on their server, I might be interested in offering it on my own. To do that, though, I’d have to move to a real server space rather than WordPress.com, because apart from a small donation button, they will not allow you to make money. I understand- they’re giving you server space for free. If I moved to another server, I’d be able to have more control with scripting, etc., plus be able to use things like Google AdWords. Now, you don’t make much with Google AdWords, but at the same time, you make more than if you can’t use it at all.

The idea of the course is Linux for beginners, using desktop recording software and voice overs. I have more than one idea, because I think people need to know how to use the command line, because typing is so much faster than searching through menus to get simple things done. The second idea is talking about replacements for all the software you really need. For instance, it is just not worth the cost to spend money on Windows, Office, PhotoShop, etc. when similar tools are available for free, and often open source, so that if you’re a programmer, you can customize everything to what you need with no legal penalty… even with Linux itself. Microsoft is just beginning to get on the open source bandwagon, and there is no way they’ll ever release the entire source code for any of their flagship products.

Quick tip for PhotoShop users… there’s an open source image software called GIMPShop (a mashup of Gnu Image Manipulation Program and PhotoShop) that changes all your keyboard shortcuts to the same ones you’d use in PhotoShop, therefore cutting the learning curve in half. Maybe I should have saved that for my own tutorial, but there you have it. The first one’s free.

I only lasted a year at the ATSC because I was promoted again to Internet/Intranet Developer II. Back then, it was so much easier to be a web developer because we were writing all our own code from scratch rather than having to make our web pages talk to databases, one of the major changes in web development over the years. Cascading Style Sheets were about as sophistocated as we got. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s a file that you reference that is similar to creating styles in Microsoft Word. Basically, you separate out all the content from the formatting and put the formatting in this one file that works across all the pages in a particular site. That way, if you want all your headings to be in a larger/different font, you change one file rather than manually having to change every heading on every page… which, back in the day, was as excruciating as it sounds.

This is another reason to change to my own server space, because on WordPress.com, all the fonts and everything are controlled by the theme. If I upgraded to WordPress premium or whatever, I’d have complete control of ALL THE THINGS. But I still wouldn’t be able to do everything that needs to be done in terms of protecting myself from illegal downloads…. or as much as I can, anyway. Surely there’s got to be some kind of Digital Rights Management for personal web sites… which wouldn’t stop a hacker if they were really dedicated, but would definitely stop the lazy ones.

But for most of you, this post is probably unbearably boring, because you don’t want to hear about WebDev and all that computer crap. You come hear to learn about what I’m doing and how I’m feeling and how I’m interacting with others, along with how I’m dealing with soul-sucking grief.

The short answer is that I’m not.

I’m burying myself in trying to find a job, trying to push myself to create my own courses to have income I don’t have to watch, anything to get away from having to think or feel anything that doesn’t have to do with business. I have done so much feeling and thinking about everything that I’m getting tired of it. I’m tired of feeling down ALL THE FUCKING TIME. I’m tired of feeling that I don’t deserve joy because I am enmeshed in grief. I am tired of feeling guilty when I receive said joy because I am “supposed to be” in mourning.

I am tired of worrying about what Dana & Argo and anyone else I’ve pissed off thinks and turning my attention to those who do show up. Because honestly, what good is it doing me? They’re never coming back and it is wasted energy all the way around. I’ll never be able to say enough, do enough, be enough to erase the hardship I’ve caused both of them. “You’ll never amount to anything” and “we’ll never be normal” are beginning to be it for me. I say “beginning” because it’s just my personality to overthink and overworry and carry that shit around for years on end… because not only do I owe them a hell of a lot more from me than they got, they’ve stopped listening and they did a long time ago. Even when I am being dead-level honest, they don’t believe it, anyway. It’s not my job to judge whether they should believe me or not. That’s their decision, one in which I’ll never have control (and shouldn’t). But what I can do is try to stop thinking about it, try to stop caring so damn much, try to love them in a loopback that feeds me and keeps me going rather than expending energy trying to “win” them back. I can’t undo or redo the past, but I can take the lessons I learned and turn them into something beautiful in their names… because I cannot and will not forget the gifts they gave me along the way. It was a long road to stop thinking about all the negativity and toxicity and just breathe, taking in the wonder of their prayers and presence while I had it.

Just because I erupted and crazy spatter and emotional vomit rained all over them due to forces I thought were literally beyond my control doesn’t mean that I don’t take full responsibility for it. Notice that I said “forces I thought were beyond my control.” They weren’t. I just didn’t have any coping mechanisms and everything I was feeling made me go off like a loose cannon, saying and doing things completely contrary to who I am, because my emotional abuse lasted so long that when I finally accepted it and started moving on, there were….. casualties. I said things I’ll never be able to take back, acted in ways I never thought I’d be capable.

Because I had no way to stop it at the time, everything that was heaped upon me was heaped upon them… mostly because I couldn’t confront the person with whom I was really angry…. and it isn’t as if I didn’t try. I tried with a passion I’ve never felt before or since. It left me full of despair and rage for which I had no safe outlet, and chose the most unsafe of all…. two people who loved me beyond all reasonable measure… or at least it seemed that way to me, because I didn’t think I was worthy of that kind of love. It surpassed all my understanding…. and because I was not healthy, of course I chose to go after this dysfunctional, unstable, disaster of a relationship rather than relying on the healthy patterns I’d developed with Dana, and later with Argo. And, as all emotionally abusive relationships inevitably end, I blew up like a firecracker because it was SO UNFAIR.

It had never been fair, but I didn’t know any different. I wandered further and further from myself, my values, my personal compass as I tried to release the thunderstorm that had been raining on my head since 1990.

In the words of Dooce, it sucked and then I cried.

It sucks that I’ll never go back to that time in my life, because both relationships ended with our bridges burning in effigy. How could they not? At this point, it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter what I want, and they are two completely separate things in each relationship.

With Dana, it would be the ability to have stayed married through the storm, knowing it would pass once I returned to my old self. But you never go back to someone with whom you’ve had a physical fight. She started it and by God she was going to end it. I’ve never been hit harder in my life. I do blame myself for escalating things emotionally and not running away before it got physical… but I don’t blame myself for getting hit, trying to defend myself, and it ending….. poorly.

With Argo, it would be to erase the words that cut me like a knife, that “we’d never be normal.” It would be her contacting me as if everything was okay and yet, it was CLEARLY not. It would also be the chance to thank her in person for emotionally whipping my ass, because it got me back on the road to wholeness. It would be the chance to give and receive hugs that last a second longer, because it might do more good than an apology in black and white. It would be a chance to know the whole package rather than the people we presented to each other- only the sides of each other that we wanted the other to know. It could never be a do-over, but a begin-again. It would be to know forgiveness rather than remission.

For the non-Episcopalians, remission of sin is erasing it like it never happened. Forgiveness is recognizing the wrong and reconciling it.

I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want to cover anything up. I want my friends to love me even though I am hugely flawed, because I’d do the same for them.

I am starting to find those friends, or rekindle friendships that have been idle a long time. It is an important step in finding the next great love of my life, because if I can’t be a good friend, I can’t be a good partner.

As I rest and recover, though, there’s no place like localhost.

Hold on to Your Butts… We Have a Lot to Cover

When we last left off, I had just come home from a sailing race in which we A) lost 2) I tore up my knee and my shin on something hard and sharp that I cannot name. My leg is still recovering, which means that I am wearing pants out of respect for others. By the time I finish this entry, we’ll be setting up for a picnic on the porch, because it’s supposed to rain. Of course it’s supposed to rain on the night when fireworks are supposed to pop all over the DMV (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia for those who don’t live here). My favorite memory of the Fourth in DC was going up to the top of my friend Molly’s apartment building and watching the fireworks on The Mall up close and the fireworks in Maryland and Virginia in the distance. If it doesn’t happen this year, at least I have the penultimate memory of it in years past.

Back to you, Bob. Let’s go to the phones.

Last Friday I went to see Ben Folds: Declassified at the Kennedy Center, and it was my first time in that venue. As I was walking up the steps, every scene in The West Wing ever filmed there went through my head. The tickets were all one price, so I got the perfect seat- row Y in the Orchestra. The concert was not what I expected. It was even better.

It seems as if Ben Folds is a man on a mission, because this was not a Ben Folds concert, per se. He did play Bastard from Songs for Silverman, about losing his grandfather and having to clean out his house. His grandfather was actually a great guy, he explained, but his name was “Baxter,” so all the grandkids called him “Bastard” behind his back just because it was funny. That was pretty much the beginning and the end of the classic Ben Folds old school era. He played piano for the other two artists with the National Symphony Orchestra behind him, and at the end played the third movement of his own piano concerto, which was FANTASTIC. He opened the piano and played the strings Tori Amos-style. I can’t wait until the rest is published.

To me, the mission was simple. Try and get younger people to buy symphony tickets, because in this day and age, they don’t. This is inexplicable to me, because exposure to classical music as a child led me to a lifelong love of it. The two years I spent playing classical music in orchestra were some of the best of my life, and the scariest. They were the only two years in which I had what are called “juries,” which determine your place in the orchestra. I never got first desk, but that is because the actual first desk, Norman, was out of this world good and it would have taken an Act of God to beat him. The first year, it was just Norman and me. The second year, I was moved down to third out of fourth chair, because second chair, Danny, was also Act of God unbeatable. It’s not that I was bad. It was that no matter how much I practiced, I was never going to be a natural virtuoso, one that could play anything put in front of me on the first try, talent beating out hard work, and definitely not beating out that kind of talent PLUS hard work.

It didn’t matter, though. I was just glad to be in orchestra at all…. although my favorite memory of orchestra is the conductor stopping the whole shebang and yelling, “Leslie Lanagan! Get rid of that JAZZ SOUND!”

However, jazz and hip hop backed up by full orchestra went nicely together in Friday’s concert. This was my favorite piece, Wake Up, by Danay Suárez. If you don’t know that name, you should. She did three pieces, and all of them were amazing and get stuck in my head when I’m trying to sleep. It’s ironic that when my head hits the pillow, all I hear is “WAKE UP!” The song itself is about trying to stay woke in an oppressive system, which I know because the translation is in the program… I couldn’t pick up that much Spanish as fast as it was going by…..

A few days later, my certificate of ordination and my letter of good standing in the Church of the Latter Day Dude came in the mail. Now, I realize that to a lot of people, this is sacrilegious and offensive that I would do an end run around graduate school. However, I didn’t want to make Bryn and Corey wait to get married until I finished my last year and a half of my Bachelor’s and my three years of grad school. It was important to Bryn that I do the wedding, so it was a no-brainer to get ordained over the Internet, even though both of those bits of schooling are in the works. One of these days, I’ll be a UCC pastor. For now, you can call me Her Dudeliness, or Right on, Rev if you’re into the whole brevity thing. My father used to call himself “The More or Less Reverend David Lanagan,” which I think is also perfect for me, but I don’t steal. I’m just the “minister” that really ties the wedding together. I am under no illusion that I am really ordained for anything, even though my letter of good standing says I am. If you want to be baptized into The Church of the Latter Day Dude, I’ll give you my phone number…. or if you want to be married by a Dudeist Priest, same.

But I still follow the words of Jesus of Nazareth, and I always will. To me, this is just the stopgap measure on my way to the real thing, like the Hydrox you buy when you can’t afford Oreos.

There is life and truth in the red letters, and I never forget that fact.

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

 

 

 

Blame it on My ADD, Baby…

You know how sometimes people invite you to do things, but accidentally leave out critical bits of information? This was one of those days. When Lindsay asked me if I wanted to go sailing today, neither one of us knew that we were actually going to be racing the boat. And by “we,” there were plenty of crew members who knew what they were doing, and our job was to sit where they told us… because as it turns out, just being weight in the right place at the right time (staying out of other people’s way) is almost as important as pulling lines and raising sails.

When we first got on the boat, I did what I always do in new situations. I fell down. Monocular vision, fields of vision different depending on dominant eye, didn’t see something because it wasn’t there a second ago, yadda yadda yadda. I banged up my knee and my shin right good. Luckily, I was so hopped up on adrenaline from finding out that we were racing that it didn’t hurt too much. Everyone kept asking me if I was okay, because my leg looks like I got in a fight with a dog and lost…. badly.

All of this is not to evoke pity, just to explain why even being dead weight was a steep learning curve. Tacking and jibing became more and more difficult as the excitement wore off, because that meant our group had to move from one side of the boat to the other, with our heads low enough not to get smacked by the boom. It was kind of like being a soccer goalie, because there were long periods of doing nothing followed by twenty seconds of hauling ass… I had no idea what place we were in, because there were boats all over. You could tell which boats were just on the Chesapeake having fun because they weren’t sailboats…. and yet, there was no real order to the sailboats, either.

I am very competitive when it comes to team sports, because I don’t want to be the weakest link. So I took a video and pictures on my phone during our “down time,” and during chaos, I just gritted my teeth and tried to move as quickly as my body would let me… because thinking that we were losing because I was in pain was unacceptable. Lindsay asked what place we were in, and everybody kind of agreed they didn’t want to know…. but it wasn’t because I hurt myself and was moving slow or that we weren’t a good team. We just weren’t awesome. There were three-man professional teams out there today, and I know that because “I raced with them.”

At one point, in utter disbelief, I turned to the man I’d just met, “Fletch,” and said, holy shit… I’m in the middle of a sailing race. This is not where I expected my day to end up. When Lindsay and I got there, they were loading up the boat with alcohol and ice. I joked with everyone that we were going drinking and sailing was just background noise. They laughed and agreed with me…. when in reality, the alcohol and ice was for after the race was over. So what I thought would be this leisurely sail around the Bay was more like having your hair catch fire several times an hour.

It was exhilarating, every moment of it.

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