Sitting in Bob’s

It was my first day at work at the Bonita Springs YMCA. Two of us newbies trained together all morning, and I stayed afterwards to workout.  Yay!  I’m back in my element!  For as long as I remember, I felt that if I could not be in a pulpit, if I could not be serving a church, I would love the opportunity to work, to have a career with the YMCA.

After my workout, I drove by Holly’s office building to switch cars.  I dropped off her car and picked up mine. My engine light is on and Holly is oh so protective… not wanting me to drive my car that far in case something would go wrong.  So we switched cars for the morning.

After that, I decided that I was awfully hungry, so I took myself to Bob Evans for something to eat.  You know, replacing all those calories I just expended!  I sat in one of those little two-person booths, pulled out a magazine, and settled in.  At a larger booth across the aisle from me sat two women.  One was elderly, and the other was probably middle aged.  The two of them sat in silence eating.

I tried not to watch or stare, but I could not ignore them.  I wondered who they were.  Were they mother and daughter?  Were they related in some other way?  Were they neighbors?  Were they simply friends or acquaintances?  Whoever they were, I was troubled by their silence.

To be sure, I do not know the history between the two.  I do not know the relationship.  I do not know anything about the situation.  Was it good, bad or indifferent?  But as I sat there trying to ignore the sound of that silence, I was bothered.  I began to think about how much I would love to be able to sit at a table with my Mom and my Dad again.  To eat with them.  To talk with them.  To be in their presence.  To give of myself to them.  To love on them.  And some tears started to form.

In two days (April 16) it will be ten years since Mom went Home to be with her Lord.  My heart aches today as much as, if not more than, it did ten years ago.  There are still times when I am trying to remember something, and I think to myself “I need to call Mom.”  And there are times when I am watching a Pitt or Steeler football game, and I want to run back to Dad’s “Dad Cave” and see if he saw the great game that I just saw!

But I can’t.  Because they are not here any longer.  And I grieve.  But I am so eternally grateful that I had my precious Mom for 76 years and my precious Dad for 81 years.  And I am so grateful that for the last six years of his life, Dad lived with me, and that we did everything together.

So as I sat in that restaurant, listening to the silence of the two ladies in the booth next door to me, I wanted to say, “Ma’am, whoever this elderly woman is that you are with, cherish her.  Cherish this moment with her.  Treasure the time you have together.  Please don’t take any moment that you have together for granted.  For they are moments you will never get back.”

Mom and Dad, I love you, and I miss you deeply.

Where’s the Love?

I was a Christian–even a pastor–before I became aware that I was a lesbian.

The same process went into becoming a Christian as went into my awakening as a lesbian. In both cases I knew what was deepest in my life.

You see, I made the decision to become a Christ-follower at the age of 16. The date was Sunday, March 2, 1980. It was a day I will not forget. A couple of weeks following that decision, I was lying in bed one night, pondering what it meant to have surrendered my life to Christ.

Hoping to find answers in the Scriptures, I picked up my New Testament and opened it up to the beginning, to the Gospel of Matthew, and began reading. I don’t even remember where I was in the reading, but I did not get very far when I felt a sudden warmth blaze through my body from the top of my head to and through the tips of my toes. I lay their stunned.

I have no idea what prompted that experience, it certainly had nothing to do with anything I did, but whatever it was… It was only momentary. And it was breath-taking. It was mystical! And oh, it was holy!

I believe that at THAT moment I was moved by the Spirit of God. It seems that God does not discriminate when it comes to calling people to serve! Because I also believe that God knew well before I knew that I was a woman who liked women. And God still considered me able to love and serve in the name of Jesus.

And, the thing is, I have not been the same person since that night. Because, from that moment on, I have had an insatiable hunger to know God. To know who God is. To know this God more profoundly. More deeply. More intimately.

All of that launched me on a journey that led from high school to college to seminary—where I had no intention whatsoever of becoming a pastor. It was not even an inkling of a thought in my mind. My only plan was to study God and God’s word. I used the excuse that I would get my Master’s Degree and teach. You see, I come from a family of educators and dentists.

But, eventually, oh so eventually, I came to the realization that I was heading on a path toward ordained ministry. And that happened on September 18,1998, in a little town called Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, some twelve years after beginning my studies in seminary!

So, now, seventeen years later, as I write this, I am searching for answers as to what happened and when did it happen that the Christian religion has transformed from a community of people who strove to live and love and serve and be “just like Jesus” to becoming people of hate, rejection, exclusion, disrespect, and contempt.

Today’s version of the Christian faith is not the “the Way” that Jesus taught in the Scriptures. The way far too many people who call themselves Christian behave and treat others today is not the example of behavior and treatment that Jesus demonstrated in the life He led and the things He taught.

In the person of Christ there was no “holier-than-thou-ness,” no superiority complex, no self-righteous attitude to be found. Nor was there any kind of judgmental prejudice toward people who were different from Him. Rather, Jesus stove to encounter people–whoever they were, wherever they were–in a spirit of love, acceptance, dignity and respect.

Did we in the church miss the boat? Did we overlook this Divine example somehow?

The fact is that Jesus’ actions betrayed the actions of one who valued, treasured, respected, and delighted in people… right where they were.

How then is it that we reconcile who Christ was and how Christ lived and taught with the downright hateful things that are going on in His name against the LGBTQ community? How can one stand up and in good conscience say that the way human beings who are homosexual are being discriminated against, maligned, cursed, excluded, and condemned is of Christ? Or is right? Righteous? Is what Christ intended?

I have been an ordained minister for nearly 17 years. I am a lesbian. I am a Christian. Yes, a follower of Christ. I love God. I love and serve Jesus Christ. The Spirit of the living God is alive in me. I am in a loving, committed, genuine, and sincere relationship with one woman.

Before I became aware, before I embraced, that I was a lesbian, I pastored four churches. At the first church, the church from whence I received my ordination, I was following the belief system that I was raised in; the belief system that was handed down from the churches for generations that was based on a very conservative understanding of and a strictly literal reading of the Scriptures.

After seven years, and some painful struggles of life, I began to realize that these beliefs were not sitting well with me any longer. They were not my beliefs. I stuck to them because, well, that is what I was expected to do. Why rock the boat?

But I began to open my eyes and ears and heart and mind to the fierce scorn and disparagement that we Christians were thrusting upon those who did not think and act and believe as we did. And I became grieved.

My heart understood that respect and dignity were due to all God’s people, whether they thought like me, looked like me, acted like me, sounded like me, or believed like me.

Up until the time of my new understanding, I was treated wonderfully well in the churches I served. I was respected, loved, heard and appreciated.

But then….

Because of my heart’s transformation and my continually growing understanding, I became suspect… and thus was maligned by and removed from churches for being too “progressive” to lead their congregation. I wanted an open door. The congregations did not.

What did I do that was so wrong? I was a friend to persons who are homosexual. I “allowed ‘one of THOSE PEOPLE’ to join the church!”

The deciding moment, or, better said, the deathblow happened when I became completely awakened to my own homosexuality, an awakening that I accepted and embraced, choosing to live life as the person I was created to be, choosing to live a life of truth and to not live a lie.

And for that reason, I suddenly became unfit to serve God in Christ’s church. Not from the hand of God, mind you, but from the decision of a denomination that refuses to accept the truth that people who are homosexual are children of the living God.

Do we not “see” (perceive, understand, get it) that people, whoever we are, whatever we do, however we live, are human beings? Not pariahs? Not damaged? Not afflicted? Not depraved? And certainly not “hated by God”? But we are human beings. Created by God. Created in the “image of God”. Created to love, serve, give, grow, and be.

What is it, then, that makes persons who are homosexual such a threat to the world of right-wing conservative Christianity? And, there is no need to bring up Sodom and Gomorrah, the Holiness Code in Leviticus, and Paul’s words in Romans, Corinthians and Timothy.

I have read all those passages. I have studied those words. I have read about those verses. I have taken those words, even as one needs to take the whole of Scripture, and read them in the context in which they were written and with the awareness of who wrote them… human beings who were influenced by their primitive mindset and the prejudices of their day.

Oh how I seek for a day when all will see, once and for all, that there is nothing right, righteous, good, pure, virtuous, or commendable about the way people, who say they are behaving as such in the name of Jesus, are treating persons who are Gay. Or any persons who are not exactly like they are….

They may want to re-read the life of Christ, for it is there that we will all find the answers about the love and dignity that Christ demonstrated.