Sanctuaries and Benediction for 2017

What’s wrong with many of our churches today is that they’re no longer sanctuaries. Not in the truest sense. Sanctuaries are supposed to be a holy place yet through the centuries they were also known for being a safe place. They’re no longer safe places. They’re no longer places of refuge.

We have made ourselves so holy, no brokenness can enter in for healing.

We have made ourselves so holy, we only let Nicodemus in because he fits our picture of a saint. But we won’t let the woman at the well inside or the Good Samaritan.

We have made ourselves so holy, we will sit in solemn, worshipful silence while our neighbor is bleeding out in the street.

We have made ourselves so holy, we forget our Holy God is also wholly love.

We have made ourselves so holy, we won’t sit at Jesus’ feet. Nor will we sit with Hannah in her pain. But we’ll praise Joseph for being a perfect ruler.

We have made ourselves so holy, we forget we are a bloody mess in need of redemption, having more in common with the broken than the perfect.

In sunshine or rain, in joy or in pain, God with us, God for us, God in us

In war or in peace, though trials come or they cease, God with us, God for us, God in us

Peace unto you, peace and grace from God our Father, from God our Mother, from God our Savior.

Hope unto you, hope and love from God our Father, from God our Mother, from God our Savior.

God in our loss, God in our gain, God with us, God for us, God in us

Savior in the dark, Savior in the light, God with us, God for us, God in us

Peace unto you, peace and grace from God our Father, from God our Mother, from God our Savior.

Hope unto you, hope and love from God our Father, from God our Mother, from God our Savior.



Opening the Closet Doors

Some of the best stories are the ones that happen in real life. The ones you couldn’t make up if you tried.

This story began the Friday after the election when I posted something political on Facebook:

“Warning, political post below so read carefully and respect that I have an opinion just as everyone else does and has shared so freely this week:

If you’re upset about people being upset about the election results on Tuesday, I have to wonder if you’ve been paying attention at all this entire election cycle. We have the right as American citizens to choose our leader. We also have the right as American citizens to protest. Both are a part of this great nation but this great nation just chose a president who is normalizing “locker room” talk about sexually assaulting women, he has endorsed hate of racial minority groups, and doesn’t speak up for marginalized and oppressed people.

The hate has spread throughout our country. And I’ve watched many many Christians with hesitation and yet somehow still unashamedly vote for this kind of person. So, yes, some of us are really upset and even mourning that our country has reached a point where we’re ok with this level of hate. If you talk to your friends who are experiencing life differently than you as either a racial minority or part of the lgbt community, you will know they are afraid for their futures and their lives.

I have heard just in this week since the election happened of increased suicides among LGBT youth and of people being assaulted by Donald Trump supporters. I need to know you’re not ok with that and that you will not defend these things that have been happening with more prevalence since this man became a presidential candidate and was elected as the next president on Tuesday.

As a Christian, I am ashamed to hear anyone defend him. I am grieved by this because as a woman I have been sexually assaulted. You’ve basically just told me that you couldn’t stand voting for a Democrat so you voted for one of the most hateful people ever to run for president instead thinking he would give you more what exactly? Political power? A voice in the supreme court, house of representatives, the senate? Blessed are you when you’re persecuted but now you want to persecute those who aren’t like you.

Jesus stood up for the oppressed and marginalized in society. He stood against religious leaders who would rather have power and overthrow an oppressive government than love the people they were supposed to love.

So, I’ve said my piece and I’m done venting, but this hurts. It just hurts and some of us are grieving. Please let us grieve and be angry for a time. We know God is still in control but right now we need to be honest with God and tell him how much this hurts that we would rather endorse hate and divide than love.”

That’s a blog post all on its own, but what happened after that in the comments section is not surprising. Basically, I had a guy mansplain in the comments and be incredibly dismissive of immigrants, people of color, LGBT people, sexual assault survivors, etc. all in the name of the president-elect who he said we should forgive. My attempts at being kind while responding to his comments seemed to make him more agitated but several of us had a back and forth conversation that lasted two days. One of my comments was that I was a member of the LGBT community.

At this point, I was just over the hateful rhetoric of the entire election season and tired of sitting there and not saying anything. But of course, people at my family’s church didn’t see it that way. People at church found out two pieces of information about me: 1. I’ve been sexually assaulted and 2. I’m gay. Guess which one they were more concerned about?

Yeah, so my parents found out in a round about way because my (now former) Sunday school teacher was told, who then told the senior pastor, who then told my uncle who’s the associate pastor, who then told my parents who on Saturday told me. Well, it was more of an ambush because they sent my sister out of the house and told me they wanted to “talk to me.”

Long story short, my parents sat down with me Saturday inquiring about the two pieces of information. But instead of the judgment that I had expected, they just told me they loved me and wanted to help me and be there for me. Granted, my parents are also very conservative Christians who are still very anti-LGBT but they made it clear that they are FOR me. I had to call out some homophobia on my dad’s part but they saw me. Perhaps for the first time, they saw the real me and saw how much I had been hurting. Lots of tears and hugs. I can honestly say this isn’t what I expected my coming out story to be like. We still have a long way to go. The church is still incredibly hostile. But…my family is with me. And if my family can see me and still love me, maybe there’s hope.

So, this holiday season, while I’m combatting racist Trump supporting family members, at least I know, that if my parents can love their gay kid, maybe there’s a God. Maybe there’s a God who is seeking my good. I’ve struggled with that this year so much, but at the end of the day, I believe that somehow we’re going to get through this. Sometimes that means risking a lot to stand up for the oppressed or even for yourself. It’s worth it. Not every coming out story is a positive one. I’ve had several instances where it wasn’t. But I’m thankful for the ones that are.

Holiday Survival Tips

Holidays can be tough. Especially for those of us who may be spending it with family we’d rather not be with or for those of us dealing with mental illness. So, I’ve tried to compile a list of helpful tips that have worked for me and also advice others have given me:

  1. You don’t have to be happy. Holidays can make you feel like you should be decking the halls and singing Christmas carols or whatever. But…
  2. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do, because
  3. Boundaries aren’t selfish. They are self-care. Holidays can be overwhelming so take care of yourself.
  4. Reach out for support when things get tough. Hopefully, you have someone you can reach out to or maybe even more than someone. If you don’t, I want you to know that I will be here. So many have been there for me, and I want to be there as much as possible. Yes, they’re hard for me too. Let’s stand in solidarity with one another.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Sometimes bingeing on Netflix is the most therapeutic thing you can do.
  6. Eggnog. Because…well, this one speaks for itself.
  7. Know that you are loved and cared for even when you feel alone. You are never alone.

An Advent Lament

Lamentations 3:

“Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is.”

“If people crush underfoot all the prisoners of the land, if they deprive others of their rights in defiance of the Most High, if they twist justice in the courts–doesn’t the Lord see all these things?”

“Lord, you have come to my defense; you have redeemed my life. You have seen the wrong they have done to me, LORD. Be my judge, and prove me right.”

“You have seen the vengeful plots my enemies have laid against me…LORD, you have heard the vile names they call me.”

John 1:

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

“He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.”

There’s a crack in the wall. A crack that splits past reality from present reality. There’s a breaking of glass as the crack reaches the window and climbs to the ceiling. Suddenly bursting forth is an evil long forgotten but never erased forever. And now that it’s remembered, it cannot be pushed back below the surface again.

Now that it’s remembered, nothing will be normal again. Or perhaps even good again. But now the light pours through the chasm opened up by what began as a tiny crack in the subconscious mind.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it ever again. The truth is out and with that truth, now love can come in and do its pain-filled, healing work.

Far too long, bandaids covered gaping, festering wounds of trauma. Far too long, isolation harbored a stagnant, lonely soul.

The light shines in the darkness. But the darkness cannot overcome it ever again. Yet it lingers in the shadows–lingers on till the dawn of something much more powerful coming through to destroy it once and for all.

Until then, with these walls now broken down, there must be something better than this.

Until then, move towards the light. Move towards this Light that shines in the darkest parts of the past and present of who you are.

Until then, fight for people in the midst of their pain.

Until then, be part of the light that shines in the darkness.

Don’t let the darkness overcome you.

Looking Back: More Stories to be Told

Some memories feel more like stories that someone else is telling me about myself where I am more of an outsider. Others put me right in the moment that they happened just like it was yesterday, as the saying goes. Sometimes listening to the right music brings something back (Flood Plains by Sara Groves for some reason is incredibly nostalgic). Maybe sharing pieces of my story helps someone else.

the car ride (age 4)

A little girl sits quietly, staring out the car window, watching as landscapes zoom by. She imagines super heroes in battle with villains on the side of the road. She’s caught up in her own little world. She closes her eyes and feels the sunlight on her cheeks. Life is good here–in this moment. She doesn’t want to miss the chance to soak it in.

Life isn’t scary, but scary’s just around the corner. Yet for now, this moment is all that matters. This moment is where I want to be forever.

the hiding place (age 5-8)

This is a dark place, but it’s safe here away from the man who abused me before I even knew what that meant. Hiding in small spaces and going unnoticed is this little girl’s super power. As long as she’s quiet and in that quiet a stone wall–impenetrable–nothing can hurt her.

Because escape is not so far away where heroes save the day and bad guys lose. In this world far away, they don’t take advantage of little girls.

the social clues (age 9-13)

The friends who once were friends now whisper about boys and she’s at a loss in this strange new world where it’s all about fitting in. All she ever wanted was a friend who understood her and her wild imagination. She retreats to the fiction world of the local library–consuming practically the entire children’s section. Nothing can save her socially. She’s awkward but genuine, far too hard on herself because no one seems to appreciate the awkwardness and kindness anymore. It doesn’t seem to be enough anymore.

adolescence (14-22)

Of course, this pattern of awkwardness and no friends will continue until college for the most part when she finds her “people.” She at least make it through high school with a couple close friends who get her and love her for who she is. (Don’t lose those kinds of friends, kid. You’re going to need them.)

working class (22-25)

Buried in work, the once little girl has to navigate this world by imagining herself happy one day though it seems inevitable. Happy maybe isn’t that demanding overly stressful, but meaningful job or the demanding, clingy boyfriend who she knows she’s not attracted to.

Nobody ever tells you how exhausting full-time work is socially. Many of my co-workers during this period were like a second family, though. I learned my compliance would lead to robotic treatment by my bosses. I lost my sense of who I was (did I ever have that?) but I’ll find myself again.

Present Day (25)

This year has been one hell of a year. I’ve moved more towards my calling by starting grad school. I’m at my happiest, researching, writing, engaging in deep conversations, becoming more of an activist, loving people better. Becoming…gayer. I hope 25 years from this moment I’ll look back on the moments I’m currently living out and that I’ll remember. I hope that I remember life is a journey through valleys and mountains. I hope I remember there is beauty in both of these and that I let nothing hold me back.