In My ….. Mind

empty-cereal-bowl     I flunked Mindfulness this morning. I ate breakfast at my desk.

     As I see the empty bowl, I realize I cannot remember eating. I was too busy writing to enjoy the food. And because I was eating, I did not much enjoy the writing (and I love to write).

     Mindfulness. The Buddhists encourage us to be mindful at all times–truly aware of what is going on around us, and in us. Jesus practiced it.

     A worthy goal. A good way to live.

     I have another chance to practice it today. I am sharing lunch with a friend.

     God, help me to be present to her, and to the food we share.

Not a Spectator Sport

rain     It is still dark out as I write. My computer screen says the temperature is 32 degrees and rain is falling.

     When I grew up on the farm in Michigan, we had to go outside or at least look out the window to know the current  conditions. Now, I can look online or tune in to the Weather Channel.

     I could stay inside all the time, in a room without windows, and could always know the weather conditions.

     Of course, I would not be experiencing the weather. Perhaps, over time, Iwould forget what rain feels like, or how cold makes me shiver, or even how wonderfully warming the sun can be.

    Life is not a spectator sport.

    Sometimes, we might wish we didn’t feel so much, but imagine how empty life would be if we only watched other people living and did not live ourselves.

Like Biting into a Warm Brownie

          Soon, I will join a group of ever-hopeful LGBT folks, and their friends, families, and allies. We will gather at the Library of Virginia for Equality Virginia Lobby Day. We will greet one another, and give each other courage and joy to visit our legislators–asking them, nicely and insistently, to vote for justice.

     Some of them will say ‘yes.” Others ‘no.’ Still others will evade.

     Eventually, perhaps not this year, but eventually, a majority will say ‘yes.’ And many will look back and say, “What took so long?’

     As Dr. King said, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.’

     We help the bending as we struggle to achieve  justice, here and all around the world–and certainly not just LGBT folks but hungry people, HIV/AIDS people, displaced people, jobless people, African peoples, and so many more.

     Most people don’t  like to think about struggling for justice. It is hard work, and marked often by disappointment.

     But, oh, the sweet joy when the world changes….even a little bit. You can feel it. You can taste it.

     It is like biting into a warm brownie, like sharing a tender or ecstatic moment with a lover, like feeling the sun’s warmth after a cold winter.

     This may not be the moment, but it is coming. Even the anticipation feels good. I can taste it and smell it and feel it.

     Let us rejoice: justice is coming!

Praying for All the Bobbys and Marys

prayers-for-bobby     I am praying for Bobby Griffith today, and his mother, Mary, and his whole family. And giving thanks to God for all of them.

     I watched their story last night as told in the Lifetime made-for-television film, Prayers for Bobby–an emotional true story about a 1970s religious suburban housewife and mother who struggles to accept her young son Bobby being gay. What happens to Bobby is tragic and causes Mary to question her faith; ultimately she changes her views in ways that she never could have imagined.

     Sigourney Weaver plays Mary Griffith. She is superb. As are the other actors.

     But it is the story–both heart-wrenching and inspiring–that catches you.

     So many gay and lesbian teens have been where Bobby was. Many made it. Some did not. As Mary Griffith learned, the attitude of the family is critical–as is the attitude and practice of the church.

     And now, because of her experience, she is an activist for PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. She is guided to PFLAG by the pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church Bobby attended a few times.

     The film ends with a gay pride march in San Francisco–Mary and her entire family have gone to join other PFLAG folks. Does any LGBT person not remember cheering loudest for the PFLAG contingents in our pride parades?

     We do that because so many of us have had to brave our family’s disapproval, or silence, or hatred and rejection in order to be wholly the people God created us to be. Some of us are still hated and denied by those who are not ever supposed to abandon us.

     We are a brave people. And so are the Mary Griffiths, who love enough to change.

     Thank you, God, for loving us into courage.

Drama in Church

      Churches are places of drama.

     Yes, sometimes that kind of drama–the kind you don’t really want or enjoy (unless you’re the drama queen having the meltdown).

     But the true church drama is the liturgy–the prayers, singing, preaching, sharing communion–that which brings the people together in praise and gratitude.

     MCC Richmond is the scene to another kind of drama beginning January 28. That’s opening night of the Richmond premiere of Altar Boyz!, the off-Broadway hit about a 5-man Christian rock band.

     The show is being produced by Richmond Triangle Players as part of the Acts of Faith Series–a Richmond phenomenon now in its third year (and growing each year).

     A Christian rock band is something I’d like to see more of–not only at MCC but elsewhere, too. I am hoping it starts a trend here.

     Our sanctuary is going to be alive in special ways. Not that it is not at other times, but this will be a different kind of life. I hope you’ll come to at least one of the 12 performances (tickets through ).

    And on 4 Saturdays, January 31, February 7, 14, and 21, our church folks will be doing a more old-fashioned, but still popular, church thing: hosting spaghetti supper, beginning at 6:00 pm.

     Tickets for dinner are $8 if reserved in advance–call 804/353-9477 by Friday noon)–or $10 at the door.

     Drama? Yes. Good food? Yes. Sounds like church to me.

Leaves of My Life

leaf-photo     I finished raking leaves just the other day. It is a little late in the season, but the city has not yet come to take away the leaves my neighbors and I have piled up by the road. The city is more behind than I am!

     The January days of raking were pretty nippy. But on the days I was out the sun was shining, a few birds were flying and it was a great day to be outdoors.

     I am sure our neighbors, who used leafblowers and lawnmower attachments to pick up their leaves on more balmy days in October and November, think I am a bit crazy.

    Our yard is almost a half-acre, and we have lots of leaves. It is great exercise. 

    Raking is good for our grass, too. It stops the matted leaves and grass from earlier mowing from smushing the new grass this spring.

     And the rake does not leave a carbon footprint.

     I use the “B” word a lot in my life as a pastor: busy, busy, busy.  Yet, I was glad to use precious time to rake the leaves.

     My soul loved the peace and quiet. The earth is respected. And I felt the pounds melting away (well, at least none were added by raking).

     I am glad to have finished the job. But I miss it, too.

     Of course, there will be more leaves! Thank you, God, for another opportunity to enjoy your creation.

Soup’s On

     I am making African Peanut Soup to serve tonight at the first of our monthly Soup and Discussion Wednesday nights, “The Meanings of Your Life,” at MCC Richmond.

     I love making soup, and sharing it with others. 

     There is something nurturing about soup; it is like a hug from a dear friend. On a cold day, like today, it warms the body. 

     And the soul, too. The smells of soup are usually rich and hearty. The soup-maker’s kitchen provides a special aromatic warmth to any home, or church. People smile when they smell good soup.

     Soup invites you in to savor it before you even raise a spoonful to your mouth. Soup is welcoming–like the Welcome Table, where Jesus invites all to gather to be fed. 

     At MCC Richmond, as at all other MCC churches around the globe, everyone is welcome at God’s table. On behalf of our Lord, we serve the tradtional meal, bread and fruit of the vine.

     On a cold day, and probably lots of other days, I think Jesus–who clearly liked to dine out and even party with others– would be glad to serve soup, too.


     Yes, we did.

     Once again, the peaceful transfer of national power has been achieved.

     Yes, we can.

     Our President reminds us that adversity need not ever be the last word. In opening his benediction with that hymn of hope, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (which we sang on Sunday), Rev. Joseph Lowery reminded us of the bitter roads we have survived, and the bright future into which we march.

     Yes, we will.

     It is now up to us to see the way forward. Those of us who cherish the liberty we already know even as it is yet denied to many, and those of us who proclaim a faith fully present and yet not fully realized–we know that God always calls us forward. Never back, always forward.

     So, let us “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America” –and not just America, but the whole of God’s world.

     And let it begin with me, and you– us– together in the name of God.

An Inspiration

Dr. King and Bayard Rustin
Dr. King and Bayard Rustin
Rustin the musician
Rustin the musician

     Yesterday, I saw a film, “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin.”

     He is one of my heroes. I had read a lot about him, and by him, but until yesterday I had not seen much of him.

     A leader in many justice causes, a believer in, and practitioner of, nonviolent protest as the surest means to create social change–he taught Dr. King much of what Dr. King then taught the rest of us–Rustin was also a Black gay man. He had style, he sang beautifully, he spoke with precision.

     I am grateful that GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) Richmond showed the film at the Gay Community Center of Richmnd. I hope that over time more and more of young queer people, and older folks like me, can see this film.

     Rustin was an idealist. He was not afraid to pay, and pay dearly, to follow his conscience. For example, as a pacifist, he refused to fight in World War II. He was imprisoned for that. And in the late 1940s he did what Rosa Parks did in 1955 and served time on a chain gang for it.

     But also he was a realist. He wanted to change things. He knew that big change is rare, but small changes can add up.

     If you want to change things, strategic thinking is required at every moment–as is passion for justice, and commitment to defeat injustice.

     Today, I remember Dr. King, and I remember Bayard Rustin. Together, they changed things.

     We can do the same. Together.

Role Model

     Dreams from My Father.

     The remarkable book by our new President.  I am blessed to be reading it now, as we remember Dr. King, and as Barack Obama prepares to take the oath of office–and as we prepare for a new era.

     His honesty is breathtaking, especially in recounting his own inner struggle to discern, or create, his identity (or perhaps both discern and create).

     Identity. I had a conversation with my coach yesterday, about my struggle to become a transformational leader. She says I am on a continuum between the old kind of leader (the one who does everything and is always in contr0l) and the new kind, the transformational kind (that engages in self-reflection and change and helps others do the same).

     She is a wise woman. I am moving , usually forward, but sometimes I regress. Imagine that. Progress not perfection.

     What brought me to tears this morning as I read about Barack Obama’s struggle is that for the first time in my life (and I am 62) I have a model of who I really want to be in the President of the United States.

     Oh, I don’t want to be President. But I want to do my work, my pastoring at MCC Richmond, following the model of our new President.

    Now if that doesn’t blow your mind the way it does mine, I think maybe you did not really live through the same presidents I did as an adult (some of them better than others, but none of them a role model for my life).

    Thanks, God, for not giving up on us (me).