To Sing or Not to Sing

musical notesI have a song I want to sing this Sunday as part of my sermon. I have been practicing it, and I think I am getting it. Of course, I am no Susan Boyle!

But I am more concerned that people in the church would prefer that I not sing, at least in my sermon. Just focus on speaking, I think I hear them say. Is that true?

I want people to hear the message, and if my song throws them off I am not being true to the mission given to me.

Of course, I am praying, asking God to guide me in this.  But it would help if people who read this blog would offer their opinions, too.

What about you? Do you have an opinion? Sing or not sing?

Let me know through this poll (anonymously), or you can reply to this message.

Let the Sunshine Out!

My friend Peggy wrote on Facebook this morning, “The sky is kind of grey here, but there’s sunshine in my heart.”

sunshine outShe reminds me that I don’t need to let externals, like the weather, determine how I feel. 

Recently, at a meeting of a group (outside the church) to which I belong, a colleague expressed a lot of anger towards me. It was hard to take. There was some truth in what she said about me — I am far, far from perfect! — and there was exaggeration and her “stuff” mixed in.

I felt pain, some of hers and my own. But somehow, I did not let it take me over. I knew there was more to life than her feelings, even when she walked out.

What is the source of happiness? Where does a sense of balance come from?

When I remember God within, I find the sunshine, no matter how heavy the clouds outside may be. May I remember today to let the sunshine out!

Speak, God, for Your Servant Is Listening

Some days, I hurry through my morning prayers.

There. I’ve said it: I’m a pastor who sometimes skimps on prayer.

Why do I do this? I tell myself that I’m too busy. I have to get on to the next good thing I’m doing. And I rush through prayer. Or I skip prayer altogether later in the day.

I think it was Luther who said to pray an hour each day, and if you are especially busy, pray two hours. Yesterday, a friend said, “I can’t live a life of integrity without prayer.”

prayerful handsGod, help me today to slow down to be in conversation with you — speaking, yes, and also listening as you speak to me.

What’s Your Decision?

Many around the country have tagged today as “Day of Decision,” meaning it is the day the California Supreme Court will decide whether the vote last November to overturn their earlier decision in favor of same-gender-loving marriage will stand.  

It is a big day. What California does affects us all.

But is not every day a day of decision?

When someone does something I don’t like, how do I decide to deal with it? Or when my life seems out of control (or empty or dead) how do I decide to deal with that?

sunrise and tree pictureSo, whatever seven judges in California decide, I am deciding to live today as a blessed child of God, knowing that no court can grant or deny my happiness.

That does not mean that I don’t care what they decide. I care passionately. And I will react with passion.

But my passion will reflect my deepest values, especially that no matter what others say I am God’s beloved, and that all people–each of us–are God’s beloved.

Sacred Service

US flag Memorial DayMemorial Day.

We pause in the busyness of life to honor those who have died in the service of our country. And to honor those who serve today.  And to honor those who try to serve but are denied the opportunity to do so because they are judged defective by virtue of who they love. They all are protectors of our lives and liberty.

No thanks are entirely adequate for those who gave their lives, or who choose to place themselves in harm’s way today.

Yet, I feel a tension between my deep gratitude and my deep desire to follow Jesus and renounce violence.

Is there no better way than war? Do we have to send these valiant men and women into battle?

However, the truth is, that though I tilt toward being a pacifist, I can never quite do it.

It comes down to trust. I don’t like admitting this, but the truth is that I do not trust God enough to protect us — without help — from those who mean to do us harm. And by “us” I mean not only our country but the parts of the world that hold democracy and equality and justice as core values.

So, today, and every day in my prayers, I remember and give thanks for all who stood, and stand, between us and the parts of the world that mean us harm. I thank them, and I thank God, too.

Celebrating Our Youth

mccyouthlogoLast Sunday, in one day, our faith community at MCC Richmond raised $1,000 to support the UFMCC 2nd Youth Mission Trip to the Dominican Republic!

I am proud of us, but I am even more proud of the youth who went last year and are those who are going this year.

Youth are changing the world. And it is a privilege to help them.

I pray that in coming years we will have youth from Richmond going on this trip.

Just yesterday, a video of their adventure from last year was posted on the web, along with stories and comments by some of the young people. I encourage you to check it out, and even leave a comment to encourage them. 

Spread the Good News! Share the joy! Feel the energy of youth co-creating with God a new world.

Love or Fear?

Part of my work as an advocate for LGBT equality and marriage is to stay in touch with what the opposition is saying.

One thing I see consistently: no matter the argument, it is fear-based.

That reminds me that Emmet Fox–the pastor/preacher who in the 1930s had a profound impact on New York City, and especially the founders of AA–says: “Really there are only two feelings a human being can have, namely love and fear.”

Fox is making a spiritual observation, not a clinical one. From a spiritual perspective, we are either engaging in love or in fear.

Fox also says, “Love is always creative, and fear is always destructive.” The “always” in that statement may feel forced.

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear, by Annie Vallotton
Perfect Love Casts Out Fear, by Annie Vallotton

And yet, it does seem true that when we love, we engage in making something more and better than it was. And when we fear, we participate in making something smaller and less God-like.

Let us love, my dear ones, and grow the world in God’s image. And let us heal fear with love.

Use a Comma, not a Period

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart

May 20, 1932–Amelia Earhart took off from Newfoundland to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

May 19, 2009, a blogger on cites the Apostle Paul’s admonition, “Wives, submit to your husbands. . . .”

Thank you, God, that Amelia–like the suffragettes before her and the women (and men) who brought, and bring, us feminism and equal rights for women–did not listen to Paul or the churchmen (and their female allies) who were, and are, determined to control, that is, limit, divine Creation.

God created, and saw that it was good. That is the biblical foundation of our relation with God. The biblical writers put their own spin on God’s creating, trying to fit the limitlessness of what God did into limited human concepts.

But God refuses to be limited. God is creating today.

As our friends in the United Church of Christ say, quoting Gracie Allen, “Do not put a period where God has placed a comma.”

A Dandelion at the Vatican

I finished mowing our lawn today. About half of it had gone two weeks without a cutting, so you can imagine how tall it was.

I don’t like it to get so long, but life (and rain) just kept getting in the way.

There is something satisfying to me about a well-manicured lawn–a feeling that may have something to do with a modern impulse to tame the jungle or subdue nature.

But nature, I mean nature in its natural state, is rarely, if ever, well-manicured.dandelion

Jonathan likes dandelions and the little flowers that grow up in our lawn. I admit they can be pretty, but I also like mowing them down (then I can pretend they don’t exist).

Maybe thats how some folks feel about LGBT people–or Black people, or other people who don’t look or behave like them. They see us as threats to their well-manicured lives. Maybe they want us mowed down.

I am enjoying my newly mowed lawn, but I also am glad there are weeds that will come up again. I am glad that a bright yellow dandelion will show up again–like a Queer showing up at the Vatican.

Thank you, God, for Staying

I started to write about something that happened to me two weeks ago, calling it “a small miracle.” Then, I stopped, and wondered, “Is there such a thing?”

Here is what happened.

I was at Clergy Call in Washington (see post on May 14). I was waiting to thank a speaker, when I noticed a name tag reading  “Heather,  Livonia, MI.”

So I said, “How are things in Livonia?” She said, “Fine. Have you been to Livonia?” I said, “Well, I grew up in Milford (my birthtown) and have worked in Livonia.” Heather said, “No way. I am from Milford, too.”

Now, please understand. Milford was a place of 5,000 when I left in 1981. You just don’t run into that many folks from Milford.

Turns out Heather’s father and I were in the Rotary Club together. We graduated from the same high school, albeit 30 years apart.

But get this: when I left Milford, I did not know any LGBT folks. It was very white and conservative. Now, Heather is an activist for LGBT equality, and leads the Martin Luther King Day march, too.

Milford Main Street on MLK Day
Milford Main Street on MLK Day

We shared dinner, and she brought me up to date on the place that long ago ceased feeling like home. I cried, letting myself feel long buried feelings of loss and hurt, and also feeling joy that the past is not the end of the story.

Small miracle? Feels pretty big to me.

Thank you, God, for staying in Milford, when I left. And thank you, Heather.