Thank you, Judy

Judy Garland would be 87 today.

Judy Garland, 1961
Judy Garland, 1961

As we prepare to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall, it seems fitting to stop for a moment and give thanks for Judy.

After all, it was grief and anger following her funeral that many think caused the drag queens at the Stonewall to act up and fight back against police harassment.

Whether that is really true, or whether they simply had had enough, it is true that somewhere, right now, there is a queer child or adult listening to her singing, knowing that the rainbow shines for him or her.

The irony is that Judy was not all that gay-positive. She surely did not understand our need for liberation. Few did.

But God worked through her anyway (just as the Bible shows God doing and again, using the most unlikely people).

Thanks, Judy, and thank you, God, for leading us to the freedom road.

5, 4, 3 . . . We’re on the Air!

Acting on stage is a strange thing. If you are an actor, you get to be yourself by playing a role as someone else.

OTARPLast night, I enjoyed the dress rehearsal of “The Maltese Falcon,” a production of the famous Sam Spade detective movie as a radio play by the On the Air Radio Players at the Cultural Arts Center of Glen Allen.

My husband, Jonathan Lebolt, plays Joel Cairo, the part played in the film by Peter Lorre. He is excellent. But so are the other actors. And they obviously are having fun.

I plan on going back Wednesday night for the real thing (and they are performing tonight, too). If you want more information, check out this link,

God gives gifts to everyone. For some, it is to act as someone else. For others, it is to plan and plant gardens; still others, bake and decorate cakes; others, organize people and activities for fun, or to change things.

God loves our creativity. In fact, we honor God, the Creator, when we create, too.

Auntie, Get the Gun!

You can tell a lot about a family by the stories people tell.

pistolToday, my sister told us about the time my aunt hid a pistol in the piano. Everything seemed okay until her younger sister, my mother, began to practice her piano lesson. My aunt did not say anything, and waited for what she was sure would be an explosion.

I had heard the story before. But I had never thought about how improbable it seems that my aunt, who always seemed afraid of so much of life, would actually handle a gun.

I realized that although my aunt seemed old-maid-ish, she was actually pretty tough.

The longer I live the more I realize the limits we place on ourselves, and our doubts about others, can be eased. Life often demands more of us than we think we can deliver, and, amazingly, we rise to the occasion.

For me, God helps, especially when I find myself staring up a steep slope of uncharted territory.

By the way, my aunt eventually got the gun out of the house, with no harm done. So thank you, Auntie Grace, for setting a good example by getting the gun!

Smell the Roses, Even in New York

I am staying in Forest Hills, Queens, at the home of my daughter’s inlaws-to-be. Forest Hills does not feel like New York. The homes are big, they have yards, there are many trees and it is very green. Definitely not Manhattan!

In fact, when I walk around here, I can imagine myself in Richmond, the only difference being that the yards are smaller.

Forest Hills Gardens Station
Forest Hills Gardens Station

How often do we let the stereotype become the reality? Of course, there is truth in every stereotype; if there were no truth, the stereotype would not last. 

But Manhattan is only part of New York, even though it is what we think of when we think “New York.”

And Richmond is more than dogwoods and Confederate monuments. Come to think of it, I am more than earrings and a clerical collar.

We can go through life seeing only an image of each other, but to really know and enjoy each other, and to get to know a place, can be very rewarding.

How do we do that? Slow down. Smell the roses. Walk the streets, listen and look. Share a glass of wine.

He Made Me Do It?

Frequently, I find myself talking to good people who have a grievance with each other. They each have understandable complaints about the other. At the same time, each has a hard time seeing how their own shortcomings might contribute to the situation. finger_pointing_OW

I thought of this as I read excerpts from President Obama’s speech in Cairo, and various reactions, especially those of Islamic and Jewish leaders, to it.

I felt a kinship with the President. He seems to be trying to nudge the dialogue beyond “He said, then he said, and he made me feel, and he made me do . . . .”

I feel for him. Its hard to solve anything when people see each other only through the eyes of grievance.

I know what it is like, even in the intimacy of my office, to get antagonistic parties to stop repeating their well-honed grievances. And he is trying to do that on the world stage.

I am praying for him, and for all the hurting parties. May there be more self-examination and less blame.

A Matter of Perspective

I used to live and work in New York. I loved it while I was there. Part of me could not imagine living anywhere else. New York is very consuming.

But when I left, I discovered how hard it had been to live in Gotham. So much stress. Dirt. Few trees. All the fun stuff cost a lot of money (which I did not have).

Sometimes, we cannot see things very clearly until we leave them.

Massive resistanceThat is what happens when societies change their ways. Fifty years after Massive Resistance, few in Virginia think it was a good idea.

New Hampshire has now approved same-gender marriage. As more states and countries move in this direction, there will come a moment when people will wonder, “What was all the fuss about?”

Supporting Women, and their Doctors

The murder of Dr. George Tiller at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, KS  shakes me in deep places.

The body of Dr. George Tiller is carried out of his church
The body of Dr. George Tiller is carried out of his church

For one thing, there are people who think that MCC folks are agents of Satan. These self-proclaimed agents of God may decide to do what they did to Dr. Tiller to the ushers I love.

For another, I remember I used to feel that men should have lots to say about abortion.

I felt that way in 1974 when the wonderful woman I was about to marry told me she was pregnant. Neither one of us wanted to hurt those who loved us, and we  wanted to keep up appearances (she could have lost her job, and my political career would probably have ended).  We agreed on what to do, but I am sure I did most of the talking.

So, she let her wedding dress out, we ended our Bermuda honeymoon early, and we sneaked home so she could have an abortion.  Because it was legal, it was safe.

What a way to begin a marriage . . . . with a secret, with grief, and with guilt.

The truth is most women contemplating abortion, and those who love them, face impossible choices. As Nancy Wilson, our Moderator, says in her blog today, women face “choices that are not between good and bad, but between bad and worse.”

Nancy’s story encourages me to keep a commitment I made to myself months ago. I am going to volunteer to hold a sign of support for women going to the clinic near MCC Richmond.

Its not that I am pro-abortion. But the women need support. And so do the doctors who care for them.

If you want to read a personal testimony from Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, click on this link.