Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Resounding Defeat of Resolution 11


For some reason, back in January, my church decided that I would do well as one of our three delegates to Diocesan Convention, which is the main decision-making body for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. That was Saturday.

I had been dreading it horribly.

I don't want much of anything to do with church politics. It gets in the way of spirituality. I miss the days when I could just go to church and sing in the choir, maybe do an occasional reading. I have been "herded" into more and more of an administrative role, and I dislike it. I'll do it as necessary, but I'm not really all that comfortable with it.

This Convention, though, I'd been dreading more than anything. The job of Convention is to approve the Diocesan budget for the next year, and also to pass or block various resolutions which guide the Diocese on its way. There were huge budget cuts necessary this year, and I was expecting huge battles.

Even worse, though, was Resolution 11.

You see, the reason I started attending an Episcopal Church in the first place was that they elected Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, to be the Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. I figured that if they would do that, they must align fairly well with me on political and social justice issues, so I'd be comfortable. And with the parish I chose, I was right.

The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion, which is essentially a loosely knit group of all the churches which were founded by the Church of England. Much of the Anglican Communion was, shall we say, less than pleased about Bishop Robinson's consecration, particularly several bishops of Dioceses in Africa. The church may well wind up in a schism over this issue-- it's not there yet, but there's a pretty strong chance it will.

Now, I happen to believe that eventually, science will prove that one's sexuality is a matter of genetics and brain coding, thus meaning that folks who are gay were made that way by God, thus making homosexuality in no way a sin. So in my mind, Bishop Robinson has as much right to be a bishop as does anyone else, and I'm more than a little irked that it's such a big deal.

But Resolution 11 basically stated that we would apologize to the bishops in Africa, that we would repent for the election of Bishop Robinson, and we would never do such a thing again. That's a highly simplified version of it, but you get the gist.

I had a plan. If this passed, I was going to stand up and register a formal objection, then walk out in protest. I hated it, hated that it was on the ballot. I'm not at all sorry that Bishop Robinson was elected, and damned if I'm going to repent for it.

Anyway, back at Convention.... it was actually going quite well. The budget passed with a minimum of fuss, and we were making our way through the resolutions at a good pace. Ones that I thought would cause a lot of debate, such as support for adoption by "non-traditional" parents (step parents, or same-sex partners of parents), or in support of restoring domestic partner benefits to those who lost them when Michigan passed the anti-gay-marriage amendment last year? Went right through. Hardly any debate.

Then we came to Resolution 11, and the words flew. Up, down, for, against. Someone moved that we amend the resolution to be instead a feel-good resolution that he had written. The substitute resolution basically stated that we were sorry pain had been caused, but we had to do what we had to do. This was lovely and well-written, but since it wasn't really a resolution to do anything, it was defeated.

Then we had to vote on whether to pass the original resolution. Would we accept it? Would we apologize to the African bishops for taking what I feel was a prophetic action and a direct bit of guidance from the Holy Spirit? My heart was pounding as our bishop called for the vote.

"All those in favor?"

We voted by holding up voting cards to be counted and tallied.

When the bishop called for those in favor of adopting Resolution 11, very few people raised their voting cards. I could feel a big grin spreading across my face as I realized what was happening.

"All those opposed?"

Pink ballot cards up in the air as far as I could see. Everywhere, pink ballot cards raised high, pink ballot cards raised to show the world that we really did feel that we did what we had to do and what was right to do.

I actually had tears in my eyes.

I tell you, my friends, it was beautiful to see. Absolutely glorious.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Honeys, I'm home!

For the past week or so, I’ve been a Blog Refugee.

I’ve been hiding out at another blog, trying to make a place for myself there so as not to have to keep deleting the various rude comments which have been left in various posts.

But you know, I like THIS blog.

So I am back.

My finger is still on the delete key for certain types of comments. I believe strongly in freedom of speech, but as this is my own personal blog, I hardly have to let you use my space to insult me! I don’t care if you want to disagree about something, I don’t care if you want to debate me. A good challenge is always welcome. But insults, baseless accusations, and unnecessary rudeness (towards me OR towards my loved ones) won’t be tolerated.

If we’re going to argue, let’s do it honorably and with dignity, all right?

So, here I am. I’m back, nice and comfy in my blog home. :-)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

More Observations from the Grocery Store

This is the article I'm submitting for the November issue of my church's newsletter. I thought I may as well share with you all!

The Cheapening of Spirituality and the Tao of Shampoo

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, as the saying goes. There’s quite a bit of truth to this. There’s always been something very viscerally satisfying about a warm bath, or the smell of fresh laundry, or even a stack of gleaming clean dishes. But I think some marketing people are taking it a little too far these days.

The other day, I bought this nice new shampoo and conditioner with a citrus scent. I smell a little like a creamsicle after using it, but I'm okay with that.

This morning in the shower, for some reason I looked more closely at the text on the shampoo bottle. "Refresh your hair and spirit!" it proclaimed. Huh? Wha? It's shampoo! I buy it so I can have clean hair, I don't buy it so I can attain spiritual enlightenment in the shower! But this seems to be happening all through the Health and Beauty section these days. It's not just shampoo, it's not just soap, it's a "sensory experience!" It's "therapeutic!" It will refresh your mind and spirit! Excellent, I can wash my hair and wash my brain at the same time. St. Therese of Lisieux wrote eloquently of how we might find God in the “little things” of this world—everyday actions and deeds. “It is just the same in the world of souls - which is the garden of Jesus. He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but he has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice his eyes whenever he glances down.”

Doubtless a morning shower can be part of this way of looking at the world. Water is a great gift from God, and the cleansing of our bodies might remind us of the cleansing our souls received in our Baptisms. But using a particular brand of shampoo or soap that promises to “refresh your spirit” on its own? A person would be soggy in the shower for quite some time waiting for that “instant enlightenment” we are promised by the marketing departments of these companies.

Spiritual enlightenment, the path home to God, is not easy. It is the camel through the eye of the needle, and it is the dark night of the soul, the forty days alone in the wilderness. It requires deliberate thought, conscious effort and dedication, and it is not to be had through anything that can be bought at the grocery store. It requires nothing less than an entirely new way of thinking and a shredding of old patterns that hold us back.

There are no shortcuts on the Spiral Path our souls dance as they find their way back to the Source of all Creation. And this is as it should be. You get what you pay for, after all, and a quick, cheap version of “enlightenment” will fade in the wash, be too stiff to move and grow with your spirit, and wind up tossed in the spirit’s version of a garbage can once it’s too worn out to be useful.

No, best to work hard at it and go the long way around. This is a journey, and must be played out in its own time.

Of course, if you’re really in a hurry to attain enlightenment, that shampoo is on sale for $1.98. Spiritual refreshment is not guaranteed through its use, but at least you’ll have clean hair while you reflect on how lucky we are that God called Apostles and Disciples instead of advertising people.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Scary Lady at the Grocery Store

Last night on my way home from choir practice, I had to stop and pick up a few things at the store. I needed pet food AND me-food, so I had to go to the big superstore instead of the regular grocery store. But this is generally not a big deal. I know where everything is there—or at least everything that I needed last night, so theoretically, it would not be a long trip.

I was just about done, pushing my cart past a bewilderingly large display of shampoo, when one of the store workers pushed a work cart past me. She looked over at me, sighed a great sigh of exasperation, and said, “I wish I still carried a gun.”

What the…?!?

I’m sure my eyes looked about ready to pop out and roll across the floor, but I think I managed to sound polite and sympathetic. “Bad day?” I asked her.

Well, now that she had a sympathetic listener, the floodgates opened. This woman stood there in her red grocery smock, price gun in hand, telling me about how she wanted to shoot out the store’s loudspeakers because they kept playing Fleetwood Mac songs on the store radio, and she’d had enough of that when the guy who used to live in her basement would play Fleetwood Mac on his guitar while wearing nothing but his underwear, and if she had to hear Stevie Nicks one more time, that would just be the end of it because she couldn’t take it anymore, and her next job would not have any music at all!

Meanwhile, I was trying to edge away carefully. She kept following me, ranting all the way! Maybe she wasn’t allowed to leave her department, or maybe there was some sort of electronic tether that had her confined to the Health and Beauty section, though; when I made yet another empathetic-but-I-have-to-go-now noise and crossed the aisle to the dairy section, she did not follow me, even though she was still calling out how the guy who’d been playing Fleetwood Mac songs in his underoos had been diagnosed with depression.

Am I some kind of magnet for random strangers to tell me their problems, or what?

And then after all that, I still forgot to get the sour cream.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Race Riots in my Backyard

(Well, not really my backyard, but close enough.)

On Saturday afternoon, a racially-motivated riot broke out in Toledo. Toledo is about 30 miles south of where I live. Tirithien lives there, on the opposite side of town from the place the riots took place. So I am down in Toledo with some frequency. I wouldn't say I have my finger on the pulse of the city, as the saying goes, but I'm at least close enough to see that it's breathing.

As far as I can tell from the garbled news reports and the little bit of info I'd heard in advance, a neo-Nazi group had planned a protest in a "racially mixed" neighborhood. The protest was supposedly motivated by a disagreement between a black family and a white family, but I haven't found any news reports that describe the nature of this dispute or how it might have come to the attention of this neo-Nazi group.

The people who live in the neighborhood were (understandably, in my opinion) upset about these plans, and counter-protests were planned. Unfortunately, somehow, somehow, and no one seems to know how, the counter-protests devolved into violence. Fires and looting. The neighborhood was a war zone.

And then the neo-Nazis didn't even show up.

I imagine them sitting at home laughing at the fiery images on the news. "See, we were right!" they can say. "Look how they rose to our bait!"

Now, I am a firm believer in free speech in public places. I'm an ACLU member, and it's one of my central beliefs that people should be allowed to speak what they truly believe. But there's got to be a balance somewhere between statement of belief and statements carefully calculated to inflame tension and violence. Besides that, I'd feel a great deal of grim satisfaction if I were able to muzzle the neo-Nazi leaders and leave them voiceless for awhile.

How does this happen, this devolution into violence in protest situations? There have been many protests and counter-protests in the world which don't become riots. What causes certain ones to explode in violent flame?

Everytime I think humans might actually be evolving into something better.... then something happens. :-(

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Note to my future baby

Back in August, I posted a list of 100 Random Things About Me. Numbers 17 and 18 on this list concerned a little baby boy, a baby who has made recurring appearances in my dreams for years. My suspicion and my hope is that he is a vision of the baby I will have some day. He’s been appearing with some frequency lately, so I thought I would write a note to him, since he’s apparently wanting attention. ;-) His name is Brendan William—Brendan for St. Brendan the Voyager, and William because…. well, because.

Hey, little Brendan. Hey there, my little sweetie!

Yes, I love when you smile at me. You have the cutest smile ever!

But why are you in my dreams so much lately? You know it’s not time for you to be a real baby yet. You have to keep being a dream baby.

Yes, I want to hold you. Very much. I want to feel in my waking life how soft you are. I want to touch your curly hair with my own hands and see if it’s as soft as it seems like it will be, and I want to see you look up at me out of those great big green eyes with that look you give me in the dreams, that look of “Mama’s here and everything is good.” I want to see the sweet simplicity of your baby smile and feel the weight of you in my arms as I cuddle you to sleep.

There’s so much I want to show you, so many wonders in life! I will tell you stories and teach you to live your dreams. I will teach you how to learn and how to live, about dinosaurs and how to tie your shoes, how to make a peanut butter sandwich, how to love.

But this is not the right time, my dearest. Be patient with your mama. Give me some more time to get my life ready for you. I’m working on it, I promise. It will happen.

Be patient, my little one. Just wait for me to be ready, sweet little dream-baby. I love you with all my heart and all my soul already, and that’s why I want you to wait. You deserve a better life than I can give you right now.

Sleep, my love, my sweet baby. Sleep and dream of me, wherever you are, whatever waiting room babies wait in before they’re born. And I will dream of you. :-)

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Frozen Saturday Night in Glass Bowl Stadium

Okay, historically football has really not been my thing. I love hockey, I hate baseball. Football? Meh. It’s just sort of there.

Well, my sweetie adores football, so I agreed to see a few games with him this season. It’s part of our deal—he’s going to teach me about football and I’m going to teach him about hockey. Granted, we will probably see more football games in person than hockey games, seeing as how he likes college ball (University of Toledo, go Rockets!) and I like pro hockey (let’s go, Red Wings!), and college football tickets are MUCH cheaper than pro hockey tickets. Like, really, really, much cheaper.

So, this past Saturday was UT’s homecoming game, against Eastern Michigan University. Now, EMU was on my short list of schools to attend, and if I had gone there, this could have been an interesting dynamic. But since I didn’t, I don’t have a particular attachment to them, and Toledo and Ypsilanti are about equidistant from my home, so I didn’t feel any qualms about rooting for UT to win. (My joke of the evening was, “Don’t tell anyone I’m from the same state as those guys!”)

This was a homecoming game, so the stands were full of what I called with amused disdain “drunken freshmen howling in the background.” There weren’t any crowd problems or anything, just some people who weren’t making a whole lot of sense in what they were yelling at the players and referees. Well, no, we might have had a crowd problem at one point.

See, I have this problem when watching any sort of sport. I get really pissed off if someone stands up in front of me. I don’t mind people getting up and down, getting to their seats or whatever, but if they stand up and stay there, and I miss an important play? This is not a happy time. So when this crowd of people from a fraternity and sorority came and filed into the row in front of us and stood up ON THEIR SEATS, this was bad. “You make a better door than a window!” I told the boy in front of me. He just looked confused. We moved to a different section.

Ah, that was better. Now I could actually see this game I don’t really understand yet!

I could also see the marching band at halftime. I was a flag twirler in my high school band my senior year, so I feel qualified to say that UT’s marching band is really bad. My inner twirler wanted to run down there and take over the directing—“No! No! You’re offstep and off rhythm! What are you doing????” I didn’t, of course, but the temptation was there.

Meanwhile, as the Rockets were running up the score (30 to 3 final, poor EMU!), it was getting colder. And colder. And colder. I started out wearing jeans and a thermal top, with a fleece jacket. It got colder. I zipped up my jacket. Colder still. I put on my gloves and wrapped my fleece scarf around my neck. Even colder. Okay, I put on my knit hat. And I was still cold! I finally wound up wrapped in the wool blanket we had brought to protect our bottoms from the frozen metal bleachers. My sweetie was just sitting there perfectly comfortable, jacket unzipped. (“Oh, are you cold, my love?” Um, yeah!) So he cuddled me close. Then I was okay. :-)

I wound up having fun. I would jump up and cheer when the Rockets scored, just like all the real fans. I would yell at the refs when they made a boneheaded call. I laughed at the girls who had dressed for fashion instead of warmth and were shivering like crazy. (I’m a meanie, I know!) I cuddled with my sweetie for warmth, and we gave each other kisses between plays.

I think I could get to enjoy this.

But the funny thing is, now I kind of miss my days twirling a flag for the Flat Rock High School marching band. Our team was generally awful, but we could put on one fine halftime show.

Oh well. If I'd tried to twirl while it was that cold, I'd probably have dropped the flag anyway. And that would have just been embarrassing.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Story About Tirithien

It was a bright day, a warm summery day, and we stood together looking out at the river. Just talking. Not about anything in particular.

We were friends, and had been for awhile. He was the best friend I’d found since my college days—making friends outside of a school setting was a trick which had eluded me until I met him. He’d listened to my ranting and dried my tears about the breakup of my marriage, helped me talk through some things, helped me focus myself again on the future and its bright possibilities. I’d listened to his hopes and dreams, been his sounding board, encouraged him to do things he hadn’t known he could do.

Friends. Very close friends. Best friends, as little kids say.

That day by the river, that sunny day, I hugged him. He’d been telling me of his grandfather who had died, and he looked sad and lonely. So it was perfectly natural to hug him, to comfort him.

He seemed surprised, his body language unsure at first. Uncomfortable. He relaxed into the hug, though, and his arms wrapped close around me. We held each other softly, each very careful of the other.

We pulled back a little, looked at each other with some surprise. We’d never done much in the way of touching, you see. Our friendship was based on words and stories, very cerebral, very platonic. So we surprised each other with that warm hug.

Even more than surprise, though, even more than that shock in his green eyes, I saw something else. I saw need, I saw fear, and I saw love. And we were both trembling, wondering what to do, how to proceed, each desperately afraid of hurting the other and each desperately wanting to act.

Slowly, in a moment that seemed to last forever, we pulled close again. A last second of indecision, followed by a decision to trust, to take my chance with the love I saw reflected in his eyes and had seen so much in the tenderness of his friendship. One last breath, and our lips met in a gentle kiss, a kiss of perfect sweetness and perfect love.

I’m not sure if I can say with any certainty who kissed whom first, or which of us was more surprised as we drew back and looked at each other in utter amazement. I do know that we pulled each other close again, kissed again, realizing now the truth neither of us had been able to see.

In that kiss, that sweet, soft kiss, my entire world changed. With that kiss I realized that somewhere along the way, some time when I was not expecting it, some time when I was not paying attention but only trying to focus on rebuilding my life, I had fallen hopelessly, deeply in love with my best friend. With the truth of that kiss, I knew deep inside my soul that nothing would ever be the same again.

I love you, my Tirithien. :-)

Monday, October 03, 2005

The one boy they left behind

Today on the message board at, someone posted a link to this article about eleven Marines killed in Iraq-- or rather, about the twelfth man in their squad, the one who was not killed by the roadside bomb with his comrades.

The men in this squad ranged in age from 19 to 25. The boy who did not die, Lance Corporal Travis Williams, is 21.

I know little enough about how close a squad of soldiers can become; I've never been in the military and I don't claim any sort of firsthand knowledge. Yet I know from my own life that the closest friendships I've formed, the strongest bonds, have been the ones born of adversity, the ones where we were working towards a common goal. The ones where we needed to trust each other and build upon each other's strengths, the ones where our striving together against the odds made our friendship into something strong and enduring. If I may form lifelong friendships in this way, here in comfort and safety in the complacent midwest, how much stronger must that be amongst people who face death together on a daily basis?

We were trying to get the college newspaper out on time. We were trying to form a new chapter of a service fraternity. There was stress. There was never danger.

These young men were trying to survive together, trying to battle what they saw as threats against our nation. They had to trust each other with their very lives. And in this squad, they did. In the article, the squad's platoon commander is quoted as saying, "They were like a family. They were the tightest squad I've ever seen. They truly loved each other."

The word I've most often heard used to describe the bonds formed between soldiers is "brotherhood." I have a brother. I understand brothers.

So I try to imagine, for the sake of this young Marine, how would it be if some tragedy were to happen, if my brother died while I lived? That would be a grief beyond words, a sorrow beyond compare. It is too much a horror to contemplate.

My heart breaks for this young lad in Iraq. So much death, so much loss.

Is he lucky to be alive?

The theological part of me says yes. If there is life, then there is hope.

But the part of me who is a sister, the part who understands what brotherhood means? I only understand the palest shadow of his grief and how he will rage at the heavens because he was not killed by that bomb with his beloved brothers. This part of me understands that life may not be luck at all.