Category Archives: Family

Pregnant with Holy

Ben Earwicker Garrison Photography, Boise, ID www.garrisonphoto.orgThe Christian liturgical year spins the same every year. Advent marks the beginning, so by now the Christian community has already flipped its calendar. Identical seasons as ever, but, being a species of continual re-newal, it’s a time of discovery. If we’re paying attention, wonder even.

In Advent, we hear stories of Mary and Elizabeth, and some of us are uncomfortable.

In this most “feminine” of seasons, we hear stories of pregnancy and all the natural wildness that is creation emerging into the world. If you’ve ever been pregnant– and I know I haven’t– that season was marked by transformation in mind, body and spirit. Evident to the whole wide world, something changed in your life forever.

For our family, as our son Sam was ripening, Trish experienced freak-out as well as hope. Peace as well as terror. Her somewhat snooty vegetarianism found her eating beef and chicken, and life was out of control.

She felt the summons to surrender everything.

This is not a XX chromosome thing; this is a human thing. So– heads up, pastors and worship leaders– if we’re not emphasizing the spirituality of women in Advent, we’re missing something essential.

One text I wish were part of Advent is Psalm 27. (No one asked me). It has several distinct chunks. In fact, some scholars say it was originally two or three separate songs.

The last line goes,

Wait for God; be strong and take heart.
And wait for God.

I think our midwife spoke those words years ago during our home birth.

In Hebrew, the word translated wait could just as aptly be hope. In Advent, we are invited to prepare, wait and look forward. Good practice for life in general, right?

So.

What is ripening in you right now?

How is your community swelling with new life?

Does it feel joyful? Solemn? Scary?

Any of that would be expected in a life-changing endeavor.

There’s something alive, growing in you. Ripening in its time. Welcome to Advent, the perfect season to practice this pivotal time as holy.

May we pay attention as G-d brings us to term.

Listen now to “Wait For God,” a Psalm 27 belly-softening song for Advent hope.

Pic by Ben Earwicker Garrison Photography. http://www.garrisonphoto.org


An Open Letter to my Gay Friends

Heteros please read, too. 🙂

This has been a long time coming, but I’m finally ready.

As much as you know I resist labels, I have noticed something about you, my gay, lesbian and transgendered friends. With no exceptions I can think of right now, you have a unique boldness that I love and need in my life. When I witness it, I want to be more honest with myself, take risks that matter, and not waste a moment of my love and life.

Maybe boldness isn’t the right word. Because in some cases, society has not given you a choice. But whether you’ve felt strong or not, you’ve decided to survive and thrive and to me that looks like courage.

Here’s the thing: I love people who know their uniqueness, who have come to trust it and live that uniqueness fully. I consistently experience this with you.

You have taught me about an artist’s freedom. Just write it down, sing it your own way, paint it passionate. Art is supposed to stretch us, and true humans are intended to feel it all. You know yourselves the way only those who have come to an edge can.

Many straight people have never been confronted with the question of how our true, free selves look. Lots of us haven’t done the work you have.

You have stories of brave risk. One friend told me in his pre-out life he held intense feelings of protection for his family– how could he trouble his family with who he really was? How could he cause pain to his friends by coming out? And he held this for years.

By pure chance, in many regards I am a person of privilege in my particular society– caucasian, male, straight, able-bodied, middle-class, middle-aged; I may never feel the weight of risk that you have. I may never have to place my physical safety, my job, my sense of livelihood and reputation on the line for merely being who I am.

You have. I know you have.

And though we all have unique and powerful things in our identity that ask to be noticed– top of the list for me has been the stigma of divorce, mental illness, and an artist’s lifestyle– sexual orientation is, at the moment, the hottest button I can think of.

As a result of coming out, it seems to me you are attuned to integrity. Similar to my friends in recovery, you have a strong B.S. Meter for both yourself and others. Many straight people are at a disadvantage here; some of us have not yet grown to be honest with ourselves. We rarely consider what is at stake in living honestly and fully because we just haven’t had occasion.

As you know, I am all about “world-making” when I teach about music and liturgy– that what we enact as a community is what we create for the whole world. I am so happy that Sam was baptized in a church where families of all combinations were present, that his earliest years were surrounded by both gay and straight couples, differently-abled bodies, folks from all ages and social status sharing pews with their arms around each other. This is the world we wanted our fresh, new baby to know is real and good.

Trish and I figured this out last year: at ten years old, Sam has been to more same-gender weddings than straight ones.

That’s just to say the world Trish and I offer the next generation is one where you are among the most brilliant loves.  Not in spite of your sexuality, because of. We believe one of our greatest purposes as parents is to seed the world with someone who honors the beauty of you and all who live out their uniqueness. This ten-year-old does not see you as a them. And he will tell his friends.

Whatever a person’s story, those who live out their uniqueness are Christ emerging in the world.

So where can straight people sign up to be gay for a day?

Or have a mental illness? Or be in recovery from addiction? To, in whatever way required, come to the edge of themselves? Because whenever and however you do that, you come alive, and as Howard Thurman said, above all the world needs people that are alive. The alternative is unspeakably tragic for all.

What if all people had the occasion to cultivate a deep, centered clarity about who we are? To not waste time hiding, padding what’s true, or waiting for others to get comfortable with the truth before it’s revealed?

We’d understand something stupidly simple– that we all have brave stories, breakthrough seasons, and have hearts that function best open wide.

Do you know what a gift that is to the world? Especially right now?

God. Thank you.

It’s ridiculous that so many do not recognize you as the Christ among us, the Buddha awakening. [Deep breath.] At the risk of opening a can here at the closing, I’m sorry the world is so damn slow. I’m ashamed that the church has fought against you. I’m exasperated at the fear some still feel when they see you.

Weary heros of humanity, thank you for choosing to survive and thrive.

Thank you.
Thank you.

I am thinking especially of you today, and celebrating you:

H & J
M
M & M
J
B & S
D & R
H & J
M & S
M &
B
C & S
C
R
C & M
E & partner
M
R
C
S
BB
K & K
A with D 


The Emotional Lives of Ten-Year-Olds

Why are thousands of ten-year-olds sad today? Lego Universe, the amazingly bright, whimsical, smart and fun interactive adventure MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game)  game, closed up shop last night. Not enough revenue from subscribers, we’re told.

Our son Sam had tears in his eyes as in the late hours many avatars posted their final good-byes. “Good-bye, Lego Universe. I’ll miss you.”

Sam was sad. So was I, but he had some real grief. For the past four months, he had played with his pal Nathan to the brink of his parents’ allowance of screen time– an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But I let him plug in for extra rounds yesterday, the Last Day.

As eschatology was fulfilled and the stars went out one by one, I was reminded how passionate kids are.

And how adults sometimes forget to pay attention.

Sure, the occasion is not tragic in the scope of the world’s deepest problems, but feelings are feelings.

So I thought about my role as a dad. I want to listen carefully and guide our son who is inexperienced with the power of emotions. Strong feelings can be disorienting and it’s helpful to have a mentor. What’s at stake? Picture the grown-up child with a sense of personhood that either accepts emotions as a vital, chemical, good part of his or her life or something peripheral to stuff and resist.

Treating kids with respect is making a new world.

Jeez, I’m getting all preachy now.

What would your life have been like if you’d had a respected adult honor your emotions when you were ten? How would your life have been different if a grown-up had helped you understand the nuances of anger, sadness, joy? And maybe you did. And maybe you’re grateful.

If you’re a grown-up, you can help kids explore what emotions feel like and what they mean. Invite them to feel them and sort them out. When you do that, you serve this world today and also you’re helping with the formation of a fully grown homo sapiens sapiens. Maybe a someday President, doctor, bus driver or artist. You’re helping to shape the world toward health and integrated wholeness.

You maybe don’t remember having feelings for the first time, such as grief, confusion or delight, but when the moment comes for the kid in front of you, maybe you’ll be one to witness it. How you choose to handle this moment may instill some confidence and guide that person on the road to an integrated sense of self.

And now I’m getting all Buscaglia on you.

Sam and I talked about how he had come to know this game and the characters, the great symphonic music, the stories, the colorful play. The whole context had become like a friend, and we miss friends when they go away.

Let me be honest.

Part of me was tempted to diminish this. To point out there are worse atrocities on our planet than the shut down of an online game he played for free in our warm house. Part of me wanted to remind him of the holocaust and show him pics of Bosnian refugees. I guess that part of me wanted to give him wisdom and some sort of speech about not being self-centered. You know, perspective. That’s part of my job as a parent, too, but I’m reminded that Douglas Adams wrote that a sense of perspective can crush us. Okay, he said it much funnier.

There’s lots of ways to love a kid. These days, I am learning about keeping it simple.

How do you think about nurturing emotionality in the young people in your life?

We’re sad about Lego Universe, and that’s good for now.


Introvert Practice: Good, Alone and Free

I went to strip away what I had been taught, to accept as true my own thinking…no one around to look at what I was doing, no one interested, no one to say anything about it one way or another.

I was alone and singularly free.

— Georgia O’Keeffe

.

Sometimes you need to get away to see yourself clearly. Pry yourself away from the impulse to please family and friends, watch yourself be a self-standing whole You, and feel what that feels like.

Much of my vocation orbits family life, to give myself to wife, son, parents, sister, friends. The feeling is cozy, immersed in a glorious web of color and song. I love this life.

And then there are seasons where I feel entangled, and I begin to feel derivative of these powerful forces to which I gladly give myself.

Imagine with me browns, greens and blues. I am thinking of one of my favorite solitude spots, a one-room, no-electricity cabin in the woods. I stand on the edge of the forest, swallow hard my Blair Witch-phobia, and exhale. “This is my time,” I speak out loud. Nothing to produce, no multi-tasking, no email. Nothing to keep up with, no meetings, no waiting. No, in fact, clock.

I step slowly on the path through the oaks, as to not cause a wake to disturb the leafy floor. Slow. Slow. Slow feet for this seasonal pilgrimage to meet myself. “Nice to meet you,” I’ll say. Deep smiling sigh. “Tea?”

I inhale the sounds of squirrels and birds and the leafybreeze. Wind, spirit, Ruach. I watch for deer and turkeys for their medicine. I look for the cabin to come into view like meeting an old friend.

There is absolutely no one interested in what I am doing, and I am for the moment singularly free. Like Georgia.

When I am in the midst of change, I need solitude to get my bearings. Shout it from the mountaintops: I am an Introvert.

I love people for whom the opposite is true: when they are overwhelmed, they need a party. Like my friend Doug who just about crawls out of skin when faced with a contemplative exercise. Both ways in the world are good, and it’s good to know who you are.

Georgia cultivated her artist’s life by getting away. Silence and space refreshed her imagination for her true life.

Introverts unite! Er, Disperse!  In this change of season, some of us are getting out of the current that’s been sweeping us along. Even for an overnight, or an afternoon. Shoot, maybe an hour would do it: to practice your alone-ness, your free-ness and your goodness.


Tell the Truth Faster

Trish and I were in a canoe on a little lake in Wisconsin. A loon was there, seeming to follow us as we paddled around slowly.

Today my Beloved and I celebrate the anniversary of Island Day, the day when we first professed our love for each other. It was kind of a big moment.

I’m glad there’s something on the calendar reminding me that I have been brave and honest in sharing my love. Definitely worth celebrating.

When I don’t share who I am with people, I experience their love for me as conditional. It’s not any lack on their part; it’s because somewhere inside me I know it might be different if they knew what I was thinking. So though love abounds around me, it meets a secret semipermeable membrane.

If I have not opened my heart naked to you, I can only receive your love under the conditions I am offering to the relationship. I feel it as conditional.

I am so grateful to my Beloved for continually inviting me to understand the mystery of love in the world.

Sometimes it’s a brave thing to be honest. It’s a risk you measure out, and there’s plenty at stake. Other times, it’s intuitive, flowing and bright and you give it no thought. I desire that life and that sense of trust. I want to, as Jack Canfield says, tell the truth faster.

As we raise a glass to brave Island Day, here’s to all the ways you are opening to love by saying what needs to be said.

Take it away, John Mayer: