Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Common Ground

"So tell me, what are you scared of that is not already happening basically everywhere? This isn't a Trump problem, this is a people problem. Y'all need to reevaluate your own selves..
Maybe America is a little too scared and a little too easily offended."

"I voted based on protecting our future and for my husband and my children and grandchildren."

You. Your. Y’all. Me. My.

Not We. Never We. Our. Us.

Black. White. Never Gray.

Families accusing, ridiculing, minimizing.  Reasoning, but not listening.

WE are in this TOGETHER. This world, this country, this community, this humanity.

It feels like we are living together in pockets of disparate groups who can’t wait for the other shoe to drop so we can say, “See . . . I told you this would happen . . .” – whether that be positive or disastrous.

I’m preaching this to myself . . . Put as much (or more) effort in trying to BE “the change” as I have in trying to convince others (who have no interest in being convinced) TO change their vote, their minds, their opinions.

Fear and anger began the moment we stopped seeking – or caring to seek – common ground.

For those of us who feel we have no need to fear, I sincerely hope you are right. I hope we find common ground among us. And I pray that the world is a safe place for OUR children and grandchildren – that they won’t be afraid to tell us they are gay, or have fallen in love with a Muslim, or want to shatter a few glass ceilings. THAT is how we “protect” their future.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


Why has this been so hard, so deflating, and so seemingly hopeless?

I want to believe that “it will all work out,” that “ the sun will shine,” that the checks and balances of our governing system will moderate any extremist action. I really want to believe it.

I don’t want to be a “sore loser,” unsympathetic to my other party friends who feel they have had to “endure” a democratic presidency for the past eight years. I really don’t.

I could underscore Hillary’s qualifications, my belief in her credibility, integrity, and honor. I could reiterate what I, and many others (including many of those who voted for him) dislike and abhor about President-Elect Trump. I could. But I won’t. We’ve been spouting it to one another - both the true and confirmed and the untrue and unconfirmed - for months, now, on social and news media. Few of us have changed our minds or positions.

For many of my Republican friends, Mr. Trump offered the only pathway to change and a conservative SCOTUS. I think it is a dangerous path to take, with Mr. Trump as the leader, but I respect your right to choose it. Please understand, though, that it is a very frightening path for many of us. As a self-employed, self-insured, gay woman, I have great anxiety over what the consequences of a Trump presidency hold for me and others like me, as well as ethnic and religious minorities, Women in general, and immigrants. I suppose we can argue that these are socio-political arguments upon which we will have to “agree to disagree.” Perhaps.

There are those of you for whom your vote was tied to one issue alone – that of life versus choice. Sadly, this is another matter where many people I love and respect find it hard to believe that those of us who are pro-choice are truly not pro-abortion. Just as I refuse to believe that everyone who voted for Mr. Trump is as bigoted as he represented himself while campaigning, I would ask that my pro-life friends recognize that everyone who is pro-choice does not devalue life, but perhaps see the picture painted with a broader, grayer brush. 

So the question remains . . . why does this election feel so different to me?

I was a young girl in the age of the introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment and the advent of Title IX. And in those days, my mother - a smart, fairly independent thinking woman - believed it wouldn’t be good for a woman to be President (“What if she had to make a decision about war and she was having her period?”). That didn’t seem right to me then, and it doesn’t seem right now. And with a little more age and life experience, I might have reminded my mother that any woman President would likely be long past menopause, so that wouldn’t be an issue (so to speak).

When I came out as gay, my sister was talking with my grandmother as she tried to wrap her head around the revelation. “Memaw . . . would you rather have her marry a black man or a woman?” Neither of these was an issue for my sister, but both were for my grandmother. My grandmother responded, “Well . . . I guess a black man.” As one of my oldest friends reminded me yesterday, “Your Memaw knew our country better than we did. They were ready for a black man to be President, but not a woman.” For the record, my grandmother kept an open mind and an accepting heart, and started introducing me to the “lesbian fellows” who lived in her neighborhood. She was a little confused on the terminology, but had the acceptance part down just fine.

Now here’s the thing. I am in a committed, loving and long-term relationship. I love my partner with all my heart. We have a home and family of canines together. We rely on self-insurance through Obamacare. We have been through some difficult and challenging times – significant health issues, caring for and losing my mother to Alzheimer’s earlier this year, buying a house together, just to name a few. We have survived all of this, grown closer and more committed, and I have been looking forward to the day when we could actually be (legally) married. 

I’ll also confess this. I’m a bit of an intellectual elitist. I like people who run my country to have a broader vocabulary than “great” and “bigly,” and to see them demonstrate some measure of critical and reflective thinking. It is one of the reasons I like Hillary. And why I simply couldn’t imagine her losing to her opponent.

There have been many memes on social media the past few days delineating what we voted “for” when we elected Mr. Trump. I think my sense of hopelessness is reflected through a different lens, though.

When Hillary lost, it felt like I lost, too. In fact – I. Felt. Lost. 

Just when I thought we were entering the promised land of acceptance and shattered glass ceilings, I found myself turned back to the wilderness to wander for . . . forty years?

  • I don’t know if I’ll have or be able to afford insurance this time next year.
  • I don’t know if I will be able to legally marry the woman I love.
  • Young girls who weren’t really aware that the glass ceilings exist have seen them brought into focus in a way I had hoped they would never have to witness.
  • Teachers all over the country are trying to figure out how best to comfort their students who fear for the safety of their immigrant or other-than-Christian parents.
  • Worst of all, when even a country like Libya, which has endured a culture of brutality and rape against women, can elect a woman as their leader in the aftermath of civil war, the United States stands as the most powerful country in the world – powerless to shatter that glass ceiling and elect its first imminently qualified woman President.

The glass ceiling remains intact, leaving me feeling not a little shattered.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

At the Crossroads of Community and Calling

“If my own experience can be trusted, then God does not call us once but many times. There are calls to faith and calls to ordination, but in between there are calls to particular communities and calls to particular tasks within them – calls into and out of relationships as well as calls to seek God wherever God may be found.”
Barbara Brown Taylor from The Preaching Life

I took a “sabbatical” from church a while ago. I felt I needed to step back and think on things – how I felt about traditional church, community, “calling,” the role of church and faith in the 21st century, and all the trappings that accompany those ideas. As a friend of mine on a similar journey replied when asked when she might return to church, I determined I would return “when I miss it.”

Well. I have missed it. The community, that is. I never stopped reflecting on my faith, God/Higher Power/Eternal One/Creator, and my place in this world. I, perhaps, did not miss community so much as I briefly lost the desire to search for the right community for me at this point in my life. I think I might have found that recently.

But let me digress for just a moment. I used to feel sorry for those who said they didn’t “need community,” that they could worship God as easily on the lake on Sunday morning as they could in church. Then I became one of those “lake people.” And I probably had some folks feeling sorry for me that I didn’t “get it.” That’s ok, too. I’m ready to “get it” – community – again, both in the sense of understanding its importance and enjoying the company of others on a faith journey.

My good friend, Marcus, has been pastoring a church in Kansas City on a temporary basis. I visited not long ago because I missed hearing him preach, it was Advent, and I missed community during that season of the church year. I have continued to visit, and may put down roots. As I shared with my mother recently, it is a smallish congregation that is diverse in every sense – black and white, male and female, old and young, straight and gay, reserved and charismatic (in the SAME service!). To which she exclaimed, “just like real Christians!” Yes, Mom, just like real Christians, and real Christian community. That is what I have missed. It is the kind of community I’ve been hoping to be a part of for a long time – which is not to diminish any previous church family I have previously been a part of. But I am at a different place in my faith journey, my spiritual calling, and my quest for a “home” to delve more deeply into both. I find myself at a mid-life crossroads of sorts, and it seems highly appropriate that this is the name of the church community I find myself becoming a part.

As Marcus shared this morning (and he was far more erudite than my summary will do justice), this journey isn’t just a GPS trip from point A to point B, but more like a scavenger hunt in which each discovery along the way, prepares you for your next destination. The quickest way to get lost is to try to speed to the finish line and skip those important intermediate stops along the way, or to merely stay in one place hoping to eventually see the destination in sight.

My latest stop has me at (a) Crossroads, and I can’t wait to find out what I’m going to learn in this new community, and how it will prepare me for my next destination in the journey.

Monday, January 20, 2014

He Had a Dream . . .

I've posted this picture each Martin Luther King Day for the past two or three years - since I captured it during a visit to DC one summer. It moved me then, and continues to do so.

The irony prevalent in that MLK now has a statue memorializing his legacy – his dream, if you will – in our nation's capitol building, and this young child, decked out in red, white and blue, casually stands beneath MLK's watchful eye, never ceases to amaze me. I'm sure as an African American male, he will know prejudice and pain from folks who still don't "get" the dream. But I do hope that this photo reflects that we have made progress.

"Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. That is the interrelated structure of reality."  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Music Theory, Dating, and the Hokey Pokey

We’ve heard it so many times it begins to sound trite and perfunctory – “Art reflects life.” But it does. It really does. And sometimes in the most theoretical sense.

Today was the day to talk to my AP Music Theory class about harmonic function, progression and retrogression, tension and release, tendency and resolution.  Don’t let the terminology intimidate you. If you are breathing, you understand every bit of this at some seminal level. You have most certainly experienced it.  There are actions we take, and decisions we make in this life that move us forward on our personal journey. This forward motion is not without tension and release, and sometimes we experience a brief retrogression before making progress again. Most often, it is the tension itself that moves us forward to resolution.  Harmony in music merely reflects that. It is, perhaps, why certain works of musical art move us so intensely and seem to mirror emotions we can’t quite articulate in mere words. I saw that side of the lesson with fresh eyes after moving through recent personal experiences of consonance and dissonance.

I find myself single and exploring the dating scene again. Again? It’s probably more accurate to say that my “journey” has never included an extensive “dating scene,” so at 53 I still have some new things learn. Nevertheless, I recently found myself exploring a new relationship.  It didn’t pan out, but that isn’t the real story here. The real story is that consonance and beauty may be stable, but they don’t always move us forward. And tension and dissonance may prove uncomfortable, and even painful, but if we listen for those tendency tones, they are driving us actively toward resolution and progress.

The progress I made and the resolution I found in my foray into a potential new relationship was not what I expected at all. But the tension and dissonance in the progression caused me to peel away some layers of protection, look at myself and strength of personhood in a new way, and ultimately walk away from the relationship feeling like I had learned much through the pain and difficulty of navigating some new waters. And the most positive part of the process has been that I’m not trying to wrap myself back up in those layers I peeled away.  The resulting new song has its own kind of stability that I am seeing impact my relationships with my closest friends, my students, and frankly, myself. Rather than regressing, I’m finding a kinder, gentler person that I like being around.

It would seem that in that process of opening myself up to another human being –  vulnerable, and risking hurt –  I learned far more about me than I did about dating, and perhaps that really is what harmonic progression (and the hokey pokey) is all about.


Saturday, November 23, 2013


I’ve been feeling as if I’ve been undergoing some sort of internal metamorphosis of late, and for some reason was drawn to re-read Kafka’s short story by the same name. I last read this as a senior in high school. Thirty-five years, and a good bit of life experience, lends quite the fresh perspective.

I read the story as an 18-year old as part of an assignment to compare it to Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Illych. I may, yet, have to revisit that tome, as well. But as for the present, I’d like to use (my new favorite term of late) “fresh eyes” to examine Kafka’s work. After a disagreement – more emotional than substantive – with a dear friend earlier in the week on the value of a self-help book, it occurs to me today that one of the things that make great literature just that is its ability to continue to speak to us through different times and different readings. With no attempt at self-help, great literature simply speaks, and the reader uses his or her own filter to listen.

As an 18-year old, I suspect I probably focused superficially on Gregor’s death and casual disregard by his family. As a 53-year old, struggling with bouts of emotional self-doubt, poor self-image, and an intense need to be “seen” and accepted for who I am at my core, my filter in the re-read was somewhat different.

Gregor’s transformation into a cockroach or beetle of epic proportions gave him “fresh eyes” as to how his family viewed him. When he became unable to provide for them unquestioningly, his attractiveness and needs were suddenly suspect. They responded to his “change” with shock and a feeble attempt to meet his most basic needs.  It appeared, however, that this response was in the dim hope that he would become his “old self” again, meeting their needs, and placing few, if any, demands on them to return the favor. Even his sister grows weary of her early sensitivity in caring for him, as she becomes more self-sufficient. As their hope for resolution of this calamity wanes, so does their resentment of, and disgust for, Gregor increase.

Even in his most awkward state, Gregor attempts to negate his own discomfort by protecting his family from their own. He hides his unsightliness under the couch, and further, under the drape of a sheet, lest their fear and disgust be intensified. How many of us hide our “unpleasantness” from those around us out of a misguided concern for protection, comfort giving, or some other high minded virtue designed to keep others happy, content, and properly cared for?

The bedroom, the closet, the couch – too many of us withdraw into these for the sake of others, at risk of losing ourselves. A friend shared a Parker Palmer quote with me the other day – “Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self.” I’m going to continue to do the hard work addressing my own personal demons and learning to live with myself. If you need company to do the same, come out from under the couch and join me, and perhaps we can accomplish what Gregor found impossible, and try to pick the apple off of one another’s backs.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Whose Self is it, Anyway?

Jesus had his 40 days in the wilderness.  Cindy is having her 40 hours at the Wilderness Club at Big Cedar.  Granted, my 40 hours doesn’t even knock on the door of being Spartan, but somehow, I think we are accomplishing something similar and sacred. I’m trying to renew/find my sense of self. It seems to have gotten lost – at least a part of it – somewhere along my way. So my little retreat, however indulgent, has been an attempt to regain some of that, to find a sense of wholeness that I’ve been missing. And what good little Christian girl wouldn’t then make the leap to “oh no, I’m not being very selfless” to sabotage her wilderness retreat?

For those of us who have grown up in the Christian tradition, we have been pommelled with the importance of selflessness – of being Christ-like – of being the only Jesus some people will ever see. I have tried to do this in my own life, but I’m starting to raise some questions with God on this topic. And before anyone goes all “she’s second guessing God!” on me, bear in mind that I think God kind of enjoys having a “real” conversation with us – hashing these things out – us being honest – being authentic. What’s the point of being otherwise with God? Not like you are going to be able to hide anything . . . ask Mother Teresa. But I digress.

There have been times in my life when I have spent more time in church than I have my own home, so I’ve had quite the opportunity to observe the trappings and trippings of Christianity in action. I’ve watched a lot of people – in the name of Jesus – neglect their families, their friends, and themselves to give their time and energy selflessly to the church. They don’t question, they don’t say no, they just do. Until there is nothing left to give – to anyone, even to God.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I am not denigrating those who have made sacrifices and devoted their lives to serving God.  I know that is part of the gig.  I get it. But in our human frailty, I fear we go overboard, out of context, out of God’s intent on the big Selfless Ship (where there are no lifeboats).

I’m just not sure the word, selfless, is such a good word. If God made us who we are, if our “self” is God given, does he/she really want us to give up our “self” to be more to others? Is not being my best self – mein besseres ich – going to honor God more and enable me to relate in the best/better way to others? This is the chat I want to have with God. I think it’s the chat Mother Teresa wanted to have as she dealt with her doubts for so many years. It didn’t keep her from being the only Jesus some people would ever see. She devoted her life to a cause, but she did not give up the essence of her selfhood. That part was essential to her having something to give to the people she served. As I think about it, the only entity to whom we can give our self is the one who created it in the first place. And the Creator is going to triage and give it right back so we can become our besseres ich.

If we give up our self, what is left to give to anyone else?