Archive for ‘love’

July 8, 2013

“I have the kids tonight, Elizabeth is in the ER”

The semester is over. It’s been over for quite some time – a couple of months now – and I have a couple of months before classes start up again. I had hoped that this chapter of my blog would be a quirky but poignant chronicle of my time in seminary, filled with revelations and tidbits I’d want to remember. I made fewer than ten posts and none of them exactly revelatory.

I joked on facebook that if I had to title my first year of seminary it would be, “I have the kids for the night, Elizabeth is in the ER.” Elizabeth, my housemate, was diagnosed with breast cancer last May and I continued to live with them and help out with the kids over the course of the year in exchange for a room. Not that anybody has a particularly good experience with cancer and I suppose her outcome, that is “not being dead,” means that in many ways she had a better outcome than most but she ended up in the hospital a lot with scary high fevers and things that just didn’t feel right. Many nights I ended up unexpectedly watching the kids while Elizabeth hung out at Mass General.

I attended Dorian’s preschool graduation, let the kids watch a little too much TV while I worked on assignments, taught them the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament, tried to hide my exhausted crying from them, and gave them lots of hugs. Choosing to live with somebody going through fairly aggressive cancer treatment (including chemo, radiation, and more than one surgery) was not the most logical decision but, hey, the price was right and I love the kids. Housemate is in remission, I’m still living here, and I feel like things are very much at a standstill right now.

In a lot of ways I’m scared to leave. I have a routine here; it’s the only place I’ve called home in any real way in a ten years. Sunday mornings are the epitome of that for me. The other thing I did during seminary was attend church every Sunday. I only missed twice when I was in town, once because I was super sick and once because I decided that drinking coffee with some queer friends was what my spirit needed. There were a couple of Sundays when I was out of town with my now-ex and it always felt weird to not be in church. Church is my routine, my rock, and I love that stability.

The kids love that stability, too. They’ve been coming to church with me almost every Sunday that I attend for a couple of years now. We don’t actually attend church all that close to where we live; First Parish Cambridge is clear across town though, realistically, it’s only a 30 minute train ride. Even that train is part of our routine. We walk to the station, in snow and sun and wind. We comment on the trees and the flowers, we talk about what we did with our week.

I’ve watched them grow up on these walks. When I first started taking them to church V was still in her stroller, not talking much, and D was a very shy 4 year old who didn’t want to leave my side. There’s a small wall at the corner of our block that D would walk on, holding the handle of V’s stroller. Slowly we phased out the stroller, instead of clinging to my side D started leading the way and running ahead. V scraped her knees every other week in an effort to keep up with her older brother, and slowly started to balance on that small wall herself holding my hand. Then slowly she no longer needed to hold my hand, not even for the “super hero jump” at the end.

We get off the train at Harvard, after crossing the river and inspecting it carefully for any signs of boats. D doesn’t often sit on his knees to look out the windows any longer; he’s too busy reading comics. We hold hands to cross the street and go in the side door of the building.

When I’m the worship associate the kids help me set up the sanctuary since childcare doesn’t start until 45 minutes after I have to be there. We set out new candles, make sure the pulpit is set up and arrange hymnals in the right places. I lift up V to hang the hymn numbers and let D light the starter candles. They both scamper around the sanctuary like they own the place. I usually let V test to make sure the mics are working. And the kid who wouldn’t leave my side got up this year, with three of his classmates, and spoke into a microphone in front of the whole congregation.

One year ago I agreed to stay for an extra year. It’s been a year and I know I need to move on. But I can’t imagine my life without walking those two to church on Sunday mornings and watching them grow from the “big kids” they are now into even bigger kids. And I can’t imagine not having them to distract me from school when school is too much.

April 15, 2013

A prayer after communion

A friend was preaching tonight at the local Metropolitan Community Church and since he’s somebody I have a lot of respect for and whose ministry I value, I went. I figured “it’ll be a lot of Jesus” which isn’t a bad thing but it doesn’t really mesh with my theology. I was right; it was a LOT of Jesus.

It was a really small service, maybe twenty people in the room all told, and I think I was personally greeted by at least ten of them before the service started. I finally agreed to fill out a visitor card just so they’d stop offering them to me. When reading through the order of worship before service I noticed that they were doing communion and looked around for an explanation of their communion practices.

I’m not as stringently anti-communion as I was when the school year started. I spent a good part of spring break reading about communion practices and came up with my own “guidelines” about when I would and would not participate in communion. Suffice it to say I didn’t figure that an MCC church would have any issues with my participation in communion.

Most denominations that do communion have the same general principle behind it and then mess with it just enough to be “unique” and to “confuse newcomers.” At this church it is common practice to take communion and then receive a short prayer.

Honestly I couldn’t figure out how to not participate. Everyone else was and I was confused so I just made sure to step to the side where my friend was praying with people since, hey, I trust the guy.

I’ve had some bad experiences with folks praying over/with/about/to me. Lots of praying out the demons of homosexuality, praying out the demons that cause me to be rude to my parents, the demons that make me cuss and, when I was 10, the demons that led to my owning a CD by Hanson (perhaps that prayer was justified). Two years ago I prayed with a chaplain at general assembly which sort of made me okay with the practice in theory but it really needs to be somebody I trust in order for me to really hear the prayer rather than focus on the ten kinds of awkward inherent in the situation.

Tonight I held the hands of a friend and minister and he prayed for me and, like I said, I trust him and I respect his ministry and he’s a good person. But the really touching part was that this guy knows me. He knows I don’t really do the Jesus thing much. So he fit the prayer to me. He didn’t end with “In Jesus name” he didn’t throw much (any?) God into the prayer, and there was no hierarchical “Lord.” He held my hands and he prayed for me in a way he knew I would find accessible.

I’m always collecting bits and pieces of what effective ministry looks like but I’m not some cyborg seminary student who simply collects information whilst ignoring emotional situations. I’ve had a pretty rough year and it was really touching to feel cared for and ministered to in a different way than usual.

January 12, 2013

We lost a hero this week

Did you know a hero died this week?  I suppose the argument could be made that heroes die every day of every week of every month but a hero died this week.  Jeanne Manford passed away at the age of 92 after living a life of acceptance with grace and compassion.  Manford founded PFLAG; Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.  In 1972 she marched in the New York City Pride Parade carrying a sign in support of her gay son, Morty.  Morty’s life was cut short, as so many of my queer parents and siblings lives’ were, by AIDS.  Jeanne Manford continued to fight for acceptance of LGBTQ people; she evolved with the times, moved with the movements, and was an ally and a presence for her entire life.

We lost a hero this week.  The LGBTQ community lost not only an ally but a parent and a grandparent.  Because of activism like Jeanne’s so many of us were able to go further, faster, and with less fear of not being accepted and knowing we were entering a world with greater understanding.  She didn’t solve the problem of families that don’t accept their children but she helped let those children know that other people did accept them.  She brought allies into the movement; a necessary step in bringing the oppression of LGBTQ people into the greater public knowledge.

A prayer for the heroes

Thank you, God, for giving us the heroes
The down to earth folks who speak quietly
From living rooms
And computers
And through small acts of kindness

Thank you, God, for giving us the heroes
That shout from the rooftops
And the pubs
And the street corners
Whether anybody listens or not

Thank you, God, for the grandparents
Who stand up and say
No
Oppression wasn’t okay in my time
And it’s not okay now, either

Thank you God for the younger siblings
Who never question who you are
Since you’re always the person
Who stole Halloween candy
When you were eight

And thank you, God
For the blessing of those who stand
When we cannot be our own hero
Or when we don’t want to be
Or when one voice isn’t enough

Thank you, God, for the allies
Who stand by our sides
And let us lead
And follow with gusto

Thank you, God, for the heroes
The every-day
And the extraordinary
And the old
And the young
And the visible
And the invisible
God, thank you for the heroes.

August 30, 2012

It begins

My minister has a framed picture on the wall of his office at church – it’s the Tichh Nhat Hanh meditation “I have arrived.  I am home.”  Since I’m in his office a fair bit, between meeting with him individually and for Pastoral Care Associate meetings and such I have stared at this picture a lot.  I love it.

 

I started seminary today.  I was a nervous wreck for the past few days and then… I got there.  And in all of its fluorescent lit, mediocre bagels and bad coffee glory I had arrived.  I took a seat and started talking to people.  People, mostly people close to my age, doing the same thing as me.  This thing none of my college friends understand even though they’re being really nice about it.  It felt so right.

We did all the normal orientation things.  It was explained what a venerable and esteemed institution we were at, the multifaceted, and I’m sure very unique, benefits were tossed around, and we mingled.  I met new people and old people and I laughed and I felt, well, blessed.  To be there.  To be able to be there.  I felt like I belonged.

After lunch four of us ended up outside playing Frisbee and already we have inside jokes (they involve me aiming at freshmen).  We went on a hideously long walking tour of Boston immediately after which we had to go to a fancy hotel to meet our professors.  We ate fancy-ish hors d’oeuvres and laughed at how underdressed almost everyone was.

It was good.  I returned home happy, and content, and thrilled, and all kinds of other adjectives.

And it was good, too, because when I posted a happy status about being in seminary over FIFTY of my friends “liked” the status on Facebook.  These friends who have been following me from when I first declared I may, possibly, be interested in seminary to today, when I started.  Friends from college and friends from church and minister after minister after minister saying “Good for you.  I’m glad.”  It was such a fun, good feeling.

Not everything was perfect.  Almost nobody got my pronouns right, and while my name was correct on my nametag it was incorrect on my folder and my advisor letter.  I am pretty sure there’s no gender neutral bathroom that’s easily accessible in the building.  I was too scared to correct people much.  I am incredibly dehydrated because, well, if you don’t think there’s a place to go to the bathroom you don’t drink enough water.

But I have arrived.  I am home.  It’s not perfect and there are going to be speed bumps and awful bits but, right now, in this moment, I’M THERE.  That’s what matters right now.  I am THERE.

December 11, 2011

A Whole Lot of Life

Occupy Boston has been evicted. I will, for the foreseeable future, be sleeping in my own bed. It’s not the end of the movement, at least that’s our mantra, but when I stopped by this morning to see it leveled and behind its own type of bars I had to cry. Just for a little, just because transition is hard. And then the police escorted me away.
At church we say, “our worship has ended, our service begins.”

Our physical occupation has ended, the next phase of our movement begins.

But it is so hard.

It’s been an amazing, hard, beautiful, hard, awe-inspiring, hard, flat out gorgeous experience. It’s an experience that I wish so fervently I never had to participate in but… damn. Damn.

I went to the jail where the women were being held this morning. We hugged and sang as people were released. We moved on. We marched to the jail where the men were being held. We hugged more, we sang more, and we waited. I stood by the exit, handing out food to each released protester and letting them know where to get something to drink, people with a charged phone, and a spot to be away from the media.

It wasn’t warm today in Boston, and even though I’m now starting my fifth winter in New England I wasn’t dressed appropriately. I left the house in that marginally frantic “I have somewhere so much more important to be” mode. I also forgot to eat for a good portion of today and I didn’t drink any water from the time I left the house until I got home.

(Self-care is on my to-do list, I promise.)

I was one of the point people for organizing a multireligious solidarity service prior to our first post-raid General Assembly. We wanted to call folks together, let them air some of their pain, let them be heard prior to entering a very procedural meeting. We wanted to continue the faithful, religious, spiritual voice that had been part of the Occupy Boston movement since before Dewey Square was even occupied. We weren’t leaving now.

I can only hope the service provided something of that space. I was so cold, so tired, so dead on my feet by that point that I don’t remember almost anything of what I said. I know we sang a lot. Snippets stand out; taking a minute to breathe while one of our wonderful and involved priests took the service in her way-more-capable hands for a few minutes, encouraging people to keep singing as somebody was screaming behind us, and making eye contact with friends who I didn’t know were coming and feeling reassured.

But it still felt so final.

The movement meant so much to so many people, but to me it meant that I’m in the right place in my life. I’m doing what I need to be doing. I feel good about who I am, where I am, what I am doing and where I am going. I’m proud of the decisions I’m making and I’m thrilled to be with the people I spend my time with.

I’m not always happy with the decisions that Occupy Boston folks made, autonomous action or not, but I’m thrilled with the role that I, and the Protest Chaplains, have played. I’m thrilled with what we’ve done with what we’ve had. I can’t wait to see what we do next.

After, of course, we sleep.

December 5, 2011

Consent Done Well.

Sometimes it smacks me in the face that I’ve immersed myself in queer/radical sex/culture for a long while. It will come as a shock to me that not everyone practices radical and explicit consent in their relationships. Somebody, even a close friend, will touch my leg or go in for a hug without asking and I’ll recoil. The reaction isn’t even necessarily because I don’t want that person touch me but because they didn’t ask; they assumed that I wanted that kind of touch at that moment. People assume that because I’ve agreed to touch them in the past in a certain way that I’m in the same space the next time I see them.

Consent is important for every person of every identity, regardless of age or ability or any other defining factor. But for trans folks it becomes something we end up guarding near and dear to us because the world already thinks it has access to our bodies. People will ask, shortly upon meeting me, whether I plan to have top surgery, if I’m going to start hormones (or, more often, when I am going to start hormones), they will make comments about my voice, my height, or my apparent age. People assume they have the right to dissect and analyze the bodies of trans folks they know just because we are trans. We remind ourselves that we have the right, as all people have the right, to consent and to desire and to utilize our bodies as we want to, regardless of the opinions of the world AND we have the right to NOT discuss that with anybody we don’t want to.

When you move into the world of intimate relationships and sexuality it gets even more complicated. Unless you want to have sex within a really, really small group of people it’s almost like you have to lead a consent workshop before any and all sexual encounters. Trans people experience violence, sexual and otherwise, at higher rates than the rest of society. Talking to my trans friends about sexual history and experience with sexual violence is a testament to how prevalent and painful rape and molestation are in society, and I’m no exception to that rule. Whether it happened before or after we were out violence is yet another way of saying “you don’t get to control your body.” It’s taking away that right to say “no” and the right to say “yes.” It’s taking away the right to ask for what you want and to set limits and to explore new things safely.

And this consent stuff doesn’t just apply to touch. You, as my friends and allies, do not get to question which bathroom I walk into when I’m out with you. You don’t get to question how I answer my phone when it rings if I suddenly change up my pronouns (“This is she.”). You don’t get to question it when I choose to not interrupt somebody to correct them on my name or pronouns and you don’t get to correct them for me unless you’ve asked if that is what I want in public situations. These things are not your things to question or analyze. When I use the women’s bathroom it’s because I don’t feel safe in the men’s bathroom. When I choose to not correct somebody on my name or pronouns it’s because I don’t feel safe enough with that person to do so, or it’s because I am sick of derailing the conversation for somebody who doesn’t seem to want to respect my identity, or it’s simply because I’m tired and don’t feel like explaining my identity to every third person I speak with on any given day.

It can sometimes seem like way more work than it could possibly be worth, but when an interaction goes right, goes how I intend it to, or when a bad situation is rectified in a way that celebrates trans identity rather than shuttering it off to the side it’s beautiful. When I get to spend time with other folks who practice the true essence of radical consent those moments are beautiful. When a friend asked if I wanted to cuddle down at Occupy once and I realized that, yeah, I did! Because I felt safe with him and knew that he’d asked because he really wanted an answer. When I lay in bed with a partner, or multiple partners, and in those lazy morning minutes one will mumble, “is it ok if I __?” with the full expectation that the answer could be yes or no and that that’s okay. When I ask a kid for consent before I give them a hug, or teach them that there are alternatives to physical contact if they want that (“Do you want a hug, a high five, or a wave?”).

There is so much beauty in respecting our bodies, and in respecting each other. There’s a certain amazingness to owning what we have and in other people radically acknowledging that.

August 29, 2011

Influence and Discernent and… have I mentioned I hate puppets?

Sorry to all my UUs out there. And my childhood ministers. To the people who have sat with me for hours and listened to me discern or complain or cry. To the folks who have offered prayers in times of need, hugs in time of excitement or fear, or hundreds upon hundreds of Facebook comments offering advice, love, support, or joy.

I’m sorry because the most influential minister in my life was Mister Rogers.

How cliché, right?

I mean, really. This is turning into a “someone I admire” essay for my 4th grade teacher.

But I grew up in a not-so-awesome home. With a mom who was more concerned with drinking and the various men in her life than making sure her kids were being imparted with lessons like “you’re important.” With teachers who had little time to do more than control chaos. With a neighborhood that had more gang violence than picnics. And with grandparents who possibly did the best thing they could have done for me by accident; putting me in front of the TV on the mornings they watched me.

Oh, the other thing you have to know about this is that I hate puppets. HATE THEM.

Got it? Okay then.

I guess I learned some concrete things from Mister Rogers Neighborhood; what break dancing was, how crayons and bike helmets were made, and things of that nature. But mostly I learned compassion. And I learned that some adults wanted me to be curious, to question things I didn’t understand, and that I had things to teach other people. I learned that it was okay to be me, and that it was okay for other people to be who they were. I learned that it was okay to cry if I needed to; in fact, I had an adult man telling me so! I hated the Land of Make-Believe. Would turn off the sound during that part and grab a book to read so I didn’t have to look at the puppets. But I would keep the TV on so I could watch for when he came back, so he could feed his fish and say good bye and sing that he’d see me tomorrow.

Mister Rogers wasn’t a TV show for me. I didn’t really like TV. I liked the escapism that books offered me far more than any TV show. I learned to read at a really young age, mostly teaching myself, and I found a lot more comfort and safety in curing up in a corner with a book than sitting in the open living room with the TV on. I made the exception for Mister Rogers, though.

I think it’s fairly common knowledge now that Mister Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister; he was a deeply religious man that felt his calling was to show love and compassion and equity and kindness to all people, most specifically to children. He was a man of extraordinary heart who often showed that there was worth to every single person. He is quoted saying:

Those of us who are in the world to educate, to care for young children, have a special calling. A calling that has very little to do with a collection of special possessions, but has a lot to do with the worth inside of heads and hearts. In fact, that’s our domain; the heads and hearts of the next generation, the thoughts and feelings of the future.

When I think of who had the most straight-on religious impact on me the answer is probably the minister who brought me back to church, introduced me to UUism. But the minister who had the most theological impact on me? Unquestionably it’s Fred Rogers. The man who taught me to be curious, to never be satisfied with being treated as less than instead of equal to, and the person who sat with me morning after morning and sang to me and talked to me and told me that I was good, and I was worthy, and I was perfect as who I was, not as who others wanted me to be.

I do not want to be a minister because of Rogers. But I want to, in some small way, pay forward what he gave me. I cannot think that I will have the love and courage and wholeness to live each day with the sheer serenity that Rogers showed throughout his life in every interaction, recorded then or years and years later as a remembrance to his holy work. I can, however, hope and strive to use his words, his actions, and his strength of character to encourage me to be my best self.

July 29, 2011

We Pray: Part II

Rev. Sean Parker Dennison

Spirit of Infinite Love,
Be with me and my people. Help us know that we are loved–wholly and deeply–exactly as we are. Help us know that our faces are a reflection of the face of the sacred, the face of God. Help us understand that our longing to be whole and tell the truth of who we are is holy. Be with us when we are afraid. Be with us when we are proud and joyful. Be with us when we are confused. Protect us from our enemies.

Help us transform the world be being ourselves and understanding the deep need for every person to have the freedom, safety, and support to do the same. Help us transform the oppression we face into determination to stand up for ourselves and for any we see also being oppressed. Help us learn to accept our anger when it is necessary and appropriate and to let it go when it is causing harm.

Help us accept and celebrate the diversity in our own community and show the world it is possible to love each other even though we do not always agree. Help us forgive. Help us listen. Help us let go of stubbornness. Let us worry more about being kind than being right.

Spirit of Life that defies labels and will not be made small by small minds, give us courage to live fully and continue to learn, grow, and transform our selves, our communities, and the world.

May it be so. May we be the ones who make it so.
Amen. Ashe’. And Blessed Be.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg

 Your heart, and your soul, have the power to reflect and refract reflect what is good and holy about the world: you are the prism through which the light of the Sacred shines.  Please–for the good of yourself, and for the world that so desperately needs you and all of the great gorgeousness you have to offer–let it shine, shine, shine, shine on.

And may you have all of the blessings of this significant offering from the Jewish tradition (Numbers 6:24-26):
May God bless you and keep you.  May God shine God’s countenance upon you with grace. May God lift Godliness upon you and bring you peace.

The Rev. Kit Wang

As an Episcopalian, I am truly a person of the book, which is to say that I tend to find and use what’s in the book. Here are the two prayers that resonate most often with me as a queer person, a person of faith, a Christian, and a priest (who spent nearly 30 years discerning toward ordination so I could be out in my ministry)

from Psalm 139
O Lord, you have searched me out and known me :
you know when I sit or when I stand,
you comprehend my thoughts long before.
You discern my path and the places where I rest :
you are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue :
but you, Lord, know it altogether.
You have encompassed me behind and before :
and have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me :
so high that I cannot endure it.
Where shall I go from your spirit :
or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend into heaven you are there :
if I make my bed in the grave you are there also.
If I spread out my wings towards the morning :
or dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there your hand shall lead me :
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say ‘Surely the darkness will cover me :
and the night will enclose me’,
The darkness is no darkness with you,
but the night is as clear as the day :
the darkness and the light are both alike.
For you have created my inward parts :
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise you, for you are to be feared :
fearful are your acts, and wonderful your works.
You knew my soul,
and my bones were not hidden from you :
when I was formed in secret,
and woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my limbs when they were yet imperfect :
and in your book were all my members written;
Day by day they were fashioned :
and not one was late in growing.
How deep are your thoughts to me, O God :
and how great is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they are more in number than the sand :
were I to come to the end, I would still be with you.
Search me out, O God, and know my heart :
put me to the proof and know my thoughts.
Look well lest there be any way of wickedness in me :
and lead me in the way that is everlasting.

Collect for Purity
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that I may worthily magnify your Holy Name. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.  (Book of Common Prayer 1979)

(I pray this every Sunday morning and every time I vest for worship if I’m not using it as the opening of the service. I’ve also prayed it in many times and places when I felt the need to be more opened to God.)

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers,
half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation, so that you may work for justice,
freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort and to turn pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you may do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.
(This blessing is floating around in the liturgical ether. I first met it through Integrity)

Sunshine J. Wolfe

Oh, Infinite Love, help me face this day…
My heart weeps with fear of violence, of invisibility, of hatred.
Open me to beauty and wholeness, to love and laughter.
I AM enough.  We are enough.
I live in the sacred in-between.  I embody the connectivity and allness of the Infinite.  May I remember that I am inherently sacred by my existence.

The earth is filled with magnificent diversity of which I am a small piece.  May I remember I am a part of the spectacular beauty of a diverse world dependent on that diversity- my existence- for its survival.

When I feel lost, may I hold to the earth and to community.
When I feel invisible, may I have the strength to shout joyous gratitude from the rooftops for all who have seen me.
When violence is before me, I ask for grace through the next moment.
When I feel connected, may I share my love with those around me.
When I feel seen, my I see others in need.
When I am secure, may I rise up for the security of others.

Oh, Infinite Love, I sit within you and shine you out to the world that we may know grace even when we do not live up to our most grounded values.  We are life and we are lives worth living and my life is valuable as all lives are valuable.

Oh, Infinite Love, thank you for the gift of the transcendent both, all, And, Infinite, liminal, glue, connectivity.  May I rest in that transcendent space today and for all the days to come.  aho, amin, ashe.

Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern

To all trans and other folk who are hurting and afraid, I wish you peace and happiness. No god worthy of our worship could do anything but love you, and no true church could ever exclude you. I feel very blessed to share this life with you.

The Hindu god Indra is said to have created reality as a great net, with jewels at each intersection of the threads. Every jewel is reflected in every other, and they are all connected by the infinite, intricate web. The jewels are sacred and so is the net that connects them. And so I pray:</i>

Dear God, you are the between-spaces of our lives. Where one hand reaches to touch another, you are there. Where eyes meet across the crowd and confusion and find understanding, you are there. Where the spark leaps from one mind to ignite another, that is you. Wherever we connect, you are the connection.

Each of us is a jewel in Indra’s net, shining like dew in a spider’s web. Praise to you, the web that connects us one to another!

When we are in the in-between, on our way from the intolerable to the unknown–

When we defy the categories that small minds invent and dare to imagine something beyond–

When we seek others who are on a journey, on a threshold, on the margins, any of the shimmering intersections of our lives–

When we listen to the possibilities whispered within and step into mystery, with trust, with fear, with trembling–

may we find peace, for we dwell in your sacred place.

Amy Johnson

Loving Creator, beyond our understanding yet closer than our breath, breathe into us your love so that we may love ourselves and others as you do.  Help heal the fear, hate, and judgment that wound so many.  Help us know, deeply and certainly, that your love transcends all labels, all categories, all words.  Your love is.  Your love rains down on us all.  Everyone is invited to your table.  We each bring our whole and broken parts and come together in your love, which binds us and heals us all.  Amen.

A Friend

Please don’t be discouraged by the people around you who look at differences as a weakness.  Think of all the times in your life that you have chosen the path less traveled.  Your determination and commitment to your individualism is intimidating to many.  Some hide their intimidation in unpleasant and hurtful ways sometimes through retaliative actions.

Then there are the rest of us.  We aren’t perfect.  We may say things that rub you the wrong way generally unintentionally and usually out of naivety or curiosity.  However, your determination and commitment to your individualism is what ensures the sustainability of this group.  Your stories inspire us and remind us to pay forward the gift of finding a loving community in spite of our differences.

Please don’t be discouraged by the people around you who look at differences as a weakness. There are places of worship, religions, and individuals that will love you for who you are, as cliche as that sounds.  Not only will they love you, you will make them better with your presence.  If you haven’t found that place or person, keep looking… it’s out there.

Abigail Jensen

Having been a student of A Course in Miracles for more than a decade, my favorite prayers come from the Course:

“Holy am I, eternal free and whole, at peace forever in the Heart of Goddess.”

“I am still Goddess’ holy Daughter, forever innocent, forever loving and forever loved, as limitless as my Creator, completely changeless and forever pure.”

(These prayers have been altered from the original by changing them from the second to the first person, i.e., “you” to “I”, and the masculine to the feminine.) Shame has been one of my biggest challenges. These prayers have been so powerful for me because they declare the truth of my innocence as a Child of Goddess and counter shame in all its aspects.

Finally, I will share with you the prayer that eventually led to my own transition. This prayer is addressed to the Hindu goddess Kali ,* she who destroys in order to free us from illusion to see the truth:

“Kali, please remove all that is not real.”

I said this prayer every morning during my time of prayer and meditation for two years. Its effect was not immediate, but I know that, without it, I would not have found the truth about who I am, and be living that truth, today.

*You can read about Kali here: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Kali.

Alexandra

You are exactly who you are supposed to be. It is the rest of the world that needs to change. I will send a blessing out for all of us who strive to be better: Go forth in love. Go forth in peace. May the spirit of Love surround you. We say this every week at my UU congregation.

Steven Rowe

“Are transgender people allowed to pray?”  If one prays for strength, for knowledge, for forgiveness, for help in forgiving,   for clarification, for peace; then not only are transgender people  “allowed ”  to pray, they are blessed by praying.   And so are we all.

Ashley Horan

A prayer for Trans Day of Remembrance:

Transcending spirit of love and solidarity, presence of compassion and justice, we call upon you to be with us today as we gather here; hearts both heavy with sadness and enlarged with hope and joy.

As we come together in commemoration of these lives that have been so senselessly taken, we are grateful for the names we have spoken out loud today.  While much of the world denies the violence committed against these people, we gather today to break the silence and remember together.  Even as we mourn the deaths of those we have known and those we never met, we give thanks for the love that these people contributed to the world.   Although it is their deaths that bring us together today, we choose to affirm their lives and identities as we remember them.

We send our compassionate thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of those whose loved ones have been killed as a result of ignorance, hatred and fear.  May they find comfort and strength as they move forward with their lives.

We also extend our empathy to those individuals and institutions weighed down by the heavy burden of bigotry.  While we reject all violence and injustice, we affirm our commitment to work for change in the spirit of love for all, and to meet smallness and hatred with a largeness of spirit.

Although today is a day of mourning the dead, we are gathered here to affirm the power and dignity of all life.  We remember and extend our caring embrace all those still living who suffer anti-trans violence in the form of prejudice, healthcare injustices, professional discrimination, incarceration or social exclusion.  May we all find the vision and the strength to stand together in compassionate solidarity with one another until the world we live in is the world of which we dream.

May this occasion for remembrance provide us with comfort, healing, and renewed commitment to building communities rooted in love.

Blessed be, Ashé and Amen.

Desmond Ravenstone

Two millenia ago, there lived a people who considered themselves divinely chosen.  They looked down on many who were different, because they regarded those differences as contrary to divine law, and even a form of divine punishment.

Then there came a man, from a backwater town far from the capital, who abandoned his father’s carpentry trade to become an itinerant preacher.  And the message he and his followers preached was incredibly radical.  They preached that love, rooted in the Divine, was not limited to any group, but boundless.

Samaritans, for example, were especially despised.  Yet one of this preacher’s most famous lessons was about how a Samaritan could be more in tune with divine law than any of the highest ranking members of their society.  And he even spent time alone with a Samaritan woman, talking with her and accepting her hospitality.

This society was under occupation by a brutal military regime.  Yet this preacher once praised the faith of a military commander seeking healing for his slave, saying it was greater than any he’d found amongst his own people.

The preacher was willing to question and challenge the religious authorities of his day, and his following grew.  So when he came to the capital city, those leaders conspired to have him arrested, beaten, humiliated and executed.  His terrified followers scattered.

And then, remembering his message, they came back emboldened — and they grew.

Now there are billions who claim to follow this man.  But how many of them do?  How many consider themselves so holy and special, only to fear anyone different as those ancient people did?  How many talk about love, but practice hate?

And the more important question for you, my friend: If this preacher were here today, what do you think he would say?

Anonymous

Please, please know that God loves all of his creations, transgender people most definitely included. Don’t let misguided people tell you otherwise. The idea that anyone cannot be religious because of who they are is repugnant to God.

I wish I could offer more, but I pray especially for people (trans, gay, lesbian, etc.) who have been wrongly chased from churches. There are certainly affirming churches
out there who will welcome you with open arms.

And I pray for forgiveness for the people who have chased them out.

July 26, 2011

We pray

I have been deeply honored and touched by the outpouring of support and love for the trans community over the last 24 hours. Here are the first 20 responses to my request for prayers for the trans community. The respondents range from ministers to seminary students to laity to folks who don’t even consider themselves religious.

Take a deep breath.

Think of a time you’ve felt alienated in your life from something you found really important.

Perhaps it was hard to think of a time, or you couldn’t really come up with one at all. Or maybe you couldn’t choose just one; being excluded or sidelined has been “the story of your life” for as long as you can remember.

Religious community, spirituality, worship either private or public, and belonging are all so, so important to so many people. To be told to leave, excluded either explicitly or implicitly, a religious community can put you in that space of doubt, that space of longing, and that space of deep and painful loneliness.  Not all people need or want religious community. But for those that do, and who don’t have it, it’s hard.

Let these words lift YOU up, whether you are part of the transgender community or not. And please continue to send in your thoughts.

I have posted these in the order they were received with one exception; I placed my minister’s prayer first.  Oh the joys of being my minister; they are manifold and strange.

Rev. Fred Small, Senior Minister, First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist

God’s love is infinite and all-embracing.  God’s love does not discriminate.  God’s love does not reject.  If you are trans, God’s love holds you tenderly—especially tenderly, because of the challenges you face in a society that is often ignorant and intolerant.  You are good.  You are whole.  You are of God, in God, with God, always.  Your soul shines with divine light.

Rev. Cynthia Landrum

Beloved child of the universe,
You are beautiful.
You are whole.
You are good.
You are sacred.
You are loved.
You are made in the image of Godde.

A Friend

Friend, know that whoever you are, wherever you are, you are one of God’s dearly beloved, and that there is nothing in the world that can separate you from God’s love.

Joanna Fontaine-Crawford

Our God, whom we call by many names, but who calls each of us “Beloved,”
I come in gratitude for the richness, the diversity, the great abundance of unique souls in this world. Thank you for the very complexity that distinguishes each one of us. May all people find those who will love and accept them, will value their distinctive beauty and spirits. May we each feel the presence of your transcending mystery, may we know that we are part of a process of life that is rooted in divine, emanating love, and may we feel the comfort of knowing that every one of us is cherished by God.

Toby

I pray that you feel loved tonight.
I pray that you find someone to joke with.
I pray that you find someone to love you for who you are, what you are and what you may become.
I pray that you find the strength to get up tomorrow.
I pray that you find the courage to speak clearly, even if you are trembling.
I pray that you find the humility to forgive others the unforgivable.
I pray that we’ll meet someday and that I might make you smile.
I pray that you’ll let me love you.
I’m trans, I pray, and I hope you do too. We need it.

Kim

Please know there are people in the world who love and support you just as you are – a human being who deserves kindness, love and respect just like every one else.

Jane Spickett

God loves us. We – all of us anywhere on the transgender spectrum – are manifestations of the wonder of creation. Anything less than joyful affirmation of who we are is not enough. So, dear ones, look in the mirror and smile; then call up your trans friends and let them know how grateful you are for them.

The church that does not celebrate you is not the church. Together, loving word by loving deed, we co-create God over and over and over again.

Anonymous

Spirit of creation, attend to us all. Heal our brokenness, comfort our bruised hearts, temper our tongues that we not hurt one another. God is love and love is all-powerful, greater than any hurt or hate or ignorance or shortcoming or even evil thing that we might do, to the earth, to each other, or to ourselves. The love of god is universal, available to us all, not just the ones we deem worthy. Please help me to remember that. Blessed be.

Anonymous

the best thing a person can do for the world is be themselves, honestly, openly- brave and beautiful. by letting your light shine out so that others can feel it gives others the courage to let their light shine too. we are all different, not one of us the same, but we all share a common bond: we want to be loved. the only place to start is with the self. love yourself first, share the beauty.

Ameselle

Whoever you are, that’s who you are.  It’s unfortunate that we still live in a time where people who are considered “different” aren’t accepted or welcome to pray/worship/live/love in their own way.  But that reality is all the more reason for you to stand up for yourself and be who you are.   You shouldn’t have to answer to bullies who think less of you because you were born the way you were.  Things will never change for the better if we let ignorance and fear rule our lives.  Defying bullies may be scary, lonely, painful; but not being yourself is just as scary, lonely, and painful.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone,
You’ll never walk alone.

Kristy

I honestly can’t understand why people bother to spend their energy making trans people feel they aren’t accepted. It’s all based on fear, I know, but I so wish they would direct that energy elsewhere. Trans people have more than their share of struggle, so church people more than anyone else should reach out and make them feel welcome. Please know that there are churches and individuals with strong faith who want you to know that God loves you, not just if you’re Trans but because you’re Trans. God knows exactly who you are and loves you for exactly who you are.

Ashlayne

The true Christians I’ve met agree with me; although we come to different conclusions when it comes to theology and philosophy, whatever higher powers there may be will accept people from all walks of life, regardless of skin colour, hair colour, eye colour, mental abilities, physical abilities, emotional abilities, thoughts, beliefs, hopes, dreams, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else I may have missed.

In short, if you’re Christian, you’re allowed to pray*. God loves you. And anyone calling themselves Christian who tells you otherwise is a hypocrite.

*I would like to comment that anybody, regardless of their religion or lack thereof is allowed to pray.

Rev. Naomi King

God of Justice and God of Wonder, God of Mystery and God of Holy Delight, here I am, just as I am. Creator and ever-changing abiding Love, sit here with me in my anger and my fear, in my yearning and in my emptiness, in my grief and in my becoming. God, how is it that people stand behind paper cutouts of You and shake their fists and scream their own fear and confusion to try and make me what and who I am not, to take away what you’ve given me that cannot to be taken away: this me that is. Am I not precious also in your sight? In your heart? In your hands? I have wandered through the nights and through the days seeking a place to grow, to flower, to love and be loved among people, to live and to create a life of love, of justice, of wonder, of healing laughter, of all kinds of goodness. I wander and I come to this place, God, my Beloved, in the garden of troubles and in the city of sorrow and in the fields of loneliness. Beloved, still here you are with me. Beloved, give me refuge when the world expects me to be what I am not, when masks are presented and people insist I stop being difficult and just go along with what makes them comfortable and destroys my heart. Beloved, let me just lean my head a while on your knee, hear your song in my spirit, and know that I am with you and you are with me, from the beginning and always, worthy of your love and loved and called to this place and this time to share all I have to give. Alleluia. Amen.

Rev. Chip Roush

Loving God who is beyond all categories, both Mother and Father, and still more yet, Bless us who live beyond categories on earth. Grant us strength and compassion; show us mercy. Teach us to love ourselves and others as you love us. Challenge us when we need it; console us when we want it. Wrap us in your love which is masculine and feminine and full and rich beyond all categories. Bless us and all beings. Amen.

Nancy Palmer

Spirit of Life, we cry out in solidarity with our family, known and unknown to us, walking this earth in fear and loneliness and doubt. Let our love be known to them. Let our open hearts shine for them. Give us the strength and courage to shine brighter and more visibly than those who spew hate.  Let us strew love before them.

The road of this life can be so hard. I don’t understand why some spirits find it so necessary to manifest their own fear and pain by hurting others, but I pray that those spirits open to understanding, compassion, healing, and at last peace. Let their hands, hearts, and voices turn from cruelty to acceptance.

Meanwhile, I pray especially for grace and strength for the wounded and lost. Where there is hurting, may there be help. Where there is injury, may there be health. Where there is confusion and loss, may there be peace and the gift of knowing that if any of us is a child of G_d, then we all must be, and that we all are equally loved, equally cherished, just exactly as we are.

Lydia

When I was a Christian one of my favourite songs was “God Loves Everyone” by Ron Sexsmith.

It still is. If there is a god I have no doubt that s/he loves all of us.

Liz RB

If you stopped by this blog looking for answers about whether it is possible to be spiritual/religious/whole if you are transgendered, I want to assure you that it is.  I don’t really have the right words myself, but I’d like to borrow from Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata”

You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

Therefore … whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Anonymous

I pray that all people who feel alienated by religion find a spiritual home full of love and acceptance. My God or higher power or whatever you’d like to call it does not hate trans people. I don’t believe hate has a place in spirituality. I pray you find comfort, acceptance, and love.

Ellen Carvill-Ziemer

A reading from Scripture: “Then Adonai formed a human out of hummus and breathed into hir nostrils the breath of life and the human became a living being…but for the human no suitable complementary partner was found. Then the Adonai caused the human to fall asleep and Ze took one of hir sides and filled in the flesh in it’s place. Then the Adonai formed a woman from the half Ze had taken from the man.” Genesis 2:7, 20b-21

In the beginning, God made a human from hummus, a human made in Hir own image. The Rabbis tell us this human had no gender—or all genders—just like God. Then God pulled the human apart, from the side, top to bottom, and there were two, male and female as Ze made them. The Scripture goes on to tell us this is why a man leaves his family and cleaves to his wife—that they, together, make a whole. But, not all of us pull apart the same way. Some of us have a piece or two that reminds of the whole we were before. We have a brain or a body or a nagging sense of something lost. In the moments between sleep and waking we remember the wholeness and the dream trails our days and we long to embody that wholeness in our own flesh.

So we pray.

God, God the Avenging Amazon, God the Two-Spirit Shaman walking between worlds.

God—remind us of our wholeness.
Remind us of the gift we are to the world because we remember our wholeness.
Remind us of the days when we were priests and shamans because people knew we were a gift.
Remind us that we are each made in Your image
There are those who have forgotten. Help us to forgive their ignorance.

Be with us in our confusion, our grief, and our despair.
Lead us in the Way you have prepared for our feet
Grow in us the faith that we are who You have made us
Give us hope, give us courage, give us strength, give us love.

So may it be.

Notes:
This is an accurate translation of the Hebrew from my study of contemporary textual criticism and Rabbinical literature. God does not have a gender in the Hebrew or Christian scriptures and this original human (the word play human/hummus is similar to the word play in Hebrew between Adam and the Hebrew word for ground). But, Hebrew does not have a gender neutral pronoun for God or for Adam. Sound familiar?
Adonai is the Hebrew that is translated into English Lord God.
If you’re stuck in a religious home that cannot study this text in a way that listens for the original meaning of the words, there are religious homes for you—Anglican, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Reformed Judaism, Unitarian Universalism—there are many of us who strive not to impose modern prejudices on the text nor absorb ancient prejudices into ours, instead looking for the God of liberation.

Anonymous

Find peace – you may always pray.  It is your right, regardless of how you see yourself.

PLEASE feel free to share these prayers, individually or as a whole.  I’d appreciate if you somehow referenced this blog as where they were found but the only rule is that you credit the writer if you choose to use them in any capacity.

July 25, 2011

“Are transgender people allowed to pray?”

God doesn’t hate you.

One of my favorite things about blog stats is that I can see the words that people search to land on my blog. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes just baffling, and sometimes it really makes me wish that the stats weren’t anonymous because I just want to reach out into the ether of the internet and pluck somebody up from wherever they are in life that causes them to search something like;

“Help I’m trans does god hate me?”
or
“Transgender suicide help”
or
“church hates me transgender”
or
“Does god hate trans”
or
“Are transgender people allowed to pray?”

Are transgender people allowed to pray.

I can’t help but be saddened, disheartened, and mad at religious communities that have rejected somebody to the point where they are questioning whether or not they are even allowed to pray any longer. A place where they have either been told or intuited that their religious community hates them. Where they have been told that God hates them.

But I’m also happy that, at least, they found my blog rather than, or at least in addition to, any of the hate filled and hate driven stuff on the internet.

Finding love and support anonymously from one person is one thing. Finding love and support from dozens is another.

I’m asking every person who stops by this blog to write a prayer, a kind thought, a message of love and support and hope. You can do that below.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers