Monday, December 31, 2007

I have been blessed!



Here is the story of the Blessing:

"The idea…
...it’s a game of tag with a difference, rather than looking inwardly, we look outside ourselves and bless, praise and pray for one blog friend. By participating in this endeavour we not only make the recipient of the blessing feel valued and appreciated, but we are having some fun too."


My dear friend Grendel blessed me, so it's my turn to pass it on...

To Eileen:

I bless you. May God grant you the grace to see yourself as others see you, and to experience the happiness you deserve in all areas of your life.

To Mimi:

I bless you. May God reward you richly for your wisdom, your compassionate heart, and your endless patience with certain people who shall not be named.

To David:

I bless you.
May God reward you for your courage to do and say what is right and for your faithfulness to Her church in spite of all the obstacles you face. (And also for your ability to make us redheads feel special! ;-)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Tidings of Comfort and Joy



This painting is by the 17th-century, Italian artist Guido Reni. Although I have been a pretty serious Italian art nut since my early teens, I had never heard of Reni before I moved to Raleigh. The North Carolina Museum of Art has a remarkable collection for a city of this size---including a sizable collection of Renaissance religious art. I was completely blown away the first time I saw this work.

If you have ever nursed a child (or watched someone who was comfortable nursing in front of you), you will recognize the beauty and naturalness of Reni's depiction. I swam against the cultural tide by nursing both of my children until they were well past the age of two. Until I saw this painting, I had never seen an artist accurately portray the intimacy and tenderness of a mother and a nursing infant. So even though I usually rebel against Anglo Marys and Blond Jesuses, I fell instantly in love with this one.

A copy of it sits on my personal altar. It has often been the focus of my personal devotions because it connects me to Jesus in a way that brings comfort and joy--a reminder of a deeply meaningful time in my life. A time before life got so complicated and painful...a time when I could "do good" as naturally as breathing.

And that brings me to my favorite Christmas song...
God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.
Both the painting and the song speak to me of the deep joy and contentment that faith and love can bring...if only we would let them.

Look at the peace on the face of the Madonna and Child in that painting. They are bathed in the love of God and each other.

That is what I want my faith to be like. I want to love God in the uncomplicated way that a nursing baby loves her mother. I want to feel God's presence enfolding me in the same way as I once held my sleeping infants.

Unfortunately, I seem to allow too many things to get in the way of that kind of faith. Lately, the Church has been a big stumbling block for me---and the blogosphere hasn't helped that. As I mentioned, I have found outrage to be more addictive than caffeine (if less salutary to my work...).

But, here in the darkest part of winter, there are things happening in my life that are bringing comfort and joy. God is making Herself known in ways big and small. My faith may be tenuous at times---but I have discovered that it is also tenacious.

I am like Jacob...wrestling with the angel and refusing to let go until I receive God's blessing.

After a long, dark Advent, Christmas has come at last. No matter what happens in the Church or in the world, God is present---and the "good tidings of great joy" are ringing out to those who have ears to hear them.

May God grant me the grace to listen.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Gone Fishin'....

It's been so long since I posted that I wouldn't be surprised if there is no one around to read this. But on the off chance some intrepid soul is still stopping by...

I'm going to take a break from blogs. Since I'm clearly not posting here that much, it's the ones I read like a monkey on crack from which I need a vacation. You know the ones---MadPriest and Father Jake and Tobias and Mimi and...well, add your own name to the list because, if you are part of the progressive Episcopalian blogging ring, I guarantee you I read your blog.

But doing so is beginning to wear me down. I spend more time reading blogs than I should---and I have enjoyed the recent Anglican fray too much. I have found myself addicted to the high of being outraged. I suspect this is not healthy for my soul---and that it explains the spiritual dryness I've been feeling lately...

So time to back away for a bit. I've got some writing of my own I'd like to do, and I'm also going to be moving right after the holidays. I guess I need to spend some time sorting and packing.

I also need to spend some special time with my kids---who are growing way too fast!!---and with myself. I've not been paying attention to God lately, and it shows.

In his sermon last weekend, my dear friend (who happens to be a priest) challenged us to consider what Christ was doing in our own lives this Advent. He used the following Gospel reading, in which Jesus answers John the Baptist's question: Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?

Jesus responds by saying:
Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. Blessed are those who take no offense at me. Matthew 11:4-6
With his permission, here is what my friend asked us to do:

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Take a personal and private inventory during Advent---Look at those six signs of Christ in the reading from Matthew 11: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.

In your personal history, which ones has Christ effected in you, already? That is Christmas past.

Which ones do you detect that Christ is doing in your spiritual formation right now? That is Christmas present.

Which ones don’t even appear on the radar screen yet, but await the future? That is Christmas yet to come.

That’s Advent! Gratitude for Christ’s action in the past. Cooperation with Christ’s working in the present. Faith in Christ’s coming to us in the future...when he will turn “mourning into morning” (G.M. Hopkins)!

***********************************

I'm going to do that inventory. I'm going to spend some time with God, my children, and the people with whom I share "meatspace" (to use an inelegant Internet term).

I'll be back when the well isn't so dry---and when I've relearned what Jesus meant when he said "Blessed are those who take no offense at me."

May you all have a blessed Advent and a holy Christmas---and may the "tidings of comfort and joy" remind us of our own responsibility to be God's hands and feet in this weary, broken world.

Friday, November 30, 2007

An Unhappy Anniversary

December 1st marks the 20th annual observance of World AIDS Day. That's 20 years of commemorating the dead and tending the sick. Twenty years of pain, loss, and sadness. Twenty-five million dead of AIDS so far---and an estimated 33 million living with HIV.

Father Jake did a wonderful post on World AIDS Day, for which I thank him. He asked me there for additional information, but when I tried to post it, I got the message that there were too many links...so I have moved my answer to him here.

****************************************

My office created and runs AIDS.gov and coordinates HHS' involvement in the HIV/AIDS Awareness Days. I've written or edited a good bit of the text for those sites. I'm very proud of what we do!

AIDS.gov is now the main gateway to information on Federal domestic HIV/AIDS resources. It will link visitors to a wide array of information on HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and research. You can also get information on Federal HIV/AIDS policies there. We'll be offering a new user interface in the next week or two, so be sure to visit and give us some feedback.

I also encourage you to watch our World AIDS Day webcast. It featured four of the top Federal officials who are working on HIV/AIDS, and even I learned a lot from it!

The CDC's site you link to (HIVtest.org ) is another great site. You can use it to get information online about nearby HIV testing centers.

Thanks to the generosity of the Kaiser Family Foundation and the CDC, you can use your cell phone to get that same information. Just text your preferred zip code (home, work, whatever) to KNOWIT (566948) and, within seconds, you will get the name and phone number of the nearest HIV testing site that is open to the public.

I also like the CDC's main HIV website, and their National Prevention Information Network site.

If you want a more global site, I really like AVERT.org, which is run out of the United Kingdom. They have great information on the epidemic across the globe.

Again, I appreciate so much your taking the time and space to note this day. We work on this observance for a good portion of the year---it is our best opportunity (along with National HIV Testing Day--June 27th) to remind people that HIV is still a deadly threat to global health.

There is no cure, and no vaccine, on the horizon. As Dr. Kevin Fenton, head of the CDC's HIV Bureau said during the webcast I mentioned, "We cannot treat our way out of this epidemic." Prevention is our best hope.

And prevention requires that people know their HIV status. I keep saying this over and over: Get tested. Even if you don't think you are at risk. Especially if you don't think you are at risk! Because stigma is still our biggest challenge when it comes to HIV prevention.

Until HIV testing becomes as routine as having a complete blood count or a urinalysis during your annual physical--and the CDC has recommended just this approach--we are going to face this problem. It would really help if primary care physicians routinely did HIV tests as part of their exams---and if patients would ask their physicians if they are following the new standards of care, as outlined by the nation's premier disease prevention office.

Take the test. Take control. And 10 years from now, I hope we'll be celebrating the rapid decline in new HIV cases instead of looking back on millions more dead and suffering.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Great Commission

I feel like an anomaly in the progressive Episcopalian blogosphere---though maybe I'm not. I came in as a quasi-Unitarian who was drawn by the liturgy and the sacraments. It was people like +Spong and Borg who brought me into the church. But the longer I've been here, the more "orthodox" I've become.

But that's because, like Terry Dyslexia, I've embraced the mystery. Stopped trying to "understand" things in the academic way I analyze everything else. Learned to feel God in the sacraments and in the liturgy. Learned to see God in the faces of those I love---and to look for God in the faces of those I don't even like.

But my movement towards theological orthodoxy has not convinced me that I need to convert nonbelievers or those of other faiths to Christianity. I'll never ask anyone if they've accepted Jesus as their personal savior, because I find that question highly intrusive. I'll never tell a Jew or a Muslim or an atheist that they had better find Jesus, and quick!, or they'll be wishing for asbestos underwear in the afterlife.

In that respect, Christians of a more evangelical persuasion will probably consider me a failure at the "Great Commission" that so concerns them.

But Jesus didn't say we were to make "Christians" of the whole world. He wouldn't even have known what that word meant. He said "disciples"--you know, that group of dim-witted people he constantly told "If you love me, feed my sheep." Take care of them. Shelter them. Love them. Die for them, if necessary.

He didn't say "Get them to say the Nicene Creed without crossing their fingers. And be sure they are 'orthodox' in their belief in the Trinity. And don't forget that bit about the atonement---be sure they get that right!"

To me, the Great Commission is nothing more than Jesus' restatement of his summation of the law: Love God and love your neighbor. Only he was adding, "Get off your butts and DO something, people!"

I think we make disciples of the whole world when we love them, and they, in turn, love others. And I mean practical love. Food, shelter, and education love. ERD and the school in Tanganyika love. HIV medicines and clean water love.

Because I don't think saying "Jesus Christ is my personal savior" is the ticket to salvation (whatever that means...). I know people who say that loudly, every chance they get---and don't do a damned thing for their fellow humans. They are clashing gongs and clanging cymbals in my book.

And I don't mean that we earn our salvation by our good works either. But doing good because we are responding to the call of Christ changes us. Like prayer changes us. We respond to the love of God and, by grace, become more loving ourselves. And when that happens, a bit more of the Kingdom of God is able to break into this chaotic world of ours.

I'll never ask you if you have been "saved." I'll never offer to share my personal "testimony" with you. (I'll tell you my story if you ask, but only then.) I'll never tell you that confessing that Jesus is Lord is your only hope of getting into "heaven" (whatever that means...).

It's not my way.

But I will help build a house for Habitat for Humanity. I will mentor Education for Ministry. I will teach my daughter's 1st grade Sunday School class (God help me!). I will donate my money and my time to my community of faith and to the wider community in which I live. I will pray for you and for the world. I will try to worship God in everything that I do and say---even though I know already I will fail. Every day, I will get up and I will live as if God matters and as if my neighbors matter.

If those things lead someone into the Christian fold, fine. If not, I trust that Jesus will know what I was trying to do. I'm hoping he's a "partial-credit" kind of guy...if not, I'm in a heap of trouble, no matter whether I preach on the street corner or not.

If I am to make disciples for God, it will have to be in the ways that work for me. I will not ask if you are "saved"--but I will show you what salvation looks like in my own life.

It looks a lot like joy and hope and peace---and I'll be happy to talk about it with you, but only if you ask.

If I am serious about my faith, however---and I like to think that I am---I can't help sharing it, whether you ask or not. I'm the former agnostic, Unitarian-leaning, heretic who has discovered that the call of Jesus Christ to discipleship is irresistible. My prayer is that you see something of that call in my life. That is the only witness I feel capable of offering.

But, if I do it right, I suspect you will get the message.

Monday, November 05, 2007

It is finished....

At one time, I thought I would begin this post with "Free at last!"

But tonight, I am feeling introspective, so that didn't seem apropos.

I got a call from my attorney's office this evening. Apparently, there was a mix-up with my divorce papers in the county clerk's office. After the clerk recorded the divorce, someone put them in the wrong box and they were never sent to my attorney.

My divorce was actually final weeks ago.

I have been separated for almost 18 months, so, in a way, the whole thing is anticlimactic. In my view, the marriage was over when I moved out in May 2006, but there is something different about getting the news that things are, indeed, finished.

I am sad, in a way. Sad that something that seemed so sure on April 30, 1993 turned out to be so wrong. Sad that someone I once loved can no longer bear to be in the same room with me. Sad that my children have joined the legion of children in America who do not live with both their parents. None of this is what I wanted when I made my vows.

But though there is loss, there is hope now, too.

I once felt that my future was nothing but a gray and endless road, unfurled through the desert of my life. There was a time when death felt preferable to continuing to walk that road.

Today, that thought seems absolutely foreign to me.

Today, there is hope and a sense of excitement about my future. My world is no longer gray, but full of color, music, poetry, and laughter.

I grieve for yesterday, but I look forward to tomorrow.

It is finished. Kyrie eleison. Deo gratias.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Doxy and the Tooth Fairy

Jasper lost two teeth yesterday.

My daughter phoned me early this morning to ask whether the Doggy Tooth Fairy had been to visit him. Of course, I said "Yes!"---which means that I will need to make a trip to the pet store to procure a suitable treat before she comes back on Saturday.

The Tooth Fairy has a checkered history in our house--a tarnished reputation acquired only recently. For years, she showed up faithfully for the Emperor*, and we expected she would do the same for the Empress.

So we all waited with growing anticipation as the Empress' first tooth began to wiggle. It actually fell out at church a few weeks ago.

As you might imagine, the Empress was wild with excitement about this.

Her enthusiasm had been stoked by the fact that her brother had recently lost a molar--the first tooth he's lost in probably two years. He was at his dad's when it happened, and the Tooth Fairy over there left the ridiculous sum of $5.

She also, apparently, left his tooth. (This is important.)

In the wee hours of the morning, the Tooth Fairy went rummaging in her purse. She knew that she would have to produce $5, since that was the amount that had been left at the Other House---instead of the $1 she would normally find appropriate.

But...she had no $5 bills. And it was 5:00 a.m.

So the Tooth Fairy had to give $10. She left a letter for the Empress, explaining that this was a one-time event because it was her first tooth. Subsequent teeth wouldn't be worth as much.

The Empress was thrilled to find a $10 bill and a letter from the Tooth Fairy under her pillow.

Until, that is, she realized the the tooth was gone.

Much weeping and wailing and gnashing of remaining teeth ensued. This was her first tooth! How could the Tooth Fairy have taken it?! Especially when she left the Emperor's tooth at Dad's?!

The Empress was inconsolable. She was not the least bit interested in the money---she wanted her tooth back.

So the following evening, she put the money back under her pillow, and the Tooth Fairy returned her tooth. It took the Empress a couple of days to ask if, the next time she loses a tooth, might the Tooth Fairy leave both the money and the tooth too?

I'm going to have to watch that one, aren't I?

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*Doxy's note: For many years, I posted in an online community called Mothers Who Think. I didn't feel comfortable using my son's name online, so I designated him the "Little Emperor." He's not so little anymore, I'm afraid--so I've dropped the diminutive. And then the Empress came along to round out the Royal Household. I'm still not comfortable using their names online, so I'll be using the old designations.

Despite their monikers, you may rest assured that I do NOT treat them like royalty. They will be happy to give you a list of all the cruel things I do on a regular basis that have earned me the title "Meanest Mother in the World." ;-)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Grace made me write this...

I know better than to write about abortion.

Really, I do. It's not as if I'm going to change anyone's mind on the issue, one way or another.

But I can't help myself today. Maybe it's the phase of the moon, or I need some chocolate or something---but Grace is annoying me over at MadPriest's with her insistence that science has given us a new impetus to revisit Roe v. Wade.

I love Grace. She's relentlessly cheerful and she's about the only evangelical I know who is inclusive of GLBT people. For that, I can forgive her much. (One day, I pray that she will get past her slavish devotion to that obnoxious theory of penal substitutionary atonement, but I'll argue about that with her another day...)

It was the following comment that set me off. I started to answer it over there---but my answer got way too long to post in the comments section of MP's blog, so I decided to answer over here.

So here's my open letter to Grace:

When Roe vs. Wade first became law, our knowledge was not as advanced as it is today. We didn't have 3D ultrasound, the ability to perform surgery on babies still in the womb, the technology to save the lives of infants born at earlier and earlier stages of gestation.

None of those things has changed my opinion about abortion, Grace.

Neither did having two babies and one miscarriage---and I saw all three of those beings on ultrasound. I'm thrilled that two of them made it safely to their birthdays, and I still grieve the loss of the one who didn't.

And I still believe that abortion is not the business of anyone involved except the woman.

The bottom line for me is that the government has no business making my reproductive decisions for me. Full stop.

This is because I believe that, when you give the government the right to prohibit abortion, you implicitly give it the right to mandate abortion---because, once you write reproductive control into law, you have effectively ceded control of women's bodies to that government.

Why doesn't that worry you, Grace? (Or any of the rest of you who want laws against abortion...)

"Can't happen here!" you say?

Au contraire! Think about all those women of color, and women who were deemed insufficiently middle-class by the powers-that-be, who have been involuntarily sterilized by the state. You can read about the shameful history of my adopted state in that area here. Virgina was still doing forced sterilizations as late as 1979.

And look what the Chinese government has done with its power over women's bodies. Forced abortions at 9 months! Is that what you want?

If those examples don't give you pause, Grace, you are either far too trusting or far too sure of your own righteousness. Either way, it means I REALLY don't want you (or the people you would vote for) to have charge over my daughter's reproductive system.

Fortunately, my own system is a moot point--but the tubal ligation I joyfully had would be illegal if the Catholic Church had its way. And whose "morality" on abortion should hold sway, anyway? The Catholic Church considers almost all forms of artificial birth control to be abortifacients (no matter how wrong they are on that subject) and would outlaw them if it could.

When is an abortion not an abortion, Grace? Who decides---you or Pope Benedict?

In the end, I believe that abortion is a moral question between a woman and God (or her conscience if she isn't a believer). No matter who or what you think you are protecting, I contend you have no business getting in the middle of that decision.

Because once you decide that your moral sense is the one to be obeyed, why stop at her uterus? Since you know so much better than the woman in question, you should surely determine what she eats, how much she exercises, who she is allowed to have sex with, etc.

After all, it has become your responsibility to "save" her from making immoral choices--so you must take this responsibility seriously, right? Because God is going to hold YOU responsible for her choices, right?

This last point is what I believe drives so much conservative angst about abortion. They seem to believe that God will hold them personally accountable for women's choice to abort.

In one sense, I do believe that God holds us accountable for taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves. I believe we have a responsibility as Christians to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick. I believe that we have a responsibility to fight against prejudice and discrimination against those who are deemed to be "different."

But I do not believe we have a responsibility to insert ourselves in people's most private decisions. If you believe that we do, where does it stop? And what happens to the concept of "free will" when we do?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Closing Doors

Kate is dying today.

I didn't have a chance to know her nearly as well as I wanted to. I didn't meet Kate until near the end of her fight with lung cancer, but I knew right away we would be friends.

She is funny and a bit acerbic. I like that in a friend.

She loves animals. In fact, I have been told that she was largely responsible for the final decision to hire a dear friend of mine as her new rector. She signed on because he enthusiastically supported what, to her, was one of the most important services in the parish--the Blessing of the Animals. She was too sick to attend when he presided over that service this year, but we all felt her presence.

Most of all, I love the way that she and her husband, Peter, love each other. Theirs is the kind of romantic story that gets me every time. They knew each other for 30 years before they finally married. Their lives had touched at various points, but circumstances had never allowed them to be together. They had been married only briefly when Kate was diagnosed, and Peter has taken care of her in a way that shows how much he cherishes her.

The door is closing on Kate's life on this earth today. I grieve for Peter, who has demonstrated what it means to live into "for better or worse...in sickness and in health."

And I grieve for the friendship that never had a chance to blossom. I'm not sure why Kate touched me so deeply, so quickly. But she did, and I am grateful for our very brief acquaintance.

Almighty God, our Father in heaven, before whom live all who die in the Lord: Receive our sister, Kate, into the courts of your heavenly dwelling place. Let her heart and soul now ring out in joy to you, O Lord, the living God, and the God of those who live. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, look with pity upon the sorrows of your servant, Peter, for whom we pray. Remember him, Lord, in mercy; nourish him with patience; comfort him with a sense of your goodness; lift up your countenance upon him; and give him peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wedding Dresses

I cleaned out my closet a few months ago. In it was the dress I wore when I married the father of my children.

The children's father and I eloped. We were married in the Methodist church, with only one friend and the minister in attendance. My dress was lovely--I'd had it for years, even before I married him. Tea-length, they called it. All ecru-colored, watered silk and tiers of lace.

I happily donated it to Goodwill.

But last week, I arrived at the ex's house to pick up the children, and sitting in the driveway---with the pile of suitcases, backpacks, and lunch boxes---was a box. In the box was my wedding dress from my first marriage. The ex has been cleaning out the attic, and he wanted me to take it away.

I have held on to that dress for 20 years. It was gorgeous. The dress every girl dreams about when she imagines her wedding. White and sparkly and very princess-like.

But I have nowhere to store it now. And I wouldn't feel right giving it to my daughter or anyone else. I guess I'm superstitious, but I wouldn't want to wear a dress from a "failed" marriage, would you? It would seem like jinxing yourself from the start...

So I donated it to a local high school theater group yesterday. I figure using it to "play" wedding won't hurt anyone.

But why does it bother me in a way that donating the other to Goodwill did not? Why have I felt pangs of loss over that dress that I still don't feel about the other?

I suppose part of it is that my first husband was the love of my life. I loved him passionately, in a way that---I regret to say---I never felt for the father of my kids. I entered that marriage with so much hope! The sparkles on my dress were only pale reflections of the stars in my eyes.

Giving that dress up means giving up the dream, I suppose. The dream of uncomplicated love. The dream that marriage---for me, at least---is a possibility. I've tried it twice now, and I don't seem to be very good at it.

But maybe there is something hopeful in being able to let go. Maybe, by cleaning out my closets, I am opening the way for new experiences. Experiences that are rooted in reality, not starlight.

And maybe, without my shattered dreams hogging so much room, love and hope will find some space and decide to take up residence.



Doxy on her first wedding day: July 18, 1987.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

My letter to the Bishop...

For the record, I am sick unto death of the Current Unpleasantness in the Anglican Communion. If it weren't for the knowledge that people like Davis Mac-Iyalla need us to continue to fight for the rights of GLBTs in the rest of the world, I'd say "Screw 'em!" and be done with the whole mess.

But I love Davis--and Louie Crew and Susan Russell and Elizabeth Kaeton and Josh Indiana and all those folks who continue to give their lives to preach the Good News to everyone, so I can't quit church and decide that I just don't give a damn anymore.

So I wrote my bishop, Michael Curry, who is usually on the side of the angels on the issue of full inclusion. We do not have an "authorized" rite for SSBs, but I know for a fact that they have been conducted in this diocese. It thus pained me greatly to see that he had not only signed the statement, but had issued what I considered to be a Pollyanna-ish assessment of it on the diocesan website.

I wrote most of this note a week ago, and decided to sit on it. I've learned that my first reaction---although usually guaranteed to elicit some fabulous purple prose---is not always what I really need to say.

But even after sitting on it for that long, I found that I felt just as strongly--if not more so--than I did last week. (I did have to add the line about the dogs and cats...)


************************************
Dear Bishop Curry:

I read your comment on the statement by the House of Bishops at the diocesan website, and this stuck out for me:

In finding common ground, we were able to discover the high ground.

I wish I knew where, or what, that “high ground” is. Your upbeat assessment of the work of the House of Bishops in New Orleans bears little to no resemblance to the reaction I see “on the ground” here.

The pain that the HOB statement has inflicted on gays, lesbians, and those of us who love and value their contributions to the church, is devastating. If you don’t believe me, just ask someone---or check out the progressive Episcopalian voice in the blogosphere.

It was bad enough that the statement privileges institutional “unity” over the lives and souls of the people who serve God in our churches. The worst of it, however, is that it seems to contain a glaring untruth---the HOB statement declares that GLBTs are full members of the Episcopal Church.

But we all know that isn’t true now. How can you be a full member of the church when you are denied its blessings on your faithful, committed relationship? How can you be a full member of the church when your call to the priesthood (or the episcopate) is negated purely because of whom you happen to love?

And how, if you are a GLBT in the Episcopal Church, do you deal with the fact that your bishops call on the secular society to grant you the rights they refuse you in your community of faith?!

While I appreciate that the HOB could not act unilaterally to overturn a decision of General Convention, why not just say that? And why go even further than GC did and declare that B033 applies only to noncelibate gays and lesbians? Why single them out? As you must surely have known even before their predictable condemnations of the HOB statement, NOTHING you did in New Orleans was going to be enough to satisfy Archbishop Akinola and his Calvinist friends. I wish I could understand why you thought it was worth it to sacrifice people like Louie Crew and Susan Russell---people who have dedicated their whole lives to living the love of Christ in the world---to them.

A number of my gay and lesbian friends say they have grown tired of the struggle, and have decided to give up on the Episcopal church. They are weary of taking the fall for the fault lines in the church. Weary of giving and giving---and then being told that they are expendable when a choice has to be made. Weary of being asked to stand “in a crucified place,” (and what a vicious and horrible metaphor that is!!!) until people get over their homophobia. Weary of being forced to carry a cross not of their own choosing—a cross laid upon them by the likes of you and me, who offer no sacrifice in return.

I can’t blame them. There are days I wonder why *I* bother with this church, which wants it both ways---wants the reputation of being inclusive (not to mention the talents and treasure that GLBTs bring to the table), but is not willing to sacrifice anything for “the least of these,” our brothers and sisters in Christ.

What do we have to offer them, Bishop Curry? Except platitudes and more of the same? Where is the Good News for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the statement that you and your fellow bishops are so proud of? Is there any sacrifice that this church is willing to make for them? And why should they stay with us, when we consistently ignore Jesus’ injunction to love them as we love ourselves?

Now the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council has issued a report saying that they understand your statement to mean that you will not allow any kind of blessing on same-sex unions. Is that what you intended? And what will you say to my GLBT friends this weekend, when they want to know why you can bless their dogs and cats, but not their lifelong, committed relationships?

As always, I will continue to pray for you and for the church. But I cannot agree that “This is a significant accomplishment, a positive step, and a hopeful sign.” There is weeping in Jerusalem for those who have the ears, and the heart, to hear it.

Sincerely,
Doxy

************************************

To borrow a line from my friend Father Jake, "Pray for Bishop Curry. Pray for the church."

Monday, October 01, 2007

Let not your heart be troubled...

It's been two weeks since I posted anything, and I am trying not to feel guilty about breaking my promise to myself to post at least once a week.

I feel guilty a lot. I don't know how closely that is tied to being female. Most men I know don't seem to struggle with guilt the way women do. At the risk of overgeneralizing, men seem much better able to forgive themselves for their failures than women do.

Actually, men seem to be much less likely to brand their mistakes, misjudgments, and mishaps as "failures" to begin with. There might be a lesson in that...

But for every woman I know, guilt is a daily fact of life. Parenting seems to ratchet up the feelings of guilt exponentially. I learned early on that the one, sure thing that all mothers have in common is that we feel guilty.

Doesn't matter if we work outside the home for money, stay at home full-time, or something in between. Doesn't matter if we are married, single, or in-between. We never feel that we have done enough or given enough. Many of us feel responsible for the health and happiness of all those we love, and we simply cannot fulfill that responsibility.

It is arrogance, of a sort, of course. It is arrogance to think that we have the power to make other people happy...especially to make them happy all the time. Certainly, as parents, or as partners, we have responsibilities to our children and our spouses/loves. We owe them care and commitment, fidelity to the relationship, and our best efforts at love. But we do not owe them a pain-free life. That is not within our power to give, anyway.

I was reminded recently of my inability to do the impossible. I had taken on way too much, at a time when my emotional and physical reserves were low. Shortly after I wrote the last post, I nearly put myself in the hospital because of stress. If you've ever had a panic/anxiety attack, you will understand where I was. If not, be sure to thank the good Lord that you've never experienced it.

I was working on the biggest project of my career. There were some serious communication breaks---and it didn't help that my client is in Africa, in a time zone 7 hours ahead of mine. On the day that was the worst, I received a message that I took to mean "You're fired!" On top of all the legal wrangling over my divorce, that was just about the last straw. I could barely breathe, my chest felt so tight. And I hadn't gotten more than 4 hours of sleep for days running, so I was totally exhausted.

But in the midst of all the mental and physical turmoil, I suddenly felt this calm descend on me. And I heard this voice inside my head saying "Let not your heart be troubled." It wasn't a big, dramatic thing--like the time I heard God telling me not to kill myself. It was more a whisper than a shout.

But all of a sudden, it felt as if the panic and the stress just...vanished.

Later that day, I got a call from my attorney saying that my ex had agreed to settle and to pay me back for the cost of filing the lawsuit.

And the following day, I got the message that I hadn't been fired after all. That it had all been a mistake.

The stress came back in a big way after that, of course, because of the tight deadline and the massive size of the project, but the paycheck will come in handy. We finally put it to bed on Friday, and I'm still struggling to dig out from under all the other stuff that didn't get done while I was focused on it---like cleaning the house, and doing laundry, and spending time with my kids.

As I move into this new week, I am trying to hold on that gentle admonition to have a peaceful heart. To remember that I simply cannot do it all, and that it is folly to try. That I should strive to do my best in all things, and then give the burden of my unmet expectations for myself to God---who is really the only one big enough to handle it, given my over-sized ego.

Wish me luck.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Triumph of Hope over Common Sense & Experience

MadPriest has been raising all sorts of provocative issues on his blog today. PJ has been brave enough to take up the abortion issue in response...but I'm going to go her one better:

Marriage---What is it good for?

I read Grandmere Mimi's beautiful post about her 46th anniversary and it made me teary. That's what I wanted for myself. That's what everyone wants when they march down that aisle, I think.

But how many people really achieve it?

My friend Susie says that she believes it is mostly a matter of luck that you find a person with whom you can grow old---a person with whom you can learn, change, and grow without losing your own identity. I think she is right. I think luck has more to do with a happy marriage than any amount of hard work or commitment.

I have not been very lucky---or maybe I just wanted too much. Because, really, I wanted it all. Love. Friendship. Passion. Connection on all levels---spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual. Call me crazy...

It seems to me that only those with an unquenchable optimism can make a case for the institution of marriage--and yet, everywhere I turn, people keep getting married. Why?

If you are married, are you really happy? (And define "happy," please.) Do you see your spouse as your lover, best friend, soul mate---or more as a partner in the "family business"?

Is your marriage what you thought it would be when you made the commitment? And would you do it over again?

How much of your support for marriage is based on the legal and financial protections it gives you? (Right now, I'm not feeling too sanguine about those, but we'll leave that for another day...)

Most important---what do you tell your children about marriage in this day and age? What can I possibly say to my two beloved children about the "joys" of marriage?

I believe in love. I believe in commitment. But I don't much believe in marriage as an institution. (As a friend of mine says: "I support the institution of marriage, but I do not care to be institutionalized.")

I realize this stacks the decks against my GLBT friends, since, for the most part, they don't have the option of "institutionalizing" themselves. So tell me why you want to get married. (Leaving aside all the legal protections...that's a given.)

I will be allowing anonymous comments to this post. You can be as honest as you feel moved to be.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wild and precious life...

I have long been a fan of the poet Mary Oliver. It was her poems, West Wind #2 and The Journey, that ultimately gave the me the courage to leave my marriage.

(Anyone who says that poetry is boring has never been to the edge of madness and been pulled back from the brink by the "best words in the best order.")

This morning, I received (as I do each day) my e-mail from Writer's Almanac. It was another Mary Oliver poem:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I know that my blogfriend LJ named her own blog after this poem. And it speaks to me as well.

So much of my life has been lived according to other people's rules and expectations. I have done all the "right" things---college, grad school, career, marriage, motherhood. Climbing the ladder of social and financial success. Ticking off accomplishments on my To Do list.

But my wild and precious life has been largely ignored or forgotten, except in my relationship with God. It is in that relationship that I have felt precious and cherished. Despite my many sins and failures, I have known--do know--the unchanging, unfathomable, love of the One who created me.

In the midst of the Current Unpleasantness, I do not want to forget that I have only one wild and precious life. That I owe it to God, to myself, and to those who love me, to live it with all the passion and joy I can muster. That I have the power to choose happiness, even in the midst of trouble.

I taught a combined 1st and 2nd grade Sunday School class this past week, and we talked about the story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. We discussed Joshua's challenge to the people of Israel: "Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

I believe that challenge is ever before each of us. Whom (or what) will we serve? Will we focus on the anger, fear, and sorrow in our lives, to the exclusion of joy? Will we get so caught up in the day-to-day grind that we forget how to be "idle and blessed"?

Will we miss the forest for the leaves?

I will not. I will take the one wild and precious life that my God has granted me, and I will drink it to the lees. I will laugh and sing and pray and cry, and I will not allow my heart to be hardened.

Because everything dies at last, and when I do, I have decided that my tombstone will read:

She lived her wild and precious life!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ora pro nobis peccatoribus...

We are going to court. I signed the papers this morning. I handed over a credit card to make a large downpayment that, from a financial standpoint, I cannot really afford.

But I have realized it is a downpayment on my self-respect. I have signaled that I will not be browbeaten anymore. In that sense, it is an investment. I hope I have invested wisely, and without malice.

But whatever my reasons, for good or for ill, I have called his bluff. May God have mercy on us all.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I want to write something beautiful...

I want to write something that will move you to tears.

I want to write something that will make you angry enough to move out of your comfort zone and do something.

I want to write something that will make you experience the love of God in your life.

I want to write something that will change the world. Even if it's only one heart at a time.

But the well is dry.

I'm covered over in work, which is a good thing, if exhausting. Things on the homefront are awful---I was told we had settled, but my ex apparently feels like I haven't given enough ground yet, and is demanding more. I'm afraid we are headed to court.

I want to write a new life and fall headlong into it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

On a Happier Note...

I love him even if he *did* chew one of the corners off my New Zealand Book of Common Prayer this morning...




Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dark Days

My ex and I are trying to come to agreement on the division of assets. I put this off until the very end because I knew it would be difficult for him---but by allowing him to go for well over a year without addressing the issue, I apparently gave him the idea that the division would never happen.

Without going into details, I will note that I have asked for much less than I am entitled to under the law---I am not trying to "take him to the cleaners." (And we have full joint custody of the kids, so there is also no threat of "taking the children away.") But money has always been an issue in our relationship---and his attitude now is that I left and therefore I deserve nothing. So far, his attorney seems to have been unable to disabuse him of this notion.

Things have gotten very ugly, and I am increasingly worried about his state of mind...and, to some, very small, paranoid extent, about my own safety. From the flow of overwrought, hateful e-mails I am receiving from him, I am beginning to understand how a generally mild-mannered person begins to fixate on something, blows it all out of proportion, and then snaps.

For years, I asked for some show of emotion from him---love, affection, some sign that I was valued and cherished. I am now receiving the only true emotion I've ever felt from him, and it is anger and hatred. I cannot even begin to describe how exhausting and demoralizing that is.

But---as hard as all of this is---at least it underscores for me that leaving was my only option if I was ever to find any joy or happiness this side of the Eschaton. What is happening now is intense, but it is different from my life before only in the explicitness of his contempt and disdain for me. Before, he used those things subtly to make me feel stupid and worthless---now all the gloves are off.

I ask your prayers for all of us. That we can come to some equitable agreement. That he and I can reach a point where we can work together for the good of our children. That we can find some kindness, and mercy, and grace in this agonizingly difficult time. That the Holy Spirit will pour some peace into his heart and mind.

That we can finish this before I lose both....

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Life Everlasting?

How long do you want to live?

Eileen's post today inspired me to ask the question. Believe it or not, that question is a frequent topic of discussion for me and one of my walking buddies. We often meet at 6:00 a.m. (or even earlier, depending on the time of year) to do a 4-mile loop around my old neighborhood. We talk about a lot of stuff on those walks...

My friend and I both recoil in horror at the idea of living to be 90 or 100. I guess we've both seen too many relatives reach the point where they are breathing, rather than living.

It's easy, of course, to make declarations in a vacuum---when the choices you think you'd make are all abstract and don't really affect your life. But, at this point, I think that I would probably refuse major medical treatment after 70 or so. I'd do pain alleviation or minor things that would make me comfortable, but heart surgery? Treatment for breast cancer? I'm just not sure I would.

I'm not afraid of dying. In fact, I am much less afraid of dying than I am of suffering or reaching a point where I am dependent on others for all my needs.

I know this is a form of pride---and pride is a sin. I tell myself that a lot. But I have a gut-level, negative reaction to the idea that breathing/existing is to be gripped with both hands, no matter what the cost.

I certainly would never impose my views on anyone else---most particularly not on any relative or other person in my care. But I don't want to live forever.

I'm too interested to see what comes next to want to remain trapped here in a body that exists but cannot live a life that feels meaningful to me.

What do YOU say?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Monday Morning Blues

I've had a wonderful weekend with friends and my children. The birthday celebrations continued, and I can honestly say that this has been the best Birthday Season in memory.

Jasper has been a peach too--not a single accident this entire weekend...though by saying that I have probably called the Karma Fairy down on me and will be cleaning carpets for days as penance for my premature celebration.

Apparently the price to be paid for all this happiness, however, is my annual physical this morning. Meaning no caffeine until after I get all my bloodwork done at 10:00 a.m.

I'm already grumpy just thinking about it.

I'm sure that it didn't help that I've been reading idiotic comments on a few blogs (like Episcopal Majority) from people who are still yammering on about how we progressives don't believe in scripture or tradition, and how we just really want to redefine sin as holy and force everyone else to do the same.

If I really wanted to redefine the faith, I'd start by getting rid of that bit about loving your enemies...it's easy to love a lot of the 'mos (as KJ likes to call them) because they are funny and have excellent taste in almost everything. Not so easy to love those grim, dour Calvinists who are determined to find a heretic behind every "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!" sign.

On a different note---Things are going to be intense in the Doxy household for the next couple of weeks. One very difficult thing, lots and lots of work, and, I hope, some happy things as well. For those reasons, I may not post much for the next little while.

Then again, I may post instead of doing all that stuff, since I am the Procrastination Queen and my Muse never seems to be the least bit interested in me until I am so in the weeds that I'm not sure which way is up...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Truer words were never spoken...

I nicked this from Eileen...and it made me laugh and laugh...




You're South Africa!

After almost endless suffering, you've finally freed yourself from the oppression that somehow held you back.

Now your diamond in the rough is shining through, and the world can accept you for who you really are. You were trying to show who you were to the world, but they weren't interested in helping you become that until it was almost too late.

Suddenly you're a very hopeful person, even if you still have some troubles.

Take the Country Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Doxy's Big Day

Today is my birthday. I am 44 years old today---healthy, happy, and relatively sane---and pleased to be here to admit it.

Today I will visit my former, much-loved, parish in Washington, DC. A dear friend of mine, who now serves the U.S. Government in Africa, will be home on leave and will be preaching.

(The Holy Spirit is always giving me this kind of wonderful birthday present. Four years ago today, +Gene Robinson received the necessary consents for his elevation to the episcopacy.)

The kids and I will then attend a performance of The Phantom of the Opera at the Kennedy Center, followed by dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant with a bevy of friends---including my ex-husband (the gay one) and *his* husband, and my wonderful boss. Then we travel to the beach for a few days of R&R. I’m lucky to be able to do all of this. (This is the good part about being a contractor…)

I know a lot of people who hate their birthdays, or at least pretend they do, but I am not among them. I love, love, LOVE my birthday! Since I was a teenager, it has been the family joke that the 4th of July constitutes the Opening Ceremony for Doxy’s birthday, and Labor Day is the Closing Ceremony.

In truth, I have a Birthday Season, rather than just one day. I joke that this is because I’m a Leo and we are all about people making a fuss over us. As often, and as grandly as possible.

But my love for my birthday is also about the fact---cliché though it may be---that every day is a precious gift, and this day is a reminder to be grateful for that.

I learned that lesson, as most people do, the hard way.

In 1997, I lost my beloved stepfather, Larry, to cancer. He was a salt-of-the-earth Mississippi boy---a yellow-dog Democrat who was so very eager to be a grandfather to my son. He was the first man who ever loved my mother the way she wanted and needed to be loved. Losing him was a dreadful blow to all of us. I still miss him terribly.

Larry died a week to the day after his 54th birthday. Since then, I have always said that every birthday spent above ground is a good one.

But I confess that---despite my oft-professed love for the 5th of August---for a long time, that motto sounded good, but it did not accurately reflect my feelings about my life. There were a number of birthdays where I felt that my best years were far behind me, and I mourned the passing---and the ravages---of time. I wrote about that here.

But, in the last year or so, everything in my life has changed. When I wrote that essay, “Eye of the Beholder,” I was thinking about how other people saw me. Now *I* am the beholder, and what I behold when I look at myself is precious and wonderful. Despite the crows’ feet and stretch marks. Despite the effects of gravity.

Because what I see now is a woman who has rediscovered what it means to be happy.

I am grateful for my life now. For my beautiful children, my friends (both “real” and “Invisible”), and my health. For love and laughter, poetry and music, lilies and hot tea in the mornings. For work I love and that I believe makes a difference in the world. For the grace of God that I experience in Morning Prayer, in the Eucharist, and in the faces of those who embody Christ for me. And---at long last--- for new beginnings and blessed hope for the future.

Oh, and for Jasper. Mustn’t forget the Furry One who has already brought so much joy into my life!


Sure, there are still things that frighten and worry me. There are the difficulties with my ex, with the job situation, and with being a single mom. I’m no Pollyanna.

But today is a day to celebrate. I am alive and will be surrounded by people I love. There are others I love, far away, who will also be with me in spirit…praying for me, as I do for them.

I wrap myself in all that love, and I am blessed.

I am 44 today. This is the first day of the rest of my life. Thanks be to God!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Doxy's Real (Somewhat Scary) Life

I've been a bit scarce this week because I had to reapply for my job yesterday. This involved writing pages and pages outlining all my professional accomplishments and offering passionate explanations about why I am the best---nay, the only---person for this job.

My proposal will go to an independent review team---the members of which do not know me or give a rat's patootie about the fact that I'm a single mother with two kids, a car loan, and a new puppy. I have no idea how many others will apply---it's a Federal contract, which means it has to be put up for bid every year.

My bosses seem to love me, but the review team doesn't work for them. All they do is take the proposals they receive, rate them according to a rubric they have been given, and try to decide who can do a reasonable job the cheapest. I can't blame them for this, although "low bid" is rarely synonymous with "good value" in my experience...

My ex is still unemployed. Although it appears that he has decided to try the consulting route (we aren't talking much these days...), as far as I know, I am the only person in the family with a "real" job at the moment.

My contracts are up at the end of August. As you can imagine, this is nerve-wracking.

I am bold enough to ask for your prayers on this one. I adore my job, love my bosses and coworkers, and feel privileged to get up and go to work every day.

But, in the words of Maggie from Chorus Line:

I really need this job
Please, God, I need this job!
I've got to get this job!


This is the life of the self-employed writer. Feast or famine. I've been doing this for nearly 12 years now, so I know the drill.

It's just the first time it's mattered so damned much.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Enough is Enough

Note: Profanity follows. Sue me. I’m in a snit. And, clearly, this entry refers to heterosexual relationships. I’d be interested to hear from our GLBT contingent on who gets the blame in their relationships.---Doxy

When a marriage goes sour, whose fault is it?

In addition to my own story, a number of my blog pals are in unhappy domestic situations at the moment. Based on some blog comments I’ve seen lately, the disintegration of a marriage appears to be—as usual—all the fault of the woman involved. The thing that shocks me is that so many of those comments appear to be coming from feminist women!

Among the comments I’ve read, one concluded that our relationship with our intimate partners is a reflection of our relationship with God. Presumably that means that—if our marriages are rocky—our relationship with God must be rocky as well.

I am tempted to ask, however, in which direction that causal arrow points? And if our spouses abuse us, does that mean that God is an abusive bastard (since, after all, our intimate relationships reflect our relationship with God)? Or does it mean that we deserve what we get in our intimate relationships, because…after all…God is God and can do whatever/demand whatever He wants and we are required to comply?

I’ve also read that every marriage has rocky periods, and it is our job to pray our way through them. While I agree that all marriages have ups and downs and that prayer is an important part of addressing those difficult times, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone mention the responsibility of our partners to do the same. What do you do when your partner doesn’t pray? And what do you do when your prayers about your relationship seem to come back marked “Return to Sender”?

And just how many years of rocks are we supposed to endure before we finally conclude that the “period” has become permanent? Does “til death do us part” mean that you have to spend years—or decades—in abject misery? Do you get an extra star in your crown in heaven for the amount of suffering and misery you’ve endured in your intimate relationships?

If so, I think Christianity may be the wrong religion for me.

***********************************

Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that I’m personalizing general comments to my own situation. My sputtered “But! But! But!” is probably little more than rationalization of my own choices.

BUT.

I’m sick and tired of women being responsible for every-fucking-thing in the world—especially where relationships are concerned. If things aren’t hunky-dory, we are expected to fix them ourselves, or learn to live with the relationship as-is.

Why do we---and I mean women, men, feminists, etc.---let men off the hook for making the relationship work? When did the hard emotional work of committed relationships become the exclusive responsibility of those of us with vaginas?

Too often, I hear “Men are not brought up to talk about their feelings.” “Men are hardwired to want to act, not emote.” “They just can’t help themselves, bless their little hearts.”

I call “Bullshit!”

***********************************

There’s an old saying: “Every dog has his day.” Someone recently added “…even the bitches.” Well, this “bitch” (and you can take that any way you like…) has had enough of the sexist thinking about relationships. I’m turning the tables on you guys. It’s up to YOU to make US happy, for a change. Two million years of making it our responsibility to keep you happy is enough.

Men---listen up. Different women want different things, of course. But I feel pretty confident in saying that most women want to be cherished. We want to know that you think we hung the moon and stars. We want to know you think we are beautiful and sexy---even with the crows’ feet and baby-weight-that-never-disappeared and stretch marks. We want to know that you find us intelligent and scintillating company, despite the fact that we have just read Goodnight Moon for the umpty-millionth time, instead of Dostoyevsky or even the latest Oprah pick.

We do not want all our shortcomings catalogued when you are angry about something. We do not want to be yelled at, condescended to, or patronized. We do not want to be compared to other women (especially your mother) and found wanting. We do not want to be lectured about the way we handle money, or parent our children, or keep the house (and just what have YOU done lately to help out?).

We simply want to be loved, valued, and appreciated---in ways that are meaningful to us, not ways you think should be meaningful. Try asking us what makes us feel cherished.

And then, Just Do It.

No matter whether you think what we want is silly or unreasonable (within limits, of course). Do it because you love us and want us to know that you listened.

The marriage you save may be your own.

******************************************

As for the rest of you….if you don’t live in someone else’s marriage, may I bluntly suggest that you keep your moralizing about relationships to yourself? You aren’t the one paying the price, and---no matter how much you think you know---you probably only know a very small piece of the story.

I say this in Christian love, of course.

Offer to pray. Let the person in question vent. Be a shoulder to cry on. And please remember, because this is important---Listening does not make you complicit in anyone else’s decisions.

**********************************************

By now, you are probably wishing I had kept to blogging about Jasper. But he said to tell you that he agrees wholeheartedly with me---and that he’ll bite you if you give me too much grief.

And I have to tell you...sometimes a good rant does make you feel better...

Monday, July 23, 2007

The End of Vacation

Jasper has arrived!

He is so cute he is almost toxic. I am in danger of becoming diabetic from a sweetness overload. (I will post a picture when I get one that isn't just a black ball of fur. Anyone with suggestions on ways to take good photos of black dogs with dark eyes will earn my undying gratitude...)

He must be walked frequently. As in, just about every hour of the day, and every three hours at night. He has only been with us one night and I'm already exhausted. (That might also have something to do with the fact that I had to spend over 20 hours in the car in one weekend in order to pick him up. I think I'll do a better job of planning next time!)

But my kids are in heaven, and so am I. Housebreaking will be done before I know it, and I will have an incredibly sweet and loyal companion for years to come.

And now that vacation is over, it is time to get back to blogging on a regular basis. My goal is to start posting something non-dog-related at least once a week. I need to do this for myself, whether anyone else reads it or not.

Jasper is snoring at my feet---but not for long, I'm afraid. The vacation is over---but my new life is beginning.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More Cuteness

Here is the picture of Jasper at his evaluation last week---the one that determined forever that he will not be a show dog. I hope he doesn't mind---I suspect he will find life with our family to be plenty fun and adventurous even without the thrills of the show ring.



I don't much care for beer bellies on men, but on a puppy, it's just too darned cute.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Small Black Dog

I decided I needed a small black dog that would bring some joy into my life.

This is Jasper. He is coming to live with us very soon.



Jasper won't actually be all that small. He is a Portuguese Water Dog, which means he will end up being 55-60 lbs. when he is full-grown.

Which still makes him smaller---not to mention cuter and arguably much more manageable---than a husband... ;-)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Take the Test. Take Control. Take a Vacation.

You think HIV is old news, right?

Since we have drugs, and HIV is no longer the death sentence it was in the early 1980s (at least in the developed world), we don’t have to worry about it, right?
  • Tell that to the 40,000+ Americans who will contract HIV this year.

  • Tell that to the 1 million+ Americans who are living with HIV.

  • In particular, tell it to the 25% of that latter group who have no idea they are HIV-infected---and who therefore put every one of their sexual partners (and their sexual partners, etc.) at risk out of ignorance.

**********************************************

I’ve been writing about HIV professionally for seven years now. The numbers haven’t come down in that time, despite our best efforts. And all the data I’m seeing now indicate that the numbers are going up. The prevalence rates for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in major metropolitan areas are rising dramatically.

STIs are harbingers of HIV/AIDS. They serve almost as a public address system---“This person is engaging in unsafe sexual practices!” They also make people more susceptible to HIV infection.

Mark my words, HIV is going to be news again. The question is: Will anyone pay attention?

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Wednesday, June 27th, marks the 15th annual observance of National HIV Testing Day---a day devoted to encouraging voluntary HIV testing. Prevention is the best defense against HIV, of course---but until we can find a cure and/or a vaccine for HIV (still a long-shot), testing is our next-best option to defeat it.

The motto for the day is Take the Test. Take Control. People who know they are HIV-infected can take precautions to avoid transmitting the virus to their partners. People who know they are HIV-infected can get the medical care and other support they need to remain healthy longer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommend that, in all healthcare settings:

  • Americans between the ages of 13-64 be tested for HIV as a routine part of medical care.

  • HIV testing be done on an opt-out basis, so that people will be routinely tested unless they explicitly declare that they do not want the test.

  • All pregnant women be tested for HIV, and women in areas with high rates of HIV be retested in the third trimester.

  • People at high risk for HIV be tested at least once a year—and more often if their risk factors indicate a need. High-risk individuals are those who:

    • Have shared injection drug needles and syringes or "works"

    • Have had sex without a condom with an HIV-positive partner

    • Have had a sexually transmitted disease, like chlamydia or gonorrhea

    • Had a blood transfusion or received a blood clotting factor between 1978-1985

    • Have had sex with someone who has done any of those things

That means each and every one of you reading this blog (since I doubt seriously that I have any readers under the age of 13) should be taking an HIV test this week---or at least at your next physical exam.

Don’t tell me that you aren’t at risk. If you have ever had sex with another person, you are at risk. Period. Ditto if you’ve ever shot up.

It is true that your risk may be miniscule. But by taking an HIV test, especially when your risk is negligible, you lessen the stigma of taking the test for those whose risk is NOT negligible.

Stigma is our biggest challenge to stopping the spread of HIV. People don’t take the test because they fear getting a bad result. They don’t take the test because they fear that people will make assumptions about them---that if they need an HIV test, they must be doing something “nasty” (I actually heard an elected official use that term recently).

When HIV tests become as routine a part of a medical exam as a blood count, or a urinalysis, we will have gone a long way toward defeating the virus.

You can do something about the stigma, if you dare. You can help us stop the spread of HIV simply by being willing to ask your doctor for an HIV test if s/he doesn’t offer you one at your next medical visit. (And if your doctor does offer you a test, be sure to comment on how happy you are that s/he is offering the best standard of medical care!)

If your risk truly is negligible, why not? You already know what the answer is going to be. And the new rapid tests involve only an oral swab---no blood required! You can know the results in about 20 minutes.

If you are worried about your doctor wondering what you’ve been up to because you ask for the test---well, now you know how it feels to someone who is genuinely at-risk, and is afraid to admit it.

That person could be your next sexual partner. Or your child’s.

I know we aren’t supposed to use scare tactics to motivate people anymore. But I’m tired of the numbers. Tired of seeing the graphs either flat-line, or beginning to inch inexorably up. On this blog, at least, I’m not above using scare tactics, or just plain old-fashioned guilt.

Which one will it take to get you to be a part of the solution?

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You can find a testing location near you at HIVtest.org. Simply enter your ZIP code and indicate how far you are willing to go for a test, and the search engine will find a site for you.

And if you need more information about HIV/AIDS, please visit AIDS.gov. You can find links there to just about anything you would need to know about the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic. I particularly commend to you the National HIV Testing Day “Webinar” for Bloggers. (And please don't give me grief about the "webinar"---I didn't make it up.)

Next year, I hope to be able to tell you that the numbers are dropping.

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On a personal note...National HIV Testing Day is one of my biggest days of the year, workwise. Now that it has finally arrived, I am officially exhausted, and I have earned a vacation.

I’m going to take a break from blogging (my own and others) and, particularly, from Anglican Communion politics! For the next couple of weeks, I hope to do some writing, some reading, lots of sleeping(!), and reconnecting with family and friends.

I will continue to keep all of my Invisible Friends in my prayers, and I ask that you keep me in yours. When I return, I hope to have some interesting things to share.

Until then, go with God. And take the damned test!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Random Things About Jesus and Me

Okay, I’ve been tagged for two different memes now, and I’m way behind, so I’m going to do this MY way. I’m not posting the rules, because I don’t want to. And I’m not tagging anyone else, because we are an incestuous lot and most of us have already been tapped.

I started out by alternating the memes in a long, long list, but it got confusing fast---so now I’m just going to break them into two groups, but put them in the same post.

I suppose I should put Jesus first:

1. I dig that Jesus doubted that God was really there and that God loved him. “My God, my God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?!” Since we believe that Jesus is God (or one part of the Trinity, anyway), that means God doubted Himself. Makes me feel better about my own lack of self-confidence.

2. I dig that Jesus’ first post-resurrection appearance was to the women who had been faithful to the end. Jesus knows who his friends are---the guys may be great for fishing and drinking, but the women are the ones who will stick with you.

3. I dig that Jesus was wrong about something—and admitted it and changed his mind. (See the story of the Canaanite woman whose daughter was possessed in Matthew 15.) So God doubts Himself, and God can change His mind. Gives me hope.

4. Re: #3--I dig that the only argument Jesus ever lost was to that woman. Did I mention that I am an excellent debater? ;-)

5. I dig that Jesus forgave people who didn’t ask for it and didn’t “deserve” it. Gives me hope that he’ll forgive me---because even though I don’t deserve it, I ask for it. A LOT.

Okay, now we’ll talk about me!

1. I believe in God because of the Hubble telescope and Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D Minor (especially the largo…).

2. I always wear perfume. I am not a girly-girl in any other way, but I love to smell good.

3. I am the only woman I know who had a mid-life crisis and bought a minivan. I am the happiest minivan driver you will ever meet. (And yes, I know, I know—it gets terrible gas mileage…but it holds my entire family and the guinea pigs. With room left over!) But if I won the lottery, you’d see me zipping down the road in a BMW Z4 convertible---I had no idea I was so shallow until I saw that car, but it just takes my breath away.

4. I live almost entirely on meat, cheese, and eggs. I was eating Atkins before anyone ever heard of him. I am carnivorous by nature. My last physical (July 2006) showed that my cholesterol is in the normal range and my ratios are fabulous.

5. I hate shopping. One of the best compliments I have ever received (and it was only yesterday!) was “Doxy, you shop like a man!”—meaning I run in, pick something out, pay for it, and go.

6. I believe in miracles, because I am watching the miracle of my own life unfold in front of my eyes.

7. I cannot abide people who honk their horns to make you hurry up at stop lights. If you do this, stop it. Right now. You gain what? 2 seconds? And all you are going to do when you get there is sit. Chill.

8. Outside of the Bible, C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, has had the greatest single impact on my faith. It made me stop being afraid of hell---no small accomplishment for this former fundamentalist.

I thank all of you who tagged me. These are fun---and forcing myself to write them (I initially typed “right them”—Freudian slip!) is helping me overcome my recent mild bout of depression. Merci beaucoup!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Davis, Josh, Doxy, and the Dog

I had really good intentions about blogging Davis Mac-Iyalla's visit to my church. Alas and alack, I have been engaging in a wrestling match with the Small Black Dog.

Apparently, his bigger brother, the Big Black Dog, has decided he has other people to worry---go visit Mary Sue at Order of Santa Ignora and you'll see what I mean. (Mary Sue, if you see this, I tried to leave a comment on your blog but it wouldn't go through. I'm praying for you.)

So I'm getting the best of this one, but it's tired me out.

I do want to say that having Davis and Josh visit us was a real blessing. My fellow parishioners were wowed by both of them.

As you might imagine, Davis is as warm and engaging as any native Southerner---he fit right in from the moment he stepped off the plane. I knew his story of course---but to hear him tell it still brought tears to my eyes.

One of my friends at church called me after the afternoon forum and said "I feel as if I've just heard Frederick Douglass." I did too.

And Josh may be quiet, but when he does speak up, it's like E.F. Hutton ...everybody listens.

I don't think I will ever forget the way Josh wrapped up the forum---which was quite tense, given the presence of a combative Nigerian who had come to upbraid Davis for spreading what he termed "the gospel of gay."

Josh coolly and calmly reminded everyone of why Davis was there---to shed light on the willingness of certain bishops (!) in our worldwide communion to lie, slander, steal, and even expose certain members of their flock to persecution, violence, and possible death while claiming the moral high ground.

If you haven't donated to Davis' fund and you have the funds to do so, please go to Dailyoffice.org and do so. Right. Now.

Trust me---unless there is illness or death in your Circle of Life, there is NOTHING you have to do today that is more important than this. Davis is doing the work of God, at the risk of his own life. The least we can do is open our wallets to support him.

To Davis and Josh, I say "Thank you!" and "Y'all come back soon, now--ya hear?"



(I made the Dog stay outside.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Equations and Delusions

I left academia because I have a very low level of tolerance for nonsense. I adored teaching, loved my students with a passion, and was always energized by the exchange of ideas (and, to tell the truth, the arguments) among people who were passionate about learning and knowledge.

But academia isn’t about those things, really. Teaching is denigrated, publishing is God, and the exchange of ideas is often more about proving the size of your genitalia and burnishing your ego than it is about learning or stretching your mind.

For the last few days, I have been at a conference that focuses on religion and science. There are a lot of scientists here who are happy to tell you that God doesn’t exist (or certainly not in the form that moves and inspires you). And there are a lot of scholars of religion---very few of whom, as far as I can determine, are actually people of faith. They use a lot of big, postmodern words that I can understand because I used to be an academic, but it feels very much to me as if they are speaking Martian and I am having to transliterate everything they say into English.

I am a fish out of water here.

I am an educated person of faith who believes in God---believes in the Incarnation and that the God I worship made this unspeakably beautiful universe. I hold a graduate degree in a social science, and I know the rules of scientific inquiry---by any rational measure, I should not believe those things.

I sit through the presentations, look at the MRIs that show brain activity of those in religious states, try to decipher the mathematics (poorly, I might add). And I am not moved.

My faith is not challenged by what I have heard here. I can appreciate what they are trying to do---to separate what we can know about the cosmos, and our place in it, from tribal superstition and blatant religious delusion.

But they cannot reach me, because my experience of God is personal, interior, and unique to me. They will never find it in a lab. And no matter how much they want to convince me that what I “know” to be true is a delusion, they have failed.

Because I feel God everywhere. See Her in the flowers that bloom so profligately on this university campus. Hear Him in the music I experienced at the beautiful Anglo-Catholic church I attended on Sunday with one of my blogging friends. Find Her in the Hubble telescope photos, and the impossible-to-decipher equations, and the MRIs.

What I feel, and see, and hear, and find may be no more than a trick of my brain---some leftover evolutionary artifact that exists because there was a biological advantage to a belief in the transcendent.

But---at the end of the day---the scientific explanations of religious experience do not reach my heart and my soul. Only music, and beauty, and wonder, and love can do that.

I wish them well in their endeavors. I hope they find the elusive Explanation for Everything that they seek. An explanation that will not have the messy implications of love, sin, death, sacrifice, mercy, evil, grace, and meaning that I find in the transcendent being that I call God.

But I do not envy them, in their world devoid of mystery and miracles. They look down on religion because they cannot load it into an equation, and because it is the cause of so much pain and strife in the world---and they are right to be skeptical.

But they eat frantically from the tree of knowledge, despite the fact that it seems to bring them no peace or joy. As far as I can see, the only thing their expenditure of effort brings them is the pressure to publish the next article, so that the five people in the world who understand what they write can cut it to ribbons. I tried that life once, and found it wanting. I find it no more attractive now.

I am delusional. I believe in God and mystery and miracles. No scientific experiment will ever prove that I am “right.” Whether I experience evolutionary artifact or Ultimate Truth, I cannot say---but tomorrow I will go home to my children, and my community of faith...to my music, and my work, and my beautiful life. And there I will find what I did not find here. A reason for living, a sense of gratitude for my place in the world, the inspiration to be better and do better, and hope for the future.

Maybe I did learn something after all...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Just Love...

I say this unequivocally. Love is hard.

You wouldn’t think so, given the way loving is denigrated by so many conservative Christians. I am frequently taken to task by conservatives, who accuse me of ignoring the God of Judgment in favor of the God of Love. Their beef with me seems to stem from their view that loving is easy, but the sacrifice required to give God what He wants (and it’s almost always HE) is difficult.

What I take from their arguments is this: Any idiot can love. Only a holy person can sacrifice.

Which makes me wonder if they’ve ever loved anyone in their lives.

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The threads of love run throughout the Old Testament, but they can be hard to find---buried as they are in God’s whining about the faithlessness of His people and His commands to utterly destroy the enemies of The One True Faith. Love often seems to take a backseat to the smitings and bashing of infants’ heads on stones.

But there are tender moments. God, the Divine Tailor, sewing clothes for Adam and Eve, even as He prepares to kick them out of Eden for their transgressions. God, the sheepish, regretting the burst of temper that drove Him to destroy the world by flood, and promising never to do it again. God, the merciful giver of life, hearing the desperate pleas of Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah and sending them the longed-for sons.

And then comes Jesus. Little baby Jesus. Tiny and defenseless. Surely dear, and funny, and beloved, as most children are.

This is no God of Judgment. This is a God who comes to earth as a baby! Babies don’t know from judgment, but they know everything about pure desire---and the soothing power of love.

If God had wanted to emphasize His role as Holy Judge, why would He have come as an infant? Why not come as the Lord of Hosts, Holy and Mighty? Why come as a mewling, needy creature who spends its first couple of years crapping in a diaper and unable to communicate except by crying? Because I have to tell you, that doesn’t do much for your image as a Scary Guy with Thunderbolts...

No…this is a God who dares to be vulnerable---wrapping the awesome power of the Most Holy in a fragile human skin. Coming to earth to experience pain, loss, suffering---and love.

Which do you think was harder for God? To smite the Canaanites, or to come and dwell among us, in all our vulnerability?

And which thing will save us in the end? The fear of smiting, or the call of relationship?

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Conservatives in the church think that if you talk about love, you open the door to license. They seem desperately afraid that people will run wild in the streets if they are not terrified by the thought of the God of Judgment, waiting to zap them for their sins.

I think Jesus saw the problem with this view of God. It is hard to love---really love---someone of whom you are afraid. And I suspect this is one of the reasons that God came to earth in human form---He was getting a bad rap as the basher of infants’ heads against the rocks.

Everything in the Bible points us to this truth---God wants to be loved. Not just worshiped in fear and awe, but loved---as the focus of our deepest desires, affections, and longing.

That is not to say that there is no aspect of judgment in God’s relationship with us. How could a God of perfection overlook our transgressions? I believe that God is deeply grieved when we do things to hurt one another or ourselves. If God is a God of love---and I believe this with all my heart---it is inconceivable that God would be able to ignore all the terrible things we do to ourselves and to one another.

I suspect that God weeps quite frequently. Jesus taught Him how to do it, you see (remember Lazarus?)---and if you, like I, know the power of tears...the clear, cathartic power of weeping...how can you doubt that God weeps for our sins? Do you not weep for your children when they make decisions that hurt them?

But a God who weeps for our sins is very different than a God who smites us for them.

If we believe that God came in the human form of Jesus, we must at least consider the fact that God now understands why we do the awful things we sometimes do. If Jesus was tempted in all the ways in which we are tempted, then we must believe that God “gets” why we stray from the path of righteousness. We must believe that God has empathy---the only characteristic that truly differentiates us from all other living beings---and is prepared to employ that empathy for those He has created.

But that empathy comes with a price for us. “Just love,” He told us, through his son Jesus. “Love me and love each other---forget everything else and just love.”

It sounds so easy---and conservatives apparently think “Surely there must be more to it than that?!”

But God apparently could not have given us a harder commandment. It is easy to express some treacly sentiment about “love” (especially that horrid old chestnut about “love the sinner, hate the sin"), but loving itself is hard work---and it is sometimes (maybe even often) a hard and thankless job.

Loving is not easy because true love makes us vulnerable. And if there is anything that is anathema in our culture, it is being vulnerable. We have a faux culture of vulnerability (see any daytime talk show for verification), but we despise the people who display their weaknesses in public. We watch them to feel superior, not to empathize. There is nothing so pathetic in America as a loser.

And if you love, you will lose. On her blog Dancing Through Doorways, Nina quotes Herbert McCabe, OP: "If you do not love, you will not be alive: if you love effectively, you will be killed."

Jesus was a loser. And he loved so much that he was willing to lay down his life and die for that love.

He was nailed to a fucking cross for love.

So don’t tell me that loving is easy. Love will turn you inside out and upside down. It will delight you, move you, inspire you, transport you---and it will ultimately destroy you.

Love will kill you, if you do it right.

Jesus showed us how to do it. He didn’t call down the armies of Heaven as he hung dying on the cross. Didn’t call for any more smiting or bashing. Didn’t call for the judgment we so richly deserved.

He called for Love. And it was granted.

So, my dear friends, do not make his sacrifice a vain one. “Just love”---no matter what the cost. Believe that God’s judgment comes in the form of tears, rather than thunderbolts. Believe that when Jesus said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” that he meant it---and that God gave His only Son what was requested.

“Just love.” Love God, love others, love yourself. It’s a difficult job---but someone has to do it. Who better than those who claim to follow the Jew from Galilee?