Recognition of pride month (June). Before July arrives, in the midst of so many other national and global events, let us remember and celebrate Pride month.

What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains. — Tennessee Williams

Please remember, especially in these times of group-think and the right-on chorus, that no person is your friend (or kin) who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow and be perceived as fully blossomed as you were intended. – Alice Walker

This year’s theme across the Department of Defense is: “All Together” The fight for respect and dignity in the LGBTQ+ community has been ongoing for decades: From the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969, to today’s social revolution for equality, we have seen what progression looks like. We have seen where we started, and what it has taken for the LGBTQ+ community to gain a foothold in the mountainous climb for rights. Without victimizing our own community, it has been a waiting game that spans over a time period of decades, married with protests, political action, court cases, prevention of violent/non-violent discriminatory acts, and best of all, lives saved. And it has all been made possible by the advocates and activists that were [and are] passionate about doing one thing: elevating pride. — Hills Air Force Base Pride Committee

Closer to Fine (excerpt) — Indigo Girls
I’m tryin’ to tell you somethin’ ’bout my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
And the best thing you’ve ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
It’s only life after all, yeah

Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable
And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety ’til I sank it
I’m crawling on your shores
… I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains

I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
We go to the doctor, we go to the mountains
We look to the children, we drink from the fountain
Yeah, we go to the Bible, we go through the work out
We read up on revival, we stand up for the lookout
There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine, yeah


Some songs to celebrate Pride Month:

Questions to consider:

  • Who has helped you understand LGBTQ experience on a more personal level? Who has humanized this social justice issue for you, if it wasn’t already a human experience with which you are familiar or connected?
  • What view or belief are you glad to have overcome or changed? What learning has helped you the most? What learning do you still need or want to do?
  • What does it mean that all people are created in the image and likeness of God?

Love as a Revolutionary Act: Love of Self, Love for Others, The Right to Love Whom You Choose

Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up, and start to fight. — Harvey Milk

Love, in the New Testament, is not something you feel; it is something you do… Love seeks the well-being of others and is embodied in concrete efforts in their behalf. — Francis Taylor Gench

The beauty of standing up for your rights is others see you standing and stand up as well. — Cassandra Duffy

You never completely have your rights, one person, until you all have your rights. — Marsha P. Johnson
 
All of us who are openly gay are living and writing the history of our movement. We are no more — and no less — heroic than the suffragists and abolitionists of the 19th century; and the labor organizers, Freedom Riders, Stonewall demonstrators, and environmentalists of the 20th century. — Tammy Baldwin

This community has fought and continues to fight a war of acceptance, a war of tolerance and the most relentless bravery. You are the definition of courage, do you know that? — Lady Gaga
 
I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. — Janet Mock
 
Being born gay, black and female is not a revolutionary act. Being proud to be a gay, black female is. — Lena Waithe
 
Our society needs to recognize the unstoppable momentum toward unequivocal civil equality for every gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizen of this country. — Zachary Quinto

Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law. — Boethius

Every single courageous act of coming out chips away at the curse of homophobia. Most importantly it’s destroyed within yourself, and that one act creates the potential for its destruction where it exists in friends, family and society. — Anthony Venn-Brown

Surviving and Thriving

We are powerful because we have survived. — Audre Lorde

Know Thyself! Understand yourself fully and find your peace of mind. Peace comes when you are not trying to copy someone else or be someone else other than you. When you find that stability within yourself, share with others how you got there without selling them something, or trying to fix them. — Rev Yolanda
 
Every gay and lesbian person who has been lucky enough to survive the turmoil of growing up is a survivor. Survivors always have an obligation to those who will face the same challenges. — Bob Paris

I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance, and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, “Me, too.’“ — Jason Collins

I want to make sure that any young person or anyone really who is looking up to me—who sees a glimpse of who I am as a person—that they see no shame, that they see pride, and that I’m truly unabashed about the person that I am. — Samira Wiley

It is better to live one day on this planet being true to yourself than an entire lifetime which is a lie. — Anthony Venn-Brown

Beauty in Diversity

We should indeed keep calm in the face of difference, and live our lives in a state of inclusion and wonder at the diversity of humanity. — George Takei

What I preach is: People fall in love with people, not gender, not looks, not whatever. What I’m in love with exists on almost a spiritual level. — Miley Cyrus

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences. — Audre Lord

When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free. — Former U.S. President, Barack Obama

I was not ladylike, nor was I manly. I was something else altogether. There were so many different ways to be beautiful. — Michael Cunningham

True hospitality is marked by an open response to the dignity of each and every person. Henri Nouwen has described it as receiving the stranger on his own terms, and asserts that it can be offered only by those who ‘have found the center of their lives in their own hearts.’ — Kathleen Norris

A Litany for Survival Audre Lord

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours;

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us

For all of us
this instant and this triumph

We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive.

Beyond Fear & Shame: Embracing & Celebrating

Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start. — Jason Collins

To be afraid is to behave as if the truth were not true. — Bayard Rustin

We deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame, and without compromise. — Ellen Page

I’ve never been interested in being invisible and erased. — Laverne Cox
 
I learned compassion from being discriminated against. Everything bad that’s ever happened to me has taught me compassion. — Ellen DeGeneres
 
I’ve been embraced by a new community. That’s what happens when you’re finally honest about who you are; you find others like you. — Chaz Bono
 
I am a strong, black, lesbian woman. Every single time I say it, I feel so much better. — Brittney Griner
 
We have to do it because we can no longer stay invisible. We have to be visible. We should not be ashamed of who we are. — Sylvia Rivera
 
I’m living by example by continuing on with my career and having a full, rich life, and I am incidentally gay. — Portia de Rossi

All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential. — Harvey Milk
 
I’m a young, bisexual woman, and I’ve spent a large part of my life trying to validate myself — to my friends, to my family, to myself — trying to prove that who I love and how I feel is not a phase. — Halsey
 
You have to go the way your blood beats. If you don’t live the only life you have, you won’t live some other life, you won’t live any life at all. — James Baldwin
  
I am always amazed how powerful that three letter word ‘gay’ can be. Many of us rejected it and wouldn’t even let the word come out of our mouth because of all the negative connotations attached to it…sin…. promiscuity….a ‘lifestyle’ etc etc. We would definitely never ever use it to label ourselves. We didn’t want to own it. When we break free and we use the word with empowerment, ownership and pride…..then we have moved from a world of denial to finally being real. — Anthony Venn-Brown 
 

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself. — Harvey Fierstein
 
I think being gay is a blessing, and it’s something I am thankful for every single day. — Anderson Cooper
 

Learn More: Stonewall as Milestone

When we look back at the Stonewall uprising and activism that grew out of that moment, even the most basic progress seemed like it would take a revolution to achieve. So we had one. And that’s how we’ve made such enormous progress over the last 50 years. Today, we should remain inspired by the courage of the story of Stonewall. — Tammy Baldwin

Stonewall represented, absolutely, the first time that the LGBT community successfully fought back and forged an organized movement and community. — Mark Segal

Faith and Pride

There is God. And then there is the church. The less we conflate the two, the better. The church may reject God’s children, but God never does. To my queer siblings, I’m so sorry. You are glorious. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

The Lord is my Shepherd and he knows I’m gay. — Troy Perry

“God is love,” Christians remind one another. This means that Christians experience love as something alive and living and personal and true. This Love that is God and God that is Love is the creating and healing power within life. This Love that is God is kind and patient and humble and free–never trying to control nor manipulate. Every human being has experienced and knows this capital “L” Love that Christians call God. Christians believe that to receive and share this reality of Love, this God within who live and move and have our being, is the meaning and purpose of life. Why would we stop anyone from experiencing and expressing love? Or to put it another way, why would we stop gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, transgendered–anyone from experiencing, celebrating, and expressing God? — Mark Yaconelli

You can safely assume you have created God in your own image when God hates all the same people you do. — Anne Lamott

Sexuality and gender identity elicit so many strong feelings and even irrational opinions because they touch upon something foundational. If you don’t recognize the sacred at this deep level of identity and desire, I don’t know if you will be able to see it anywhere else. When Christians label LGBTQIA individuals as ‘other,’ sinful, or ‘disordered,’” we hurt these precious people and the larger community, and we actually limit ourselves. Fear of difference creates a very constricted, exclusive, and small religion and life, the very opposite of what God invites us into … Even as we acknowledge the sacredness of gender and sex, we also need to realize that there’s something deeper than our gender, anatomy, or physical passion: our ontological self, who we are forever in Christ. You are beyond the metaphor of male and female; you are a child of the Resurrection, a creature of Eternal Life. As Paul courageously puts it, ‘There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28). Those who have already begun to experience their divine union will usually find it very easy to be compassionate toward all ‘Two Spirit’ people because they know they share the same ontological, essential self that is ‘hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3). Richard Rohr

Meditations on hope and resilience for the first Sunday of Advent

Hope begins in the dark … the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You don’t give up. — Anne Lamott

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope. — Thomas Merton

SONGS about HOPE:

Blessing of Hope — Jan Richardson
So may we know the hope
that is not just for someday
but for this day—here, now,
in this moment that opens to us:
hope not made of wishes
but of substance,
hope made of sinew
and muscle and bone,
hope that has breath
and a beating heart,
hope that will not keep quiet
and be polite,
hope that knows how to holler when it is called for,
hope that knows how to sing when there seems little cause,
hope that raises us
from the dead—
not someday
but this day,
every day,
again and again and again.

Advent 1: The Parable

In a mother’s womb were two babies.  The first baby asked the other:  “Do you believe in life after delivery?”
      The second baby replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery.  Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
      “Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery.  What would that life be?”
      “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here.  Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.”
      The doubting baby laughed. “This is absurd!  Walking is impossible.  And eat with our mouths?  Ridiculous.  The umbilical cord supplies nutrition.  Life after delivery is to be excluded.  The umbilical cord is too short.”
      The second baby held his ground. “I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.”
      The first baby replied, “No one has ever come back from there.  Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety and it takes us nowhere.”
      “Well, I don’t know,” said the twin, “but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us.”
       “Mother?” The first baby guffawed. “You believe in mother?  Where is she now?” 
       The second baby calmly and patiently tried to explain. “She is all around us.  It is in her that we live. Without her there would not be this world.”
       “Hah. I don’t see her, so it’s only logical that she doesn’t exist.”  
        To which the other replied, “Sometimes when you’re in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her.  I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality when it comes….”
 
— Attribution uncertain: According to Wayne Dyer, the original story was told by Henri J. W. Nouwen. Possibly  adapted from the writings of Pablo Molinero. Or penned in 1947 by Orthodox Rabbi Yechiel Michel Tucazinsky. Or from the Hungarian writer Útmutató a Léleknek.

The spiritual task of life is to feed hope. Hope is not something to be found outside of us. It lies in the spiritual life we cultivate within.— Joan Chittister

There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster. ― Dalai Lama XIV
 
Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose. ― Viktor E. Frankl
 
Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality. – Jonas Salk
 

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope. – Maya Angelou

They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for. – Tom Bodett
 
Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A world of optimism and hope. A ‘you can do it’ when things are tough. – Richard M. DeVos

A lot of people have their big dreams and get knocked down and don’t have things go their way. And you never give up hope, and you really just hold on to it. Hard work and perseverance. You just keep getting up and getting up, and then you get that breakthrough.– Robert Kraft

Hope is the dream of a soul awake. — French proverb

Dum spiro, spero: While I breath, I hope. — Latin proverb

The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. — Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

IS HOPE ABOUT NOW or TOMORROW, IS IT a HELP or an OBSTACLE?

Grounded hope has two parts. The “grounded” part refers to a realistic understanding of our lives and ourselves. Instead of painting a smiley face over what has happened, we bravely look at reality head-on. Seeing the situation clearly enables us to work toward recovery.
     We cultivate the “hope” part by building confidence in our ability to shape what happens to us next. We start by asking, “Given what’s happened to me, what am I going to do about it? How can I build a better life on top of it?” Then we set goals for ourselves and find sources of motivation to pursue those goals.
      At some point, most of us will face the task of recovering, rebuilding, and rebounding from adversity. Grounded hope can help us not just bounce back, but bounce forward. — Lee Daniel Kravetz, Option B, https://optionb.org/build-resilience/advice/steps-to-grounded-hope

Hope is important, because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. But that is the most that hope can do for us – to make some hardship lighter. When I think deeply about the nature of hope, I see something tragic. Since we cling to our hope in the future, we do not focus our energies and capabilities on the present moment. We use hope to believe something better will happen in the future, that we will arrive at peace, or the Kingdom of God. Hope becomes a kind of obstacle. If you can refrain from hoping, you can bring yourself entirely into the present moment and discover the joy that is already here…
     Western civilization places so much emphasis on the idea of hope that we sacrifice the present moment. Hope is for the future. It cannot help us discover joy, peace, or enlightenment in the present moment. Many religions are based on the notion of hope, and this teaching about refraining from hope may create a strong reaction. But the shock can bring about something important. I do not mean that you should not have hope, but that hope is not enough. Hope can create an obstacle for you, and if you dwell in the energy of hope, you will not bring yourself back entirely into the present moment. If you re-channel those energies into being aware of what is going on in the present moment, you will be able to make a breakthrough and discover joy and peace right in the present moment, inside of yourself and all around you. — Thich Nhat Hahn, Peace In Every Step

When considered only philosophically, hope, more often than not, seems to be at odds with rational, analytical thinking. But due to its proactive nature, hope in action touches the heart and creates its own validation. A good example of this is found in the philanthropic work of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. In the 2015 Annual Gates Letter he wrote: “Optimism for me isn’t that things will get better; it’s a conviction that we can make things better — that whatever suffering we see, no matter how bad it is we can help people if we don’t lose hope and we don’t look away.” — article from ornishliving.com

Hope is not always comforting or comfortable. Hope asks us to open ourselves to what we do not know, to pray for illumination in this life, to imagine what is beyond our imagining, to bear what seems unbearable. It calls us to keep breathing when beloved lives have left us, to turn toward one another when we might prefer to turn away. Hope draws our eyes and hearts toward a more whole future but propels us also into the present, where Christ waits for us to work with him toward a more whole world now. — Jan Richardson

When God saves people in this life by working through his Spirit to bring them to faith and by leading them to follow Jesus in discipleship, prayer, holiness, hope, and love, such people are designed…to be a sign and foretaste of what God wants to do for the entire cosmos. What’s more, such people are not just to be a sign and foretaste of that ultimate salvation; they are to be part of the means by which God makes this happen both in the present and the future. — NT Wright

Reflections on mountain, wind, fire, quake and silence: themes from 1 Kings.

Holiness, not in the fire, wind or quake, but in the silence that comes after: It is about sweeping in when we are too comfortable and moving us out of those places we cling to when we fear the unknowns and try to avoid the pain and injustice around us.  It is about empowering us to do the things that so many others – and even sometimes our own systems – have told us we cannot do because of our gender, age, or economic situation, our education status, color of skin, or sexual orientation. It is about equipping ALL of us to be prophets by speaking truth, spreading love, and fighting for justice and equality for all of God’s children. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Song: The Climb performed by Miley Cyrus (video link)

Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain
Li Po, Translated by Sam Hamill
The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.

To me a mountain is a buddha. think of the patience, hundreds of thousands of years just sittin there bein perfectly perfectly silent and like praying for all living creatures in that silence and just waitin for us to stop all our frettin and foolin. ― Jack Kerouac

Continue reading “Reflections on mountain, wind, fire, quake and silence: themes from 1 Kings.”

God on the Mountain: Reflections for this week

Acts of God … where God is and where God is not — reflections on natural disasters and the aftermath — mountain, wind, fire, quake and silence: themes from 1 Kings. Where do you find ‘acts of God’ in your life? What evokes the presence of the sacred for you?

Holiness, not in the fire, wind or quake, but in the silence that comes after: It is about sweeping in when we are too comfortable and moving us out of those places we cling to when we fear the unknowns and try to avoid the pain and injustice around us.  It is about empowering us to do the things that so many others – and even sometimes our own systems – have told us we cannot do because of our gender, age, or economic situation, our education status, color of skin, or sexual orientation. It is about equipping ALL of us to be prophets by speaking truth, spreading love, and fighting for justice and equality for all of God’s children. — Nadia Bolz-Weber Continue reading “God on the Mountain: Reflections for this week”

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