Wednesday, November 5, 2014


One of most valuable things about being part of a faith community is also one of the most painful. This year three friends in my church died. Gabe was hovering around 80 he died quickly from pancreatic cancer. Al was 74 when his healthy life ended much too soon after a brief bout with leukemia. Mark was 62 when he died from a heart attack two days after retiring.

We watched with amazement as Gabe died very graciously. He was in church the Sunday before he died. I didn’t know how to talk to him. I couldn’t bring myself to ask with my usual cheerfulness, “How are you doing?” It was painful to watch him. He made me look. Look at death.

It doesn’t seem fair that Al died so young. He did everything healthy—physically, mentally, spiritually, environmentally. He should have lived to 120. But he went so fast. We exchanged our last email the day before he was too tired to even read emails. Two days later he was dead. He had been a mentor of mine. Al was everyone’s mentor.

Mark was in our Thursday night faith group. He shared with us his decision to retire to preserve his health. We were happy with him talking about his last day of work. We were shocked the next day when he died.

Then there is Hershel and Evelyn. Hershel is 99 and Evelyn is 94. Recently my friend Cindy posted photos on Facebook learning to bake pies with Evelyn. I greet them every Sunday at the front door as Evelyn informs me she came over on Saturday and pulled weeds that had been ignored. She points out the step that needs repaired.

Gabe, Al, Mark, Hershel, and Evelyn all make me think about life—and death. They preach to me in ways our pastor can only dream of preaching to make life matter. I mourn them—Hershel and Evelyn I rejoice with—but I value the lessons they teach me about making life matter and what eternal life is really about.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Finding purpose in work

A few years ago our then-associate pastor was prone to post on Facebook about how rewarding her work was… and how much she enjoyed it… and how rewarding it was. I remember vividly reading her posts with envy: all of us can’t work for the church preaching sermons, having conversations with people about their faith, planning weddings, etc. 

So I did what I try to do, which I’m sometimes more successful than at other times: I prayed about it. 

If memory serves me correctly, I prayed a number of times. I was working in a job that didn’t tell me how rewarding it was. We knew how fortunate we were to work in a department that allowed us considerable schedule flexibility but that was it. 

I don’t always expect answers to my prayers. I pray about getting old but I don’t expect to get any younger. But I started seeing my work differently. I was working as a Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement analyst but I started seeing that I was doing more than watching and manipulating numbers and codes. I was improving my hospital’s reimbursement. I was really improving my hospital’s finances so my hospital could extend healthcare in our region. I was helping spread healthcare into further—needed—corners of our region. 
I started loving my job. How could I not?! Sometimes work was crazy whenever my hospital opened a new clinic, extended hours, or offered a service they hadn’t offered before, I knew I had helped expand healthcare in my region.

I actually had mixed feelings when I left that department a year ago… but I had this sense of the Spirit telling learning that valuable lesson about work prepared me for job I have now, working as an enrollment counselor. 

Work can get old. We can lose sight of why it matters what we do. We wonder if others see it—or appreciate it. We’re likely to stay there if we don’t pray about it. And listen. The circumstances don’t need to change as much as I need to change.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

... and I didn't know it

Last Friday I sat down in our hotel room and started writing on a poem while my partner napped. It’s my first poem, if you don’t count the haiku I have been writing for the last couple years or so. The whole poetry thing has been growing in me for quite some time. It has seemed strange to me that poetry would start calling to me as it is something I have always struggled to get. In my college literature class I breezed through fiction and drama but I really had to work at poetry and I still didn’t think I got it.

But it’s been calling to me, to which my bookshelves can testify. Mostly, I’ve dabbled in reading it or about it but I hadn’t attempted to write anything.

Until Friday. So I wrote without much attention to where it was going. I wrote until what was in me to write seemed written and I stopped and moved on to other things.

Saturday we spent the day with the German student we had hosted a couple years back. We went to the Cleveland Museum of Art (consider this a recommendation). Later we drove him and another on his delegation to the airport. Sunday morning we headed home.

Sunday evening, after I had unpacked and started some laundry I looked at the poem again.

O.M.G. The poem had a theme that I hadn’t intended and hadn’t seen before. I didn’t so much write the poem as it wrote itself to me. The experience has been deeply spiritual. I know on some level that poetry is/should be spiritual but it really wasn’t my intent when I started writing.

Like Jacob, God was in this place and I didn’t know it. I’m left with this even stronger sense that the Presence is always with us… if we can find a way to step aside and let it show itself to us. I don’t feel I’m especially good at recognizing God in the moment so I feel very much like Jacob when I look back on my day—or a poem I have written—and surprised to see that God was there and I didn’t know it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A new drive to work

The new job I started last year changed the route I drive to work, with the view of the downtown courthouse dome looming above the trees. Actually, it isn’t the new route at all—I still drive down Walnut before the same left turn on Grimes. Rather, what has changed is haiku.

I’ve been dabbling in haiku for a couple years but the pace has picked up. I see them rolling across the lawn… like dandelion puffs. Well, not our lawn because my partner chemically eliminates them, but other lawns. Maybe I should say, like a leaf rolling across the lawn. Either way, as I have first dabbled, then studied, and taken on a haiku mind, haiku have started happening to me. I don’t so much write them as see them already there, offering themselves to me.

Like the drive to work with the courthouse dome downtown. The haiku call out to me:

two mornings this week
sun flashing off the courthouse
before I turn west

morning’s golden glow
on the courthouse dome downtown
on my drive to work

there above the trees
the browned courthouse dome is perched
the end of summer

But, like I said, it isn’t the drive that has changed at all—but me. There is grace that begs to be noticed on the drive to work. Or in the patient rooms of the hospital where I work. Or the walk to my car after work.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Crazy Thing Called Prayer

I haven't written in forever. I half feel like I should say something like, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."

I was thinking about prayer tonight at my evening prayer—it’s what I call prayer, anyway… for me. Prayer is something I try to start and end each day with. I know many tend to think that’s over kill but I need it. I don’t know if prayer changes things—but it certainly changes me.

For the longest time after coming out of the closet and leaving my fundamentalist Pentecostal life, I didn’t know what to do with prayer—what to make of it. Wasn’t prayer superstitious and mired in a theology that no longer worked for me? If I wasn’t praying asking for things, what was prayer anyway?

But an oblate is expected to pray and I was called to be an oblate—of that I am very sure but I can write about that more later.

Prayer for me is a time of reflection… and introspection. I read a psalm and then either scripture or some spiritual writing. In the morning I do lectio divina with the reading, asking what word or phrase called out to me; what does this word or words mean to me… for me. In the evening I do examen, asking what event from my day calls out to me, where did I see—or miss seeing—from this day?

But in between the psalm and the reading I started including my concerns, and my joys, too—a colleague’s family, my own family, the Interfaith Winter Homeless Shelter where I volunteer, Bread for the World, etc. I don’t make specific requests. I just bring these and others into my time of being intentional in relationship with the Holy. I just bring them. I’m not expecting hocus pocus.

I don’t know what happens with things we bring into prayer with us. I tend to think speaking these names can cause something cosmically to happen that I don’t understand. Here again, it causes something in me.

As I end each evening prayer, One thing I ask for, and this I seek after, that I may dwell in your Presence all the days of my life, to behold your beauty, and to inquire in You. Amen.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I envy a friend of mine who always seems to be at peace. It must be genetic—and unfair: he never heard his father raise his voice. Who can do that?

Some think I pray a lot—I pray because I need it. I often turn to Welcoming Prayer. I’m really good at Steps 1 and 2. From the sound of it, the Psalmists were also very good at Steps 1 and 2: feeling the feeling, and affirming, by god, my right to feel this way!!! Usually multiple exclamation marks are appropriate here.

My peaceful friend’s father who never raised his voice? My mother was a pot-cusser, slamming cabinets, pots, etc. I think I’m a little more peaceful than my mother but sometimes I wonder.

Step 3 I struggle with—woefully: Letting go. Giving up control. Often I forget this step (conveniently?). I may indeed know better. I may indeed have the best motives. But I have to give up control… and it’s easier said than done.

I learned long ago that another friend who always sought out my advice was never actually going to follow said advice. What makes me think people who have not sought my advice are going to do any better? How long will I wander around this mountain of wanting to control?

Sometimes I just can’t make it better. I can only pray for us, loosen my clenched teeth, and let it go.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spiritual Community

I respectfully disagree with a favorite blogger I follow regarding his recent post. Of course, I know that church community is not for everyone… and many church communities in particular are not for everyone. As a gay man, many, MANY churches are not for me.

I’m sure many others can and have said it more eloquently than me—both for and against church. And I’m not even suggesting you must be part of a church. I grew up Pentecostal believing one did have to be part of a church to be saved. I no longer believe in either of those components, the church or being saved. There was outrage in my community a while back about signs stating one could be good without God. I wholeheartedly agree that you can be good without both God and especially church.

Still, being part of a diverse faith community offers so much. You can get by without it but life is so much fuller with it.

I speak as one who was really just planning to come, eat, and go with church. I really wanted to stay anonymous. My church currently has a number of these (who I think are missing out, even as they are part of this faith community).

As a former Pentecostal, I was interested in Bible study kind of stuff so I would come, eat, Bible study, and then go. Maybe give up just a bit of my anonymity. Then along came helping my church become officially open, welcoming and affirming of LGBT people. And a committee here and there. At some point I found myself in the deep end of the pool, so to speak.

I’ll tell you what I don’t like about church: older members I’ve come to love who decline in health. Then die—sometimes suddenly, sometimes a slow and very sad decline. I love college students and young parents with families making their way in the university. I don’t love that they leave just when I thought they would stay here forever, even as I must be happy for them getting tenured positions at other universities. I really love the retired couples who retire to our community and our faith community. But they will be the ones declining in health in a few years.

They all are teaching me something out holding and letting go. Some Sunday mornings I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. And how do I make reconcile both feelings with the Gospel?

Life in a faith community is not easy. I’ve had a falling out with my pastor. I’ve watched things fall apart. I’ve dealt with difficult people (not the pastor). In the midst of all of it, I have been challenged—and called—to live like Jesus. Hug the pastor. Put the pieces back together. Learn to deal with difficult people. Proclaim the Gospel together and be surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad