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Trouble the Waters

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“I didn’t know I was wrong…”
“I meant it in love…”
“I was trying to help…”
“I firmly believed…”
But God troubled my waters.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin…”
“Of course, you’re welcome, but…”
“We all fall short…”
“This is tough love…”
But God is troubling the waters.

“The Bible clearly states…”
“It’s just not natural…”
“Abomination means hell…”
You didn’t have to look past the surface,
Until God troubled your waters.

Except that God did,
And God is,
And that’s why I repeat
My identity to you.
Am I how God is troubling your waters?

Inviting you to dive deeper,
Inviting you to take the fullest breath,
Inviting you to see past the surface
Where you are so confident and sure,
And let enlightenment rise swirling from troubled waters?

When the angel stirred the pool,
The first one in was healed.
When God’s children shake your view
Deeper truth may be revealed.
And isn’t it Truth that sets us free?
That’s why God troubles the waters.

 

 

 

This is breaking my goal/guideline of posting a piece that I wrote in the preceding week as this one is from January. But after experiencing some disappointing dialogue and even a little trolling over the weekend, it was brought fresh to mind. We can become so certain in our faith journey (which is the antithesis of faith) that we forget we have healing left to do under that certainty. We judge others for being in a different place and we try to bring them to where we are, not realizing that they have already done the hard work of healing from the very wounds that God has already called them out of and we are trying to call them back to. We can do better, in grace and love. We can brave the places where our current beliefs are being shaken up, troubled, if you will, and see if it isn’t God inviting us to a better understanding.

God troubled my waters of belief a few years ago when I realized I was gay. I sorted through my faith. I laid all of my doubts and fears and pain at God’s feet and prayed there would still be a God to believe in after the sorting and diving deeper was done. It was terrifying and painful and the most raw and vulnerable I’ve ever been. I can say, from this side of that ordeal, that it only brought me closer, it only made me love God (the same Father, Son, and Holy Spirit I’d always believed in) even more. My peace that passes understanding came from that ever faithful Triune God who never left me, never stopped loving me, and was strong enough to handle my honesty. It felt like the biggest risk of all to step into the troubled waters and yet, there I found such healing and a deeper understanding of God.

 
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Posted by on 2 May 2017 in Blog, Poetry

 

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Room in the Pew

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I took my fear to church today,
It sat there in the pew,
It tickled all across my spine,
It tore my heart in two,
So many breaths I had to hold
And tears that still broke through…
I felt the whisper of my Lord say,
“It’s okay, there’s room.”

I took my pain to church today,
The hurt I’ve tried to hide,
And no one seemed to disapprove
When it sat on my other side.
My trembling hands were kindly grasped,
I was greeted with gentle smiles,
While I wrestled with the message
Of a hope beyond our trials.

I took my doubt to church today,
And it whispered in my ears,
“Remember I’m the only one
To stay close all these years.”
But another whispered, “Liar!
She has always known I’m near.
Just because she can’t see answers now,
Doesn’t mean I’ve disappeared.”

I took my love to church today
And I offered it up to God.
It looks a little weathered now,
It’s weak and bruised and lost.
While they spoke about the empty tomb
My broken heart still fought
To hope my love would be redeemed,
To hold one precious thought,

And there it was around me,
That thought I yearned to find:
I knew a Love that never ceased
To say, “This is my child.
I will always hold her near Me,
Make her gifts and burdens Mine.
There is always room for all of her.
She doesn’t have to hide.”

I took a lot to church today…
But there was room there in the pew
To sit where God could speak to me
Through many others who
Also had more visitors
Than those there in plain view,
When it hurts, we keep believing
God is up to something new.

The Easter story has room enough
For pain and impossible odds,
Miracles, betrayal, fear,
And a crucified Son of God,
The waiting and the in-between,
A tomb with rolled-away rock,
And a risen Saviour calling our name,
For nothing’s ever too far gone.

My life has recently been in a seemingly perpetual season of Holy Saturday: waiting in the unknown, grieving and change, anxiety and uncertainty. Today, Easter Sunday, I struggled to celebrate the hope and joy of Easter. I have hope this season will pass, but right now it is still difficult, it is still too freshly present and messy to celebrate that hope some days. I cried through most of the church service, my broken heart feeling a bit out of tune with all of the happiness of those around me. I felt my soul lingering in the spirit of Holy Saturday where I was not alone in my waiting and tears. I love that I have a church where that was acceptable, a body of Christians with compassion and grace enough to hold my space of conflicted sorrow sacred alongside their own variety of emotions. I love that I have a church that acknowledges that the beauty of a Risen Christ can bring us to tears in the best of times, and life is rarely “the best of times”.

Had I been attending one of my previous churches, though they were full of lovely people, I wouldn’t have felt that space sacred enough for my vulnerability and honesty. I’d have stayed in bed under my quilt. I have been blessed to find a church family who is willing to walk alongside each other. Though it was painful and I was tempted every few minutes to leave, I stayed and let God speak hope and beauty into my despair in ways that I did not have to unfold just then. God spoke in ways that would bloom as I carried their echoes throughout the rest of my day. I’ll even hazard a guess that they will continue to unfurl and spill fragrant praise for many days to come, even if I’m still crying Holy Saturday tears for a while yet. Isn’t that the glorious truth of a God who meets us where we are, even in our humanity? There is room enough for us to come fully unedited before our Creator.

 
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Posted by on 18 April 2017 in Blog, Lent Series 2017, Poetry

 

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I Was Wrong. I Am Sorry.

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I’ve known for a while now that I was wrong. I needed to apologize, so I began working on this post; but there were too many things to say and so many of them weren’t enough. It’s been a journey of unfolding revelations and deepening understanding over the past few years. The time has now come to confess; as too much and not enough as this is, it needs to be said.

 

I know firsthand how difficult it is to change an idea or a habit when you sincerely want to change for yourself; but, it is nigh impossible to change simply because someone else wants you to see their recently enlightened truth… especially if you now see them as a traitor. Yet, I know that if I had any negative effect on anyone in my misguided ignorance, it may be possible to have some effect in my humility and repentance. Even if I cannot change a single mind, I am still bound by my own integrity to say a few things.

 

I hate the thought that I only listened to fear mongers to make decisions and nurture my worldview. I despise that I helped perpetuate that fear under the guise of “wisdom” and “enlightenment” and “righteousness”, because now I see how much damage it did to me and others. I was wrong. I am sorry.

 

I regret that I looked to the “religious right” as the sole voice for Christian discernment instead of praying and discerning for myself the meaning and true impact of the issues that they insisted God was on their side of. Their claims were often a convenient bid for power and without merit. I believed them blindly. I was wrong. I am sorry.

 

I didn’t hate President Obama because of his skin colour. I hated him because people who hated his skin colour (among other things) vilified him and his policies with statements that sounded a lot like logic and righteous principles. I was wrong. I am sorry.

 

I never gave Obama a chance. Now, after the sunset of his double term has faded into a dark night, I wish I could have the past eight years back to really appreciate what he was trying to do and how much of it he managed to accomplish for America. I was wrong. I am sorry.

 

I wish I could take back most of the conversations against him and the social media shares that perpetuated them. I was wrong. I am sorry.

 

I wish I could have better understood humanity, equality, and civil rights the way I do now. I say that knowing full well I have so much more to learn. I was wrong. I am sorry.

 

I wish I’d known that access to abortions actually LOWERS the number of them that occur because it also promotes the education and means to avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place. I was wrong. I am sorry.

 

I regret believing that Christians are being threatened and persecuted in this country. Our Christian rights were not being threatened. We were the ones so often discriminating against those of other beliefs, trying to force the government to align them with ours. I was wrong. I am sorry.

 

I wish I’d known that refugees from other countries were facing a hell I am privileged to not have known. I wish I’d known they were not terrorist trojan horses trying to hurt us, but real people in dire need. I was wrong. I am sorry.

 

I wish I’d known that radical terrorists under the name of various faith traditions were not the poster children of those faith traditions. I wish I’d known more than the caricatures of those beliefs and cultures that the right wing media propagated. I wish I had found earlier opportunities to put faces and stories to those brave, beautiful people and see them with the kindness and compassion that my faith calls me to. I was wrong. I am sorry.

 

This isn’t me jumping on the bandwagon of fairweather fandom in a wistfully nostalgic look back. This has nothing to do with the person whose term is now dawning. This took years of deep, personal reflection and dissection of all that I have believed and why. These changes are by no means limited to politics, but for the sake of this post, that was my focus here.

 

As I have sifted through the detritus of years of my own beliefs; I have found in the process so much of it was built on lies, fear, hate, and anger. Those are not qualities I want represented in my life. Those are not qualities I want to promote in those around me. I want to show the compassion, love, and understanding that Jesus did. I want to wash my hands of controlling every aspect of the amazingly capable human beings around me. I want to never again take part, even unknowingly, in the dehumanization or discrimination of another person because of any difference, perceived or otherwise.

 

I also want to be a person of growth. I want others to have grace when they look at me, my flaws, and my incompleteness. I want to have that same grace for all of those around me. I believe grace starts with honesty and honesty starts with admitting when we are wrong and saying we are sorry. I believe it also involves standing up and speaking out against those who are behaving unjustly or in a tyrannical or bigoted manner towards others. I thought I was doing that before, but I had no idea that tyranny and bigotry were not merely attributes of whoever was on the other side of the partisan discussion.
I have found something else buried in the rubble. I have found great respect and admiration for President Obama. I do not agree with all of his policies. I do not think he was perfect. But, I do know that he was never even a shadow of the villain that I had once believed him to be. He is a man of great class, kindness, and deep love for humanity; so much so, that I know,  were he ever to read this, he would forgive me for being wrong.

 

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– same house, different perspective…

 
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Posted by on 20 January 2017 in Blog

 

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If 2016 Were a Tunnel… There is a Light

Only a self-centered fool would say it wasn’t a hard year. Many of us faced a variety of personal losses. There were global tragedies and celebrity deaths, mind-blowing political outcomes and fear mongering, hate crimes and communal mourning.

Most of us do not mourn celebrities because they were famous. They were famous because they lived in a way that taught us something about ourselves. They unlocked pieces of the dreams and callings that we held inside. They sang us to sleep when our hearts were broken. They used their pain to create masterpieces to show us that our scars could be beautiful. They wrote characters that we love or hated or loved to hate, characters that spoke some truth that we needed to hear. They acted in scenes that allowed us to suspend our disbelief and escape into an adventure for a time. They made us laugh and cry and were part of our survival in this hectic and often painful life. They did all that and we never really got to say thanks; and, now they are gone.

As a writer, I always get this battlefield of emotions. I want to grieve the cultural loss of them and all the potential stories that they can no longer tell. I want to celebrate their work or their behind the scenes lives that meant something to me. But I also feel the creative void left by them and want to rush in and create more. Rushing into creativity rarely brings forth any good work from me, but it’s that desire to not let the flame that they helped light dim even the least little bit in their absence.

Political events can be painful, not because someone has to win and someone has to lose, but because of the divisiveness of fear and hate that is exposed along the way to the ballot box. The side of the “loser” is so often going to lose more. In some cases, even the winners who voted and got their way will also lose more than they realize. It brings about the inhumanity and pushes those on the margins off the edge of a cliff they were barely hanging onto. When it is a heavily “Christian” base dancing in victory, we have to watch them justify that it is as God would want. Meanwhile those “least, last, and lost” that God calls us to care for are cast into a living hell of bombs, homelessness, or a variety of life altering discriminations. It is enough to make me wish there were a label besides Christian, a label more honouring of the Christ that I love and follow.

As beaten down as this year has made many of us feel, there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. There really is hope. It hurts to be refined by fire, but that is what happens to purify gold and silver. It hurts to be filed down with gritty sandpaper, but watch it polish a stone or smooth and shape wood.

One of my favourite quotes is by a man named Ian Cron. “All ministry begins at the ragged edges of our own pain.” As we look around at all of our pain and struggles this past year, we are made tender in ways we wouldn’t have realized were callused before. We see our pain reflected in the eyes of those we’ve never made eye contact with before. We ache for them and want to use whatever coping skills we have learned to help them.

The breaking of our hearts, what feels like absolute devastation while we are going through it, breaks them open to love better. It is easy to become bitter and angry, to try to rebuild the calluses that have been ripped away; but, you will never find peace there, buried under armor of thickened skin. Life tears away the parts of our heart that don’t work so well and exposes our inner storehouses of love to the rest of the world. It is a vulnerable experience, but in the pain lies the path to healing.

News of yet another death just came in, Debbie Reynolds after losing her daughter Carrie Fisher only yesterday. Now, I sit here contemplating if any of these words are even true, wondering if I should edit them in some way. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Glenn Frey, Jo Cox, the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, Aleppo and Brexit and Trump. So many tragedies that can’t even be named in between, where does it end? Because, honestly, right now it is starting to feel like it will only be this ceaseless avalanche of the other shoe dropping. How many shoes are there? How many blows will we have to take before we can rest a bit and recover? Yet, I know one thing: as hard as loss is, as paralyzing as the grief can be, we are better for having loved and lived and hoped and dreamed and aspired to something. We are better for having been willing to see the humanity in the people we meet, seeing the image of God in them and being the neighbour that we have been called to be.

You can absolutely tell me that there is no light at the end of the tunnel of this devastating year. But you cannot tell me that we can’t make a choice. You cannot convince me that it isn’t in our power to take a deep breath, square our shoulders the best we can despite our falling tears, and determine to be a light to others who are walking in this darkened tunnel with us. Maybe the light isn’t at the end, maybe it’s in us.

 
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Posted by on 29 December 2016 in Blog

 

Happy Outiversary

One year ago today, I made the hardest phone call of my life. I knew my grandparents loved me. I knew that our family didn’t just disown its members for being different. But I also knew that our family wasn’t afraid of speaking our various minds and occasionally showing our anger or disappointment in each other. But what if this time was different? What if I picked up the phone and it was not only a negative exchange, but it was the last time they ever spoke to me? What if they couldn’t accept that I was gay? What if I clumsily said something in defense that pushed them away?

I’m pretty sure my hands were shaking. I can’t recall if my voice was, but it would be fitting. My mom, siblings, a few friends, and a cousin already knew. I’d had no bad reactions from them save one friend that I wasn’t that close to anyway. That was it. I looked at my high success rate of loving responses and just knew my luck had run out. Telling my grandparents and aunts and uncle couldn’t possibly go so well.

I had only realized I was gay a couple years before, at the age of 35. What took so long is an awkward story about repression to near asexuality, shyness, low self esteem, and being a demisexual that I’ll save for another post (or three). The first year was spent in hell: the worst depression, chronic pain, and insomnia that I’d ever known as I prayed for God to change me back, to take it away, to show me what was necessary for Him to love me again. At the end of that year, I was not given the answers or solutions I’d sought. I was given peace, a peace that passes any understanding I could have at that time, and I just rested in that peace in the arms of my Lord who had, I then knew, never stopped loving me.

Theological questions still abounded in my mind; but, I was so tired that I needed to let it all go and trust God hadn’t brought me to that peace for me to over-analyze it. (If you know me, you know I over-analyze everything!) I quit trying to deny my reality and let myself come to terms with what this meant. I had about a year of resting emotionally, getting used who I was. I was closer to God than ever, but it hurt to not be able to explain that to those I loved. At one family dinner, both my grandpa and one of my aunts had said within a few minutes of each other, “You’ve really changed. It’s like you’re a whole new person!” How do you explain that it’s because you finally know yourself after 36 years and you are learning to no longer hate yourself? You don’t. You don’t explain that to a very conservative family.

The following year, God brought me a plethora of answers. (I can recommend some resources for those interested.) At the same time, I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with people. The closet is a stifling place. People can talk badly about you to your face and never know that they are talking about you. You stand there torn on how to respond while hiding how personally you’re taking it. If you don’t hide, they’ll know; and, you don’t want them to know after you just heard their opinions! You can speak out as an ally, but that’s tricky too because you don’t want to give away the wrong thing that tips them off. At the same time that I wanted to run from people, I was growing stronger in my peace with God.

Last summer, I reached a tipping point. At 37, I knew it was time. Living in the closet was killing my spirit and I knew, no matter how devastating it would be, even if I lost everyone I’d ever loved, I would be okay. Somehow, God would see me through that, though I prayed it wouldn’t happen. For the first time in my life, I knew that I loved and respected myself enough to claim my truth no matter what it cost. I needed to know what it felt like to be fully, authentically me, without apology. I also needed to give them the chance to accept or reject the real me.

So I dialed. I shook. I talked in circles and somehow got everything out. And the world didn’t end. They loved me anyway. I know that isn’t the case for so many people and that breaks my heart. I am thankful for people who are willing to love even when they don’t agree with you (and many people don’t agree with me). And I am thankful for the past year, even though it was often difficult for many other reasons, because I was able to grow into the truth of who I am and to learn how to hope for a real love for my future.

So many people have walked this road before me and I owe so much gratitude to them and the stories that they risked everything to tell. For the past year, my voice has been added to their chorus for all to hear: I am a gay Christian.

 
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Posted by on 24 September 2016 in Blog

 

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Listening

I walked in the door from the busy world outside and was born into a space of silence. I sat down to rest and the stillness was almost unnerving. I was listening, though I wasn’t sure for what.

My mind focused on the ticking of the clock and I felt a half-soothing from its regularity. But, it was also not at all satisfying. It was discordantly too consistent.

I caught the sound of neighbors running some machinery that I couldn’t identify. I felt anger rise that they dare distract me from my quest for what I needed to hear.

Then I realized as I sighed, I was missing you. I want to lie in the dark, listening to your breathing. I want to hear the irregular normalcy of your routine each day. I want to hear the music of your laugh. I want to hear you say you love me.

So, I listened to my heart. I heard its tears and whispered, “Someday.” And my heart was listening and believed.


*Another #FMFParty #FiveMinuteFriday prompt.

 
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Posted by on 16 September 2016 in Blog, FiveMinuteFridays

 

Reborn of Voice

The clock just turned 5 a.m. and, if you know me, you know I am NOT a morning person. If you don’t know me, you should already know by now that I am NOT a morning person, unless we’re maybe talking 11:59 and I have a ginormous coffee in hand. I’ve been having random bouts of insomnia lately, often between the hours of 4 and 7 a.m. I usually pass the time on twitter, but today, I had another mission, a mission I’m actually glad I was awake for. I just realized a new way I have been reborn, and as today is the last day of March and the last day of #synCreate’s theme of Rebirth, I wanted to write.

 

A little back story: on Easter Sunday 2016, Jenny Lawson, a.k.a. the Bloggess, who is absolutely nothing short of amazeballs-level heroic, (you know it’s too early if I just used the word amazeballs) started something of a movement. She used her blog to encourage her followers to find each other. And a funny thing happened… they did! What started in her blog’s comments section became lists made on twitter and weirdos flocking together to say far more than just “hi!” Hashtags like #notalone and #theBloggessTribe and #BloggessArmy were born. People were connecting over reasons that had been causes of alienation for years. Often their personality quirks, unusual collections, and mental illnesses that had cost them so many friends and family had found them a brand new family in a matter of a couple days.

 

Last night on twitter, I may be an addict but that’s another story, a new friend I’d not yet spoken to, was saying that she couldn’t believe she’d just said something about her struggles publicly. I understand that sentiment. It is hard to stand up and say something definitive like “I have depression” or “I hate the Beatles” and so, I felt like I should encourage her and maybe others by doing the same. I don’t shy away from talking about my struggles, but I don’t often just make a declarative statement on social media quite like these:

 

I once had an anxiety attack in a dr’s lobby. She made me leave for causing a scene. I was seeing her for anxiety! #notalone #bloggessarmy

 

We have to be able to say these things. We have to be honest abt our struggles. Otherwise, the ignorance and judgments win. I’m not ashamed!

 

And the truth is, I am not ashamed. I am about a decade on from the event and I’m in a much healthier place now. This wasn’t courageous for me. It was factual. It’s only courage or bravery only if there is fear involved. I felt no fear by stating this. The only things I felt were relief and hope. Relief that I had someone, my therapist at the time, to pick up my broken pieces and help me put them back together as well as stand up for me and tell the doctor off. And, Hope that I could maybe be a bit of a voice for someone else.

 

I wasn’t trying to change the world, and I haven’t. I just needed to say something bold so that others could see it could be done, that it gets easier to break the stigma if we talk about it.

 

Maybe you think twitter isn’t activism, and you’re probably right. But is sure as hell is community, or it can be if you choose to use its powers for good. I choose to! And making that choice, choosing that community mindset, I have learned things about myself. I have found writers who paint the most beautiful pictures with words and who bring me to tears on a regular basis. I have found comedians who can make me laugh out loud in under 140 characters. And philosophers who can enlighten and inspire in the same text limit. I have met amazing friends that I hope to meet in real life someday. I have been able to encourage others and they have encouraged me. I have learned so many things about world events and joy and heartbreak! And mostly, I have learned that the world is a little smaller and a whole lot fuller of love and kindness and weirdos like me than I realized.

 

Sometimes we are reborn with great labor pains and catastrophic circumstances and it is evident from the moment it happens. Sometimes we are reborn gradually, through exposure to new things like twitter; I know I’m not the same as I was when I joined about seven months ago. Sometimes we are reborn in the tears and constricted-chest moments of sheer panic that make absolutely no sense until years later, when we reach out and make a statement that doesn’t hurt anymore and we are momentarily shocked at the lack of pain and the amount of growth. We look back on the struggle and we thank God for getting us through it and not letting the pain that felt like it would kill us actually kill us, and we realize just how much of a new creation we really are.

 

I am reborn on some level every day. I am who I am now for a reason. I have to believe that. Maybe the reason is to conquer the world and declare an international holiday of eating peanut butter ice cream while wearing ridiculously awesome brogues. Seriously though, if we could make that a thing I swear we would all be happier people! Maybe the reason I’ve been through so many rebirths, and specifically a rebirth of voice, is to be able to stand up and say:

 

I am Rhiannon. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for over two decades and there is hope. Life is beautiful, so don’t give up. You are not alone. Everyone has their own road through life and sometimes it is terrifying, but you are most definitely not alone. If you don’t know where you fit, if you can’t even make a declarative statement about who you are or have any dreams of who you want to be, it’s okay. You can borrow my tribe of weirdos until you find your home. Hell, maybe we are your home.

 

So, I’m going to try to go back to bed now and see what happens on the insomnia front. I’ll probably dream about ice cream and brogues now, thanks brain!
PS: This invitation to join my tribe is open even to those who like the Beatles and hate peanut butter ice cream; and, please, if you don’t know what brogues are, for the love of my faith in humanity and fashionable footwear, google them! You’re welcome.

 
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Posted by on 31 March 2016 in Blog

 
 
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