oh, my dear readers, this just might be the week from hell.
on top of the whole “holy week” focus on death thing, so many other things have been happening as well. my love’s fierce battle with her sickness. fixing everything regarding the cancelled trip to china. the emotional and physical exhaustion of dealing with a death in the family and everything that goes with being part of the funeral (which was yesterday). tons of house guests (funeral and not funeral-related) – which have been amazing, but still, something that is out of the ordinary. making sure we alert all of the practical places about our upcoming move (phone company, apartment landlord, etc). everything has to be communicated 3 months before we move out, which is now. it’s still cold & wintery in sweden – though today might have been a sign that spring will come one day. oh yeah, and work.
i feel as if i’m having an out of body experience. my love & i are on autopilot right now. perhaps just going through the motions. and i think we’ll stay that way until sunday at some point. and then, i’m off. since i’d already planned on taking 2 weeks vacation, i am just gonna stay home next week. rest. go shopping. write. do what i want. we’ll see what i do about my second week of vacation…. but i’m not gonna concern myself with that until next week. i must say, though, it feels amazing to know that next week i am free. perhaps i’ll take a day retreat by myself.
for now, it’s just time to push on through. i’m working pretty much all day tomorrow. the depressing death of jesus day. but, a day that i believe must be faced. christian or not, a believer or not, i think that it’s a day that symbolizes the human struggle between light and dark. fear and courage. disappointment and hope. violence and peace. injustice and equality. death and life. these are all part of the human condition. and i believe that we must be willing to stare our tough times in the eye. we can’t just run away. because all that’s tough and painful, will always follow us. it is part of life. instead, we must go through it all. deal with it. suck it up. let it be as it is. embrace the pain… and know that something will come from it.
that’s the thing i’ve been thinking about this week as everything seems to feel heavier & heavier in my heart and soul. in a way that perhaps i have never known before, i know tonight as i write this, from deep within, that this heaviness, this pain, this suffering ends with transformation.
the power of easter is that from death comes life. from darkness comes light. from pain & suffering we are transformed. we grow. we change. and that, my friends, is good news. it’s great news. the suffering is gonna exist. but, we can let it change & transform us unto better versions of ourselves. or we can become victims. stuck in a cycle of pain & disappointment, never really experiencing the joy of being alive. through the transformation, we become better at being who we are. i become a better me. you become a better you. but, we can’t run away from the dark times. the dark times, the burning fire, the time spent stuck and trapped, transforms us and our lives. and soon, we realize that we feel more alive than we ever thought possible.
yes, this week has been hell. but, without it, i would not know the joy of life. i would not be reminded, once again, that life is precious. that i must say & do the things that i want to say & do before i lose the chance. that disappointment makes me stronger. that struggles inspire & challenge me. that the pain of this week will make me a better person. i may not know how, i may not understand everything now, but one day it will all make sense. you see, without confronting and embracing death & suffering, i cannot be transformed into a person who understands the fleeting nature of life is so that i can truly be alive.
so, dear ones, i say this to you, but mostly to me: keep holding on.
death is coming for now; but life, a life that is inspiring and amazing and whole, is coming after. you & i were made for this. we were made to live life to the fullest. we are more than strong enough to face death and pain and suffering head on, and to dance through life anyway. we were made to be exactly who we are, and to use our lives for good.
i’m an ex-pat american living in sweden, but moving back to the states in a few months.
i’m also an unordained, master’s of divinity degree holding, minister in the united methodist church.
and this is big week in my world.
and all of these factors will be contributing to what i write here.
first of all, it’s holy week. the week before easter. a week i have generally loved and anticipated, even with all of it’s talk of death and betrayal. i think it’s a week that has always given me perspective and hope. a reminder that life sucks. that bad things happen. that suffering is real. that even the most holy of holy people endure pain and injustices. that death is bearing down on us all, all the time. but, that, ultimately, life overcomes death. we are never meant to separated from that which makes us who we are meant to be… whole, soul-filled, images of beauty. lovers of life & each other. it’s just that the journey toward transformation and freedom is a long one. but, we are meant to live abundant lives, here on earth. not just in some amazing afterlife. but, right now. we are meant to soak up life, make a difference where we are, and receive & spread everlasting love every day of our life. i truly believe all of that. from deep within my soul, from my rational mind, and from my experiences. and i believe it for all of us, no matter what religion we are or are not.
so, this week, christians walk that lonely, difficult road to the cross that looms over us on friday. that reminder of what sufferings and injustices we are capable of inflicting on others. and what suffering and injustices we might face if we find the courage to speak up in order help prevent others from suffering injustices of their own. yes, this week we come face to face with death. and yet, for me, i am reminded of what it means to truly be human, to be part of this world. the cross is not some salvation tool for me. instead, it is a reminder of the shame of a human race that embraces power, war, and glory, instead of equality, justice, and love. and it is a symbol of the pain that is also possible if we seek to live lives that could be considered counter-culture and radical. it is a symbol of the calling that each of us have, no matter again which religion we are or are not, to work for justice and peace.
which leads me to the second important thing about this week:
the supreme court (the highest court in the usa) will hear arguments today & wednesday in a challenge to a provision of the defense of marriage act (DOMA) – the federal law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. it’s also reviewing california’s proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.
DOMA is the federal (national) law that states that marriage can only be between one man and one woman. not only does it prevent same-sex unions in any form, but if there is a same-sex marriage/union from another country, it is not recognized. so, this law effectively makes it impossible for lina to ever move to the states on the grounds of our legal marriage. because our marriage is not legal according to the us government. it doesn’t matter if we were to move to a state, such as new york, that recognizes our marriage. we can’t get to the state because we have to get past DOMA first, which prevents same-sex international relationships from being recognized = lina can not get a green card.
DOMA also prevents ALL same-sex couples from receiving benefits if one of the partner’s dies, even if they are both american & legally married in a same-sex state. there is so much more that DOMA prevents, but i’m not gonna go into it all here.
bottom line: DOMA is being brought to the supreme court in order to try to get it declared an unconstitutional law. it is a law that leads to inequalities in the united states, and that goes against the us constitution, which clearly states that all people are created equally and have the rights to life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness. DOMA = inequality based on who one loves. and that is not an american belief. or so the courts will seek to try to determine.
basically, if DOMA is ruled unconstitutional and thrown out, then it means equality under the law for all lgbts out there… national & international couples. in other words, it would be a huge deal in my life. and the lives of thousands of others. H U G E. like civil rights, desegregation huge, in my opinion.
and i have a reason to be hopeful in what verdict they reach.
you see, lately it seems that “coming out” is the cool thing to do. everyone’s doing it. if it’s not people coming out as lgbt themselves, it is straight people “coming out” in support of their lgbt friends, co-workers, and family members. and more legislation is passing that is focusing on equality & justice.
1. a republican senator, rob portman, issued a public statement IN FAVOR of marriage equality about a week ago. his son is gay, which helped to sway his understanding and acceptance and call for marriage equality in the states. and yes, i did say that this was a conservative, republican who is saying YES to marriage equality.
2. hillary clinton, we all know who she is, posted a freaking kick ass video on human rights campaign’s website last week, which has now gone viral, in complete support of marriage equality. BOOM. take that people. no playing around with her. she just flat out said it. this is what she believe sand she’s sticking by it. have i told you i love hillary?
3. just a few days ago, buncombe county (ASHEVILLE!!), where lina and i will be living, passed domestic partner benefits. what that means is that, even if north carolina voted against marriage equality last year, the people of asheville (and their government elected officials) voted for the equal benefits for same-sex partners that opposite partners receive = medical benefits, hospital visits, and other basic family rights. makes me feel so proud and even more excited to move back to this progressive, diverse city.
4. last week, also in north carolina, a united methodist minister and his congregation decided to not hold any marriages at their church until ALL people have the right to be married. the minister at this church, green st. umc, just happens to be my former youth minister. yep.
5. finally, today, i read an article about another government official, senator claire mccaskill, who has changed her mind on marriage equality:
The question of marriage equality is a great American debate. Many people, some with strong religious faith, believe that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. Other people, many of whom also have strong religious faith, believe that our country should not limit the commitment of marriage to some, but rather all Americans, gay and straight should be allowed to fully participate in the most basic of family values.
I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love. While churches should never be required to conduct marriages outside of their religious beliefs, neither should the government tell people who they have a right to marry.
My views on this subject have changed over time, but as many of my gay and lesbian friends, colleagues and staff embrace long term committed relationships, I find myself unable to look them in the eye without honestly confronting this uncomfortable inequality. Supporting marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is simply the right thing to do for our country, a country founded on the principals of liberty and equality.
Good people disagree with me. On the other hand, my children have a hard time understanding why this is even controversial. I think history will agree with my children.
yes, my dear readers, i have hope. big hope. i’m not sure that the supreme court will do exactly what i want them to do this time, but it’s all on it’s way. marriage equality is a done deal. the question is… when?
now, being the person that i am, i need to tie all of these these together neatly in a little theological, practical, life-related package before i can let it go.
when i think about the fact that this major justice issue of equality is going before the supreme court this week, holy week, i am certain that there is a reason for that. not that it’s preordained and predestined or something, but that there are connections, that the timing is right, that there are signs pointing us which way to go, how to move forward, how to create a better world.
you see, during this week, thousands of year ago, jesus rode into jerusalem on the back of a donkey. he entered through crowds of people, shouting & screaming his name and shouting “hosannah!”. the people had hope. they wanted this man to save them. to make things right. to ease their suffering and to bring justice to their world. and that’s exactly what jesus was going to do… just not in the way they expected.
jesus had a message of justice, love, equality, & fairness. but, it was not a message well-received. he challenged the status quo. he got pissed off at how people were trying to look so religious, speak such religious words and do religious things, but did not live their beliefs from their hearts. their lives were not reflections of the things they say they believed. they were corrupt. power hungry. full of judgment. and stuck in a set of rules that was not necessary.
jesus called them on it. he turned over tables. he got angry. and he showed fierce, unconditional love. he hung out with the outcasts, bringing people to him, speaking of grace and love, and showing it to everyone who met him. the people spoke of rules, of should’s and shouldn’ts. they claimed to know what was right and what was wrong. they treated people according to how they measured up to their rules and religious rites. they excluded people. considered people sick, untouchable, unworthy. they only wanted to secure their own salvation. they were cowards. close-minded. greedy. self-righteous. judgmental.
but, jesus spoke of relationships. jesus turned no one away. he spoke of a kingdom filled with equality, freedom, acceptance, love. he denounced power, strength, greatness, and status as the people saw it. and that rocked their boat. they got scared. they couldn’t deal with the change.
his idea of love over power was a threat. so they killed him.
flash foward to today. where exactly would jesus, the life-giver, the lover, the accepter stand on this issue of equality? where or when would he ever condone excluding people based on who they loved? when would he chose to keep a group of people separate from others? remember, he called the lepers and the children and the women to him. and how much are we like the people of jesus’ time, refusing to open our minds because we are scared?
yeah. this is a huge week for me.
i’ve got holy week thoughts running through my mind. my wife’s granddad’s funeral is wednesday. i am constantly thinking and preparing for our move to the states. the supreme court will be discussing something that directly affects me. the church where i have prepared myself to be a minister still rejects me based on my marriage, which is also not even recognized in my home country right now. where will i work? what will i do? what will happen this week?
and yet, i have hope. i know the road is long and paved with suffering. i know that i have a voice and that i must use it. i know that i will have to sacrifice something, as i already have, in order to simply be who i am.
but i know that things are changing. that who you love is not grounds for exclusion & discrimination any more. and i know that, in the end, all that remains is love.
in the end, darkness and injustice and power and greed and discrimination and war and violence and hate will be destroyed.
“the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” ~ Rachel Carson
there is so much noise around us all the time. iPod music (which i love), the tv, traffic, machines. so much noise. not to mention the noise that is inside our heads… the never-ending thoughts of wonder or fear or worry. it’s so easy to get stuck in all the noise around us & to drown out the true noise. silence. but silence scares us because we are left only with our thoughts, unless we can quell those as well. (which is why i love meditation – something to help me learn to be truly silent). all of these outside & inside noises & sounds that cause us stress, worry, anxiety, and a sense of hurriedness leave us unable to focus on the beauty & wonder that is all around us. the drown out our souls.
but, today is a day to try to shut off some of the extra noise & just listen to the universe.
this morning, i woke up, made my pot of coffee, got my computer & began checking on all the normal things i check on in the mornings – you know, catching up. i didn’t turn on any music (my love is still sleeping) and pretty soon, i realized that even though it is silent in my apartment, it isn’t silent at all. the birds are chirping & singing like crazy. (and of course, zola – the cat – is super busy watching all that’s happening with the birdies). by hearing the birds, i remembered that if i turn off all of the extra sounds that i can, then i hear the world. i hear the songs of nature, the music of life in a city. listening to the sound of life is inspiring – whether i am in the middle of the woods, by the ocean, or in a busy city. too often, though, i am wrapped up in my music plugged into my ears, or looking down at my phone while i walk instead of picking my head up, looking around, and listening to the sounds of birds, or water, or people chatting, or church bells ringing, or dogs barking, or children laughing…
today, in sweden, is called dymmelonsdagen. it is the wednesday before easter. there is not that much that happens in swedish society today that is different, but the tradition is to replace all of the metal clappers in church bells (the round, hard thing that bangs against the bell) with ones that are called dymbils - which make a duller, more muted sound. so, today, church bells ring, but you can’t hear them. it’s part of a preparation for the next 4 days, which are holy days in christianity. it’s a chance for a little bit of silence.
silence is preparation, i believe. how many times have you taken a moment to take a deep breath before doing something important or scary? silence allows us a moment (or a day) to prepare ourselves, our hearts, minds, souls to be ready for what comes next. we slow down just enough to begin to listen to the world around us and our soul inside of us.
today i will be super busy – as i am every wednesday. but, in the middle of the busy-ness, i pledge to listen to the world around me – to listen better to the sounds of nature which are even in the city, to listen deeply with ones who talk with me, to listen to my heart. in the middle of my busy day, i am headed to my yoga class… a perfect opportunity to spend and hour and a half just listening.
if you get a chance, turn things off. listen to the silence – and then hear the music of the universe. perhaps in doing so, we will all hear more clearly who we are, who we are called to be, and how we can be true to ourselves & each other.
wishing you calmness & peace in the midst on this wednesday.