open hearts? no. open minds? no. open doors? no. open wounds? yes!

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friends, it’s happening again. love is on trial. you know, when people get together and begin to decide who is right and who is wrong. who gets to love whom. who gets to get married and to whom. and, in this case, who gets to do the marrying.

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if you don’t know this already, here is a little background info on me:

  • i grew up in the united methodist church, and am still a member. though, not so active now.
  • the methodist church has always been a church that focuses on grace, love, and social issues, leading civil rights issues in the 60s. i felt at home here.
  • my granddad was a methodist minister, and i wanted to be just like him. he has always been my inspiration.
  • so, i decide to pursue this calling and was offered a job in a church a long time ago.
  • as of today, i have worked as a minister in a united methodist church (umc) for a total of 10 years.
  • during that time i studied theology and ministry at an african methodist seminary – an amazing, life-changing, world-opening, theology-busting experience.
  • i planned on being ordained in the umc – like an ordained minister, pastor, preacher, minister kinda person.
  • so to recap: i worked as a minister (unordained) for 8 years. i had a master’s of divinity degree. i jumped through all the hoops over all the years to become an ordained minister. i felt called to this, from deep within my soul. i was ready.
  • i met an amazing woman & fell in love.
  • soon, we got married and i was happier than i’d ever been. yes. woman + woman = love.
  • when i got married i was in my last step of ordination = i had completed the 4 year process of seminary, plus all of the paperwork and approvals by various groups & committees.
  • at a final committee meeting to approve to send me to the last committee before ordination (provisional is the fancy term), i mentioned that i was moving to sweden.
  • no problem, they all said. the umc is in sweden so i could still complete my process.
  • the problem came when i said that i was married. and used the words “wife” and “lina”, indicating that i was married to a woman.
  • the meeting abruptly stopped and i was asked to leave the room due to the fact that i violated a rule in the book of discipline (the rule book for the umc).
  • the rule, you ask? the umc will not ordain anyone who professes that they love and/or are living with someone of the same sex because it is “incompatible with christian teaching.”
  • after some time, someone came to get me and the committee gave me 2 options:
  • 1. since i had said that i was married to a woman out loud, and that is against the rules = no lgbt person can be ordained in the methodist church who says they are in any lgbt relationship, then i could pull my candidacy and quit the process myself. OR
  • 2. i could continue to say that i want to be ordained, follow my calling and what i feel is right for my life, and leave my fate up to the committee to decide = make them de-certify me as a candidate for ministry and say that i am no longer fit or worthy to be ordained.
  • guess what i chose? yep. 2. there was no way in hell i was giving up and quitting. they would have to force me out and deny my the right to be ordained.
  • and they did just that.
  • all because of who i loved. and because i said that i loved her.
  • never mind all the years of work in a church, all the years of studies, and endorsements from others (including some in that room).
  • never mind that i was exactly the same person that i had always been, even the same person as 1 minute before i said that i was married to lina. i did not change. i have not changed. i am still me, with all my gifts and passions and ways to help the world & the church. i still have all of the same things to offer. but, never fucking mind.
  • that was that. the end. candidacy over.
  • ordination was no impossible.
  • i was crushed.
  • and then i was pissed.

today the methodist church was at it again. only this time is was not against a person who was married to/in a relationship with the same sex. this time, it was a man, a methodist minister, who performed a wedding ceremony for his son and his son’s, now, husband.

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yep. the umc does not only discriminate against those who want to be ministers and are in same-sex relationships, like me, but they will not allow any of their current ordained ministers to perform any same-sex marriages. another rule in the book. but, this minister, this dad, broke that rule, saying that he was ministering out of love – and that the love overrides, overrules the ban on same-sex marriage. good for him!

how can a church say that people in same-sex relationships can not get ordained and can not get married, but are still “welcome” to be in the church and are worthy, just like everyone else? it’s a mixed message. and it’s just freaking wrong. it’s exclusionary. and, i do believe that jesus, who the church follows (not a rule book!), always INCLUDED everyone. exclusion was not in his vocabulary. so, why is the umc so exclusive?

well, the minister that performed the wedding for his son was put on trial yesterday. yes, the methodist church has a judicial system, to make it more democratic – which is a good thing. potentially. yesterday the court ruled that the minister was guilty of violating the law of the book. again – the book, not jesus. where are the freaking priorities here?!

and today, just a few minutes ago, to be exact, the minister’s fate was decided. the jury decided that the minister is suspended for 30 days and that at the end of his 30 days, he must repent (say he is sorry and he did wrong), or else he must turn in his ministerial orders = be stripped of his ordination. no longer a minister in the methodist church. all because of a wedding.

you see, the jury did a cowardly thing today. the jury decided not to take a stand on this divisive issue and make a real ruling. they didn’t want him to continue to be a minister, but they didn’t want to defrock him and strip away his orders either. so they took the easy ass way out. gave him a suspension and then said HE had to decide what to do. that’s just bs and exactly what the umc seems to be all about – let’s take the middle road and not offend. let’s see if we can navigate in the middle and make everyone happy, or better yet, just not make any strong statement for or against anything. gaaahh. infuriating!

hmm… reminds me of my “choice”. that committee who was dealing with me did not want to de-certify me as a candidate for ministry. there were many amazing people on that committee, who i know loved me, and were very sad to see the situation come up. but, i was not about to let the umc off too easy. it was not me that had changed my mind – i still wanted to be ordained. i was determined to force the book of discipline force me out. i was determined to make the committee deal with the issue. and they did. they chose to follow the book.

on the one hand, i understand. but i also understand that there are many who, like me, disagree with certain rules in the book, but still uphold it. and here’s where i am with that now: nothing will change unless we stand up and make it change. if we keep disagreeing and, yet, still keep following the things we disagree with, then we will remain a church that is divided and focused on excluding people because of our need to follow the rules. i pretty sure jesus wasn’t too concerned about rules that seemed to be unjust. or, rather, he was concerned with them. he blew right past them, ignored them, and taught others that there is a more just way. he stood for something and made a difference, risking even his life for things that no one around him understood. when will you, umc, follow in the footsteps of jesus?

what does warm my heart ever-so-slightly in the midst of all of this, is reading twitter and seeing the resolve of so many ordained ministers who are saying that they, too, will refuse to follow the entire book of discipline. that they will stand up and take that chance. maybe, just maybe. one day there will be a change, if enough people get up enough courage. i’m sorry, brothers & sisters in ministry, i would join you, if i was ordained. i’d stand up.

so, i am pissed again today. and disappointed. and glad that i have stepped away somewhat from the church. i know that it is all about making change and staying in so that change can come from within, but you know what? they wouldn’t let me in. and i am/was not called to be a lay person in the umc. i am/was called to be an ordained minister. so, for now, i have no place there. i’ve been kicked out. and that’s fine. i’ll keep sending letters and pleading my case. but, i can’t do it from the inside, because they won’t let me in.

being stripped of my candidacy happened almost 4 years ago. and the wounds are still fresh. and every time something like this trial comes up again in the life of the umc, i am hopeful. i hope that there will be a change, that more people will say screw the book and let’s love the people. but, it doesn’t happen. there are plenty of people who are saying it, but it’s not happening. so, every time there is a new trial or a new part of this old controversy, my wounds gape even wider. it hurts. it stings. and i move further and further away from the church that i knew and loved.

i just can’t do it. there are too many other places where i am wanted and needed and able to make my mark. so, that’s what i am doing.

but, my heart still aches. i miss my church. and i am so. very. disappointed. the church seems to have no idea how this affects people. i keep dragging these feelings and emotions of unworthiness and confusion around with me, like heavy chains. most of the time i can forget about them, or i have grown used to them, but every now and then, on days like today, i am reminded that i am not welcome as i am. i am reminded that, though i did everything right, i fell in love with the “wrong” person (according to the church) and “broke” a “rule”.

and then i get pissed again. because, i am not in the wrong. love is never, ever wrong. listen to me: love is never, ever wrong.

but, tonight. i am done. it hurts too much. the pain will never heal. it will keep getting easier, but there will always be a hole in my heart. all i ever wanted was to give my life to the umc, but they wouldn’t have me.

still, i must move on and forward. and leave this all behind. it’s done. and i will never ever, not for one second, regret being true to who i am, for having the integrity and courage to say that just because i love a woman, does NOT mean that i am not worthy of ministering.

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i guess the umc will just miss out on my ministry. but, god will not. and the world will not. because faith, love, hope, and service are bigger than the methodist church.

peace. justice, and love for all.

skulls and flowers for friday.

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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.

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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.

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peace and love. even in the darkness.

30 days of thankfulness.

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so much happens in life. so much bad stuff. or negative stuff. or unfair, or unjust, or violent stuff. natural disasters happen. sickness happens. pain & suffering happen. and lives are changed in an instant. all of these things that happen to us, at one time or another (and most likely multiple times), alter the direction of our lives. we are left feeling stunned, shocked, confused, angry, worried, scared.

because these things happen to us, and because we are inundated with the trials & tribulations of life, it is important to, when we have a moment of peace, or a day that goes well, or a feeling of happiness & contentedness, or an opportunity to enjoy a moment, that we do just that. as much as possible, we try enjoy life. we try to live in the present, and seek the good. we learn to be thankful and grateful for the things that we have, instead of dwelling on the things that we don’t have. we learn to appreciate all that is around us and in our lives, because we never know when we just might lose something… or everything, as many in the northeastern united states did just a few days ago.

with all that said, being thankful, being grateful, is my goal for november. perfect timing, huh? of course, as an american, it only makes sense, since november is the month when we celebrate thanksgiving. a few years ago (or more like 10-20), i think oprah talked about having a gratitude journal. well, i’m not gonna do that. at least not in the traditional way. i’m gonna have a photo journal – snapping shots of things i am grateful for every day. i think that it’s just time for me to acknowledge to myself all that i have to be thankful for. it’s time to focus on the positive things in life. and i am certain that, after spending 30 days thinking positively and focusing on all that i am grateful for, i will end november in a completely different place than i started.

join me in this photo challenge and/or follow me on instagram. i’m @lizslens.

so, as i write this, i have decided to begin my 30 days of thankfulness by saying thank you to the beautiful city in which i live. today, i honor you, norrköping… for your culture, your architecture, your diversity, people, your size, your artsy-ness, your coziness. i feel pretty damn lucky to get to live here.

i took all these pictures yesterday, when i decided to take a little walk after lunch. it was freezing cold out, but it didn’t matter. everywhere i looked, my spirits were lifted and i realized, once again, how blessed i am – for so many reasons. but for today, i acknowledge that i am so freaking thankful that i get to live here, in sweden, in europe. in the midst of all this old, amazing, unique, amazing-ness.

what’s at the top of your “i’m thankful for” list?

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at leastwe didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” ~Buddha

peace and love.