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.

a little reminder from an old friend.

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i opened up my facebook feed a few minutes ago, and saw an amazing status update by a person that i admire greatly. jason was my theology professor and mentor when i was in seminary… challenging me, listening to me, and teaching me every day. i remember sitting in his classes and feeling as if all of these thoughts and beliefs that had always been inside me, finally had words to describe them. theology became my passion while i was studying, and i think it’s safe to say that practical theology is still a passion in my life. in seminary, under the theological influence and inspiration of jason, i came to understand myself as a contemplative theologian, drawn also to the mysticism of eastern christianity (and other religions as well).

now, years later, jason is my friend; and yet, still a mentor, even though we are the same age. he has been a very influential person who has been a real truth speaker in my life, never letting me settle for second best for myself. he has pushed me, believed in me, and been someone that i simply enjoy being around. he is an amazing theologian and author, and i have soaked up anything he has written that i have read. sadly, we have lived very far apart from each other, so we have not been able to keep in contact that much over the past few years.

when i read this update from him this morning, i was inspired as usual. but, even more than that, once again (as he did so many years before) his words seemed to express deeply my thoughts and feelings. i sent him a message and told him this (and let him know how much i missed chatting with him), only to end up finding out that he’d be in town next week. so, now, we have planned to catch up over a coffee or a beer.

i share his words with you now… because, while they speak to me directly, but that are applicable to us all. the message is so timely and perfect for me as i seek to accept my own path in life right now. jason, describes that search beautifully. so, read. and soak up this wisdom and beauty.

“About six months ago, I began a journey that I am still on. For years I had been walking a certain professional path. I knew what my goals were, where I was headed, how many miles I needed to make each day. Most of all, I had singleness of mind and purpose. I was intensely focused and therefore highly productive, that is, until the destination toward which I had been moving suddenly and dramatically lost its appeal. And so I left the path I had been on for so long and ventured out into the woods. Suddenly, there was no path and no destination. And for months, this was incredibly disorienting. Where was I going? What was I doing? For what purpose? The loss of a sense of control was at times difficult. And then I came into a sunlit clearing in the middle of the woods. There were no well worn paths anywhere in sight, only trees and mountains in every direction. And for the first time, I understood that it is a good and beautiful thing to have no particular path, no particular destination. It frees one to explore, to take one’s time, to enjoy, to care deeply and to not give a damn. And so my journey continues. But I am no longer without purpose. Once my purpose had been to arrive at a particular destination. Now, my purpose is simply to remain lost in the woods.” ~ Jason Vickers

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sometimes, i need to remember to slow down and trust the process.

sending you thoughts of peace and love today.

“a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

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hi friends! can you believe that may is halfway over?! azy-cra! and now i’ve made it halfway through the may photo journey of self-discovery. and you know what i have discovered about myself so far? that i am a multi-dimensional person. yep. last week’s focus was all about the heart. how i use my heart, how i live from my heart, what is close to my heart. i realized a lot about how much my heart leads me in my journey. but, i rely not only on my heart…

the theme for this week’s part of the journey was all about the mind. and you know what? my mind is fully engaged in my journey as well. in fact, i use my mind, my thoughts, my brain as inspiration. not that i am inspired by my own brain… but i am inspired by others words, thoughts, ideas. and then i use my mind in order to analyze, explore, discover new ways of thinking, new ideas, new information. this is one important part of my journey in life. the part that keeps me growing and changing and learning. no, i’m not afraid of new information or new ways of thinking. in fact, i crave it. i thrive on it.

when i was in seminary, i remember how my fellow colleagues and i reacted to different professors. they say that one of the processes and purposes of a theological education is to break down everything you have learned/believed in the past so that you can reorient yourself and build your own theological beliefs. you know, basically strip away the beliefs that you may have been “taught” and just accepted in order to find your own, true beliefs. by all accounts, i experienced this to be true. and it was a transforming process.

for me, acquiring new information, or new ways to think about things i had always wondered about, was freeing. i completely soaked up the days that my professors blew my mind. of course, i had to go and ponder things before i could reconcile or understand what i was learning, but it made me a better person. it took me out of the box i was in, expanded my world. and now, there’s no stopping me. hehe.

in fact, the teacher in me loves to pass on the torch from my professors and challenge the people i now work with. i love to rock the boat. or blow someone’s mind. i’m not one for being stuck in a box. but, it’s all with good intentions. it’s all because i hope that people will grow to be their own unique person, proud of who they are, with their own beliefs, thoughts, and dreams.

you know, people who favor using their mind often are also logical, organized, traditional, and prepared. i can’t say that i am all of those things (at all), but i most definitely love learning and teaching. and this week’s part of the photo journey has gotten me thinking about being a student again. when i graduated with my master’s, a couple of professors suggested that i study further and get my PhD or Doctorate. that has always sounded amazing to me, but it has not been the right time. i wonder, though, as i make another move in my life and begin again a new chapter, is it time now for me to consider studying again? perhaps not as early as this fall, but within the next year… i know that studying more is something that i will feel that i will regret not doing when i am older if i don’t try. but, i trust the process, i trust the universe, and i trust myself. when it is time, i will know. and just the fact that i am beginning to ponder this again let’s me know that it is time to consider it a possibility…

well, enough of all of that. here are the photos i snapped this week as i thought about what i think about…

day 9 | i am thinking about… moving to asheville and beginning to make a list of all the practical & fun things i need to do!

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day 10 | organized. what would i do if my love (my hero) wasn’t all motivated & detail-oriented?! i’ve learned so much from her… and i’ve got more to learn!

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day 11 | tradition. i love a saturday morning with breakfast in bed.

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day 12 | words. sitting by the river in the sunshine. soaking up rays, wisdom, and inspiration.

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day 13 | study. looking over my lines for the children’s musical on sunday. gonna be great! and, yes, my work is fun!

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day 14 | motto. nothing more to say.

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day 16 | wisdom. on a visit back home to north carolina about 2 years ago, i had the chance to see a dear, amazing friend. she is the wisest woman i have ever known. together, our favorite mantra will always be a quote by Julian of Norwich… “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

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 the journey of self-discovery is an ever-changing, never ending one (thank goodness!). and now, the week i have been waiting for is coming up… the week were we focus on the soul. i have imagined that this is the week that i will connect with the most, but if i know myself and if i trust the process of transformation, i am fully aware that it may not turn out to be that way at all. this journey of life is full of surprises!

join me, if you want!  you can click here to get the word prompts for this week. we begin today with #16. let’s get snapping!! enjoy spending sometime with your soul this week. listen, feel, and dig deep. get to the core of who you are. happy photo journey-ing!

sending you thoughts of peace and love.