when love wins: how marriage equality + forgiveness in charleston have changed us

marriage equality has come to the US!

Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Historic Marriage Equality Case

i’ve been dying to write this post.

i meant to do it yesterday, but i am so glad that i didn’t. i needed a little perspective. i needed to let it sink it a bit. though, i’m not sure it has really sunk in yet. in any case, had i written this post on friday, or even yesterday (saturday), it would have been a crazy, emotional celebration.

and, of course, it is a crazy, emotional celebration today too. but, it is also grounded in some deeper reflections and thoughts and feelings.

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here’s my overwhelmed, crying like a baby, i am so excited look. just after receiving the news.

so, here’s what went down. as you know, the supreme court ruled on friday that all americans have the right to get married. (woo hoooooo!) heterosexual + homosexual, lgbtq + straight. it doesn’t matter who you are. it is your basic human right, supported by the constitution of the united states of america, to marry the person you love.

and suddenly, with that decision issued by the supreme court in a stunning opinion offered on friday morning, lgbtq citizens were no longer second class citizens. and same sex marriages, which had taken place in states (or countries) that had already made marriage equality a real thing, were now recognized all across the country.

so my international marriage to my incredible swedish wife was also now recognized – everywhere in my home country + everywhere in hers! we are now legal in both of the countries we call home.

i mean, seriously. this is huge. with one beautifully crafted statement, everything changed.

just read this + see for yourself how justice kennedy worded it:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

as i watched and refreshed about 4 different websites on my computer friday, waiting with bated breath like the rest of america, not even knowing if a ruling would be announced on the marriage equality case, i began shaking as the clock neared 4 pm (swedish time. 10 am eastern time).

i was all alone in my apartment on a sunny swedish afternoon. texting with my love, who was now watching a live video that i had sent her. i think that some of her colleagues were even curious about it.

quickly, just after 4 (10am eastern time), the decision came. and immediately the celebrations started. it all felt real and surreal at the same time. completely unbelievable. freeing. and i was filled with all kinds of pride. an historic moment for equal rights once again changed the course of american history – and i got to experience this in my lifetime.

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but, what does all of this mean?

well, if you are interested, you can read my blog post a week ago about waiting for this historic decision, and what the fight for marriage equality has meant to me and my love. our journey and experiences of being a bi-national, same-sex couple.

but, today, with my two-day perspective, i have much deeper thoughts than just marriage equality. of course i am overjoyed, thrilled beyond belief, freaking out, wishing i could have been in the states this weekend to experience first-hand the celebrations in my hometown, and so very grateful for this life-changing, seriously, life-changing decision.

but, today, i have moved past what this means to me and the other lgbtq citizens of the US, and i have moved on to what it means to us as human beings. but, i’m not just talking marriage equality, friends, i am talking love. and justice. and unity.

i am talking about the grace and unity that is sweeping across the united states right now.

i am talking about this special, magical, beautiful moment in american history when things seem to suggest that there is hope. that the dream of creating a society + a world of peace and justice really is possible.

if you pause for just a minutes. reflect. and breathe deep, then you can almost feel the magic. you can almost feel the page turning in history and a new era beginning.

the past 12 days in the states have been unlike anything most of us have seen in a long time, if ever.

americans have gone from shock + sadness + anger because of the charleston massacre of nine people in their african methodist episcopal church to a celebration of the equality of love and the inspiration to keep fighting to ensure justice and equality for all people.

// light (and forgiveness) out of darkness //

for me, and for many, the turning point came just 2 days after the shootings in charleston, when the families of the victims gathered in the courtroom + made statements of forgiveness to the shooter.

forgiveness, people.

the victims’ familes’ gift of unconditional grace to the shooter who murdered their loved ones gave the country + the world the inspiration needed to begin to ponder putting aside differences and, instead, coming together in hope + peace.  many began to talk about uniting instead of dividing.

it was mind-boggling how people who had suffered such loss could dig down deep in their souls, rely on their faith, unknowing + not even understanding, and offer words of hope + forgiveness. showing us all what true faith looks like. what real strength is.

// love instead of hate //

and then, in the next few days, the community of charleston gathered together to walk and rally and hug and cry and worship together. showing us, again, what it means to live a life centered in love, not in hate. in working towards reconciliation instead of riots.

by tuesday, a mere 6 days after the shooting, i was touched to my soul and overflowing with overwhelming pride and hope. and i poured out my pride and reflections in a blog post. (you can read it –> here).

// equal dignity in love + filled with grace //

and then, after a shocking supreme court ruling in favor of obama’s healthcare program on thursday, friday came with it’s amazing marriage equality ruling and the celebration that the united states had become just a little bit more united (as president obama said himself).

as people all over the states, and all over the world, began to celebrate this super historical day, in chalreston, south carolina, the president was to give the eulogy (memorial speech) for the pastor who was killed in the charleston church just 10 days before.

that turned out to be an an incredible, amazing moment as the president challenged all americans (and humans, i’d say) to follow the footsteps of the victims’ families in living a life of love and forgiveness. of remembering the grace and courage and love that the victims and their families have shown the world. president obama made history by preaching with fire and passion, singing “amazing grace”, and leading everyone in not just remembering and honoring the victims, but calling to action every single one of us. reminding us to fight for unity.

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so, now, after 12 days and some pretty majorly historical + inspiring moments, here we are. broken down, shocked, excited, inspired, motivated. and just a little bit more united.

this, is what i celebrate today. i celebrate the freedom for all couples in america to unite in marriage. i celebrate the communities and people of charleston who have led us through tragedy, calling us to unite through forgiveness and love, instead of divide over differences and fears.

the past 12 days have taught us much.  suddenly it feels as if we have come so far. and yet, we know that we have so much further to go.

but, i am confident. i have found hope. i have seen forgiveness. i have felt ecstatic joy. i have wept. and i have felt ashamed + proud. i believe america has lived a lifetime throughout the past 12 days. we have been changed. through all of the pain and the commitments to justice, we have come out the other side of these 12 days poised to move forward.

it is my hope that, even as the naysayers, haters, discriminators, abusers, and negative commentators seek to tear us down and threaten to hurt us, we will fight on. and we will fight, as we have been taught by the families in charleston + the lgbtq advocates who have pursued a step towards equality for at least 4 decades, and as the president reminded us on friday… we will fight with grace. we will follow in the footsteps of all of those who have gone before to fight injustice with non-violence. our weapon will be love.

because isn’t that what life is really all about? isn’t that what ultimately we have learned, once again, in these past few historic days in america.

love always wins.

onwards + upwards! xoxo

* rainbow flag photos photos from google search

the sochi effect

9e95b9c5460c816b632aab3d6c605c73 it’s time for the olympics. the winter ones, of course. and i’m semi-excited. ok. i’m not really excited at all. but, i know me. and as soon as news networks and twitter and Facebook friends begin posting stuff about the olympics, i will climb on board the olympic excitement train and get all caught up in curling (who knew that existed before the previous olympics?), figure skating, snowboarding, speed skating, and other events. and, as i do every olympics, the opening ceremonies will cause a tear to fall down my cheek. that is always a great moment of global unity, in my opinion.

but, this year, there is much, much more on my mind as well. and, maybe i will not climb on the olympic spirit train…

i suppose you could say that it’s hesitation. and concern. now, i’ve never been to russia so i know nothing about it first-hand. and i try not to judge a country i have not visited because they can be so completely different than expected – in good and bad ways. at least that’s what i’ve experienced. but, i must admit it, i am worried. scared, even. and, of course, i am angry.

right now all of the news seems to be about whether sochi is ready to host the olympics or not. can they handle the crowds? will there be violence or terrorism? on the news today there were reports that the accommodations for athletes are not up to par. the photos they showed were of fairly bare rooms, with toilets that you cannot put toilet paper in. instead, you use the trash can for the paper.

my first reaction to the “sub-par” conditions at hotels and such is this: suck it up. you are in another country and things will not be like they are at home. that’s what happens in different countries. and it is one of the beauties of travel – experiencing different cultures and ways of life, seeing how other people live, discovering and exploring. but, you must do this with an open mind. and with the expectation that things will not be the same. this is an adventure, and you will have stories galore to tell. not to mention, you will learn so much about yourself.

now, there is another issue that hits much more closely to home for me and you all have heard about it, i’m sure: LGBT rights. in russia, it is now illegal to be gay. and, from what i have read and seen, it is completely acceptable to bully, attack, and beat up any gay person or ally. it’s just horrible. ridiculous. and sickening.

and so, i am having a hard time reconciling the olympics (a global, unifying event) being in  this country where not all people are accepted. i could go on and on, but instead, i am going to leave you with a video. a very, very, very disturbing video. it is very graphic, so if you are sensitive, do not watch it. instead, read this article from gq:

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but, if you think you can handle it, here is the video. it is so important for us to be aware. warning! graphic & disturbing!
[brightcove vid=3151343552001&exp3=58264559001&surl=http://c.brightcove.com/services&pubid=78144477&pk=AQ~~,AAAAAASoY90~,_gW1ZHvKG_0UvBsh7aZU7MXZe77OcsGq&lbu=http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2014/02/04/hrw_lgbtq_violence_human_rights_watch_releases_disturbing_video_of_violence.html&w=480&h=270]

peace, love, and equality. xx

my response to your response.

whoa. i am overwhelmed by the response i have had after telling my story about my experience with the UMC and LGBT issues. you people are truly amazing.

thank you!

more than anything, though, i thank you for sharing and spreading my post – on Facebook and twitter and your blogs. keep sharing! but, not to up my readership, in order to get my story out there in an effort to bring about change. i seriously want to speak up for the other LGBT candidates for minister, ministers, and individuals who also find themselves alienated and confused with their home church. so, i’m going to keep writing and posting as much as i can, in as many places as i can. i am going to do what i can, in my way, to bring about change. i promise that.

as for me, just so you know, i am very satisfied and happy with my life right now. i am not pining away, crying in the corner because i am not ordained. while all that has happened surround my inability to be ordained in the UMC has been painful and difficult, i am so certain of the path that i am on. i have left the idea of ordination behind, not so much because i can’t do it = others have kept me from doing it; but i have left it behind because i have taken time in the past few years to search my soul, listen to the silence, and discern my calling to ministry. and what i have come up with is that i do not feel that i must be ordained in order to do ministry. and that comes from my evolving definition of ministry.

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at one point, a long time ago, i learned about the idea of the priesthood of all believers, which is simply the idea that all people all called to ministry of some sort of another. that each of us have passions, gifts, and things to offer to the world that we can use, and are called to use, to make this world a better place, to spread love. all of us. each of us, you and i, have amazing things about us that make a difference to others. why wouldn’t we discover them and use them? and when we do, then we are engaging in ministry – no matter what: faith or no faith, UMC or any other denomination, religion or no religion.

and, since i believe in the idea of the priesthood of all believers, then i am called to ministry every day, and i take part in doing ministry every day that i am being true to myself – and for me that includes writing, mentoring, talking, listening…

ordained ministers are ministers just like everyone else, in the sense that they are called to ministry. what makes them different (in the UMC point of view) is that they are ordained = “set apart” for a lifetime of ministry. and by that, i mean that they have been educated, supported, encouraged, and felt a call from within to live and serve the church with their entire lives. something that i felt and experienced, up to the ordained part. however, after much thought and reflection (and based on my experiences), for me, ordained or not… i am called to a lifetime of ministry no different from my ordained brothers and sisters. i am called to share my gifts, talents, passions throughout my whole life. even though i may not be “set apart” as someone to work in a church, my ministry is something that exists beyond the church organization. this is just something that i have discerned for myself, i am certainly not knocking ordination or my ordained colleagues. this is simply how i hear god calling me at this point in my life.

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there is one thing that i do want to do, though, that might make my ministry more “professional”. something that i have felt called to for a while now. it’s something that i have been considering since i was in seminary 6-7 years ago. one of my professors brought it up, and it resonated so deeply with my soul, though i had no idea how it fit into my life. and haven’t had any idea how to incorporate it into my life… until now.

i want to seek certification as a spiritual guide/mentor. i want to attend a 2 year program, exploring all kinds of spirituality and counseling techniques, so that i can be certified and able to offer my ministry of presence, writing, and mentorship to others in a more professional setting – even through my own practice, perhaps. as i said, this is something that i have felt inside of me for a while now, and i seriously want to consider beginning a program in the new year. mind you, i am not certain that i want to be connected to any denomination or faith, but i also do not want to just be flying about out there on my own.

so, for now. ordination in the UMC is not possible. and by principle, that is totally not ok. but, it is ok in my life right now. it is also not time for me to consider ordination in another denomination that allows me to be ordained, though many people have suggested that i “switch” churches.

what does feel right is to explore the possibility of becoming a certified spiritual direction/guide/mentor. so, that’s what i am going to do.

and what more can i say to all of you, than, i appreciate more than you will ever know, your support, your encouragement, and your presence in my life and on this blog. thank you from the bottom of my heart and my soul for journeying with me as i seek to be faithful to who i am called to be, learning more and more as each day passes.

LOVE AND PEACE.