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.

same love.

watch this video, and then read on… 

most of y’all know that even though lina and i are legally married, our marriage is not legal or recognized in north carolina (where we now live) because in this southern state, marriage is specifically defined and written into our nc government as being only between one man and one woman. same sex marriages, even legal ones from other states or countries, do not count. in short, here we are second class citizens. it’s completely unfair, discriminatory, and infuriating.

but, we live in the city of asheville. and asheville does things a little bit differently. it is a city that is filled with all kinds of people, with all kinds of beliefs and looks and ideas. so, it’s this diverse place where opinions and differences are, dare i say, celebrated, if not just accepted. so, it is the place to live if you are in a same sex relationship.

personally, lina and i have had no problems at all – and i didn’t expect us to. no one treats us any differently – people may disagree, but the idea is “live and let live”. anyway, we have been lucky. and we are blessed. the city is even filled with amazing lgbtq lawyers who fight to secure estate (will) rights, hospital rights, powers of attorney, and all that other legal mumbo jumbo. so, we have hired a lawyer, and she will be preparing tons of documents for us, guaranteeing our rights as a legally married couple.

our attorney’s wife (she is in a same sex relationship herself) is a minister and the leader of an lgbtq campaign for marriage equality in the southern states – called the WeDo campaign . for over a year now, same sex partners have been going into the register of deeds offices of the cities where they live to apply for a marriage license. every single couple has been turned down. hundreds and hundreds of couples all across the south. time and time again. their applications are rejected. only because of who they love and wish to marry.

tons of same sex couples have also applied here in asheville, only to be turned away every single time….

until yesterday.

yesterday, something amazing happened. it was planned and scheduled. there were about 10 couples and a few hundred supporters who marched to the register of deeds office to apply for marriage licenses through the WeDo campaign.

take a look and see what happened…

there is still a ways to go, but this was a step. a huge step.

love and equality to everyone. peace.

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it’s a double rainbow day!

“Bottom line here: the federal ban on recognizing same-sex marriages is dead. California’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages is dead. There are 12 states in the country where this is now legal, and the political winds on this are blowing so hard in one direction that the idea that we will go back is almost unimaginable in any state in the country … This is now decided as a nation. The argument is won.” – Rachel Maddow

slide_305042_2621213_freemy dear friends & family, it happened. i still can’t believe it. i am shocked and overwhelmed! it feels unreal and unbelievable! i truly never would have imagined that this would have happened like it did. i admit, that i was avoiding thinking about it, for the fear of getting my hopes up and then crushed.

buuuut. the supreme court decided today to err on the side of equality and did away with discrimination in favor of love!

today, when the justices opinions were read, i started shaking. and crying. and laughing. all at once. lina and i looked at each other. we just stared, mouths gaping wide open. was it for real? did they just say that in that moment we went from being unrecognized as a married couple to a bi-national couple in a legal, legitimate, recognized marriage?! i felt such peace and excitement sweep over me. somehow complete, knowing that both of our home countries now saw us as equal to all others. yes. DOMA was now dead.

slide_305042_2621215_freei sat glued to my computer screen, listening to the newscasters, plaintiffs, lawyers, pundits, and everyone else talking about what had happened. it felt as if the whole country was in shock. and then, about 20-30 minutes later, the second decision came: the judges said that they couldn’t rule on prop 8, effectively saying that same-sex marriage would return to the west coast state. seriously? two favorable rulings? it felt as if it couldn’t be true.

i skyped with my parents, who were beside themselves with joy, as they watched the same newscast we did from across the ocean. and then we heard them say on tv the words which we already knew, but were dying to hear…

effective immediately, the federal government will recognize marriages of lesbian and gay couples. DOMA is found unconstitutional, which means victory for same-sex bi-national couples. what does that mean?! it means that, as an american citizen, i can petition for a green card for my wife now, just like heterosexual couples have always been able to do! lina will have the right to live in the states based on our marriage – just like i have the right in sweden!

slide_305042_2621235_freeof course, this doesn’t mean that everything is fine & dandy for everyone, everywhere. in fact, in north carolina (as sick as this is gonna sound), our marriage will still not be legally recognized. and we will not receive the same rights in the state. still, by the time we need to perhaps petition for a green card, either we will decide to move to a state where we are counted, or nc will have made things all legal and good there too. no need to worry too much right now.

so, though there is much work left to be done to ensure full legal, equal rights for all couples in all places at all times, tonight i celebrate! tonight, i am still blown away and amazed. and i’m just soaking in the fact that the supreme court got it right.

slide_305042_2622663_freetonight we stop & pause to realize that love is love is love. that there are no second class citizens. that, finally  in the us, no marriage is better than the other.

and all of this because of one, little, amazing old woman… fighting for her right to be treated equally after the love of her life, her wife, passed away. thanks to edith windsor, the us is a more equal and loving place tonight.

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get this: today just happens to be my parents’ 42nd wedding anniversary and our 3 1/2 year anniversary (we were married on december 26, 2009)!

and i just can’t help but be aware of the fact that this is the most amazing welcome home gift that the states could give to us! what timing! three weeks before we arrive, our marriage is made legitimate in the eyes of the us government. thank you!

love and peace and rainbows.

photos from huffingtonpost.com

you know love wins, right?

today is the day.

today the united methodist church will vote once again on their stance/beliefs on homosexuality and the church. it’s something that has been voted on every 4 years for the past 40 years. and throughout all 40 years, the vote has been to continually not offer the same kind of grace & love to all people that God offers to all. in this, the church has failed. again  and again. so, what will happen today in tampa at the conference? what will the vote be? will there be movement forward? will there be change? or will there be a continued discrimination?

will i remain an untouchable when it comes to ordination in the church that i love?

will the church continue to say to me, “if you had stayed in your unhealthy marriage, suffocating yourself, and refusing to be used to the fullest, then you would have been ordained by now. but, since you chose to listen to your soul, heal your life, and happened to fall in love with & marry a woman AND told us about it, then nevermind. ordination is not possible for you any longer.”

how long will i (and many others) hear those words that separate us and ignore the gifts & talents that we have to offer? how freaking long? 40 more years?

sadly, i don’t have much hope today. especially after hearing about the vote that took place on tuesday. it was over a theological belief. the delegates were voting whether to accept this statement or not:

“We affirm our unity in Jesus Christ while acknowledging differences in applying our faith in different cultural contexts as we live out the Gospel. We stand united in declaring our faith that God’s love is available to all, that nothing can separate us from the love of God.”

it was a statement of agreeing to disagree, of understanding that there are different ways of living out faith because there are different cultures that are all a part of the UMC… since it’s a global, connected church. is was a statement that acknowledged that what unites us is more important than what divides us. it was a statement to focus on our similiarities (because ALL people are loved & accepted as they are), instead of our differences. something that was a foundational belief for the founder of the UMC, john wesley. in his sermon, “catholic spirit”, wesley says “If your heart is right, then give me your hand.” this is the spirit of tolerance, grace, and acceptance that the UMC was built upon. it was not necessary for all to have the same opinions, according to wesley. the longer quote is this:

“Let all these smaller points stand aside. Let them never come into sight. “If thine heart is as my heart,” if thou lovest God and all mankind, I ask no more; “Give me thine hand.”

sounds to me like the statement above is a 21st century version of what wesley said in the 1700s. so, how did the vote go? well, they voted to accept the statement. yep. that’s good. but… only 53% of the voters agreed. so, it passed, but that means that 47% disagreed with this very basic statement that God’s love is available for all.. that nothing can separate us. that it’s not actually about what we do, we cannot earn love, but that love is truly available to everyone.

so, that’s why i’m worried about today’s vote on homosexuality. if we can’t even agree that love is given to all, that all people are worthy, then how the hell are we (they) going to vote to accept all people? ugh. i’m heartbroken. and distraught, even before the voting begins.

i am nervous. yet, i have hope. and i believe. even if things do not go the way i wish today, i know that in the end… someday… love will win. love does win. because love, well, that’s what life is all about. and if the UMC does not want me to proclaim that Love as an ordained minister, then so be it. i will, i have, and i am declaring that Love in the best way i can. every day of my life. ordained or not.

God, Love, is bigger than the united methodist church.

peace to all (and i mean all – even those with whom i disagree).