#Orlando #Pulse #Heroes

Posted June 13, 2016 by heysonnie
Categories: Blogroll

Tags: , , , ,

Yesterday morning I was still in bed, lying next to my wife as she slept. As is my habit, I grabbed my iPad to check the news. The headlines read something like “20 Dead in Nightclub Shootings,” [a few hours later we learned that the number was 50] and these early articles neglected to mention that the bar, the patrons, the bartenders, were queer people. But they knew… and I knew. 

Queer people have magical powers. Among those is invisibility. Sometimes we make ourselves invisible for various reasons (including basic survival), and sometimes it’s other people, and society in general, who can’t / don’t / won’t see us. But one of the things about this magical power is the ability to see levels of reality that haven’t been fully expressed. We frequently can see through others’ invisibility — and through attempts to make us and our lives invisible. Thus, I read through the invisibility cloak cast by the New York Times and other media in their earliest submissions. So did some of my friends in their posts: “Please, God — don’t let this be at a gay bar!” even while, on some level, knowing that it was.

Once upon a time, a long time ago in a world far away, I was a bartender. I worked in a place much like Pulse. The weekend clientele was 75% gay men, 20% lesbians, and a few straight people. Mostly the latter were there with friends, and a few others who just liked the music and the vibe. But there were the occasional ones who were motivated by less-noble factors. Often the bartenders would notice, sometimes a patron would point out someone acting odd, and sometimes it would be a bouncer who knew that this person needed to go. A quiet-ish conversation between bouncer and customer, an arm in the person’s elbow to escort them to the door, and they were gone. And the party continued.

Knowing from my own experience that bouncers are strong, mostly silent heroes, it didn’t surprise me when I read that one of them had knocked down a wall or partition. Behind this wall was an employees-only area — and an exit to the outside, to safety. Unnamed in the story, maybe this was Kimberly “K.J.” Morse — one of those who died. (Or maybe not.)

I hated that the media was already turning to the evil, to the perpetrator, focusing on the “terrorism” (by which they meant a dark-skinned “radical Jihadist” because those are the only terrorists, right?) aspect of the story. That, and guns and other angles can and will be the subject of other conversations. But just then I wanted to know something different. I wanted to see hope. I wanted to see humanity. I needed to see the heroes.

By then I was up, flipping through the TV channels.

There was this guy, the guy in the hat on the left. He was interviewed (I think on CNN, but I was in a channel-flipping blur, so I can’t be sure), and he talked about escaping, running to safety — but then he saw someone else bleeding, so he stepped out of his safety zone to help carry this person to the back of a pickup truck to be taken to the hospital. All the ambulances were full.


NY Daily News photo gallery

Next I heard a story about a man who came to the scene to see if he could find news about his brother. He managed to get closer, inside the crime tape barrier, nearer to where there was still an “active shooter” situation. Even while searching for his loved one, he too helped to transport a messy, bleeding person away from the scene.

Then I heard this hero’s story:

Other heroes and sheroes include the many people who stood in line in the hot sun for hours so that they could donate much-needed blood. Some of these were people visiting DisneyWorld; some were Muslims during their Ramadan fasting time. No one did it for the accolades.

It took some hunting behind the story that the media was intent on telling, the story of the bad guy. But I loved these stories of ordinary people, queer and not, who found themselves in ugly, extraordinary circumstances and stepped up — some even in the face of danger.

In the introduction to David Copperfield, Charles Dickens wrote, “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” Even in our times when it often seems like darkness prevails, there are stories of light — stories of ordinary people who do the right thing, thus becoming our heroes, and the heroes of their own lives.

An Open Letter to the Rev. Laura Mariko Cheifetz

Posted May 12, 2016 by heysonnie
Categories: Blogroll

My friend Rocky wrote an open letter that I really like. In this spirit, I’m doing the same thing… Sorta. 

Dear Laura,

I love they way you think. You challenge me. As a result, I think that little by little I become a better person. Thank you.

Love,
Sonnie

p.s. I also love your sense of humor.

Happy are they who lead from the back pews

Posted March 18, 2015 by heysonnie
Categories: Blogroll

Tags: , , ,

blessed

Blessed are those whose names are unknown.

The voiceless ones

who were quiet, so their stories were never heard;
who were overwhelmed, so they couldn’t find the words;
who felt like others had more important songs to sing;
who shared their stories in less-public arenas.

Blessed are those who showed up.

The ones who did the countless behind-the-scenes work

who made the coffee and baked the cookies;
who folded the bulletins and served as ushers;
who stuffed envelopes and licked stamps;
and did all the other Martha chores
that those in the spotlight never even knew about.

Blessed are those who remained in the shadows.

Those who just couldn’t…

who lived in insurmountable unsafe places;
whose closet doors were nailed shut;
who yearned to live in the light;
who were isolated;
whose participation was a financial contribution
…or a prayer.

Blessed are those who moved on.

Those who needed to be elsewhere 

who were battered by the church;
in order to survive;
in order to more fully live;
so that they could find happiness.

Blessed are those who died on the journey.

Those who we knew
and those who we never got a chance to know.

And blessed are YOU.

Those who come next

the leaders (and the followers)
of this generation and beyond,
who find the next liberations
and who work for them to become reality.

Chambers of Prayer

Posted January 23, 2015 by heysonnie
Categories: Prayer

Tags: ,

I’m one of those people who believes in the power of prayer. “Prayer” is an interesting concept, meaning different things to different people — and taking different forms. For the most part, I’m not a formal pray-er, nor even someone who prays with words. I certainly don’t want to be telling God what to do. I’m more of an “attitude of prayer” pray-er. I can’t even say meditative. More like contemplative, or maybe I should say ruminating.

There are two definitions of ruminating: one is disciplined thinking and caring about something; the other is when an animal like a cow has already eaten something but not digested it, so she brings it up from one of her two* four stomachs to chew it more. From a chamber with one purpose to prepare it for a chamber with a different purpose. Prayer as sitting outside in the sunshine, “chewing something over” to make it more functional, while at the same time mulling, caring.

I also frequently say that I hold someone in my heart as a form of prayer. We talk about our hearts as our emotional centers, but that’s just a metaphor. In physical truth, our hearts are four-chambered organs vital to our existence. But I say it because it has shared meaning — not something I need to explain.

But this is the one I like most. Prayer as the chambered nautilus.

2015/01/img_1456.jpg

A newly hatched nautilus wears a shell divided into four small chambers. As a nautilus grows, it gains more living space by building new chambers connected to the old ones; adult shells have 30 chambers (from the Monterey Bay Aquarium website).

Here we have an ocean-dwelling creature that starts out small, with four chambers (like the human heart), but as it matures, it grows more and more of these beautiful, pearlescent chambers — separate, yet interconnected — as many as needed. A wonderful image to visualize as my form of prayer.

And so when I say that I hold someone in prayer, this is what I mean.
__________
* Funny how certain “facts” we’ve known forever end up to be untrue. A friend informed me that cows have four stomachs. Doesn’t change my metaphor, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.

Mother’s Day Proclamation for Peace • Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)

Posted May 11, 2014 by heysonnie
Categories: Blogroll

Tags: , ,

Arise then … women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

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GA 220: Intertwining our lives

Posted June 27, 2012 by heysonnie
Categories: Presbyterian

Tags: , , ,

But those who wait For Yhwh
find a renewed power:

they soar on eagles’ wings,
they run and don’t get weary,
they walk and never tire.

Isaiah 40:31
The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation
Priests for Equality


“Wait” in Isaiah 40:31 is the transliteration from the Hebrew qavah, which can mean to twist, to bind, to braid like a rope. This verse reveals the active nature of intertwining one’s life with the life of God. When this intertwining is being done, that person is made strong. Those who “wait” upon God—intertwine their lives with God’s—are made strong.

To “wait” for God can also be seen as the cultivating of an attitude of hope and patient expectation—the very definition of faith. Hebrew words often have multiple meanings. The verb qavah can also be a waiting for God to act, to bring vindication or to rescue the people from oppression; here, however, it is more a kind of quiet inaction: by waiting for God’s empower­ment instead of relying on one’s own resources, one receives an inexhaustible supply of strength.

How often do we in the church hear the words “I’m tired” or “we’re tired”? I remember at the last General Assembly in Minneapolis when the Committee on Marriage and Civil Unions report came to the plenary: almost immediately, a commissioner came to a microphone and proclaimed, “Friends, I’m tired: we’re tired,” followed by a motion to table everything that came out of that committee’s hard work throughout the week.

I wonder:
How often do the words “I’m tired: we’re tired” really mean
“I’m afraid: we’re afraid”?

What must it have felt like to have served on that committee to then have their work disregarded like that?

The Assembly then adjourned with prayer and the singing of John Bell’s hymn, “The Summons”:

  1. Will you come and follow me
    If I but call your name?
    Will you go where you don’t know
    And never be the same?
    Will you let my love be shown,
    Will you let my name be known,
    Will you let my life be grown
    In you and you in me?
  2. Will you leave yourself behind
    If I but call your name?
    Will you care for cruel and kind
    And never be the same?
    Will you risk the hostile stare
    Should your life attract or scare?
    Will you let me answer pray’r
    In you and you in me?
  3. Will you let the blinded see
    If I but call your name?
    Will you set the pris’ners free
    And never be the same?
    Will you kiss the leper clean,
    And do such as this unseen,
    And admit to what I mean
    In you and you in me?
  4. Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
    If I but call your name?
    Will you quell the fear inside
    And never be the same?
    Will you use the faith you’ve found
    To reshape the world around,
    Through my sight and touch and sound
    In you and you in me?
  5. Lord, your summons echoes true
    When you but call my name.
    Let me turn and follow you
    And never be the same.
    In your company I’ll go
    Where your love and footsteps show.

I wonder how many of the commissioners thought of those impacted by their refusal to deal with the issues before them—LGBT people and our relationships—as they sang the words, “will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?” Not many, I think.

That was pretty much it, and we all went home. On the way out the door I talked with a heartbroken minister who lives and serves in a state where same gender marriage is legal; she expressed her deep disappointment in what had taken place, saying “We need guidance from the denomination; we feel like we’re out here on our own.”

And so we wait. We wait for the start of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. Some are commissioners, some are advocates for overtures or AIs, some are behind-the-scenes workers or committee staff, some are observers. (I’ll be there as an observer and part of That All May Freely Serve.) As we wait, let’s all take some time to reflect on our lives being interwoven—braided together as one with God and with one another.

Synchroblog: The Resurrection Hoax

Posted April 10, 2012 by heysonnie
Categories: Synchroblog

Tags: , , ,

Here’s the invitation:

For the April Synchroblog, we want to explore this question in more detail. We want to ask, “What if the resurrection is a lie?”

The invitation to write continues, “We believe Jesus rose from the dead. But what if it was all a hoax? How would the world and our lives be different?”

I’ve heard people say that if they had cancer or were faced with some other dramatically life-altering experience, then they would respond in certain ways. Here’s the thing: no one can know unless they’ve actually stood face-to-face with those things. We can guess, and we can hope — but we can’t know for certain.

In the same way, it’s impossible for me to respond to some questions. What if I hadn’t been born with blue eyes? What if I’d grown up rich, or on the East Coast, or what if I were deaf? I can vaguely speculate, but I certainly can’t definitively say, “Here’s what I’d be like, and here’s why,” because those aren’t part of my existential reality.

What is part of my reality is that I grew up Christian, going to church every week. I grew up in a time when that’s pretty much what people did. There wasn’t the proclamation that “America is a Christian nation” in the same way as we often hear it now — because there was no need to state what was pretty much obvious. I left the church because of life circumstances I’ve talked about elsewhere, but I never lost my faith. I returned to the church twenty years later, again because of life circumstances, and was deeply involved for another twenty years. Right now I’m in limbo. Or on a sabbatical. Take your pick. But I haven’t lost my faith. As a matter of fact, separation from the institutional church and the resultant self-examination only makes my faith deeper.

But… here’s the thing: I don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I also don’t believe that God created the world in seven days, or that the earth is flat or many of the other things that the bible says.

However, I do believe in the resurrection of the Christ. To me it’s not a hoax at all. I believe that the Christ transcended death and went to rejoin the Almighty One after being with us here on earth. I believe that the Christ appeared to the women, to the twelve, to those on the road to Emmaus. I believe that the Christ sent the Paraclete — the Advocate — the Comforter — to be with us. I believe that Jesus was and is the Christ, one of the three “persons” of the Trinity.

The introduction to a forgotten novel I read a long time ago said something like, “Everything you read here is true, whether it happened or not.” We tell stories in ways that help us to understand what we think and, more importantly, how we feel. In my life that is the part that matters, and how I can describe how I relate to the resurrection story. Maybe I’m wrong, and I know that many would describe what I say as heresy. Maybe Jesus the human being was lifted up in bodily form. God is infinite, and does many things that I cannot comprehend. I know that. But, again — to me that doesn’t matter. What matters are the consequences of the resurrection. Christ was born; Christ is risen; Christ will come again… and again.

It’s different than what I’m saying, but related… Far better than I ever could, John Dominic Crossan answered our question in this way:

The Communal Resurrection of Jesus

In the great Rotunda of the ancient Church of the Resurrection — or Church of the Holy Sepulchre — in Jerusalem is a tiny free-standing shrine known as the Aedicule or Chapel of the Tomb and Resurrection of Jesus. It is a tiny space and pilgrims are usually lined up waiting their turn to enter a few at a time.

A processional banner was hanging to our right as we entered that shrine-chapel in May, 2008. It is kept there, presumably, to be used in liturgical celebration on Easter Sunday. It is bright red with golden lettering down either side. To left is the word “Christ” and to right “Is Risen” — both in Greek upper-case letters. No surprise there since that is Easter’s celebratory greeting in Eastern Christianity. But in between those words, in the center of the banner, is a diamond-shaped image. And it surprises us.

That image does not show Jesus arising in splendid triumph from an opened tomb. This is not — even in miniature — a Titian or a Rubens with Jesus emerging in muscular majesty. But emerging, however majestically, in magnificent and lonely isolation. Instead, four other individuals are with him in this parabolic vision.

Jesus himself is at the left of the icon. He holds a small cross in his left hand and stands on the bi-fold gates of Sheol, Hades, or Hell which are shattered into a cross-shaped structure beneath his feet. Jesus is bending forward — gently, tenderly, graciously — and, stretching out his right hand, he grasps and pulls on the rather limp wrist of Adam. Beside Adam stands Eve. Behind the two of them stand a youthful Abel, with shepherd’s staff, and an older John the Baptist, with beard and long hair. They are the first martyr of the Christianity’s Old Testament and the first martyr of its New Testament.

At the top of that diamond-shaped image, lest there be any mistake about meaning, is the word Anastasis, Greek for “resurrection”. But is not Easter about the absolutely unique resurrection of Jesus alone, so why are any others involved and, if others, why precisely these others? The answer reveals a major difference between Easter Sunday as imagined and celebrated in Eastern Christianity as opposed to Western Christianity. It also reveals for me the latter’s greatest theological loss from that fatal split in the middle of the eleventh century.

When you look at Eastern Christianity’s images, either for the great feasts of the liturgical year or for traditional events in Jesus’ life, they are all — save one — quite recognizable to Western as to Eastern eyes. The great exception is how Eastern Christianity portrays the “Resurrection,” that is, in Greek, the “Anastasis,” of Jesus. Across vast stretches of time, place, art, and tradition, icons and illustrations, frescoes and mosaics show always a communal and not an individual resurrection for Jesus. We can watch that magnificent tradition develop across half a millennium — from 700 to 1200 — before its varied elements and successive stages are fully established.

First, the various elements of the tradition. Jesus is shown breaking down the closed and bolted gates of the Underworld — as Sheol, Hades, or Hell — the abode of the Dead, the prison of “those who have slept” — that is the same Greek term used for them in both Matthew 27:52 and 1 Corinthians 15:20. The personified Hades, Prison-warden and Gate-keeper of the Dead, is shoved to one side or even walked on as Jesus barges in to liberate his prisoners. Jesus is usually carrying a cross, his wounds are often very evident.

Only six individuals are identified from the crowd responding to Jesus’s arrival among the dead — they appear chronologically across the tradition’s development in this sequence. First, bearded Adam and youthful Eve appeared. In almost every single image, Jesus grasps the wrist of Adam to pull him alive from his tomb. Later, David, with crown and a beard, along with his son Solomon, with crown but without a beard, were added. Finally, as seen above, those twin martyrs, the Shepherd and the Baptist, joined the others. So, in summary, two ancestors, two monarchs, and two martyrs are singled out from the crowd. Still, if Adam and Eve are freed, who is not?

Next, the successive stages of the tradition. In the first stage Jesus is always approaching — as we just saw above — and grasping Adam’s wrist. A next stage shows him leaving — often looking backward or forward as he drags Adam by the wrist with the others looking on. A third or facing stage is similar to that last one except that now Jesus looks not backward or forward but straight out of the image — at you, the beholder.

Finally, there is the last or doubling stage and I must admit that it is my favorite. Jesus has put down the cross — sometimes an angel holds it for him — and Adam and Eve are now on opposite sides of Jesus instead of, as earlier, both on the same side. Each gets a hand at this stage. We finally have an equal-opportunity resurrection of the dead.

In the western Christian tradition we call that tradition the Harrowing — or Robbing — of Hell and keep it carefully distinguished from the individual Resurrection of Jesus. “He descended into Hell,” says the Apostles’ Creed, “on the third day he arose from the dead.” But in the eastern Christian tradition it is the communal Resurrection of Jesus. We, to our loss and my grief, have forgotten that corporate vision of Easter.

Eastern Christianity’s tradition of the resurrection of Jesus reminds our Western Christian imagination that only poetry — be it verbal or visual — speaks to our profoundest hopes, deepest dreams, and greatest insights. It also reminds us that theology is — no more and no less — the poetry of transcendence.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-dominic-crossan/the-communal-resurrection-jesus_b_847507.html

I’ll post a list as others post on this synchroblog topic.

Here is the list of the other posts on this topic:

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Abbie Watters – What if the Resurrection were a lie?
Carol Kuniholm – Risen Indeed? The Hermeneutic Community
Christine Sine – If the Resurrection did not happen, how would the world be different?
Ellen Haroutunian – Is There a Christianity Without the Resurrection?
Glenn – Kingdom Come or Kingdom Now?
Jeannette Altes – What if…
Jeremy Myers – What if Jesus Did not Rise?
Josh Morgan – The Role of the Resurrection
Kathy Escobar – Jenga Faith
KW Leslie – Supposing Jesus is Dead
Leah – Resurrection – Or Not!
Liz Dyer – The Resurrection I Firmly Believe In
Marta – On Faith Seeking Understanding, Truth, and Theology
Minnow – Resurrection Impact
Sonja Andrews – The Resurrection and the Life
Tim Nichols – How Would Life be Different if Jesus did not Rise?
Travis Mamone – If the Resurrection was a Hoax