The Closest Friends I’ve Never Met and an Unladylike Manifesto

These days I have lots of friends I have never met and I am surprised by how much a part of my life they are. A few months ago I stumbled upon a blog by Rachel Held Evans (I am not even sure how). Then I got her book on Audible.com and she rode shotgun with me while I eagerly listened to her every word. Together we laughed and we cried. Rachel is actually someone that I have had the privilege of meeting and lived to blog about it here.  After a couple months of reading Rachel’s blog and several others it lead me to, including Sarah Bessey’s, I had an epiphany of sorts… I had something to say! For those who actually have met me in person it will be hard to believe that I would be at a loss for words, but because of past experiences over time I unwittingly became (or tried to appear to be…) ladylike. For me, most of the time meant biting my tongue. I am a natural talker and strong woman with leadership skills that don’t involve kids, crafts or tea and little sandwiches. Outside of my church life, this was never a problem, in fact it was seen as a strength in most areas: high school, college, bar tending, and in the art departments where I worked after college. No, it was only in my church life and with my church friends (I never thought I kept my life separate and I most ways I didn’t but when it came to my behavior and how much I spoke up and took a leadership role I was definitely leading a divided life) that I felt the need to be less _________ and more ___________ than I am. You could fill in those blanks with all kinds of words. I was always either too much (Alise Wright) or not enough (Rachel Held Evans). At one point I even had a friend (someone I admired and whom I love very much) write down verses and talk to me about how I needed to speak less and be more dispassionate about what I had to say. That one act both upset me greatly and muted me for a long time. I became somewhat convinced, in a very conflicted way, that there was something wrong with me. It took me a lot of years, the support of my husband and a lot of listening to the voices of other women who were tired of being quiet, dispassionate and ladylike to finally be okay with releasing my true and authentic voice: the one God gave me.

These days, I am much less “ladylike” (Webster: feeling or showing too much concern about elegance or propriety or lacking in strength, force, or virility) and also much “less divided” as my friend Kathy Escobar (who I get to meet in October!) said in her recent post (you must read it, you must read it now!). It is one I am printing out and keeping to read and reread whenever I need it, kind of like my emergency chocolate. Like my friend Kathy, today I am happy. She writes,

the thing that makes me happy right now is that many people i know are finding freedom and becoming less divided.  we’re breaking free.  we’re finding our way.  we’re loosening shame’s grip.  we’re stepping into who God made us to be.

These are a few of the closest friends I’ve never met, let me introduce them to you my lovelies, you will never meet a finer, more fierce, more passionate group of leaders anywhere. There’s Kathy and Rachel and Sarah and Alise and Jo and so many more. It is in large part because of these women that I am able to be truly free to serve Jesus with all that I am. It is my great privilege to join their voices and add mine to their mission to bring freedom to all God’s children, men and women together.

Today one of these women, Pam Hogeweide wrote a brilliant post in response to The True Woman Manifesto which was posted on truewoman.com. I want to share it with you. It is truly inspired.

Unla­dy­like Manifesto

  • We believe that male and female are cre­ated to col­lab­o­rate, co-lead and co-exist in a mutu­al­ity of sub­mis­sion to one another. (Gen 2:18 – 23,Galatians 3:28)
  • We believe that gift­ing is appointed accord­ing to the will of the Holy Spirit and that call­ing is deter­mined by gift­ing, not gen­der. (1 Corinthi­ans 12,  John 20:1 – 20)
  • We believe that the power of the Gospel restores men and women in right rela­tion­ship to one another to live, serve and lead side by side rather than in patri­ar­chal hier­ar­chy. (Gala­tians 3:28, John 4:7 – 39)
  • We believe that the voice, influ­ence and author­ity of women is meant to be fully unleashed in accor­dance to the full per­son­hood that women pos­sess. Male  head­ship is a myth. (Joel 2:28 – 29, 1 Peter 2:9 – 10)
  • We believe in the mutual sub­mis­sion and part­ner­ship of mar­riage where nei­ther has author­ity over another by virtue of gen­der. We reject the headship/submission model as a bib­li­cal truth and instead embrace the lib­erty and wis­dom of def­er­ence to the other. (Eph­esian 1:22, Eph­esians 5: 15 – 33, 1 Peter 5:5)
  • We believe that the lead­er­ship of women is needed in full part­ner­ship with the lead­er­ship of men in all are­nas of cul­ture and church. Women were not cre­ated to fol­low any­more than men were cre­ated to lead. (Num­bers 12:15, Judges 4 & 5, 2 Kings 22:13 – 14, Acts 2, Romans  16:3 – 4, 7)
  • We believe that Jesus mod­eled a rad­i­cal agenda of respect­ing women’s full per­son­hood in how he treated them as noted in the Gospels. Jesus went against cul­tural and reli­gious norms in his treat­ment of women. (Luke 13:10 – 17, John 4, Luke 8:1 – 3, etc.….)
  • We believe that men and women of faith ought to resist the injus­tice of inequal­ity wher­ever it is found, includ­ing the halls of the church. Jus­tice is a king­dom of God value and is the lan­guage of love. (Hosea 2:19, Amos 5:15, 24, Micah 6:8)

 

I Will Let These Women Answer For Themselves

Margaret Thatcher

Hilary Rodham Clinton

Jael – Biblical personality

Rachel – Biblical personality

Deborah – Biblical personality

Ruth – Biblical personality

Priscilla – Biblical personality

Lydia – Biblical personalit

Miraim – Biblical personality

Madeline Albright

Mary the mother of Jesus

Mary Magdeline

Jane Addams

Susan B. Anthony

Marie Antoinette

Saint Joan of Arc

Aspasia of Miletus

Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Jane Austen

Ella Baker

Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike

Clara Barton

Florence Bascom

Simone de Beauvoir

Aphra Behn

Ruth Fulton Benedict

Shirley Temple Black

Elizabeth Blackwell

Bonnie Kathleen Blair

Rosa Bonheur

Louise Arner Boyd

Pearl S. Buck

Marie Anne de Cupis de Camargo

Rachel Carson

Catherine the Great

St. Catheri

Cleopatra

Juana Ines de la Cruz

Marie Curie

Agnes George de Mille

Emily Dickinson

Amelia Earhart

Marian Wright Edelman

Eleanor of Aquitane

Beatrix Jones Farrand

Edith Flanigen

Anne Frank

Rosalind Elsie Franklin

Betty Ford

Nancy Reagan

Betty Naomi Friedan

Elizabeth Gurney Fry

Margaret Fuller

Indira Gandhi

Sarah and Angelina Grimke

Caroline Lucretia Hersche

Judith E. Heumann

Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin

Ariel Hollinshead

Mary Phelps Jacob

Helen Keller

Billie Jean King

Aleksandra Mikhaylovna Kollontai

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Susette La Flesche Tibbles

Ruth Graham

Anne Graham Lotz

Maya Lin

Juliette Gordon Low

Anne Sullivan Macy

Wilma Mankiller

Barbara McClintock

Catherine Boothe

Catherine de Medici

Lise Meitner

Rigoberta Menchu Tum

Maria Montessori

Mother Theresa_

Baroness Murasaki

Shikibu

Florence Nightingale

Georgia O’Keeffe

Vijaya Lakshimi

Pankhurst

Rosa Parks

Eva Peron

Christine de Pizan

Pocahontas

Queen Anne

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Isabella

Queen Victoria

Jeannette Rankin

Sally Ride

Alexandra Romanov

Eleanor Roosevelt

Sakajawea

Margaret Sanger

Sappho

Rose Schneiderman

Lucy Stone

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Russell Strong

Bertha von Suttner

Emma Tenayuca

Valentina Vladimirovna Nikolayeva Tereshko

Alexandrine Pieternella Francoise Tinne

Sojourner Truth

Harriet Tubman

Tz’u HsiYoshiko Uchida

Phyllis Wheatley

Mary Wollstonecraft

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow

Rachel Held Evans

Sarah Bessey

Ann Morr – my mother

Gladys Elliott – my Grandmother

Doris Morr – my Grandmother

Beth Moore

Judge Barbara Lynn

Chief Judge Edith Jones

Justice Ginsberg

Kathy Escobar

Pam Hogeweide

Mariah Smiley – Teen founder of Drops of Love

Laurie Watson

;

This is a list of women who currently hold CEO positions at companies that rank on the most recently published Fortune1000 lists (the Fortune 2012 list). Women currently hold 3.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 3.9 percent of Fortune1000 CEO positions.

Fortune 1500 (18 CEOs)

Fortune 501-1000 (21 CEOs)


And millions and millions more whose hard work, dedication, LOVE and passion change the world EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Sir, you should be ashamed.

Pray Away the Gay?

Today’s post is dedicated to every boy, girl, man or woman who has ever attempted to “pray away the gay.” I am sorry. I am sorry that anyone ever made you think that God didn’t love you JUST. LIKE. YOU. ARE.
This post has been coming all week. I apologize in advance for its length.
First I saw a picture on Facebook that was posted by a friend…

The caption said: A Christian group shows up to a Chicago Gay Pride parade holding apologetic signs including “I’m sorry for how the church treated you”.

This is a beautiful thing.

As the week progressed, I came across an amazing blog post in Rachel Held Evans‘ Sunday Superlatives called, A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On by Glennon Melton.” (You can read the whole post here.)

Part of the post was about how kids model what adults say and do and that we as adults and parents have to do better if we ever expect bullying to stop. But the second half was a letter to her son who is still just a little guy. It reads:

Dear Chase,

Whoever you are, whoever you become. You are loved. You are a miracle. You are our dream come true.

Chase, here is what would happen in our home if one day you tell your father and I that you are gay.

Our eyes would open wide.

And we would grab you and hold you tighter than you would be able to bear. And while we were holding you we would say a silent prayer that as little time as possible passed between the moment you knew you were gay and the moment you told us. And that you were never once afraid to tell us. And we would love you and ask you one million questions and then we would love you some more and finally, I would likely rush out to buy some rainbow t-shirts, honey, because you know mama likes to have an appropriate outfit for every occasion.

And I don’t mean, Chase, that we would be tolerant of you and your sexuality. If our goal is to be tolerant of people who are different than we are, Chase, then we really are aiming quite low. Traffic jams are to be tolerated. People are to be celebrated. People, every person, Is Divine. And so there would be celebrating. Celebrating that you would be one step closer to matching your outsides with your insides, to being who you are. And there would be a teeny part of my heart that would leap at the realization that I would forever be the most important woman in your life. And then we would tell everyone. We would not concern ourselves too much with their reactions. There will always be party poopers, baby.

We just wanted you to know this, honey. We’ve worried that since we are Christians, and since we love The Bible so much, that there might come a day when you feel unclear about our feelings about this. Because there are a few parts in The Bible that discuss homosexuality as a sin. So let us be clear about how we feel, because we have spent years of research and prayer and discussion deciding.

Chase, we don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin. Your parents are Christians who carefully choose what we believe and follow in the Bible. Some will tell you that this approach to Christianity is scandalous and blasphemous. But the thing is, honey, that the only thing that’s scandalous about this approach is admitting it out loud. The truth is that every Christian is a Christian who picks and chooses what to follow in the Bible.

Several years ago I was in a Bible study at church, and there was some talk about homosexuality being sinful, and I spoke up. I quoted Mother Teresa and said “When we judge people we have no time to love them.” And I was immediately reprimanded for my blasphemy by a woman who reminded me of 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10. But I was very confused because this woman was speaking. In church. And she was also wearing a necklace. And I could see her hair, baby. She had no head covering. All of which are things that are sooooo totally against the Bible Rules. * And so I just assumed that she had decided not to follow the parts of the Bible that limited her particular freedoms, but to go ahead and hold fast to the parts that limited other people’s freedoms. I didn’t point this out at the time baby, because she wasn’t a bad person. People are doing the best they can, mostly. It’s best not to embarrass people.

What I’m trying to say is that each Christian uses different criteria to decide what parts of the Bible to prioritize and demonstrate in their lives. Our criteria is that if it doesn’t bring us closer to seeing humanity as one, as connected, if it turns our judgment outward instead of inward, if it doesn’t help us become better lovers of God and others, if it distracts us from remembering what we are really supposed to be doing down here, which is finding God in every human being, serving each other before ourselves, feeding hungry people, comforting the sick and sad, giving up everything we have for others, laying down our lives for our friends . . . then we just assume we don’t understand it yet, we put it on a shelf, and we move on. Because all I need to know is that I am reborn. And here’s what I believe it means to be reborn:

The first time you’re born, you identify the people in the room as your family. The second time you’re born, you identify the whole world as your family. Christianity is not about joining a particular club, it’s about waking up to the fact that we are all in the same club. Every last one of us. So avoid discussions about who’s in and who’s out at all costs. Everybody’s in, baby. That’s what makes it beautiful. And hard. If working out your faith is not beautiful and hard, find a new one to work out. And if spiritual teachers are encouraging you to fear anyone, watch them closely, honey. Raise your eyebrow and then your hand. Because the phrase repeated most often in that Bible they are quoting is Do Not Be Afraid. So when they tell you that gay people are a threat to marriage, honey, think hard.

I can only speak from my personal experience, but I’ve been married for eight years and barely any gay people have tried to break up my marriage. I say barely any because that Nate Berkus is a little shady. I am defenseless against his cuteness and eye for accessories and so he is always convincing me to buy beautiful trinkets with our grocery money. This drives your sweet father a bit nuts. So you might want to keep your eye on Berkus. But with the exception of him, I’m fairly certain that the only threats to my marriage are my pride and anger and plain old human wanderlust. Do not be afraid of people who seem different than you, baby. Different always turns out to be an illusion. Look hard.

Chase, God gave you the Bible, and He also gave you your heart and your mind and I believe He’d like you to use all three. It’s a good system of checks and balances He designed. Prioritizing can still be hard, though. Jesus predicted that. So he gave us this story. A man approached Jesus and said that he was very confused by all of God’s laws and directions and asked Jesus to break it down for him. He said, “What are the most important laws?” And Jesus said, “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and love others as yourself.” ** When in doubt, Chase, measure all your decisions and beliefs against that. Make damn sure that you are offering others the same rights, courtesies, and respect that you expect for yourself. If you do that, you can’t go wrong.

Chase, you are okay. You are a child of God. As is everyone else. There is nothing that you can become or do that will make God love you any more or any less. Nothing that you already are or will become is a surprise to God. Tomorrow has already been approved.

And so baby, your father and I have only one specific expectation of you. And that is that you celebrate others the way we celebrate you. That you remember, every day, every minute, that there is no one on God’s Green Earth who deserves more or less respect than you do, My Love.

“He has shown you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” ***

 Love, Mama

PS. We thought we should mention, honey, that if you’re straight, that’s okay too. I mean, it’d be a little anti-climactic now, honestly. But your father and I will deal.

PPS. All of the above holds true if you are overweight or Muslim too. No problem on either count.

PPPS. As daddy read this essay, I watched his gorgeous face intensify. He teared up a little. Then he slammed the letter down on the kitchen table and said emphatically and without a touch of irony, “DAMN STRAIGHT.”

Which, when you think about it honey, is really the funniest possible thing daddy could have said.

Love you Forever.

It made me cry. It made me cry for people I know from my past like Chase Hutchison from A list Dallas who grew up in a church I used to attend, friends from high school like Seth, Scott & Eddie, people from my church like Cathy & Crystal, people in my extended family like Tracey & Liz and today it helped me learn about my husband’s friend. She saw his post of the previous article on facebook which started a conversation. He knew a little bit of her story so he sent her a private message and asked her if she would be willing to share her experiences. With her permission I share her story here in her own words. I pray you will find it as powerful as I did.

I have been a Christian my whole life. Some of my first memories are of going to church with my family, and the church has remained a frequent source of joy and compassion throughout my life. I have accepted Christ three separate and distinct times, which may sound funny. The first was as a child,probably before I knew much about what it meant. The second was as a 12-year old, when I knew more about what it meant. And the third was as a 28-year old lesbian, when I knew exactly what it meant.

Growing up in a small Texas town that had more churches than gas stations, I frequently sat through sermons about right and wrong. That same town had only one gay person: the junior high P.E. coach (enter cliché here), so homosexuality was a frequent – and easy – topic on which to preach. From the pulpit I heard about “them” being Other…Unacceptable…Fallen. History teaches us little more than that having a common enemy unites. Cheaply, but unites nonetheless. We all want to feel like someone is worse than us. I have done that myself many times…judged others in order to feel less judged myself. It is bullying, and I am ashamed of that.

I was 13 years old when I realized that I was attracted to girls (not all of them, of course). It was not a choice that I made. The biology of the body doesn’t lie (to dispense with the abusive/absentee mother theory: I come from a nonabusive, stable, loving home of two parents (married for 43 years this July) and four children, of whom I am the third). Having been deeply engrained with the idea that homosexuals were unacceptable, I felt absolute and total panic. As I think of it, I can still feel my heart race. But the “I think I’m gay” conversation doesn’t have a place in the Christian world of a young girl, or boy for that matter. Not with my church. Not with my family. Not with my friends.

So I turned immediately to God – a practice that I’m still quite fond of. I started a prayer journal, which I would continue for the next ten years. I would ask God to “take it away from me,” and to “fix me.” I even asked God to let me live until I was straight, so that I wouldn’t go to hell. I was too afraid of someone reading the journal to actually write down the issue, but it permeates my prayers. As I read back through those hundreds of pages now, I cry for that girl who felt so alone, so ashamed, so unworthy, and so separated from the Love of God. My sexual orientation consumed my prayer life for years after.

I also immersed myself in the practice of my faith: Bible studies, worship groups, Young Life, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Sunday School, everything. If I get close enough to God, I can’t still like girls, right? I also lived the life I sought after so desperately. I dated boys, kissed boys, and ultimately married one. My mantra was some version of “fake it ‘til you make it.” And I believed that would work. I was taught that it would.

In 2006, three years into my marriage, I got sick. Quite sick. I was having panic attacks several times a week, was depressed, and was working 17-hour days to keep myself from being at home. All still while praying and attending church constantly. It was as though the secret I had been keeping for all those years became too much to keep down. It was like a poison. I finally decided to tell my husband that I was attracted to women. Around the same time, I told my family. I should have told them earlier, but I was afraid. And that is my fault, not theirs.

My husband and I prayed and cried and turned to our church for help. We believed that prayer and support would provide a way out of it. But our church’s solution was some version of “pray away the gay,” and I was confident that was not going to work (see prayer journal for the prior 13 years, though we nonetheless continued to pray that I would be “healed”). Committed to staying together, we experimented with unconventional marital arrangements, none of which worked. After three years of hope, my husband and I divorced in 2009. He has forgiven me for it all, and he remains the most Godly man I have ever known. His love, support, and compassion are a constant reflection of God’s love for me, and – while he has had his own struggles with the situation – he remains one of the two great earthly loves of my life. And God has forgiven me as well.

While my marriage came undone, something else happened. With every honest word I spoke about myself, I got better. And not only did I get better, my faith transformed from a judgmental expression of failed expectations into one of compassion, love, hope, and grace. And through that I have realized that the separation from God I felt for all those years was my fault, because I let something come between me and Christ’s Love. Now I know that nothing…nothing…nothing can come between me and the Love of Christ. I only wish that fewer churches taught that something could…that some things do.

From the scriptural perspective, my best answer is that a condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible is a reflection of the time in which it was written, and that it needs to be interpreted with some acknowledgement of human rights progress. It’s also worth noting that Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, was far more concerned with sins of the heart than sins of the flesh. But the reality is that if homosexuality is a sin, then I am a sinner. And even if homosexuality is not a sin, I am still a sinner. I cannot change who I am attracted to. Believe me, I tried. I wept and prayed and tried and wept and prayed and tried. So far, God has seen it fit to leave me and love me just as I am. And so I am not afraid of it anymore…not ashamed of it…and it is no longer a secret. I am gay, and God loves me. I have Christ to thank for that.

Now I am in a committed relationship with my partner of several years. We pray together, worship together at a wonderful church in which we can hold hands during communion and not be judged, and ask God together to bless and guide our family. God hears our prayers, and we feel His peace in our hearts.

I listen frequently to the Church v. Gays battle that goes on in cities and churches all over the country. I feel like screaming “I am gay AND a Christian AND conservative!” But what I find is that’s too much for people to understand, which I completely appreciate because it was too much for me to understand for
28 years of my life.

The response from many of my life-long friends was difficult. Soon after word got out that I was gay, I started to receive emails from people urging me to “repent,” to “seek the Church,” and to “turn back to Christ.” Most of them were replete with scripture and ended with “I’m praying for you.” The obvious assumption was that I had given up my faith in favor of my sexual orientation, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have done my best to respond with love even when I’ve felt judged and rejected. During a moment of wanting to be understood, I asked a friend: “What would you do if you had a physical reaction to another man?” His response: “I would kill myself.” That was the church talking. Not God. And I realized things were even worse than I had thought. Only one person has ever asked me how my faith relates to my sexuality. Everyone else assumed it didn’t.

I share my story because I think of that boy or girl who, sitting in church this Sunday loving God, is attracted to the same gender and feels ashamed…scared…separated from God. Though surrounded by Christians who are the best in the world at loving, he or she will probably not find acceptance or compassion. It is more likely that he or she will find at atmosphere of rejection, unacceptability, and a “let’s pray that you change” attitude. And that makes my heart ache, having spent 28 years wondering how God could love me if I am gay. We can do better. We all need the grace of Christ to be acceptable in God’s sight. If you’re ever looking for that grace, you can find it under my feet, in my arms, and stamped across my heart. I pray that every person has a moment in his or her life at which it is realized that all of us sin and fall short of the Glory of God. That’s not just a line; we really do.

In the words of Ms. Melton, I want every gay person to know that “They are loved as they are. Without a single unless.” By me and by God.