In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Follow Up To "Am I Gay Enough?"

Well, thanks for the feedback from "Am I Gay Enough?" When I'm feeling bad, I'll go back and read those comments. They make me feel a lot better.

I was still stewing about this "am I good enough" question, when something happened. A professor at the college where I work talked to me about the tutoring services for her class. In the process of this conversation, she slammed the whole process of how I deal with matching students with tutors. She just plodded along about only having tutors who understand economics on a "deeper level." I've just tried to find someone who passed the class (usually non-majors). When I had taken enough of her time (even though she came to see me), she just abruptly walked out. I felt like shit by the end of the conversation.

I don't think she even knew that I was taking her critical comments so personally. She was just so wrapped up in her own class, that she didn't care about me or what I did. I was simply a tool for her convenience.

This got me thinking about my "am I good enough" question I was pondering. I had complained that I didn't feel gay enough or militant enough. But I realized that I feel this way around certain individuals. Like this professor, these people are often too involved in their own agenda to see me as more than either a tool or a hindrance. The people that make me feel inadequate don't care about me (ultimately). They are concerned for their own pain.

For many of the people who make me feel inadequate about being gay, I've heard someone say in their defense, "They are speaking out of a lot of pain." I have no doubt that is true. However, I also have realized that people who are speaking out of their own pain simply want to spread that pain around. There is some pain I don't want to accept, and that's where I feel this fundamental difference with these folks.

That same day, I ate lunch with J, from Grover's Corners (yes, we are not just virtual friends). We both decided that there are just some people who make you feel like shit. J has them. I have them. I bet you have them. J and I were discussing making a list of current "put-downers". I haven't started yet (I have enough else to do).

I'm somewhat comforted by the fact that the problem is not me. It's a different set of expectations about what life is and what we are called to do. I'm sure I'll still have encounters that makes me question who I am. However, I will be able to add them to my list!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Waiting Devotional

The college where I work wanted to compile an Advent Devotional. They asked students, faculty and staff to submit brief Advent thoughts to be included in the devotional. I haven't yet seen the finished product, but here is the entry I submitted.


I don’t like to be late. I’m one of those people who like to be early to things. I don’t mind waiting if I know that I showed up to an event early. However, I want to make sure that I’m situated and prepared by the time the event (be it a meeting, a show, or whatever).

Not everyone has this tendency to be early. In fact, it seems to me that everyone is always late for everything. That may just be my perspective, but I feel like I’m the only one who subscribes to the philosophy, “If you are early, then you are on time. If you’re on time, then you are late.”

I also like to know what’s coming up next. I want to be prepared for “the next thing”. So, at a play or a concert, I always have the bulletin. That way, I can peek and see what’s happening next.

Unfortunately for me, God does not operate on this same assumption. God will continually surprise us. We don’t know what’s coming next, so we have to prepare ourselves for anything. And God is a little like the stock market, “Past performance is no indication of future results.”

In Isaiah, God says as much, “Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; not it spring forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19). God is ready to surprise us with the next new “thing.” I don’t think any of us can imagine what that new thing will be like. Of course, there are some who make a lot of money trying to predict. But in the end, I’m sure God will surprise us.

So, what does that mean for us? We are to wait. We are to prepare ourselves? For what, you ask? Prepare ourselves for anything.

Friday, November 25, 2005

A Quiet Post-Thanksgiving Day

I've spent a great day at home. My family is still here, so we have been playing pinochle like crazy. Today was our "work" day. I raked up a pile of leaves that had blown into our driveway. Actually, I tried to get them before the SNOW that was coming down completely covered them. In all, we probably got 5 inches of snow today. We have been contemplating shoveling, but we hear that the next two days will be above freezing. We'll see how much mother nature takes care of for us.

I think I really appreciate this being at home. In other years, when we are with my other half's family, we have gotten up to shop at the mall. As many of you know, the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year. I'm not a big consumer. I tend to fall into the camp of people who celebrate "Buy Nothing Day" on the day after Thanksgiving. But a few years ago, we make a joke that it would be fun to get up and try to get all the free stuff. So every year that we are out in Seattle, we visit the mall. We run through and grab the free stuff, but we usually don't buy anything. Even if we are tempted to pick something up, the lines usually deter us.

Actually, we were woken up this morning by a call from my other half's sister. It was 6:00 AM in Seattle, and she and his mother were both in line outside some store. She told us that it wasn't as fun without the two of us. I guess we can turn anything into an adventure.

To be honest, I think I prefer relaxing or doing little projects at home. But we won't tell them that. Quality family time is good!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

RENT Is Great

We just returned from watching RENT at the movie theatre. I LOVED IT!

I don't care what critics didn't like it. I don't care how it was different from the stage version. I just appreciated it.

What a good show. It makes me want to be poor in New York.

My Obsession...

By the way...go to RENT sometime this weekend. It should be good.

I think by now you picked up that I'm a pretty big RENT fan. I'll be there tonight!

I'm Not Ashamed

I have a little time before we have to leave this morning, so I'll put up a quick post.

My birthday is coming up. It's about a week after Thanksgiving, so often the Thanksgiving weekend is also a combination birthday party with my family. My family came last Friday, and they are staying until Monday. I have mentioned that I need some new pants, both casual and for work. My grandmother decided that she would get me pants. She wanted to go shopping for them with me.

So we went off to the mall to get pants. The difficult thing was that my grandmother can't move very fast any more. She also gets tired out. So, we didn't go very far...just to JC Penny's for some Dockers. As I was walking through the mall, I wondered, "Is it normal for a 29-year old (on my birthday, I'll be 29 - not 30, so you can't rib me too much) to still go pants shopping with his grandmother?"

Maybe it's not. After all, I didn't see a whole lot of multigenerational groupings at the mall. But you know what, I don't care. I love my grandma. I'm cheap enough to take her generosity. And I needed the pants anyway.

The one caveat is that because she was getting tired rather quickly, we didn't spend a lot of time shopping. Eventually, we chose some stuff (two pants and two shirts) and just bought them. If they don't fit, or if I decide I don't like them, I'll return them for something else.

So, I guess I get the best of both worlds. I get to spend one-on-one time with my grandma. I got pants. And I can still go shopping. It's a win-win!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Need To Sleep

I'm beat. I'll be going to bed in just a moment. I can feel the beginnings of an illness coming on. I don't want to get sick...Especially over Thanksgiving...Especially with my family here. I want to drink lots of fluids and go to sleep.

Another factor is that my sister still has mono. She got it in June, and it's still with her. It's making me very aware of how good a candidate I could be for mono myself.

Here's the complicating factor. RENT starts on Wednesday. I have a group of friends who are all interested in going, but they want/need to go to the late show (starts at 10:00). I'm up for it, but I need to rest up before hand. Maybe I can stave off illness and still get to see the excitement of RENT on it's opening night.

Here's hoping!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Am I Gay Enough?

This is one of those blog entries that I've wanted to do for a while. I just wasn't sure how to go about doing it. Now I'm just going to take the plunge.

There are times, frequently, when I feel like I'm not the right type of gay person. Now, many of you may be thinking that you're not the right "type" of something or other, but I'm not talking about body image or appearance. Of course, I don't always feel comfortable with my appearance, but I'm talking more about my contribution to the "gay community."

When I first came out, I just wanted my life to be OK. I was fine with being "tolerated". I didn't expect too much from anyone. I also believed I could win people over with my charm, and then they would see that the gays aren't so bad after all. After a few experiences, I realized that I could not make people like me...or even understand me.

Somehow, that turned me into more of a "active" gay person. After my work with the GLBT youth group, and a Lutherans Concerned conference, I joked that I was a "professional homosexual" (but not in the way you are thinking right now...if your mind is in the gutter). Just about everything I did was gay related.

Even with all this, there were some people around whom I felt very inadequate. I wasn't militant enough. And I took that to mean that I wasn't "gay" enough. I won't name these folks, but there is an evil side of me that would love to slander them. I look at what they do, and I wonder what sort of change am I making.

I should back up. I'm probably leaving out details. Most of the work that I tend to do is related to education, programs, and events (I love events!). What I don't do is a lot of protests and vigils. I haven't protested outside of any anti-gay event. I haven't been arrested while singing "we shall overcome". I prefer to stay inside my little programmatic bubble, and plan conferences (have I mentioned how much I like conferences?).

Often, I rationalize this to myself. I will say that I am using my gifts, and others are using their gifts. It would be foolish for me try to make myself into something I am not (i.e. a confrontational person). But sometimes this argument has no weight.

This is not a new feeling, but it came up most strongly when I attended the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Orlando last August. During a floor discussion, roughly 100 people "broke through" the visitors' section and stood in front of the voting members. This was done to send a message they the voting members that they were dealing with real people. My friend, J, at Grover's Corners, wrote a very nice piece about it. In fact, nearly every gay lutheran I know wrote a nice description of it. I was there, but I did not participate. I was not able to stand and put myself on the line. Even to this day, I continue to be haunted by my inaction.

After a while, I got really tired of reading the retelling of the event. As you can imagine, every newsletter had a stirring description of an action that I was too chicken to participate in. Participants describe this electric energy that moved from fear to faith. My own description was more like a dark cloud that hung over my head. I was not excited about the action, even when it was over (without incident or arrest).

And so, here I am, planning another conference and staying far away from the activists. I sort of have this "Gay Uncle Tom" feeling as I type this out. I know that I'll continue to use my gifts to make this world a better place for GLBTQA folks, but I wonder if there are things I just can't bring myself to do. Perhaps it's just my lot in life.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Dedication....or Workaholic? You decide!

My family is visiting, and I'm downstairs surfing the internet. That's right, I'm bringing my work home with me. I've been a good son and grandson all day long. Now I'm going to try to finish some work projects.

I'm working on a conference. I'm trying to contact anyone I can who is connected with faith, spirituality, and the GLBT community. That means using a lot of search engines and following a lot of links. At work, I was researching every college and university in the upper midwest. Now I'm doing this search. All so that I can get enough addresses to make up a stupid postcard mailing.

I'm excited about this conference, but I'm feeling very under the gun. We've dedicated ourselves to the speakers and entertainment, so this thing has to go. Now I just need to convince faith-based and GLBT organizations to sponsor the event...and college students to register for the event. All in two months...with Christmas in between. I'm such a glutton for punishment!

Wish me luck. Eventually, I might post something here for you to see what I'm working on. It should be good...if it goes.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Tommy the Turkey Time!

Thanksgiving is only a week away. Usually, my other half and I travel between our two families. One year, we are with his family, the next we are with my family. This year, we aren't going anywhere. We are staying home, and my family can come to me.

I'm hosting Thanksgiving. It's like my first adult Thanksgiving. It's very grown-up!

My family is actually arriving tomorrow, and spending over a week at our home. I always have a good time with my family, but I'm sure I'll be tired by the time it is over. As the host, you always feel like you are "on". I also am going to have to be in charge of cooking most of the stuff. I'm sure they will help out, but I will feel like I'm the one who is supposed to know how to cook a Turkey.

I'm no Martha Stewart (because I haven't been to prison - HA!), but I'll try my darndest to make a good Thanksgiving.


A good movie about hosting your family for Thanksgiving is called Pieces of April. It's about estrangement and reconciliation within a family. I found it incredibly touching. I recommend it to you!

Happy week before Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Money Makes the World Go 'Round

I have this ambivalent relationship with money. Some days, I just hate the stuff. On other days, I dream about what I would do if/when I have some. Heck, I can dream about money, even when I hate it.

My other half and I are just talking about our personal finances. We have a LOT less than we did at one time. It seems, so far, that we are doing quite well about staying within our budget. We are doing OK - but I do feel trapped by the lack of options. We have fewer options in the winter, because everything you want to do costs money! You can't just hang out outside. You have to go into a coffee shop, mall, or venue. The alternative is to stay home and watch TV (probably a worse option than spending money, in my opinion).

I'm also ranting about this because it seems that most all of the institutions have issues with money. I work on projects in two different congregations. Both are doing great things, but they are limited by income. There are a lot of great projects I either am working on, or want to work on. Unfortunately, I also have to earn some cash to pay for my house, my food, and my lifestyle. Some of these projects are sapping my dwindling time, or I just can't do them.

Everyone is worried about money these days. Why is that? There is an illusion that money is freeing, when it's really binding. Money determines what I do, who I converse with, and what my worth is.

I'm in a mood today where I don't like money at all. I may be more into it tomorrow or the next day. Once I want something, then I want money. Today, when I'm seeing how trapped I am, then money is the enemy.

Oh, and my title is supposed to be ironic. I hope you figured that out. Curse money!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Day of Rest?

I realized that I haven't posted anything on here since my depressing entry from Thursday. I'm in a much better mood. Thursday was one of those days that just seemed to be pointless. Thank goodness that feeling doesn't linger for too long. I'm still in a pretty healthy spot.

Anyway, today is one of those days when you just run around a lot. I was at worship this morning, then met with kids to start to plan the journey to the National Youth Gathering (a good time for all!). Now I'm getting ready to attend a meeting of Lutherans Concerned/Twin Cities about a conference I'm planning. After that, I head to the GLBT Youth Group I work with on Sundays. Then comes hip-hop worship.

For me, Sunday has not much been a day of rest. It sometimes seems busier than the rest of the week. This is where I have to discipline myself to take Sabbath at various intervals.

Sabbath is more than just a commandment from God. It's a way we need to run our lives so that we don't burn ourselves out. I do a LOT, so I am a high-risk burn-out candidate. Sabbath helps to keep my mind clear and clean. It opens my heart. It allows me to not be in charge, but to follow the Spirit of God.

Breaking Sabbath is a commandment that people have simply ignored. Many people brag at how they break this commandment (it's one of the Top Ten, you know). I just bragged about it a couple of paragraphs up. I'm not proud of that, but it is a part of my human condition. What I need to be careful of, is not to fall away from Sabbath. I must rest my heart and mind.

I seek Sabbath moments in the hectic pace of my life. I pray you can do the same.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

More Dreary Days

It seems like I have a cycle of topics to cover. Either I gush about my friends, wonder about this coffee house, or complain because the fall makes me depressed.

Today was another one of those days. I just had this cloud over me the whole day. I didn't have motivation to do anything.

I dropped my other half off this morning, and we didn't leave on good terms. So I spent the better part of the day thinking that we were mad at each other. We've since talked, and are in a much better place. Still, it puts a damper on your day.

A big news item today (which was building up before today) is a major "Pastor's Summit" to get clergy support for a constitutional amdendment banning same-sex marriage. I wasn't there, but several of my friends were. A few of my clergy friends went inside to take notes. I think the event affected me, even though I wasn't there. It's hard to get your work done when you know people are plotting your demise.

I'm praying that tomorrow and this weekend are much better days for me. I want to be productive, and enjoy my work. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More Churchy Coffee Shop Musings

One of my first entries, oh, so long ago was about opening a coffee shop with a bunch of pastors and church-type folks. You can get a recap here.

Have there been any developments? Well, not really. No tangible developments. I've talked to several friends about it. Many of them were very excited. Of course, hardly any of my friends have much experience in running a small business, much less a coffee house.

The main stumbling block is that of money. We don't have any. As we talked about it, we realized that we may not be able to partner as much as we would like. We would like to contribute more in both time and money, but those are both quite short for us right now.

However, it doesn't stop me from talking to people. I have heard that we need to be tough with the developer. He may be asking too high of a price per square foot. I've also been talking to some other community leaders in the neighborhood. They had some insights on where the neighborhood is going, or not going. I've heard that this condo development (the coffee house would be in the street level of a condo building) is assuming that the neighborhood is going to gentrify. This person wasn't so sure that it would. While I'm personally against gentrification, especially when it shoves out the longstanding residents, gentrification is good for business.

Anyway, I do have one friend who has some good coffee house experience. She seemed interested, and may be a good resource for us.

I've also been gathering information about Peace Coffee. I'm thinking that it may be the brand that we want to serve. I've poked around their web site, and I like what I see. It seems to match all of our values.

Still, we remind ourselves that this is a business. While ministry may occur at this site, we are going to be concerned about the bottom line. It's not a ministry per se.

Anyway, that's the (non)update on what's going on with the coffee house. It may continue to be a dream, or we may make it a reality. Who knows?

In the meantime, what do you think of this name: Sacred Grounds

Any other suggestions?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Lost Sheep?

Today, I was at a workshop type meeting, called "Deepening the Welcome". It was an opportunity for Lutheran congregations who have declared themselves to be "Reconciling In Christ" (RIC). RIC congregations have made a formal statement of welcome that will include (but is not limited to) GLBT persons. This workshop day was called "Deepening the Welcome" so that congregations who have the designation can find proactive ways to seek out and include more folks out there. The workshop had the feeling of a mix between a Human Rights Campaign meeting and an evangelism conference.

I was invited to be there to be a resource person in a conversation about including and communciating with children and youth about matters of sexuality, welcoming and the RIC process. I was invited because of my work with GLBT youth in a faith-based context. The other resource people talked about their work with young children in their congregations.

One pastor described an activity they did with the kids that made me take a new look at a great biblical text. She said that they hid 100 paper cut-outs of sheep around the church. They then read Luke 15:1-6.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." So he told them this parable: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.'

They talked about the need to have every person included in the family of Christ. They then sent the kids off on a hunt for the 100 sheep. The kids took to it immediately. At one point, the pastor said, "I think you've gotten the point after about 85 sheep. Let's stop looking." The kids went bizerk on her. They couldn't leave a single sheep behind. After that parable, it was unthinkable.

I have often thought of the work of RIC as evangelism. As congregations shared what they did with their RIC status, I realized that they they were targeting a specific population to which to share the good news. They are reaching out those sheep that are still trying to navigate this world by themselves. It is part of our evanglical imperative to try to gather in everyone. It is a departure from this present world's values to only try to attract the middle-class white folks. We are supposed to reach out to all. This story made that reality alive for me again.

Of course, those who are against welcoming GLBT people into the life of the church would not stop reading at verse six. They would continue:

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

These detractors would probably focus on the word "repentance." For them, that is what this is all about. It is not about reaching out to individuals. It's about forcing people to pretend to be something they are not, and labeling it "repentance." It is about laying a burden on GLBT people that most people are not able to bear.

You know what? I don't care. The weight of the first six verses is enough to convince me that we are called to reach out in love to one another. It means that we are to celebrate when someone walks in our door. We are not called to deny membership to those who desire to be a part of our church family. We are not called to put restrictions on who is a part of the "fold". We are not even called to asses someone's vocational gifts based on something as perifery as sexual orientation. We are only called to seek for those out in the world. Then we celebrate when they are with us.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

RENT is Coming!

Today, I went to my Thursday lunch/BS with a network of friends. We are all very committed to social justice, diversity, and keeping ourselves accountable to one another. I really enjoy meeting with the group.

Today, we were especially thankful for each other's company. We also were talking about our values, and our struggle to make those values a reality in our world. It's a very frustrating world, and we should be lucky to have friends to travel the road with us. I know...I already wrote a post gushing about my friends. Bear with me.

Our conversation started me thinking about RENT. I very much enjoy the stage production of RENT, and I'm very excited about the movie coming out on November 23rd. I want to go on the opening night, and I want friends to go with me.

For those of you who don't know, RENT is an adaptation of Puccini's opera, La Boheme. It takes the same bohemian characters and places them in Manhattan's East Village, in the midst of the AIDS crisis. It was a very powerful play that spoke to a generation (my generation!). The plot tracks a group of friends through a year of their lives and loves.

The story of RENT, the musical is made more powerful by the fact that Jonathan Larson, the man who wrote and composed RENT, died the day before opening night.

disappointed in the movie. Of course, it will be different, but thatAnd now, the movie is coming. From what I've heard, people who really like the play will not be doesn't mean it won't be better. I'm excited to see it. And I want my own circle of friends around to enjoy it with me!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Dreary Days of November

I always get a little down at this time of year.

I'm really a summer person. I like the long days filled with light and warmth. I like being able to walk outside without having to get dressed for 10 minutes beforehand. In short, I like summer.

Often, fall can also hold some appeal. It's the start of a new school year. We get new routines. The leaves are changing, ever so slowly. It's brisk and cool.

But I never want to do anything once it gets to this point. I just want to curl up and sleep for a day or so. That's how I feel tonight. I can see the pile of stuff that I need to get done (even here at home). I can see deadlines looming ever closer. But I have no motivation to do any of it.

I think it's because we are at the point when the days are remarkably shorter, especially in this latitude. The sun is setting by the time I go home. The freshness and excitement of fall has worn off. It's now a dying world out there. Soon, there will be a blanket of snow over everything. We won't get to run around outside until at least April (at least, not safely). We just hole ourselves up inside and run to our cars.

Sorry, I'm probably spreading my depression around by writing this. Some folks get excited over the ever-blackening universe we see at this time of year. I'm not one of those folks.