Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

Say Goodbye

In Church, spirituality on June 26, 2017 at 7:17 am

Although it had only been two weeks, it seemed like a long time since everyone had been together. Last week, we deployed all over the city with messages of love and pride. That was important work. Still, I was happy to see everybody back in our sanctuary yesterday.

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to two gentle souls. Jeff and Nhi, quiet, powerful presences who have been a beloved part of our church family, have to leave us.

Nhi is a tiny little person who tears it up on the piano. She could have been the inspiration for Shakespeare when he said, “though she be but little, she is fierce.” She showed us that all music is sacred by often playing secular music instead of hymns. Her choices ranged from George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue) to Franz Liszt (Grandes etudes de Paganini, S. 141). On Christmas Day she gave us a mad jazz rendition of Go Tell it On the Mountain (my personal favorite). Fierce. She’s moving to New York to pursue doctoral studies.

Reverend Jeff told us that he was discouraged many years ago from seeking ordination after divinity school because he wanted to work in the community instead of in a church. When he found our church, he found encouragement from our previous pastor and the congregation, and he decided to pursue ordination as a deacon, which he completed two years ago. In the United Methodist Church, a deacon is an ordained clergyperson called to serve people in ministries of compassion, justice, and service in the world. Perfect.

Earlier this year he took over as CEO of the Boulder Community Foundation where his leadership will shine. Boulder’s gain is our loss, however, as the position requires that he move to Boulder County.
We also bid farewell to Pride month. We wish it could go on because we still have so much work to do, and we like wearing rainbows.
Now we need to turn to the future. Pastor Brad told us what’s coming up in the next few months, including our always anticipated movie sermon series in August, our tent service (potluck, yes, hellfire and brimstone, no) in September, and the 125th anniversary of our church in October.
Still I feel some reluctance to move on. You know when you read a book you love so much you don’t want it to end, even when you know you have to turn the page? Like that.

Amateur Hour

In spirituality on June 19, 2017 at 6:17 am

My church was stretched a little thin yesterday morning as we tried to cover activities on three fronts. We have a growing congregation with only one minister.

Pastor Brad is young, gifted, and energetic, but even he can’t be in three places at once.

He went to the church’s annual conference not only because his attendance is required, but also to see a close friend be ordained.

At the Pride parade, we had a large contingent, including our music director and children’s director. We always want to support our beloved LGBTQ members, and this year, we also needed to show the world how much we adore our Bishop Karen Oliveto, whose election caused much hand-wringing in conservative United Methodist churches.

That left a group of amateurs, including me, in charge of our worship service. We had some glitches.

Nobody knew how to turn on the lights in the vestibule.

One altar candle wouldn’t light, probably because nobody knew to check that it had oil.

One mic didn’t work, then it did work.

Carolyn, who led children’s time, didn’t know if we were having Sunday school.

Nobody was assigned to count the offering after the service.

We all pulled together and figured things out. We always do.

I used a prayer by Rev. Jude Geiger that contained these words “In this month, where our nation celebrates the lives and the struggles of Transgender, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people, help us to find a path forward, where each of us may live our lives, honest to who we are, with grace and empathy for one another.” Yes.

We had some good, old-fashioned music. Linda, accompanied by Nhi on piano, sang “Whispering Hope.” During our hymn sing, William led us through “I’ll Fly Away” (my favorite), “Amazing Grace,” and “Morning has Broken,” among others.

Afterward, William and I high-fived because we made it through and had some fun.

The word amateur typically means inept, and we were probably not as ept (it’s a word!) as we would have liked. But it comes from the Latin “to love” and also means a person who does something purely for love.

That fits, too.

Yesterday was Not a Good Example

In spirituality on June 15, 2017 at 7:33 am

I spent most of my life in a bad mood. Getting older and menopause have helped to alleviate this and let me see more than a faint glow of hope around the edges of despair.

Our current political situation threatens to extinguish that light. Yesterday’s dual mass shootings moved us a little closer to darkness. Suddenly republicans were blaming “the left” for inciting violence by criticizing their repressive and regressive regime.

As if the man in the White House hadn’t spent the past year practically begging his followers to beat, kill, or maim anyone who opposed him. As if republicans haven’t taken every opportunity to keep guns—all guns and as many as possible—available even to people who clearly shouldn’t have them.

They really piss me off.

NOW they’re concerned because a gun was turned on some of their own. I’ll bet they’re not concerned enough to vote against the NRA, the biggest terrorist organization in the world.

Some days the only light I see is the resistance movement, the mobilization of progressives against republicans and the man in the White House, the hope that his/their flagrant corruption and disregard of what’s best for the country will end.

Author L.R. Knost says “Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

On good days, I take refuge in messages like these. On bad days, I remind myself that the fact that someone said it and believes it doesn’t make it so.

So I pray, “Make it so.”

What does LGBTQIA spell?

In Learning, spirituality, writing on June 14, 2017 at 6:12 am

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, June 26, 1988, I was in San Francisco on business with the woman who owned the small consulting company I worked for. We went sightseeing with me driving the rental convertible. As we drove down Castro street, I focused on navigating through the unfamiliar city, and she suddenly started yelling obscene things at people on the sidewalk.
“What are you doing?” I asked, shocked and horrified, as I made our turn.
She told me, still laughing and shouting, that men in costumes wearing state banners as if from a beauty contest were walking down the street.
I hadn’t seen a thing. In my defense, I’m not a people watcher, and I was driving. I found out later that we had happened upon the Lesbian and Gay Pride parade, but at that moment on Castro Street, I learned that I worked for a bigot.
That was 29 years ago, 19 years after the Stonewall Rebellion that sparked the gay rights movement, almost ten years after the assassination of Harvey Milk, and at the height of the AIDS epidemic. I guess you could say we’ve come a long way, Baby, but we still have plenty of work to do. I’ve met more than my share of bigots in the past 30 years, and I bet you have, too.
As with many marginalized groups, the preferred term keeps changing. Someone once told me she’d grown up Mexican, become Chicana, then Hispanic, and was now Latina.
I’d just gotten used to LGBT (or GLBT) when someone added a Q. For the record, I’ve also seen it with up to three Ts (transsexual, transgender, and two-spirit), two Qs (questioning and queer), and two As (asexual and ally).
A friend heard that it’s now LGBTQIA and asked in exasperation what the IA stood for.
“The rest of us,” she was told.
I think maybe that’s the point.
“We all have a gender identity and a sexual orientation and these things all fall along a vast and complicated continuum,” according to progressive minister and blogger John Pavlovitz. (http://johnpavlovitz.com/) That works for me. We all fit somewhere along that continuum although probably not in the neat little boxes we recognize.
I detest that LGBTQ people continue to face derision and danger. It makes me want to weep and scream and throw things. Instead, I write, and I yearn for a time when that no longer happens.
Then we can label the continuum A-Z, and once we have the whole alphabet accounted for, we’ll discover that it spells unity, equality, and love.
It spells one.

Return to Upright Position

In spirituality on June 12, 2017 at 5:57 am

On Sunday, many, maybe most, of my church family will march in Denver’s Pride Parade. We will stand our ground on the side of what is good and true and right. On the side of justice and love.

This year the United Methodist Church made news because we in the Mountain Sky Region elected a wise and compassionate woman, Reverend Karen Oliveto, who is also a lesbian, to be our Bishop, and that’s a violation of one or two lines in the church’s voluminous Book of Discipline.

The founder of the Methodist Movement, John Wesley, had three simple rules to live by: Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God.

Yet some within the denomination persist in doing harm to LGBTQ people by rejecting and condemning them because of whom they love. Their hatred is so intractable that within the church has grown an independent network of reconciling ministries, committed to ending institutional oppression. My church is a part of this network.

Our pastor pointed out that historically every time the church excluded somebody, e.g. women, African Americans, the church was wrong, and it is wrong now.

The regressive mood in the country that has states passing laws allowing discrimination also demands our presence and support of this maligned community. We will not go backward.

Although I would dearly love to be there, medical issues prevent me from marching. I have extracted a promise that next year we’ll have a float for church ladies and others who need to ride in the parade. Because we will be back next year.

Our church sports banners proclaiming, “We are PROUD that God loves all people.” People who walk, bike, and drive through the neighborhood frequently stop to take a picture. One man was overheard saying “Good job, Highlands Methodist, good job.”

That’s what we’re here for.

Good work.

And that’s why we’ll be marching in person or in spirit in the parade next Sunday.

Almost Native

In Colorado, Home, spirituality on June 9, 2017 at 6:47 am

Colorado is the most beautiful state in the U.S. That’s a stupid statement, I know. First, beauty is subjective. Science has yet to invent an objective scale to measure relative beauty. Second, while I have seen quite a lot of the state, I sure haven’t seen it all. Third, even if I had seen it all, I haven’t seen every bit of every other state with which to compare it. Nevertheless.

My family moved to Denver on my third birthday. We had a party in the morning, and then packed up the car and left Des Moines for good. I always considered both the city and the state to be my birthday gift. When they came to visit (and a lot of them came to visit), my Iowa relatives told me how lucky I was to live in Colorado.

We would take them up to Central City (before gambling) to see the face on the barroom floor and to Garden of the Gods and to Estes Park.

On my parents’ summer vacations, we ventured farther afield. Most of the time we camped in a station wagon with roof top tent my dad made from a pattern in Popular Mechanics.

When I was 10, we took our most memorable trip, driving west to Grand Junction then south to Ouray, “The Switzerland of America.” Still heading south we drove the harrowing hairpin turns of the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton. Carved into the side of a mountain in the 1880s, the narrow road is one of the most spectacular drives in the country. Ask anyone.

We also rode the narrow gauge railroad between Silverton and Durango and then headed west to Mesa Verde. The ancient and mysterious cliff dwellings moved me deeply although the precarious cliffside position scared the piss out of me (literally, but that’s Too Much Information). Let’s just say I learned that year that I have a fear of heights.

Our last stop was Four Corners, where we took the obligatory pictures standing in four states at once before heading home to Denver.

I defy anyone to take that trip and not believe Colorado scenery, from the city to the mountains to the desert, surpasses everything else in the country.

I feel the same way about Colorado that Eliot felt about E.T.

It’s mine. I’m keeping it.

How the Rainbow Came to Signify Gay Pride

In creativity, Learning, spirituality on June 8, 2017 at 10:19 am

Remember when a rainbow was just an arc of pretty colors in the sky? In Genesis after the flood, God sent a rainbow as a sign that He would never send another flood to destroy all life on the earth.

The cynic in me notes that He didn’t promise not to destroy the earth by other means, but I digress.

In 1978 San Francisco’s gay community searched for a symbol that represented their fight for equal rights. Gilbert Baker, a 27-year-old artist and drag queen, began brainstorming for an icon that would communicate beauty, diversity, and power and be easy to replicate. A rainbow fit the bill and soon became the most prominent symbol of the international gay rights movement.

Today we see it everywhere, especially now in the middle of LGBTQ Pride month. It has even entered the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection as an example of effective social design.

I love the irony of seeing the religious right distancing themselves from God’s most beautiful symbol because it has been so thoroughly embraced as representing the cause of human rights for LGBTQ people.

I’ve always loved rainbows. They’re fun, lighthearted, and carefree, which coincidentally also happens to be what the word gay originally meant.

The Thin Places

In spirituality on June 7, 2017 at 8:04 pm

A friend returned from Peru where he had visited Machu Picchu. “It feels very spiritual there,” he said, and everyone nodded although none of the rest of us had ever been there. We had probably all visited places we considered spiritual or sacred.

Ancient pagan Celts said that certain places on Earth stray just a bit closer to God, where holiness can embrace you and you feel God’s Love. They called these the Thin Places.

I’ve experienced that feeling in only two places, Taos and Mesa Verde. Sedona AZ has the reputation as a spiritual place, and people name locations all over the world where heaven and earth seem to collide.

Poet Wendell Berry wrote in “How to be a Poet”  that “There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”

That implies that all natural, unspoiled places are sacred and I know many people who insist that nature is their church. I have a tendency to roll my eyes at that, but I could be wrong. I know my niece who regularly hikes 7-10 miles in the Arizona desert gets something spiritual from it (not heat stroke).

On the other hand, Eric Weiner wrote in the New York Times that thin places need not be conventionally sacred. “A park or even a city square can be a thin place. So can an airport.” My nine-year-old great nephew who adores airports would probably agree.

Weiner goes on to describe a tiny Tokyo bar as a thin place because he had a kind of religious experience there. Maybe, although he didn’t mention what he was drinking at said bar. I acknowledge that someone can have a religious experience anywhere, even in a bar, but that doesn’t make them spiritual places. Weiner accepts that “one person’s thin place is another’s thick one.”

If you can’t make it to a recognized thin place, you can always create your own by shutting out the world’s troubles and spending a little time with your maker.

Go Forth and Diversify

In spirituality on June 6, 2017 at 12:42 pm

For about a year, I attended a bible study led by a friend at an African American church. One night a woman said the reason she chose that group was because it was integrated. I looked at the twenty or so black faces (who, by the way, did NOT all look alike) around me and thought, “if I’m not here, you’re not integrated.” In fact, I felt more like someone who had infiltrated the class than integrated it. The people there always treated me kindly, and a few were even friendly, so I admit that my feeling of otherness came more from me than from them.

It occurred to me that what I felt for a couple of hours one night a week might be what each of my classmates felt every time they ventured out into the overwhelmingly white (almost 80%) population of Denver, and I did not like that idea.

Although my church accurately reflects the (white) ethnicity of our neighborhood, we would love to have more diversity. We talked about it last night.

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., said “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”

Why is diversity good? Because different points of view can enrich our lives, expand our minds, and diminish prejudices.

While we tend to focus exclusively on racial or ethnic differences, that may be too narrow a definition. If we look, too, at diversity of economic status, age, gender, sexual orientation, professional status, political leanings, physical ability, and intellectual ability, we do better on some of these measures than others.

We have no shortage of marginalized groups in this country and a never-ending list of issues to work on. Maybe the best thing we can do right now is to focus on our strengths and form alliances with other churches and religious groups to work together on our shared problems.

Maybe diversity of churches is also good.

Start here.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

In Home, spirituality on June 5, 2017 at 6:20 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the congregation bursts into applause when the pastor enters the sanctuary singing, you know you’re in for a treat. #bestserviceEVER”

I posted that when I got home from church and lunch at Carl’s yesterday. What made it the best service EVER?

First, my friends were there. I saw Kathryn and Dan and Max and Holly and Michael and Elly and Alex and Ashley and Carolyn and Cristina, all of whom make me happy.

We laughed, we cried, we danced in the aisles. Well, okay, we didn’t dance in the aisles (except one three-year-old who couldn’t contain her joy) because that would be unseemly in church. But we have been known to sway with gusto to the music.

Speaking of the music, it was fabulous. The choir made a joyful noise, and during the offertory, Nhi, our pianist, ripped into an excerpt from Rhapsody in Blue that had us all tapping our feet and counting our blessings to have had such a gifted musician as part of our service for the past year and mourning our loss as she moves to Stony Brook to earn her doctorate.

We had nostalgia and righteous indignation and hope.

Pastor Brad entered the sanctuary singing the theme to Mr. Rogers and proceeded to change from a suit jacket to a cardigan and slip from his dress shoes into rainbow-colored sneakers because June is Pride month. (http://eos/10108046567406311/) We all laughed and applauded, and a few people cried. His sermon, not surprisingly, invited us to be neighbors. Good neighbors.

Displayed on the altar was a neighborhood quilt made by the creative women on our quilting team that depicted the church and other neighborhood landmarks, including the public bike repair station our green team installed. We hung it at the Street Fair Saturday, and dozens of our neighbors cheerfully complied when we asked them to tie a knot and say a prayer or make a wish for the community.

He told us he attended the first Latino Gay Pride event the previous week to offer a prayer and then stepped in when the scheduled priest pulled out at the last minute because his church hierarchy forbade him to appear. Think about that. His church wouldn’t allow him to give people God’s blessing.

A drag queen in attendance said our pastor’s prayer and homily made her feel wholly loved by God for the first time ever. That’s when I cried.

We celebrated Pride month with a rainbow of candles in the candle tree, those rainbow sneakers, and tee shirts with our motto, “We are PROUD that God loves all people.”

At communion, people gasped when Pastor Brad broke the bread open to reveal the rainbow colors inside. They must be new. We do that every year.

I’m so happy to call this church home. If you want me to sum up this best-ever service with one word, it’s love. I wish you all could have been there.