16

Wednesday

de(tales): bench

Julie’s writing is consistently beautiful, even when she is writing about painful things. I have enjoyed hearing her voice over the last few months, and getting to know her through her stories. 

I hope that you will enjoy getting to know her, too. 

de(tales): bench

“Hey Tex, we’ll head to the Targets around 8 tonight.  You coming?” I had just met Mal that morning, on the first day of my summer in the Swiss Alps at L’Abri.

“Yeah, sure, what do we do at the Targets?  Do we, like, shoot stuff?”  I asked.

“I don’t why we call them the Targets—it’s really just this bench.  We’re not allowed to drink in Bellevue so we hide bottles behind all the bushes in the day then drink them at the Targets at night.  Look behind any bush and you’ll find cheap wine, gin, whiskey, or rum.  The rum is mine.  It’s not just about getting drunk though; it’s a time to bond and tell stories about our gypsy ways!”

“Oh, right on,” I replied.  “Yeah, see you there.”

I spent countless hours at the bench that summer.  It was a quarter of a mile down the hill from L’Abri, and from the bench we could look out over the valley to the left and watch the sunset in the mountains to the right.  A number of accents would gather there every evening—Dutch, Korean, German, Australian, Georgian, and Texan—with many of them slurred by the end of the night.

I didn’t go to the bench in the evening though; I went in the morning.  I sat on the smooth log kicking the rocks under my feet when no one else was around.  While the folks I met at L’Abri were some of the most gracious, fascinating, hilarious characters I’d ever encountered, they were voicing questions I wasn’t ready to speak out loud.  They were coming to conclusions—or at least allowing themselves to consider ideas—that were too dangerous for me to admit I was asking.  I was drawn to their courage and yearned to share in their honest quest for truth, but I was scared.

 ******

I was five years into my ex-gay journey when I booked my ticket for Switzerland.  I told everyone at my Baptist University in the Bible Belt that I was going because I was itchin’ for an adventure, that I was yearning for a season with the Lord in the mountains.  But I told myself (and only myself) the truth:  After five years of attempting to change my orientation to become acceptable to God and my community, I still liked girls.

The ex-gay ministry I was involved in played a tremendous role in my spiritual growth.  They taught me about the way of Christ and demonstrated unconditional love for me as a person in a process.  It was in that community that I fell in love with Jesus and was swept away by His story of redemption.  They offered me what I had spent my whole life looking for: a place to belong.  But five years into my journey, five years into sharing my ex-gay testimony, five years into dating guys and offering lies in the break-up, I finally found the courage to be honest with myself.

Honesty with others wasn’t an option for me at the time.  The potential for rejection was too great.  I sat on the bench by myself in the day because the evening involved other people: it meant inviting them in to see me.  I couldn’t be seen.  I couldn’t risk being known.  Looking over the valley to the snow-capped mountains in the distance, I would pray to God to keep my secret safe with Him.  Years earlier my prayer had been that He would make me straight, but my prayer had shifted to “don’t let them find out”.  That was, perhaps, the greatest tragedy of ex-gay ministry for me.  It wasn’t the dashed hopes after my orientation didn’t change, but the isolation I entered into when I feared others would find out.

******

I skipped chores that afternoon to go sit on the bench by myself.  I had hitchhiked up to the store after lunch, purchased 16 ounce cans of beer, and took the back way to the Targets in hopes that no one would see me.  There it was safe to be honest, and I could explore the options before me without judgment.  I had just entered into my safe zone when I suddenly heard a voice from behind.

“I wondered if I’d find you here, Jules.”  It was my friend Nathan (why the hell wasn’t he doing his chores?)

“Whoa, hey brother, what’s happening?”  I tried not to sound alarmed as he sat on the bench beside me.  “Want a beer?”

“It’s 2:30 in the afternoon,” he said.  “What else would we do at 2:30 in the afternoon?”

Nathan sat in silence with me as I took gulps of beer to massage the lump in my throat.  I didn’t have to say I was hurting for him to know.  After several minutes of sitting together in unspoken understanding, he softly asked: “What are you running from, Jules?”

“What do you mean what am I running from?  I’m just enjoying the nice day.”

“No, I mean what are you running from back home?  We come to L’Abri because we’re running from something, and most of us share that with one another because we know we’re finally safe to say the things here we can’t say back there.  You won’t even say it here.”

Tears ran down my face and I crushed the empty can in my hand.  Eventually I put my head in my hands, leaned forward on the bench, and sobbed.  Nathan put his arm around me and pulled my head to his chest, and we sat like that for several minutes while I cried my doubts, confusion, anger, and frustration.  I cried frustration with the process, with Christians, with myself, with God.  When I finally pulled it together, I unloaded on him: when I realized I was gay, when I fell in love, when I had my heart broken, when I found hope in ex-gay ministry, when I spoke about the change I hoped for as if I was already experiencing it.  Then I cried some more and we talked for several hours.

“You’re loved, Jules,” he said as the conversation came to a close.  “You’re one of the coolest people I’ve met and this makes me love you even more.  It’s honest and it’s you.  I guess I just hope you’ll let others see it too someday.”

I don’t remember what I said in response, but I never forgot his words.  It would be several more years before anyone else would hear the honesty he heard that day, but during the fear-driven years that followed I found comfort in the memory of that moment.  On that bench that afternoon in Switzerland, Nathan saw me.  He didn’t see the version of me I wished I was or the version I shared from the stage in good hope: he saw me.

Julie RodgersJulie Rodgers shares life with urban youth through her role on staff at Mercy Street Ministries. As a speaker and writer about homosexuality and the Christian faith, she shares a hopeful vision for Christian communities moving forward. Julie received an MA in English from the University of Dallas, and she writes about celibacy and community both on her personal blog and alongside friends on the Spiritual Friendship blog.

Photo courtesy of John Doherty

You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.

14

Monday

Make Yourself Scarce

Make Yourself Scarce

I once went to a evening class at church related to spiritual disciplines. We read through Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines over several months, and each month, we would talk about a difference practice. One evening, we were set to talk about simplicity.

I had been going to this church for several months, returning to the church I always attended during summer breaks from college, now that I had graduated. I was trying to “plug in,” attending small groups and talking about ways to serve. But I still entered the sanctuary every week and prayed that I would find someone to sit with at the 9am service.

That was part of why I had come to this class, hoping, not only for an opportunity to learn more about spiritual disciplines (one of those topics that make my ears perk up) but to meet other people who were interested in them, too. Also, just to meet other people.

On the night that we talked about simplicity, my pastor, in his cool shoes and sandblasted jeans, took a seat on a wooden stool at the front of the room, across from the round tables we were seated around, to more easily promote discussion.

“I’m going to talk about simplicity in relationships,” he said.

I had a page of notes containing my own thoughts on simplicity, answers to the discussion questions we’d been given during the previous month’s session. I had written about my own attachment to possessions and perfection, among other things, areas that the Spirit has gently touched in my heart.

“My wife and I have found that it’s best for our family to carefully guard our time,” he continued. “We’ve made friends that we love, friends that we want to invest in, and we protect our relationships with them, and with our kids, by avoiding many other commitments.”

I thought about the smiles and hellos I sent across the sanctuary on Sundays and on Thursday nights. I thought about my suggestions that we get lunch, coffee, or that I simply come over and be present in everyday life, complete with their children. I looked around at the people nodding and taking notes as my pastor continued to talk about setting up boundaries around his life.

Even then, I could see the glimmers of truth in what he said. I was learning to set boundaries, learning about the necessary rhythms of time alone and time with people. But as he spoke, I couldn’t help but think about the morning a few weeks prior when I had ventured to the front of the church to ask for prayer. He and his wife asked me what was going on, preparing to pray for me together.

“I’m just so lonely,” I said. “I feel like I’m drowning. I keep reaching out to people and no one is reaching back.”

“Have you talked to your small group about this?” he asked. That church highly emphasized small group involvement.

“Yes,” I said. “I’ve been asking for weeks.”

I thought about the way that we wrote down our prayer requests on sticky notes and passed them to another person to be prayed for during the week. I was starting to feel whiny, asking for prayers for friends and community each week.

They prayed for me and sent me on my way with a hug. I left the front of the church feeling lighter in my spirit.

Like a break-up, the choice to leave a church rarely comes all at once for me. There are little things that chip away at the relationship for a long time. After many weeks of anxiety, wondering if anyone would talk to me if I didn’t walk up and interrupt their conversation with someone else, wondering when people would stop turning to me during morning worship get-to-know-you and ask if it was my first time, wondering if anyone would notice if I just didn’t come back, I walked out those doors for the last time.

I have been in many relationships that made me feel alone, even when we walked side-by-side, with men, with women, and with churches.

I’ve been thinking about scarcity often, lately. It is tempting for me to think that it’s all going to run out. I am that widow making one last cake out of her oil and flour, planning to savor the last thing standing between myself and death, looking at Elijah with shock when he asks me to make him something to eat, first.

I have soaked up community the way I used to eat fudge, wondering why I was never allowed to have as much as I wanted.

Recently, a dear friend and I talked about the Eucharist, communion, together, and she showed me something I’d never seen before. Communion is given to us in the Body and Blood of Christ, but once we eat and drink, entering into belonging and relationship with God, we are the Body and Blood of Christ.

I want to give myself away, knowing that I will be renewed.

At first it seemed presumptuous to think of myself this way, but I have watched the life-giving effect that communion has on those it is lavished upon, when freely given. Jesus does a work in me, making me into His Body and Blood.

That exchange of communion, of community, of thanksgiving around a table, metaphorical or otherwise, gives me the strength to go on, provisions from Heaven.

Now, when I look into the eyes of the ones I love and those I’m only just meeting, sometimes I find myself thinking: the Body of Christ, the bread of Heaven. And as I give a hug, or speak words of love or comfort, I think: the Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.

We eat, we drink, we are satisfied.

You can read more Single Minded Mondays here.

{photo credit}

11

Friday

Be Well {at Bronwyn’s Corner}

Be Well

I’m over at Bronwyn Lea’s today, as part of her Words That Changed My World series, and even if you’re not always someone who clicks over to another blog when I leave links here, would you click on this one? I’m proud of this piece, and I’m so thankful for the friendship it describes and the subtle ways that God is healing my heart. I’d be honored to have you stop by. Here’s a little taste of the post…

I tell her my story, packing in as much as I can and making myself late for work. I tell her that I’m not sure I’m ready to go back to church yet. I tell her that I need to heal.
“What I’d really like,” she says, “Is to forge a friendship with you.” She hugs me and we part, but before I leave she says, “be well.”

I walk to my car, still wrapped in a jacket, thinking about those words. They are not a wish or a hope, or even a suggestion. They are a benediction. They are an amen. (Continue reading here.)

9

Wednesday

de(tales): the yellow blanket

Katie Murchison Ross has been one of those instant connections, for me, someone that I know I want to get to know better. As I’ve listened to her stories, over the past few months, I have become even more sure of this. It’s an honor to have her here today. 

I know you’ll enjoy this story, and that many of you will resonate with it. 

Digital StillCamera

I am reluctant to rise so early, but I am so excited for fellowship that I agree. Antonia and I hear a tapping on our dorm-room door around seven, and one of us scrambles over to unlock it for Leanne. The October Minnesota mornings have turned crisp and cool, and I am stumbling out of my bed, not yet dressed, so Antonia grabs the faded yellow blanket from her bed and we sit in a circle on the carpet and cover our legs. Dear God, thank you for this beautiful morning, someone croaks, and we have begun.

The yellow blanket becomes our companion, our touchstone for seven a.m. prayer. In between closing our eyes, we stare down at the swirly white-flowered pattern woven into the fabric, and we hold onto it like a piece of solid ground in this new place far away from home, this vortex of new experiences and new ideas snaking around us. The blanket is cotton, warm enough for winter but light enough for spring, always covering our bare legs. We let it bind us together, hoping it can cover our broken pieces and keep us from hurting each other.

I am eighteen, and I feel like I have won the lottery, or at least the lonely Christian teenager’s lottery. I have started praying every morning with two girls from my dorm, I brag to my mom, my youth minister, and the director of the camp where I am applying to be a counselor. I feel stronger every morning when I leave my room to go to class. I feel less alone than I’ve ever felt.

Day by day, we lift it all up to God: our classes, our struggles, our friends, the people around the world who are hungry, Leanne’s cousin deployed in Iraq, my family’s Burundian refugee friend who is fighting an immigration battle. As weeks pass, and months, there are days where one of us unfolds our hands and says, “I need to talk.” And so we draw up our knees under the blanket and huddle closer and listen. We talk about confessions of sin, deep secrets, tear-inducing fears and desires.

*

It is partway through our sophomore year when I tell them I want to stop our prayer meetings. I have too many questions about God and I need the freedom to explore them on my own. Leanne looks sad, and I can see in her eyes this is only one more way I have hurt her. Antonia assents silently, but I want more; even as I push her away I long for her opinion and guidance.

It is not the yellow blanket I am sitting on when I confess to Leanne a few months later that I am afraid I have lost my faith entirely. It is a different blue fleece blanket that Antonia wraps around her the night I keep her up till four a.m. our women’s retreat, firing question after question. What if Jesus’ resurrection was a metaphor they made up to keep his message alive? How do we know the Bible is inspired but the Qu’ran was not? What if Freud is right and this is all just wish fulfillment?  I don’t remember her answers, just that she lets me ask and doesn’t call me crazy.

*

During our senior year we are all back in the same dorm, and we try to revive the blanket days. Antonia and I have both studied abroad. I pray differently now, more openness and silence and grace—full of the freedom of the African landscape. Antonia is thinking about justice all the time now after her encounters with Oscar Romero and America-supported death squads in El Salvador. Meanwhile, Leanne has gotten engaged. We clutch the yellow blanket like it can bring us back to our first-year selves; we are still afraid of who we are becoming.

The mornings don’t really take, this time; perhaps the prayer circle feels too small for our new dreams; or perhaps we no longer want to be so moldable, so vulnerable; perhaps we are sleepy from staying up late with boyfriends; perhaps our fervor has faded. The blanket lies on Antonia’s bed, tangled with clothes and books and job applications. We are seniors, and we are about to redefine ourselves, and we don’t always understand each other anymore.

*

Five years have passed, and Antonia is in town for three months for a healthcare rotation, and as we gossip on her bed I recognize all the old college twin sheets and blankets. She tells me the yellow blanket was her mother’s in college; I don’t remember knowing this detail before, but I like it. There is a tiny part of me that aches for those first days, the simplicity of our passion and our faith and our friendship. But I love who we have each become—stronger, more confident in our paths, more ourselves. And when we gather for weekends or weddings or reunions, we still dance in perfect rhythm.

I wish I could say I still pray for them every day. What I can say is this: when I do pray, I am holding them with so much love and gratitude in my heart. I am holding Antonia and this budding career that is perfect for her; I am holding Leanne and her two small children so fragile and so full of grace. We have each woven new people and new heartaches and new passions into our lives, but underneath new patterns, it is enough that I can still see the swirling white and the yellow; it is enough that we are all still holding on to God and to each other and to sacred trusts that were born on chilly Minnesota mornings.

Katie Murchison RossKatie Murchison Ross is a teacher, writer, and soon-to-be divinity school student. She and her husband have lived in East Africa, Washington DC, and western North Carolina. This fall they will be moving again to Durham, NC, where Katie is excited to continue exploring her calling as a pastor. Katie tries to keep up with friends far and near and would love to be your friend too: visit her at katiemurchisonross.blogspot.com.

The photo above is of the actual yellow blanket described and has been graciously provided by Katie.

You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.

7

Monday

Bright Spot

Bright Spot

I’ve been making a lot of quick movements in life lately.

I have a to-do list on a yellow pad. There are individual emails and Facebook messages on it because it’s getting hard to keep it all straight. I don’t want anything, or more importantly, anyone, to fall through the cracks in the ice.

Spring is here.

After finishing a particularly grueling deadline last week, I went to pick up a few bottles of wine I’d ordered in my quest for the perfect spring rosé. This was yet another item I needed to check-off my to-do list and I recognized the irony. This wine, used for celebration the week prior, name noted and texted to my wine stylist (yes, I have a wine stylist), was just an errand I had to run, something I needed to pick up, like dry-cleaning.

I often buy my wine at a neighborhood international grocery store which doubles as a gas station. It is the sort of place one might expect a hipster to shop. As I left with my box of wine, I noticed bunches of daffodils outside, closed, as if they were sleeping in the dark. On a whim, I went back inside and purchased a bunch, choosing one at random. I took them home and put them in a vase in hope. I do not usually get along well with plants. My track record suggests that I would choose the one bunch that would not open.

The next morning, I awoke and was greeted by the sight of open daffodils. I peered at them for a while, spending a little quality time with my own version of self-care.

I was hoping that my daffodils would help me to slow down, if only because they sit still and beckon me with their flirty yellow presence.

I’ve been thinking about daffodils lately, ever since I wrote my post about giving up Lent. As I searched for an image for the post, I kept coming up with photos of daffodils. A little research turned up some new (for me) information: daffodils are also called “Lenten lilies.”

Even though I haven’t been intentional with Lent this year, Lent has been intentional with me. I’ve been reading and talking and leaning into the freedom of Lent. I’ve been trying to pay attention.

At first it seemed absurd. There is something so funky about a daffodil. They are flowers which don’t take themselves too seriously. I like to think that God chortled a little, as He made them, gently forming that central trumpet with the greatest of care.

Then, of course, there is the color choice. Daffodils scream of sunshine. They proclaim, in some ways the loudest of the spring bulbs: spring is here!

I began to carry my vase with me around the house, placing it before me on the breakfast table, keeping it by my bed, always just inside my vision, a reminder to smile, to slow down, to breathe a little more deeply.

It was for this reason, I think, that I began to notice the heavenly and addictive scent of a daffodil.

Have you ever buried your nose in one, the way you would a rose? I recommend it. I found myself literally distracted by a perfume I’d never noticed before. In fact, if you’d asked me last week, I would have told you that daffodils have no smell.

I guess I’d never been up close for long.

The more I kept company with my daffs, however, the more I began to identify with them. Sometimes I feel like an overly cheerful guest at a party, the one trumpeting the arrival of spring. There is a yellow cardigan that I wear, with appliquéd tulips, when I need to project this springiness, even to myself.

I am the cute one, the slightly funky one, the one I like to think God smiled as He made and laughs with, even now. I am the one whose aroma wafts only as you get close and stay a while.

My birthday is in February, and I’ve always said (tongue in cheek) that something bright needed to happen in that dreary, muddy month, so I was born. Perhaps this is why daffodils are also Lenten lilies. In the midst of “bright sadness” they are only bright. In the midst of wonderment about whether or not spring will come, they stand and trumpet that it will.

Glory to God, who made roses, daffodils, and me.

If you haven’t had a chance to take my blog survey yet, I’d love to hear from you!

{photo credit}

5

Saturday

Getting to Know You {a blog survey}

If you’re reading this in an email or reader, you may need to click over to the site to take the survey. Won’t you please? I’d really love to hear from you.

4

Friday

Found {a review}

Found {a review}

I love Micha Boyett’s words. She is one of those people who can make me pause, really pause, for a moment, re-reading and thinking about the weaving of metaphor, the telling of story. I expected to love her book, Found. I expected to revel in the language and that it would be a book I would return to.

I did not expect that the Micha in this book would wrap an arm around my shoulder, look deeply into my eyes and tell me that I am enough. But she did.

Though I am not married, or a mother, I know what it is to lose prayer in my own life, like a sock, or a library book. I know what it is to think that it is too late for me to try to pick it back up again, and to think that God must not miss me much.

This book is Micha’s story, but I found myself in it, just as she is found. I found the worry and the anxiety and the hope.

This book is the best kind of love story. There is the joyous, simple love she feels for her son, and which her son shows her. There is the patient, passionate love she describes between her husband and herself (some of those parts made my heart swell and almost ache), the unexpected, spring sunshine of love between friends and the realization of the undergirding, life-giving love of God. Love pours from this book like wine.

Micha is one of the best storytellers I know. When I got to the last page, I wanted to know what happens next in her family, in her heart. I got lost in the narrative, as I do in a good story, forgetting to notice the passing of time.

It is also worth noting that Micha is a poet. There is something about the prose of a poet that captures my heart, and this book is no exception. It is clear that each word is chosen with care, cupped in gentle hands, like a bird, and presented like a gift.

This book is not about how to pray. It is not “DIY” or “self-help.” But as I read, I couldn’t help writing down a note or two, steps I want to take in my own life, questions I want to ask myself. I find such beauty in the kind of memoir where the author motions for me to come further in, to take her story, such as I find it, and resonate. Micha shares her story, in more ways than one, allowing me to try it on and cry when I see myself reflected in her mirror.

I cried a lot while reading this book.

I cried when she talked about feeling lonely while she wasn’t praying, or caught at snatches of prayer in moments of exhaustion. I cried with her as she sat in her spiritual director’s office, fell in love with her husband and invited a group of women into her home, as much for herself as for them.

When I wasn’t crying, I was writing down quotes and names of other books to hunt down.

My liturgical heart quickened a little as I walked through the church year and the prayers of the hours. Structure matters, and Micha’s grounds her book in holy rhythm of two kinds, offering a beautiful picture of the way that life can flourish within boundaries.

There are so many quotes that I found myself saving in my memory, writing down or pondering before I went on. I leave you with this one (of many) which will not let me go:

“The spiritual life is never just a forward climb. It is more of a plunging breathlessly under the waters and a being rescued again and again.”

For those of you who are breathless, in need of rescue or suspended in questions, this book is for you. For those of you who have struggled with feeling too much or not enough, wondered if your life matters, or had difficulty with hope, it is for you as well.

I hope that you’ll curl up with these words and savor them, making room in them to live for a while, and letting them find a home in you.

You can purchase Found here.

I received a pre-release copy of this book because I asked very nicely. Every word in this review represents my honest feelings.

 

2

Wednesday

de(tales): drugstore cowboy

Ross is one of the first people that I connected with over the internet. It was through his blog that I discovered the words of Addie Zierman (I will eternally grateful for this). Since then, he has made me laugh often on Twitter and cry while reading his blog. 

I hope you enjoy his contribution to the de(tales) series. 

de(tales) drugstore cowboy

The man wore steel-toed, brown leather work boots and jeans faded white around the knees. We were in a coffee shop that’d soon become a bar that was once a drugstore, even had a scene in that Van Saint movie Drugstore Cowboy. We drank coffee and laughed about the stupid stuff we did while drinking the night before, while this man sat down at a table near us with a hot bagel on a plate and a steaming cup of coffee.

The kid behind the counter wiping down the espresso machine had a peach fuzz mustache  He kept one eye on the bagel munching cowboy who scooted his chair across the wood paneled floor and rambled on about something old cowboys ramble on about.

The bagel gave him some trouble and he soon forgot about it and pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his flannel pocket and then a lighter he’d made out of thin air as if it never left his hand. Our laughing on the couches subsided and we all watched as the cowboy perched the cigarette between his chapped lips and snapped a flame to life. We watched his lungs expand and the blood rush through his cheeks and the slow plume expand from his lips. We held our breath as the smoke drifted and the kid behind the counter whipped around, the edges of his wet rag sprayed soapy water.

At that moment the cowboy was just a drunk in a coffee shop, no different than any of the other drunks stumbling down the wet Portland pavement on the other side of the glass. He was just a man holding the little dignity he believed was owed to him like soft dirt in his hand.

The kid came around the bar and said with as much gusto as he could muster, “You’re eighty-sixed, man. Get out of here.” The cowboy, unbalanced, stood up and faced the kid, the tips of their noses brushed, and the kid’s mustache quivered. The cowboy balled both his fists at his side.

Nobody moved. The kid’s towel dripped a small puddle of water at their feet. And I knew that when someone did move it would affect my evening out with my friends. So I stood up and went over to the cowboy.

I asked the cowboy if he wanted to smoke outside with me. I could tell he wanted to by the way he stepped toward the door, but not forgetting, pointed at this kid, “This pecker, right here,” he said and stared at him. I said not to worry about him, let’s have a smoke. He stared at the kid some more as he tumbled toward the door and had his cigarette lighted and puffed before the door shut behind us.

We sat at the cold, wet metal tables outside and I listened.

He said that when he was young he used to come to this coffee shop only it wasn’t a coffee shop then, it was a drugstore. He flipped off the kid inside. He said, “That little pecker.” He asked me where I was from. He said that when he was a kid he saw a guy’s brains get splattered at this cross walk. The guy was walking across the street and a car came and pow. He said he saw his brains get splattered.

He said, “The Portland music scene, let me tell you, it is happening. You are right in the middle of it.” He asked me where I was from. He said he really appreciated me coming out here to talk with him. He asked me what I did. I said I went to school, worked at a church. He asked me if I was Mormon. I said I wasn’t. He said, “My ex-wife is Mormon. I have four kids.” He pulled out his wallet and set down two pictures side by side.

He said his oldest boy played the guitar. He said the Portland music scene is the place to be. That his son’s band would be opening for a show next week. I asked him if he went to his son’s concerts. He said he tried to make most of them. He said that he’s six foot nine and plays the guitar. I asked him if he played basketball. He said he used to wear a shirt that said, I Don’t Play Basketball.

He said he got lit tonight. He said he appreciated me coming out to talk with him. He said that when he was a kid he saw a guy’s brains get splattered right here on this street. For the first time that night he went quiet. He looked at the ground. Around us more drunks were stumbling home as the bars closed. Some were smoking outside and talking on their cell phones. Inside the coffee shop my friends were sitting on the couches and I could hear them laughing. I thought he was going to cry the way he was looking at the ground all silent. When he lifted his head he pointed across the street at a bar and said there’s lots of hot ass over there.

It’s easier to label somebody than it is to understand them. I didn’t want to understand him. I just wanted to avoid a scene while hanging with my friends. I thought I understood everything that needed to be understood. I thought it was all evident from my observation. I just didn’t want to see. Maybe because I’m lazy, maybe because I’m indifferent, maybe because I don’t really love my neighbor unless that neighbor somehow benefits me.

When I don’t want to care I ignore all the details. I ignore the other’s divine humanness and my own undeserved gift of humanity and breath. I left that drugstore the same as I entered, just more convicted, more ashamed at what I choose to look away from and what I choose to see. Then that’s my prayer for myself, for all of us. That I not only look but see, not only hear but listen. No matter how ugly the scene, lit or not, brains splattered or not.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetRoss Gale is a writer and editor living in Hawaii. He blogs at rcgale.com.

You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.

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31

Monday

9 Things I Learned in March

9 Things I Learned in March

March has felt short in so many ways. Perhaps it was the gentle increase of sunlight (and the way the world goes by more quickly when I can keep my sunroof open). Perhaps it was the whirlwind of writers conferences and visits and exploring of all kinds of possibilities.

Regardless, March has moved with purpose and I am feeling hopeful as I bid her goodbye.

I hope that you are, too.

Here are a few things that I learned this month. I’d love to hear what you’re learning, as well.

1. Birthdays are not always confined to one day.

All month there have been little bursts of birthday, from a celebration with one of my dearest friends, to an unexpected piece of light and airy meringue cake, a (signed) copy of Jesus Feminist (and many hugs from Sarah Bessey), Lenten lilies from my lovely small group, a spectacular hockey game and a dinner out filled with laughter and so many hugs and words from friends. It’s been a birthday to fill my soul and one day could not contain it.

2. Whether or not an international flight is enjoyable has everything to do with the people on board.

I had two very different experiences in the recent past, both directly related to my traveling companions. The control freak in me thinks that the best strategy for future flights is to fill the plane with pre-approved people. The pragmatist and the mystic both agree that, as with everything else, I should pray.

3. The connection of the human body is amazing.

I’ve had a sore ankle for a few months now. Finally, I decided to do something about it, taking myself to a dear friend who does reflexology. She told me that my pain was directly related to the tightness of my hips. I proceeded to take up the yoga that I’ve put down lately in the business of life. Within days, my ankle was feeling better. It’s amazing to me how our bodies are designed and how one seemingly disconnected thing can actually be integral to something else.

4. Taylor Swift is going to be in the movie version of The Giver.

I have no words for this. (But I’ll probably see it anyway, regardless). The Giver is one of my favorite books. I told Lois Lowry so when I got to meet her once, at a reading. I may have been over-enthusiastic. Taylor is playing Jonas’ love interest, a character who does not appear in the book.

5. In life, as with clothing, it’s not a good fit unless it looks AND feels good.

6. There is a delicious wine in Oregon with my name on it.

7. When I admitted out loud that I didn’t want kids, the world didn’t end.

After quite a lot of fear and nerves about telling people that I don’t have a desire for children, I finally hit publish on a piece to that affect. I was so thankful for the warmth with which I  was met, by people in all sorts of circumstances. And I found, as I often do, that I am not as alone in my point of view as I think I am.

8. Some of the best days are the ones I don’t plan.

I have a good friend who has been trying to connect me with another friend of hers for a while. There has been talk of a dinner or some such thing. One Saturday this month, I called a friend and was invited to come and hang out with her and some other friends. The friend who was hosting: the person I’m supposed to meet. There are moments when God makes it completely clear to me where I need to be and what I need to be doing. Such was that Saturday. I made sure to slip off my shoes. It felt like Holy Ground.

9. The World Can Wait

For my birthday, a very dear friend gave me a poster from Over the Rhine’s “The World Can Wait” tour. She’d bought it years ago, and was only giving it to me now (which added to the message, in my opinion). When she’d found it, she wanted to remind me that the world really could wait. That all of my hopes and dreams and things that I hope to accomplish, relationships I want to have and all of the trappings, all of it could wait. The timing would be perfect. (The timing for this gift could not have been more perfect).

Now it’s your turn. What have you learned in March?

Linking up, as always, with the lovely Emily P. Freeman at Chatting at the Sky. Come join us, won’t you?

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29

Saturday

Lingering Letters {Stories}

Lingering Letters Stories

I love stories. They are why I began writing in the first place. I loved to hear them read to me, I loved to make them up myself. I loved to tell them to other people.

This has not changed. I still love to hear the stories of others and share my own. Lately, I’ve had a chance to read a few stories that have stuck with me. They are filled with the little details that make up life, with joy, longing and sorrow.

I hope you find that they stay with you as they have stayed with me.

A Toast Story by John Gravois on Pacific Standard.

How Kind Can You Be? by Nicole Sheets in the Mojave River Review.

What Happens When You Get Pregnant With Your Ex-Husband by April Wilder

Little Did She Know…

This week I wrote about my choice not to have children and World Vision (quite a week) as well as hosting Fiona Lynne with a lovely, heartrending de(tale).

I’m loving the de(tales) series so far. Already I’ve had the honor of hosting: Micha Boyett, Sarah Joslyn, Esther Emery, Daniel Bowman Jr., Cayla Pruett and Addie Zierman.

I’m so delighted to continue to share this lovely and luminous pieces with you.

If you’d like to subscribe to my blog so that you never miss another, you can find all sorts of ways to do that by clicking here. I love having fellow pilgrims along for this journey.

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