#MeToo – My story

 

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I am married to the most loving man. Last night, when he scanned page after page of Facebook and saw all the women saying, “Me Too,” adding their stories of abuse and rape to the swelling narrative, he wept. That is our hope for all men, for all people, because men have also been raped and abused. Our hope is for broken hearts, and awareness that leads to change.

No one is telling their story because it is fun; it is not fun to share your humiliation, and trust me when I say it is humiliating.  People are telling their stories because the world needs to change. Our children and grandchildren need to grow up in a safer world than the one we did. We need a world where it’s okay to tell if someone hurts you and your friends, family, and those in power will stand with you and say, “I believe you. Let me help.”

No one ever did that for me, mostly because I didn’t tell. I didn’t tell because I grew up in a culture that believed women were created for men’s pleasure, like a nice brandy or a good cigar, and it was normal to be treated as such. Later, when I worked with college students, I began to tell my story as a rape survivor, because, as a therapist, I heard over and over the stories of women who’d been molested as children and were still trying to make sense of it. I learned that the telling of the story is the key to healing and to empowerment for change.

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But still when I saw the #metoo hashtag, I posted the obligatory “me too” and that was it. Why should I continue to rehash the past? But last night as I lay in bed, and all my own stories started to bubble up, I realized that this is not about me. It’s about my granddaughters and changing the world for them. So, it is with that hope that I add my voice to the voices of brave women and men who are speaking out. Ours are the voices of change.

– When I was 14, my friend and I were in San Francisco, waiting to cross a street when we were propositioned by a middle-aged man wearing a suit. We were mostly confused and raced away when the light changed.

– When I was sixteen I was driving down a mountain pass at night and a 16-wheeler kept flashing its lights at me. I thought there must be a problem with my car so I pulled over at the nearest pull-out leaving space for a quick exit and he pulled in next to me. I rolled down my window and he rolled down his. “Is there something wrong with my car?” I shouted.

“No,” he said.

“Then why were you flashing your lights at me?”

He just gave me a leering smile and raised his eyebrows. I took off.

– When I was 17 my much older boss raped me one night after work. He was a man I trusted and liked. I thought we were friends. At that time in history, rapists were said to be men that hid in bushes, and there was no understanding of friendship rape or date rape. So, I didn’t tell anyone for four years, because I thought it was my fault. I shouldn’t have stayed after work for that drink to celebrate a special occasion. The PTSD from that event has taken years to work though.

– When I was twenty-two I was jogging down the street when a car pulled over ahead of me. I thought maybe the guy had car trouble as he flagged me over. I stopped several feet away from his car at the passenger window to look in; he was masturbating.  By then I’d grown used to being treated this way. I was shaken but mostly felt dirty and angry as I jogged away.

I could never count the number of times someone grabbed my butt, or catcalled me or made lewd comments. In fact, I was recently working with a lucid 80-year-old man who tried to grab my butt as I walked by. When I told him it was inappropriate, he innocently asked, “Why?”

Why indeed sir, why indeed. This was the soup I was cooked in. This is why there is a #metoo hashtag. It’s time for a change. We need a society where girls and boys can be safe. Where men and women can respect, honor and stand up for one another. That is why I’m telling my story. It’s easy to be aghast the way girls and women are treated in other countries and I believe in fighting for them. But it is obvious that we also need to start at home.

If you want to tell your #metoo story here, I’d be honored to hear it. If you don’t, I understand and will hold you in my heart.

Believe Photo: Debbie Mitchell Pinjuv

Doubly Marginalized

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If you follow this space, you’ll note that most of my brilliant revelations come after I meet with my spiritual director. A spiritual director is someone who companions with you in your life with God.

I meet with my spiritual director for an hour once each month. I usually spew my tangled emotions and somehow she manages to find a theme or important question in the midst of my ramblings. That helps me make sense of my life.

Lately, for the last several years, my confusion has been around not feeling like I fit in my “evangelical” Christian culture, yet not fitting anywhere else either. This leaves me feeling rather untethered and lost. God is still real and near, but where do I fit in community with others?

Last month when we met, she used the analogy of a cog of the “wheel and cog” variety and I realized, I just don’t cog very well anymore. I don’t fit the prescribed evangelical Christian culture; I love gay people, and I can’t understand how ANYONE could vote for Donald Trump. With some of my dear friends, this makes me a rather uncomfortable person to be around.

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Some friends have unfriended me, some have unfollowed me. Some hold me tenderly, at a distance. Others are watching to see what crazy thing I’ll do next. I am confident that they all still love me. We just don’t speak the same language anymore.

This month, that wizard who is my spiritual director used a term she had heard from Brother Don Bisson, a Jungian-Christian spiritual director. The term is, “doubly- marginalized.”

It comes from the idea that when a person works with those on the margins, they fit neither with the people they are working with nor with their former community. I find this to be exactly true for me. I love my rainbow family, yet, as a cis female, I am not one of them. And working with my beloved rainbow family has changed me. I am a different person now, which makes me not “cog” well with many in my former Christian community. God is bigger to me now and has blown out all of the tidy boxes I used to keep him in.

So, where does that leave me? I’m still a Christ follower, that is true. And there are others who don’t cog well that I’ve found to cluster with. And there is my rainbow family, who love me unconditionally. So, I’ve decided it’s time to put the blinders back on and keep my eyes on Jesus – to go where he leads me, to love those he has called me to love and to try and ignore those loud, very loud, voices telling me I’m wrong, crazy or apostate.

This is me, a not cogging well, doubly marginalized, Christ follower. Care to join me? Do you ever feel that you don’t cog well? I’d love to hear your story.

Cog picture credit

 

Say Something

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Man with duct tape over his mouth

When I was trying to understand about Racial Prejudice (I am still learning and will be always), I learned that keeping silent during times of injustice is a power position that comes with privilege. That is if I am not directly affected by injustice, then staying silent doesn’t change my personal experience. But those directly affected by injustice only stay silent at a significant personal cost.

White America has forgotten how to lament. Did you know that the Psalms of Lament and the entire Book of Lamentations has been removed from many prayer books? We have forgotten good Friday and we have jumped to Easter. We’ve taken on a happy, positive Christianity.

But that is not real life. Real life is hard, and scary, and messy – as we have learned in Orlando.

Please watch this short video about the rough day when I learned not to stay silent in the face of injustice but to “mourn with those that mourn.”

 

I encourage everyone to say something about the tragedy in Orlando. You may not think you have any friends in the rainbow community, but you do, and they are hurting and afraid. Here are some templates you are welcome to cut and paste to help you “say something.”

“My heart is breaking over Orlando.”

“Praying for the families and friends of all who were lost in Orlando.”

“Praying for the men and women killed in Orlando, their families, those caring for the wounded, and the first responders who rushed into the gunfire.”

“I can’t stop crying.”

 

It doesn’t ‘t take much. You can practice here if you want. Tell me how you are feeling about Orlando.

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Three Ways to Bridge a Difference

bridge2If you don’t know why #blacklivesmatter, or what to think about immigration, or where to start in understanding all the letters in LGBTQAI, this is the blog for you. In a world so full of differences, it’s hard to know how to bridge the gap between “us” and “those not like us.”

I remember what happened when I got into a tense conversation with a friend of another ethnicity. I shut down. When she asked why, I said, “It feels like I’m gonna step on a land mine.” She said, “I need you to be willing to step on land-mines for me, Jacci. We may hurt each other’s feelings, but we need to talk about these difficult things if we’re going to be friends.” Since then I’ve been committed to hard topics so that I can learn, and grow, and understand the fascinating people in our world.

Interested? Here are three easy ways to get started.

Discussion: The easiest on-ramp to understanding culture, ethnic and sexual differences is to find ways to learn and talk about them. This is a short on-ramp for becoming a more open person and expanding your thoughts about the world. It is easily done through media. If you’re a reader, find a friend, read a book together and discuss it! This can be a book on any subject, like ethnicity. I’d recommend the book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: and other conversations about race.”

or “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian history of the American West,”

or if those sound too heavy, try “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”

Read a book and talk to your friend about what you learned, about the culture, and how the differences made you feel. Highlight positive things you didn’t know about that culture.

You can do this with movies too. Watch, “Smoke Signals,”

or the documentary, “Trans,”

or order the movie, “Through Our Eyes,” about kids who grow up in Christian homes and come out as gay. Then discuss it with a friend or friends.

You can make an outing of it at the theater, or a cultural museum, like a Holocaust exhibit. All of these are excellent ways to learn the language around a difficult topic – because each topic has its own set of terms. Discovering how you feel about differences is the first part of building a bridge to someone with that difference.

Displacement: If you’ve ever been out of the country, you’ve experienced displacement. To be where people have a different language, culture, and food, puts you in a displaced position. You become, “other,” than the majority. That is a good thing. It helps you to identify with what non-majority people experience daily. But you don’t have to leave the country to do this. Try one of these displacement activities: Attend a church of a different ethnicity, volunteer to work with immigrants or the homeless, or attend a PFLAG meeting (Parents and friends of lesbians and gays). During the displacement phase, it is important to be a good listener. Use phrases like, “tell me more,” and then listen to understand.

When you displace yourself, you find out what you don’t know. I remember sitting in the home of a same sex couple when one woman said that someone had mistakenly referred to her as a lesbian. My husband and I looked at each other in confusion and asked her to explain. She gladly educated us on the fact that many people see themselves as non-binary in their sexual attraction. She described herself as pan-sexual, falling in love with a person, not a gender. I’d never heard those words before.

Develop meaningful Relationships: As you discuss topics that are foreign to you, you become more open to them. As you displace yourself into new cultures, you begin to love and appreciate them, and have empathy for what it feels like to constantly live as “other.” Hopefully, then, you will begin to meet people in these other cultures whom you want to get to know better; to develop friendships with. You invite them to your parties and they invite you to theirs. You begin to do life together and attend each other’s children’s birthdays. Being around my gay friends used to feel like displacement to me, but after awhile, they were no longer my gay-friends, they were just my friends. I trust them with all that is most important to me. Once you get to the place where people don’t feel “other” to you, you have effectively built a bridge across a cultural barrier!

Eager to become a “world citizen?” Follow the three D’s to learn how to enter the world of someone different than you. And be prepared to grow and change.

What ways have you learned to build bridges across differences? Share any things you’ve tried or would like to try in the comments below.

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Life, When You Get Better At It Thoughts on the New Year

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I was meeting with my peer supervision group of spiritual directors, a group of wise women whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. And I was trying to describe my life at the moment.

Being an extrovert, I often don’t know how I’m doing or what I’m thinking until I start to process out loud. My description went something like this:  “I feel like I’m ping-ponging through life. I’m just bouncing from one event to the next, without really preparing. Like this talk I have to give on death and dying at the seminary on Thursday, I haven’t even prepared for it, but I’m not worried about it. This is just not like me!”

One of the wise women asked, “How was your life different in the past?”

“I would have written an outline, and every word of the talk, and have memorized it. I’m used to planning my life, not just bouncing through it. But, strangely, I don’t feel guilty; it’s actually kind of freeing. I’m enjoying my quiet time in the morning and my yoga, and each day, I ask: ‘Lord, what’s most important for me to do today? Give me your eyes to see. Show me how to love well.’ It feels different. It feels like life — when you get better at it.”

All the wise women stopped me there and made me write that last phrase down, “Life, when you get better at it.”

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Maybe I’m growing up. Maybe I’m finally learning what’s important. I don’t need to spend so much time stressing, preparing, outlining and rehearsing my life. I just need to be attentive to the spirit of the divine and keep my eyes open.

This month I was invited to a healing party. If you’ve never heard of one you’re in good company. I think my friend just made it up. She is one of the wise women mentioned above. She sent out actual invitations, and of the eight of us that came, most had physical healing needs. She had a liturgy printed out, along with an order of service. Each person shared and was prayed for in turn. My friend had even made some special essential oils so we could be anointed.  It was short, sweet and amazingly lovely. I don’t know what all the outcomes were. I know I felt loved and received a word about “gentleness,” which I am pondering.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, I pick a word, or phrase, to pray into for the New Year. This year I’m picking the word “Gentleness.” I want to be kind and gentle to myself. I want to be kind and gentle to others. I want to live life – like when you get better at it.

The world does not need more strident, yelling, shiny, evangelicals. The world needs gentler, loving, kind Christians. As Dr. Patrick Fung said at a recent Urbana convention, “God is not looking for spiritual giants, but rather for those willing to carry spiritual lamps that shine for Him.”

In 2016 may my spiritual lamp shine with gentleness, hope, and love.  I want to do life like I’m getting better at it.

What is your hope, phrase or special word for the new year? If you share it, we can pray for each other this year.

#Adayinthelife  #SelfieChallenge

 

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

A friend of mine invited me to try the “Ten Day Selfie Challenge.” You post a different picture from a day in your life, each day, for 10 days. I decided to give it a try with ten of the different “hats” that I wear in my crazy life. It was really fun to do and here are the results:

 

Day One: My Nana Hat

This picture features me having a pajama dance party with one of my lovely grand-kids. The grandparent hat is one of my favorites. It is so much more fun than being a parent, which features much more stress and busyness. Now I can play, color and watch Disney movies all day!

 

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Day Two: The Writer Hat

I love being able to write anywhere, wearing anything… or nothing, if you prefer. I actually write in the library on Tuesdays. I do not generally wear my bathrobe there.

Day Three:  The Homeowner HatIMG_1765

The day I took this picture we had an early snow and it was very wet. The leaves were still on the trees, and after so many years of drought in Nevada, the branches started snapping off the trees all over town. We woke up to huge branches, which fell from our tree, just missing our neighbors’ cars. Some fell on our roof, and some in our driveway, barely missing our cars. And one whole tree toppled over into the street. I’m happy in my homeowner hat because I have an amazing husband who knows how to work a chainsaw!

Day Four:IMG_1767 The Dog Walker Hat 

Since it gets really, really cold in Northern Nevada (it was eleven degrees this morning) walking a dog can be a challenge. But Rocky tends to pout and make everyone miserable if he doesn’t get his walk, so we bundle and go.


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Day Five: The Book Marketing Hat

I’m not smiling in this picture. I’m actually sitting at my library cubicle, where I write on Tuesdays, but I also do some of my marketing there. Don’t get me wrong, I love connecting with fans. I just get tired of the constant self-promotion.

Day Six: IMG_1768The Day Job Hat

Yep, I work a regular job. I’m the Director of Bereavement and Spiritual Care for a community hospice agency. Love it!

Day Seven: IMG_1854 The Retreat Leader Hat

My husband and I are both marriage and family therapists, and we are also both pastor types. 

 

Day Eight: IMG_1793The Crazy in Love Hat 

 December will be 32 years since I married my best friend. I’ve loved every minute of it! Here’s to 32 more!

Day NineIMG_1797: The Mom Hat

David and I gave birth to two wonderful children. Since then, we have added six more girls to our family. This picture features my only boy. A little guy at 6’5” but he will always be my baby boy.

 

 


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Day Ten: The Activist Hat

I can’t help it; I was born with a bleeding heart. David and I run a gay/straight Christian alliance to help bring healing to those from the LGBTQ community who have been hurt by the church. I also attend PFLAG (parents and friends of lesbians and gays). The middle button says “I’ll go with you.” Much violence happens to transgendered people in bathrooms. This button let them know I’ll go in with them if they are afraid. And the last one says #blacklivesmatter because they do. I wrote “Cracker” to try to help turn the tide of racial injustice. It’s my small drop in the battle against injustice.

So this is my selfie challenge. I had a blast doing it. How about you? Post a picture telling something about yourself, or better yet, take the ten-day #selfiechallenge!

First Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The Contemplative Activist: or How to Do Good, Better

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Several weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a “Gravity” conference in Nebraska. Gravity puts on conferences for “contemplative activists.” When I try to explain this to people the first reaction is, “Contemplative Activist? Isn’t that an oxymoron?”

Let me tell you how Gravity started. Chris and Phileena Heuertz worked overseas with marginalized populations like sex-trafficked women and girls. They noticed over time that their co-workers burned out every few years. They decided to try to figure out how to make this kind of activism more sustainable. To that end, they interviewed Richard Rohr, Thomas Merton, and Mother Theresa. All three said that in order to sustain good works, you must have a discipline of contemplative prayer practices from which to sustain your soul.

Chris and Phileena founded Gravity Center in Nebraska in order to help activists “do good, better.”

The retreat I went to was called a Grounding Retreat where these contemplative practices were taught. It was held at a Benedictine Monastery.

The retreat was wonderful! Each session we learned at least one practice and then tried it, and debriefed it. On the Gravity Website, you can explore all of these practices. I’ll list a few here: Silence, Solitude, Stillness, Lectio Divina, Centering Prayer, Breath Prayer, and the Examen.

A book I wrote about the retreat

For me, the take-home was threefold:

First, I have already used many of these practices, but none of them had become regular disciplines in my life except my monthly retreats to the Mercy Center in Auburn, California. Since the retreat, I have added Lectio Divina to my regular quiet morning reflections. I’ve also added yoga to my exercise routine, which I first tried at this retreat and am trying some guided meditations as I have failed at Centering prayer.

Second, as a writer, I was between books when I arrived at the retreat – without a clue about what I wanted to write next. Almost the second I walked onto the property, an idea downloaded into my brain. I’m enjoying writing that book now, about a burned-out activist of course!

Third, this is very personal: in my last job, I was at these kinds of retreat centers at least twice a year. One of the saddest parts of leaving that work was having to give up those retreats. Not just because of the locations, but because I got to be part of a national leadership team trying to take our organization to the next level in Spiritual Formation. We not only practiced these ways of prayer but brainstormed how to help others do so. This is kind of what makes my heart beat faster. I was afraid I was done with that part of my life and I’m so pleased to be wrong about that. Going to this Gravity retreat wasn’t even my idea. A dear friend who had been to one of these retreats before felt so strongly that I attend she actually raised all the money for my plane ticket and the cost of the retreat!

The last day of the retreat I sat by a little lake and asked God why I was there. Was it just to beef up my personal practices? Was it for a new book idea? He reminded me of the sense of loss I’d felt when leaving my last job, thinking I’d never be at a retreat like this again. And he simply said, “I love you enough to make this happen because I know it’s important to you.” That made me cry. It was as if he was saying, “I’ve got this!”

If you’re an activist, especially if you are working in some kind of job that exposes you to soul-draining work, it is important to restore your soul with contemplative practices. But all of us will do well to add these practices to our lives. To help us do good, better.

These are my versions of two of the disciplines:

Lectio Divina:

Choose a short passage from scripture, a spiritual book or a poem you will read over three times. Read it slowly the first time, savor the words. The second time, look for a word or phrase that stands out to you and let that word or phrase roll over in your mind. During the third reading, listen for the invitation to you from the passage. Write down what comes to you.

The Examen:

  1. Sifting back through your day, look for one place where you saw or felt God, or felt your true self. One small instance of peace. Savor that moment in your mind.
  2. Sifting back through your day, look for one place where you missed God or experienced your false self. A place of disquiet. Remember that honestly with love and grace.
  3. Remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day filled with hope.

Do you have any favorite contemplative practices? What has worked for you or what would you like to try?

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