No Regrets: The Mercy We Find With Thanksgiving

No Regrets

Thanksgiving – the holiday – the day itself – is a pretty awful holiday from my perspective because of the bad feelings it brings to many of my friends. And the danger it brings to some.

It’s not that I don’t like getting together with the closest of my kin over a table best described as ‘The Who Feast.” I consider all that time with kith and kin to be sacred time: the few and blessed times when we come together with no particular reason except to be together. Most often, great mounds of Southern family comfort foods are involved.

What makes it terrible, and probably an even worse holiday than St. Valentines day, is that many, many of my friends and acquaintances don’t have the experience that I do.

Theirs is quite terrible.

Thanksgiving by staying close to its non-retail definition is a time for us to pause in all our bounty and to give thanks for it, while surrounded by those in our life who make our days so very bountiful. I would add on that we would be better served as spiritual people to forget about remembering all the stuff in our lives, and concentrate on the people.
I am thankful for…

Fill in the blanks on this one. Everyone has one to finish that sentence, even those who think that their life is so bleak that there’s nothing around to find that’s worth giving thanks. No matter how terrible your life is – or how terrible your experience of your life is – someone around you is happy for your presence on the planet. Someone is your buddy. Someone sees you in the club and without even speaking to you or expressing it, you are their hero, the model, the one that they look for as a reason to get out of bed the next day.

You can choose to be thankful for the goodness – yes, the blessings – you give to others that you are never aware of. You can be thankful that you are here, that your voice is recognized, or that your text is expected and looked forward to. Go ahead and be thankful that maybe even just one night a week someone sees you out in public, and they think that you are the person they want to be when they “grow up.”

The revelation here is that this all without them seeing any of your internal monsters.

This week I read stories among my social media friends of their family members who say to them (I paraphrase) that some bad-mouthed family member is “thankful” for everything except that person they are sending the message to. I have to ask my usual question at this point: can somebody show me the Jesus in saying that?

Last week I read stories from people who said that they absolutely did not want to go home for this “feast” because someone in their family was the bigot, and that the bigot was proud of that, and they’d never change. So the person writing would then have to sit there all through dinner (etc.) quietly while the bigot in their family spouts their poison all over the table and all over the others sitting there. Still, our writer was expected to sit there and quietly take that verbal beating because that loud-mouth was in a position of respect (hah!) in the family.

Not in my family.

The great thing about growing up and moving on from some of those back home connections is that you are an adult on your own, and it is time to add in the people who you choose to be a part of your extended family. Not blood kin (necessarily) you can pull in friends, acquaintances, colleagues – the people that you care to spend time with. These are people who you are truly thankful that you get to see them, and talk with them. These are the people whom you love and who love you.

“I am thankful that – regardless where we are in our separate lives – that you are still a part of my family.”

Imagine for a second the scene above with being forced by tradition and family mores to sit and listen to some hater spew forth such bad and abusive language to the rest of the family. Think of the very young – the children and grandchildren sitting there. Do not forget that these small humans hear everything you say. Do not forget that children are not born knowing how to hate: somebody has to teach them. Protect the children as you can. Teach them – even if the teaching is only that they get to see you, and understand that the hate talk is all lies of the devil. If such terrible talk were true, maybe you, or someone else in your family, wouldn’t be there to love that child. Just love a kid: they learn a lot from that.

Where does the hate cycle stop?

My family is this huge cauldron full of a mixture of my kin folk, of people I have known for decades, of new friends, people from work, people from church, people down the street at the store, people from 25 years ago in California or New York, and on and on and on. I am thankful for each of them, and keep that in mind every day as I’m going about my business, rather than saving up to tell them just one day a year.

The bad apples that fall into that great stew: well, they get picked out over time. Some of them you can help them along by cutting out that bad spot and teaching them better. And teaching them better by example.

Some of those folks just get picked out and thrown away because if they stick around with whatever negative meanness is in them, they will spoil everything else in my life. There is no space in my life for spoilage, an no time to fix that mess up. I’ve said goodbye to many people who I thought were friends, some of them I had known for decades. Saying goodbye is tough some times, and more often than I care to remember it’s very easy to do when that supposed friend and I realize we will never find a place of common, happy friendship.

Just because someone is no longer in my extended family and great litany of friends does not mean that they don’t deserve a place in my prayers. In your meditations, always remember those who are no longer with us, either because they have passed from this Earth to something else, or a choice was made to be apart from them. It’s tough. It’s advanced Christianity right along with praying for your enemies.

I know I’ve shared this verse before, and here it is in another context. It’s that nearly forgotten little verse right at the ending of Psalm 23

(Ps. 23:6) Only goodness and kindness
shall follow me all the days of my life

That follow word in there – try not to get stuck in reading that as “my life and the people in it who are jerks and assholes… What’s so good and kind about them?”

Read the line again as if the word is fill:

I will be filled with nothing but goodness,
with kindness,
with mercy,
for the length of all my days.

And thus by being filled that way, we live into a life for with others are thankful, and they say/pray,

“I am so thankful that you are in my life, because you are teaching me how to live my life better.”

Be thankful this season, forgetting your material abundance and the things in your life that you own, rent, lease, borrowed. Forget the jerks and assholes in your so-called “family” because their words are their words, and not your thoughts.

Be thankful that you are an inspiration to others, even though you may never know it.

Keep the faith!

– Amen

 

 

 

To My Daughter, on the Day America Said Yes to Her Dads’ Love

The recent Supreme Court decision on marriage in America effects not just the participants in that marriage. It also profoundly effects their (and our) families.

 

by David Valdes Greenwood,
Playwright and Author,
“Homo Domesticus: Notes from a Same-Sex Marriage”


When you woke up this morning, you knew your dads were married, but you also knew we weren’t married everywhere we went. You knew that we loved each other and that this was not enough to make us married in the whole United States. You knew we were not equal.

When I was your age, sweetheart, I dreamed of marrying a boy someday. But I knew that wasn’t allowed. When I told my grandmother, who loved me very much, that I liked boys, she washed my mouth out with soap and sent me to bed.

I wanted to marry a boy like me anyway. This was the 1970s, and there was no such thing then — not in my state or anywhere else — but I was undeterred. I drew pictures of weddings in my school notebook, and imagined the tux or the vest I’d wear. I didn’t talk about it because I was smart enough to realize it wouldn’t fly, but I knew.

You have grown up knowing that not everyone likes gay people like Daddy and me, but I haven’t told you what that cost me in the first 25 years of my life. You haven’t heard the stories about when my property was vandalized or when I endured prank phone calls, was followed and harassed, lost a job, was threatened with violence, and was, at times, rejected by members of my own family — all for being gay.

It’s hard for you to picture any of that, because in Massachusetts, where we live, same-sex marriage has been legal for as long as you can remember. You have seen only what being ourselves has brought us: a marriage that has lasted 20 years, a family with you as our gem, and the full embrace of so many people of every stripe who love us as we are.

You knew we had it good in our state, but that this was not true for all families like ours. Each time a new state celebrated marriage equality, we told you at the dinner table and you’d cheer, usually following that up with a dark look and a complaint about never wanting to be in the other states which hadn’t followed suit.

Today, I woke up thinking about the possible ruling of the Supreme Court, who you know about from discussing Civil Rights in school. I knew that they could decide to make marriage equality the law of the land, or that they could rule that it wasn’t our right. Watching the news for word of their decision was like being caught in the last few seconds of a breath I’ve held for 40 years.

This may surprise you, but I don’t believe all people should marry, or that marriage is somehow more important than the other great rights of our society. I do believe that to be excluded from any great right is to be excluded from full citizenship. And if we are, so are you, simply for being our child. Every day that our love and hard work was measured as less than the love and hard work of your friends’ parents, it was another day America devalued our family.

But today was not that day. This morning, the court agreed that two men or two women who love each other and wish to marry are simply asking “for equal dignity in the eyes of the law.” And the verdict was ringing: “The Constitution grants them that right.” I cried at my desk when I saw the news.

I cried because we can finally embrace who we are and how we participate in society without the government telling us we can’t do both. No more losing our rights when we cross a border; no more asterisks or qualifications. Your dads are married in America.

When you go to bed tonight, you will live in a country that never existed before — not for your family. You’ll wake up in a new day and know we’re equal.


Keep the faith!
 – Amen

 

 

(credit: Huffington Post)

 

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First, you die – a prayer for families coming out

In the fourth season of Queer as Folk, as the audience comes to the end of our acquaintance with Uncle Vic, the Hiv-Poz former chef and patriarch of the Novatny family, someone asks his sister Debbie what it’s like to find out that your brother is HIV Positive, and that has now turned to aids.

After a moment’s pause she says “First… you die.

 

And then from there, the resurrection story comes into our lives from the realization that we can either sit there in that lonely pit where it’s dark and cold and the walls are steep and slick, or we can rise up, move on to our next day and our next, and so on, to live the lives that all the Uncle Vics in our lives would expect us to have.

I’ve heard some few parents tell me the same
response: What did you do when you first found out your kid was gay?

First, you die.

 

It’s as if what has just been told to me – most often from a place of sharing and trust – I have allowed to become my problem… my shortcoming. No child of mine is as bad as this badness (sic) that they have just told me, and so now I take the blame, the bad feeling, all the fault, and I sit here in my dark room with it, and oh! aren’t I a stronger person for suffering mightily on behalf of my child?

And then you wake up the next day.

 

Skies didn’t fall. Planets did not careen out of their orbits. Statues to that parent’s martyrdom did not spring up on the front lawn overnight. The badness, the crushing defeat, the loss – yes that is all still there. As is the daylight of that second day. We wake up, we look down and there scattered all around on the rug are pieces of a now-broken life (our own) that seemed so perfect – so untouched – just one day before. What happened in that day? And what to do now with that jigsaw puzzle of spilled pieces all around?

Consider reading the chapter 1 Corinthians 13 , it’s very short, only 13 of the most quoted and re-written verses in the Christian canon. The author (attributed to Paul) describes all that which love is. (In this case, agape, or charitable, Christian love.) Love, that active word that we don’t want to consider today because our life, broken and hurt, shattered in pieces on the floor by this bit of news from that one we… oh, wait a minute … from the one we love. The very last thing all that darkness calls from you is an active, pull yourself up by your bootstraps word like love.

 

Love never fails.

That’s not an original thought, or pie in the sky, that’s the first verse of the chapter. As strong an acclamation as you need to get you through this day, next week, a year from now. However long it’s going to take you to come to your senses and see how busted apart your life really is not.

 

Love is Eternal.

Regardless of that over worked movie scene in which the shell-shocked child is told of the parents’ upcoming divorce by saying “mom and dad just don’t love each other any more,” real, honest love is going to last beyond getting mad, coming out, denting the car, even that divorce split. Maybe mom and dad will love each other more by being apart than when they were together. And maybe – by being invited in as a part of this gay child/friend/spouse’s life – your love will also grow.

Evidence here is another super-quote from the Bible, John 3:16 described as “the gospel in one sentence:”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

They won’t perish: they won’t be removed forever from the one who loves them more than all others. No matter what awful things the world does, no matter how bratty we are, always demanding and never thanking…. always breaking stuff … God. So. Loved.

 

Are you the one who loves your child above all others? Everlasting, honest-to-God love?

Not everyone will have positive, wonderful or even funny coming out stories to tell. Some will break families, some will end relationships. And some will break old relationships into many jagged pieces that will then re-join more strong than before. Some will move along better because that child has spoken honestly of something that everyone already knew, and by speaking, they welcome us to know them – and love them – even more.

 

Families must grow to be strong.

That child – that beloved – has invited you to share something in their lives that is very close to their hearts, something very wonderful. Chances are they are scared- to-shaking that by telling you this good news, afraid you will react by rejecting their lives. Those scared ones fear that you will not love them any more.

God. So. Loved.

 

“At first,” Debbie said, “you die.” But you cannot stay there. Tomorrow will come whether or not you want it, and many days after. On that next day, when you are sitting in that dark, tall well with the slick sides, remember three simple words: God. So. Loved.  Decide then if you should do the same.

  • Love suffers long and it is kind.
  • Love does not envy and is not puffed up with false decoration
  • Love doesn’t behave unseemly or think evil thoughts
  • Love never fails, and endures all things

 

If you are that person who hears this news and your reaction is happiness, then God bless you, you got it right on the first try!

 

If you are that person who hears it and is afraid, just keep listening, keep asking all the questions you can bear to hear, understand the facts and not your inner fears, beginning with the fact that you have a happy person in front of you, asking you to join them in their happiness!

If you are that person feeling shattered and broken and ill-used, afraid, embarrassed, then everybody back to their own corners, reconnoiter and try again, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week. This is a family and not a sparring match. It’s no time for emotional blackmail, and no time for threats that you will certainly regret later.

 

Speak your mind about how you feel and always remember as the words come out of your mouth to this person who just seconds before you loved so deeply: God. So. Loved. Remember God’s love (and yours!), and fight to the core of your soul to keep it.

 

 

And now abides faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.
(1Cor. 13:13)

 

A Prayer for Families Coming Out

 

(the final phrase, “and so continue…” may be omitted or revised as needed.)

Lord, creator, you made each and every one of us in your likeness, embracing us in our moments of weakness and cheering us in our moments of triumph. We  thank you for giving us families – both given by you and chosen by us – and we thank you for showing your diversity of the many shades of love, a great palette that shows your compassion for us. Be with us within our families as we face all challenges, both inside and outside, that together, putting aside our own  divisions, fears, and expectations, we may continue to grow in your never-ending love for us, and so continue the work of Jesus.
Amen

Keep the faith!

 

 

(for Ronnie B. You left us without giving us the time or the opportunity to love you even more. We miss you, bud, and guess what: we already knew. Rest easy.)