crossing the lines |tyler schwaller|

[This is a letter I wrote to the bishop of the Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church after a speech in which I talked of my faith as someone who is gay. It received no response. I share it for those interested in truthful conversation beyond the UMC’s continued practices of either outright rejection of LGBTQ persons or of glossing over our presence.]

June 10, 2015

Dear Bishop Trimble and Members of the Appointive Cabinet,

Greetings to you in the name of Christ who has set us free.

In just a two minute speech at Annual Conference, the text of which is included below for your reference, I offered a witness with consequences that I know extend beyond the parameters of a debate and vote on Action Item 106. While I am not typically so presumptuous as to imagine myself as the subject of high-level conversations, I also know that you take your responsibilities seriously…

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How did we get here?

Thank you Becca, Will, and all the others for leadership and also to our Bishop for not blocking it!

We Your People, Ours the Journey

ashes Beloved friends and colleagues (Jamie Michaels and Cynthia Good) gift me with sackcloth and ashes in an act of repentance Thursday morning. Photo by Beth DiCoco, NEAC Communications

The New England Annual (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church experienced a watershed moment this week– so many watershed moments that it’s clear this is not a moment, but a movement. I speak not only of the passage of an Action of Non-Conformity with the General Conference of our denomination, but of the whole way of doing Conference. Our agenda took significant hits, with some important presentations and actions cut and some significantly restricted and rushed, but this was because we took time to listen to one another, to tell stories and hold pain.

Most of the time at Conference was spent in out-of-order witnessing and truth-telling, circle process conversations about our identity as Methodists (and for some of us, about…

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After being away…

I have not posted here in several months. Packing and moving from an older house converted into two apartments into a large apartment house with 231 apartments, trying to get unpacked while simultaneously celebrating Christmas, and then being laid up for several weeks with viruses — all that and my writing came to a grinding stop.

My cousin and I agreed today that getting old is hard! But I am challenged by these quotes:

“The answer to old age is to keep one’s mind busy and go on with one’s life as if it were interminable.” –Leon Edel

“To insist on living until we die may be one of life’s greatest virtues.” –Joan Chittister

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Inside the Fog

 The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. (Exodus 13:21 NRSV)

A figure like the movie version of the Ghost of Christmas Future points its finger toward the fog and I enter it. I find myself climbing a mountain, above timberline, like a mountain from the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. My hips and legs work fine and I can remember the pleasure that comes when your legs can lift your body in such a steep climb.

I come to a slightly level, though uneven, spot partly covered with some kind of soft vegetation like moss or grass. Throughout this brief experience, I am enveloped in the fog, my pillar of cloud. There is no visibility in the area around or below this mountain — in fact, no visibility beyond about three feet from where I am.

Thus I can see neither the beautiful vistas that might be around me, nor the potential dangers that might frighten me and cause me to lose my footing. My focus is limited to the here and now, the steps and resting places of the present.

But I am in the pillar of cloud and the assurances comes:

“You’re exactly where I want you to be.”

I must keep remembering Abraham who went forth in faith to a promised, but unrevealed, land that God “will show you” sometime in the undefined future.

© Aug.1996

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Jim Taylor: Freedom of Religion Can Go Too Far

Jim writes:

“When religious rights conflict with criminal laws, they contend, religious rights take priority.
“I disagree….
“As an individual, [Canadian Prime Minister] Harper may attend any church he wants. He may practice his beliefs as rigorously as he wants. He’s free to believe that the Bible is the literal word of God. He’s also free to believe that two plus two equals five. And if he wants to run his personal finances on that belief, he’s welcome to try.
“As prime minister, though, he must set personal beliefs aside. When he’s governing the country, he must not apply flawed mathematics to national budgets, he cannot ignore scientific realities, and he should not base foreign policy on a 2000-year-old text which asserts that God gave a particular piece of real estate to the descendants of Jacob, forever and ever.”

Read the whole article here:  http://edges.canadahomepage.net/2014/08/24/1833/

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Walking the Tightrope To Avoid Depression

I  walk a tightrope between overwork and depression.

As long as I maintain the balance, I have a great life! If I have too much stimulation I become exhausted, but if I don’t have enough I feel anxious.

This problem began with being seriously burned when I was 12 months old, and I am going into detail about this in the spiritual memoir I am writing. One result was my compulsion to check the gas water heater as well as the doors over and over every night, when I was in elementary school. Back in those days, if there was any diagnosis or treatment for OCD, we didn’t know anything about it.

Fast forward many years to my first year in seminary in 1963. There were only four women admitted to Boston University School of Theology that year. I had already gone through a lot to find a seminary that would admit me.  Sometime during that year I was suffering from headaches, and when I went to the doctor, he asked,

“Wouldn’t you rather stay home?”

Naturally that infuriated me, but I didn’t have the guts to blow up at him. He prescribed Librium, at a strength that I later discovered was a pediatric dose. The nature of the name of the drug made me suspicious, but he insisted that it would help my headaches, and it did.

Later, when I had crying spells and complained of being “unloveworthy,” I took advantage of the pastoral counseling available at Boston University. The style of counseling in those days was non-directive client-centered therapy. At our first session the counselor suggested that my issues related to my burn. I brushed that off, and he never raised it again nor insisted that I deal with it in any way. So I continued counseling for two years, often with very little verbal exchange, and I got better.

Fast forward many years again when a combination of my husband’s health problems and our financial setbacks made it difficult for me to sleep as worries seemed to circle and circle a drain, pulling me down with them.  Talk therapy had become passé and wasn’t covered by insurance, so I saw a psychiatrist. We tried some different medications and found that Lexapro helped. I still take that medicine.

And now, having had one stent put into a coronary artery less than a year ago, I developed symptoms again –shortness of breath and pressure in my chest. When a battery of tests proved that there is no blockage present and no valve problem, but that my blood pressure spiked during the procedure, I went back to my primary doctor to tackle the blood pressure issue.

He asked if I thought my anxiety played a part in my symptoms. I had had a fear that my symptoms might be “all in my head,” and I dreaded any such suggestion. I was afraid that if I said “Yes,” I would receive no treatment for blood pressure that had spiked as high as 196.  That probably was not the case, but I didn’t give him a straight answer and I did get a new medicine to add to what was already prescribed.  So that’s where I am now. I have read of others having problems with both anxiety and heart problems and the difficulty in sorting that out.

Now, in spite of learning better during my own graduate education, and in spite of the publicity about Robin Williams, I still fear the stigma I expect to experience when people know I take medication for generalized anxiety.

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Thoughts on Creation

Reflection on Chet Raymo, “Borne on a sea of vital dust,”
The Boston Globe, June 9, 1997:

You — Creator of the cosmic imperative
toward chemical complexity,
biological bounty, and
vital variety;

You — Poet of the litany of life,
delighting in life’s diversity,
restoring life’s resiliency,
protecting life’s potential
abundant animation of atoms;

You made me host to millions of gut bacteria and airborne microbes!

When the storms come, is anything lost?  Is it not all restored again to the One – the Oneness of creation, creativity?  Who am I as an individual in the stream of the cosmic imperative? I am the host to millions of gut bacteria! Is this why I exist? Not my only reason for being, but reason enough to keep me humble in the vastness of creation.

Maybe we are not the only biological species with whom God enjoys intimacy! But we seem to be the only species that has forgotten who we are as God’s creatures, the only species that has tried to usurp God’s place, position, power, possibilities, and work, — and thus the only species needing redemption.

Did you ever see an elephant try to be God?
Or a dog try to be a man and usurp the role of a human?
Does a bird try to be a rabbit?
Or a whale a horse?

Yet we try to be God.

According to astronomers, every atom in my body was forged in a star. I am made, they insist, of stardust. I am stardust braided into strands and streamers of information, proteins and DNA, double helixes of stardust. In every cell of my body there is a thread of stardust as long as my arm.
Chet Raymo, The Dork of Cork    

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