(ATLANTA - 8 June 2011) :: Before February 2010, I had little knowledge of the Presbyterian way of worship. I was basically *this side of atheist, with a generous, inquisitive spirituality but a combative, skeptical streak that usually kept me away from churches altogether.
Along came Jason. We met early last year on Compatible Partners, and since then, we’ve transitioned well into a couple; he’s helped awaken me to the generosity and kindness that can dwell in the halls and sanctuaries of our nation’s churches.
Covenant Presbyterian in Augusta, Ga., is an able example of that compassion. Jason, the church’s Director of Music and Organist for the past eight years, is active in the community as a singer, concertmaster, performer - and, at first, I found the idea of coming together with him daunting given how successful and established he was in his town.
I also wondered: “How could this church understand our relationship? How would they accept me, me with him, us together?”
I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. For it was the church’s people - Diane and Joe, Kaye, Jennifer, Pastor Rob, Karla, Beverly, and so many others - who welcomed me and folded us in as part of the family, giving us time and space for our relationship to blossom into what it is today. They allowed for and supported a reimaging of who Jason is as a partnered person, giving him a chance to realize his dream of finding an able boyfriend. I will always be deeply grateful for the gracious and open treatment they afforded us.
While Jason and I were enjoying Covenant’s people and environs - including its stunning, sultry-sound sanctuary (pictured) - change was afoot at Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s national level. The question: whether or not to ordain openly gay men and women. Very often change is accompanied by lots of chaos, dissent and frustration - which was ever-present in the regional discussions on the topic.
‘You’re going to be late for lunch today’
Pastor Rob Watkins, leader of Covenant’s congregation, was party to these meetings - and had a lot to say one Sunday after suffering through some of those meetings with people of strident, divergent opinions.
Following that meeting, Pastor Rob delivered a rousing sermon on his frustration with the Presbyterian Church’s position and posturing on the subject of ordination. Some excerpts from the sermon:
“You can walk down the street and find churches that are ripping each other to shreds, because they have taken on the power of God, and decided who is right and who is wrong. I get annoyed when I go to Presbytery meetings. And I confess I am a terrible Presbyterian. Why? Because I can’t help but get annoyed. Who are we to speak for God? God gave us the work to do. You preach. You teach. And you engage in love. You engage in compassion. Anything else is extraneous. Anything else. What does that mean? That means that yesterday’s Presbyterian meeting for about five minutes, we were engaged in the work of God. The rest of the time we were wasting our time and wasting the time of every human being who was sitting there, because we were engaged in speaking for God. We had no right to do that. None. Zero.
God is in the midst of the chaos that roils all around us all of the time. God firmly plants himself in the corner of anyone who has need of him. In other words, the power of God is eternally present behind compassion. Remember that the apostle John wrote, “God is love,” but he wasn’t simply thinking of a Hallmark card. He was thinking in real, human terms. God is love, ironically, which means you find him in the presence of human love.
I apologize for anything I have said that makes you feel like I am not ready to be your pastor anymore. That was one thing I heard at the Presbytery meeting, that just about made me stand on my head … if we are so scared that someone is going to walk out the back door because we are going to act in compassion, then we are not who we ought to be. If they can’t handle compassion and they want to leave, bye. Because that’s who we are. That’s what we are. That’s how we are. We say it so glibly, “God so loved the world, that God gave his only son, and whoever believes it may not perish and have eternal life,” but then turn right around and smack somebody in the face. How can we do that?
Look at the spectrum that is sitting here in this room. Look at the spectrum that gathered here on Thursday for a funeral. Look at the spectrum that gathers as soon as you set foot outside these doors. Look at the spectrum that is gathered at McDonald’s after church. Look at the spectrum that is driving past you on the wall. Look at the colors that God paints with. Look at the shades that God paints with. And it’s all art, all of it. Who are we to divide ourselves up? It’s as if the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre looks over at the Monets and says, “You’re garbage.”
You don’t do that. They are masterpieces, all of them. And you know what? I would argue that Leonardo de Vinci would look at Eden’s first scribble with a crayon and say, “That’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my whole life.” Why? Because Leonardo knew, knew what it was to have God’s creative will coursing through his bones. And when he sees a child pick up a Crayon and draw, he sees affirmation of that creative will.
Yes, you are going to be late for lunch today. Wait with me. You need to be late for lunch today. Because we are not celebrating the gift of a child with a Crayon, we are dividing each other up.Do I mean right here, specifically in this congregation? God I hope not. But I know all you have to do is step foot outside the door, and you are right in the midst of it. You are right in the midst of it.
I had my eyes opened 18 years ago to what love really means. I was working with a couple, one of whom was dying and it was a horrible death. It was a horrible, horrible death. And the spouse was there every day. Told their job, ‘I can’t come. I won’t come. I have to be here.’ And every day they started the day with a bath, because the dying could not wash themselves. And so with tenderness and mercy and care, the other bathed their spouse every morning. As things got worse, the dying couldn’t even lift a fork to feed themselves. So spouse stayed there and fed them every meal. Made sure they got every drop of water that they needed. You would think that they would have sat and cried all day long and wept, and been in misery and just been awful all day long, but they weren’t. They laughed. They smiled. Their love only deepened as they cared for each other. The one who was dying said, ‘Take my credit card. Go max it out. I am not going to be here to pay the bill. (laughter)
“‘Go buy whatever you want. I have worked hard to get a $20,000 credit limit. Go max it.’ John and Rocky taught me about love. Yeah. That’s right. Two men. In a committed, loving relationship that the State of North Carolina, could not, would not and did not recognize as marriage. They were more married than half of the heterosexual people I worked with in that church. Would you have cared as John cared for Rocky, as he died? That’s the question to ask yourself and I hope that you can say, Yes. And who then are we to say to John and Rocky your love isn’t real? Your love is a lie. Your love is sinful. When I saw as a pastor who had real struggles and real issues, that is what Christ requires, was right there… to bathe a dying body every single morning. To feed a dying man every single meal. To make sure that there was water to drink every single time he was thirsty. To make him laugh when it hurt to breathe… who are we to say that isn’t real? That isn’t right? Have you ever been face to face with love so powerful? And that’s the problem. We won’t go face to face. We won’t meet face to face. We will keep it out there in the spacious unknown where we can talk in philosophical terms without putting human beings before us. I am begging you, put human beings before you, before you say anything.
As I said, you are going to be late for lunch. Bear with me. This is too important. Put human beings first. I wasn’t expecting it until I sat through a Presbytery meeting yesterday. We cannot keep ignoring that anything that happens in our world involves human beings. Those are real people. They live. They breathe. They see. They ache. They hurt. They cry. They laugh. They dream.”
Pastor Rob’s sermon did not go unheeded - and the news from the national organization was good. Last month marked a milestone for the Presbyterian church - from the article in The Huffington Post:
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) passed a historic measure Tuesday evening allowing openly gay men and women in same-sex relationships to be ordained as clergy.
The move reflects a monumental shift in the 2.8 million-member church, which, along with other mainline Protestant denominations, has had increasingly contentious debates and struggles over issues pertaining to gay and lesbian members and clergy. A majority of the church's regional bodies, or presbyteries, defeated a similar measure to allow gay clergy two years ago.
Because Pastor Rob, Covenant’s members, et. al., weren’t only championing Jason and me - they were championing all of us. Spurring greater understanding, provoking thought, expressing non-violent dissent, and accepting the “all that is” in the universe with which I’m so fascinated. Theology, philosophy and social progress are not obscured by religion; in great measure, they are enhanced by it.
Embracing the unknown
Just as Joyce said to me recently: “God knows what’s right.” However you conceive Him or Her to be, that particular power has been proven to be working, and working well, for everyone - no exceptions - in the “spacious unknown.”
Here’s a clip from HRC that shows Bruce Reyes-Chow acknowledging the historic change:
Faced with an emotional summer of transition and new beginnings, Jason will be departing Covenant in August to move to Atlanta and start school. Although excited by our co-habitation, my heart is heavy that we will be visiting Covenant less in the future, having to say so long (but definitely not good-bye) to so many great, gifted people. We have the entire family at Covenant - as well as our friends and family - to thank for their unwavering support of us. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and, I would imagine, so will Jason.
So, Triscuit will finally have her Jason close by, for many puppy kisses. And from now on, when asked, I’ll always opt for the late lunch.
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Here’s another great example of Broadway giving back, this time for The Trevor Project.
Not to be left out, watch for similar “It Gets Better” themes from this year’s ARTvision.
Sliding our finger across a touchscreen has fused technology with a singular emotional experience that is, even with all its success, still in its infancy. My friends and I have gone down an iPhone or iPad rabbit hole after buying these cool, obsessive products, completely transfixed by the UI (user interface). We fingerslide our way to new apps, new connections and a new way of computing and thinking.
But have you noticed that our relationship with touchscreens - the iPhone, iPad, Droid and others - have begun to infiltrate the way marketers are selling their products? To wit: ads that take the personal-device experience and mesh it with other products, as with this Land Rover 4 ad:
Not convinced? How about this snippet for Lawyers.com, in which an actor is enlightened with what looks to be a 7-year-old Dell laptop that can somehow expand and reduce its touchscreen images:
These ads are more than a fad. They are emblematic of a cultural shift away from the one-dimensional, boring, top-down, “this is what you want to buy” strategy to getting in the head of a hyper-active user who is in total control of their surroundings.
Know of any others ads? Comment here or on the Facebook comment thread! I’ll update as all of you put in your ideas.
Rest in peace, oh soda jerk: Coke Freestyle elevates individuals to instant mixologists by using a zesty touch-screen system to mix selections from over 100 choices into a custom beverage, all while delivering a geeky high-tech thrill.
It's been called "the fountain of the future," "the most advanced soda fountain ever" and (in a backhanded-compliment kind of way) a path "leading to social ruin." Even Warren Buffett is a fan. But can this thing really deliver?
Coke spokesperson Helen Tarleton certainly thinks so, calling it a "complete departure from a traditional fountain machine." (She even reports that a gal was caught on security camera fondly embracing and kissing the machine.)
Tarleton expects 500 new Freestyle machines to pop up soon in Southern California, Atlanta, Dallas and Salt Lake City
We decided to take Coke Freestyle for a test drive at a local McDonald's in Atlanta, where we came up with some crazy combinations using the machine's 100-plus flavor options.
While Freestyle's club soda can help cut the sweetness of some of the machine's more intense flavors, you are likely to go crazier with the combinations than you think -- and you're virtually guaranteed to forget whatever it is you put in your cup.
But we were able to document a few of our greatest hits for posterity:
"Doogie Fanta, M.D." (Combination: Dr. Pepper, Vault Peach, Cherry Fanta)
"The Red Wolf Blitzer" (Vault Red Blitz, vanilla Diet Coke)
"Barqing Berry" (Barq root beer, raspberry Dasani Sensation)
"Looney Tunes" (Minute Maid strawberry, vanilla Coke, grape Fanta, club soda)
"Lima-berry" (Grape Fanta, Lime Dasani Sensations, Club Soda)
"Customers love them," says Stephen Cordell, McDonald's on Cheshire Bridge's first assistant manager, who seems like a proud father reporting that his two Freestyle machines connect via Wi-Fi to the Coke mothership every morning at 2 a.m. for software updates.
Freestyle feedback was largely positive. "Wow, this is cool" and "How neat" were thrown around McDonald's by customers while we were testing it out.
So go forth, soda geeks, but make sure to keep track of your mix for next time -- and keep some Tums handy for the inevitable sugar-stomachache.
And check out our video from our Coke Freestyle recon mission:
And take a look at our photo album, too.
If you’re so inclined, write a letter of complaint to the Mayor’s office of communications and then make a comment here about the reply you get.
Here’s the contact info:
Beverly L. Isom, Director of Communications
Mayor Franklin has apparently played pretty dumb in responding to this aggressive action, so we need to hit them with protests.
A round of applause to Mike Alvear and Justin Ziegler and everyone else who spearheaded this City Hall protest - taking a stand in the torrential rain.
And then finally, a rally outside the bar:
We are gearing up for a memorial for this man, this legend - no matter what your opinion of him, our world will be a lot less interesting without him.
And herein lies my point: We can’t wait for death to appreciate life. In his last 10 or so years, he was a lightening rod for lawsuits (some of them deserved), criticism and many, many aspersions. Much of his life drama played out publicly... and much if not all was self-created.
But amidst all of this, here’s the question: Why is everyone always a saint after they die? He wasn’t a saint, he didn’t walk on water. He was human... and a very talented one at that. We should work harder to celebrate life while we have it - instead of waiting to deliver a eulogy and wishing we had just one more moment in the waking world.
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The highlight of this clip by far is giving it to Sarah Palin for pulling out of her GOP event: “That’s not the way to practice abstinence-only sex education.”
And then, part two, complete with the joyously biting and pharmaceutically accurate slam on Rush and on Hannity: “I Can break Sean Hannity by making him sit in a middle seat.”
The image of The Queen of England downloading Lady Gaga is reason enough to watch both of these all the way through!
BTW? The Iraq war was the biggest and most irresponsible example of socialism and nation building in the history of our nation -- and we have nothing to show for it.
So on tax day, I offer this:
A man was beaten in midtown last week for no other reason than his sexual orientation. “Are you gay?” two white men asked. When he replied, “Yes,” he got his ass kicked. Here’s some reaction:
To those two perpetrators, I say: get your shit together, because otherwise, you’re just taking up space. Also, get a better way to pass the time than to vomit your internalized fear onto other innocent people.
Even a stodgy old girl like mine in midtown can get a successful boob job.
Without further ‘do, enjoy.
Great change is always preceded by intense turmoil, and I believe we are at just the beginning of a vast reinvention of our global society. With the book proposal done (the book speaks directly to the “change factor” that we, ourselves, control) and the book-agent search officially on, I thought this Web site popped up at just the right time.
Take a look at Worldwide Tipping Point, and how you can send energy to this cause. Quoting the site:
“Thomas Paine wrote during the time of the American Revolution, ‘we have it in our power to begin the world over again,’ and that is exactly what people living on this planet right here, right now have the opportunity to do!”
The Web site founder:
Log on and help tip the scales today. More to follow on this topic... Thanks to Brenda for passing it along.
And the answer should be the same on California's Proposition 8, which limits marriage between a man and a woman... and has incited some dangerous language along with it.
Listen to right-wing nut job Tony Perkins "interview" people about this legislation:
For so long, for TOO long, we've used religion as a way of restricting freedoms instead of celebrating them. It's time for that to stop.
You have people, responsible ones, who want to "focus on the family" and have settled, safe, abundant lives and you're actually trying to stop that success? Seriously?
My committed (and now married) friends, Brenda & Julie and Wayne & Ed, are not attempting to infiltrate the nation's families. Do your family dynamics - some of them are laughable, some admirable - somehow contribute to mine?
Californians, vote no on Prop. 8, and give anything you can to defeat this measure. I just gave $50.
Stop messing with state constitutions as an end run around federal law.
Update: here's the best response I could find for such ignorance (as always, I turn to humor):
All the below comments, included without editing, come from the blog Macsmind. I normally don't give air time to festering wingnuts, but I want you to see and read firsthand how people have reacted to this video (courtesy of Anita sharing on Facebook):
Warden writes: "If Obama is elected you will no longer be living in a free nation."
Phipps writes: "Obama would have us show up for the gun fight at the OK corral with bare hands to negotiate! In his own words, Obama has declared this country open territory for every nut job in the world to do as they please."
Smith writes: "He IS someone to fear, and we Americans are the sheep going to slaughter if we don’t stop him."
Barber writes: "What every conservative christian in America should be doing is praying for God to have mercy on America one more time. If Obama gets this important possition, we have no hope in the values our fore-Fathers built this fine nation on."
Anonymous writes: "O’bama is a Muslim !! Anyone that will sit there and tell you that he will disarm our America definitely isn’t an American.We weren’t disarmed when our New York City exploded..We weren’t disarmed when our ships took on dynamite..Concerned,Very much so if we are lead by a Muslim.You “white” O’Bama nuts are only voting for this man because you hate george Bush so very much! He and his wife Hates White folks!!! The Blacks,what can I say more?They’re voting for him Because he is black..I don’t like the way GB has run our country either but I’m be damned if I’ll give a Muslim my vote!!!"
Assuming that many of these posters were transformed by 9/11, as we all were, fear is the guiding principle of their opposition to Obama. Fear of being left unprotected; that if we aren't always on offense we are pussies, wimps, losers, un-Christian and un-American. Fear of the great unknown.
That is a steaming pile of horse shit.
We've tried George Bush's America, his OK Corral, his anti-compassionate conservatism, and it hasn't worked. Time for something new.
But I'll go a step further: don't wave a loaded gun in my face and tell me your a peacekeeper. Fear makes everyone a gun-toting trailblazer - when you think you're protecting yourself from the angry mob in your neighborhood or if you're in the armed services. Guns, missile defenses, threats of war and phony posturing are all tools of a disintegrated masculine tirade, and it's all a bunch of crap.
If you believe radical Islam is out to get you, you should equally be fearful of radical Christianity, or radical anything. The McCain campaign has tried to instill fear in the American electorate by insinuations and wonderings aloud:
There are "leaders" who bait and switch because they don't have the chops, and there are leaders who... LEAD. There is sensible protection that doesn't inflame our friends, and then there is aggression for the sake of being a badass. We have failed on that point, and many others, over the past seven years.
If we continually operate from a place of fear, we will never, repeat NEVER, advance or learn from what happened on 9/11, as referenced in the above comments.
So, here the final thought: no more chest thumping, no more brow beating, no more "this town ain't big enough...", no more my dick is bigger than yours.
Peace will lead to prosperity and understanding. Sensible protectionism and normalized military mobilization is our best chance for freedom and world leadership.
Think about it. Leave the boots at home.
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She and Cloris Leachman have great chemistry and you'll laugh your ass off.
Frankly I was surprised at how at ease Bonnie Hunt is with her new show.
So, I submit the following for humor consideration:
Below is one of a bunch of clips from her late-show gig, including a riff on how Sarah Palin has been a boon to comics across the country:
Thanks to Colbie Caillat for posting this to her MySpace page. (She appears in the video.)
I would have preferred a different VP, but given the state of affairs in the world, I understand it.
Compared with McCain, Obama for me is the clear choice. When you look at the two candidates and how urgently we need a fresh, progressive perspective in the White House, Obama fits the bill.
I was busy filming this and a few other clips before I took my turn in front of the camera.
This experience has been memorable from the start and I'm grateful to the entire HGTV team (not to mention Lynn Saussy for introducing us) for making the project so much fun.
More info to follow about when the episode will air, but I'm thinking it'll be in the fall sometime. They followed us from beginning to end and will likely do quite a bit of morphing and time-lapse photography on some of the elements.
Mary Grace even snapped a shot of me in make-up! Of course, I ended up sweating most of it off...
Look up "Deer in Headlights" in the dictionary... there he'll be.
Watch how Jennifer Anniston and David Schwimmer gain some greater understanding about their lines.