Going and Growing

You've got to GO through it to GROW through it


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Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere

I facilitated a dialogue gathering recently at my seminary. One of the participants shared a saying she saw while surfing the web. As she told it:

“I put my finger on a map and asked, “Where do you hurt?”                                                              The map answered, “Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.”

This statement is very telling for the times we live in. Families, institutions and individuals are all wondering what’s going on  and how to manage the chaos that continues to fall around them. I wonder how much different our lives would be if the map were able to locate the source of pain. Would we then be moved to act on that pain and find a cure? An agreement? A resolve?

For LGBTQ+ families sometimes the hurt is…everywhere. Not all families struggle like you may see in the news. Not all families who identify as Christian are kicking their kids out of the house. But sadly, many are. I could easily fill this blog post with scripture after scripture to show the ways in which Jesus himself responded to those whose lives are “missing the mark” or “falling short of the glory” as the Bible states all do.  Our most grievous shortfall is the failure to love. Loving like Jesus loves is hard sometimes, well, often really. I’ll draw a few lines and connect a few dots to reflect how Jesus engaged people of all places and spaces.

For starters He never once required anyone to bow down. Has that ever occurred to you? No, Jesus never said “you must” anything. We assume He did and some Evangelicals may preach he did, but it was an invitation, a declaration…not a regulation.

How we live in this world is invitational as far as faith is concerned. I’ll use myself here because I’d rather throw myself under the bus so to speak, than someone out of thin air. My past few years has been spent in seminary because it came time for me to answer the call into ordained ministry. This call is certainly not for the faint of heart, the haters are everywhere. Plus, my focus is in bridge-building between the Queer community and the rest of the world.

Parents who’ve realized that Jesus calls us to “double down” and love on the least of these are banding together against bullying, all kinds of phobias (homo/trans/bi etc.) and like the map said “everywhere, everywhere, everywhere”…there is pain for this group of folks, everywhere. But, there is also help and healing. We’re taking back our families. We’re taking back our faith. We’re taking back our cities and we’re taking back our very lives. I’m working to preach and teach a message of healing and relationship that looks very different from what you may think of from “traditional Christianity.” Traditions change, societies change, but humanity doesn’t change. We’ve been the most beautiful creations for thousands of years. But we do need some help in locating our pain and our hope.

Got a second? Go look in the mirror. Stare at yourself for a sec. Where do you hurt? Can’t locate it? Everyone hurts somewhere, don’t be shy. Stare. Look into your own eyes. Get real with yourself. Where do you hurt? See your own humanity. Put your finger on the mirror where your hurting spot is. Now, say to yourself, “I see your wound.” Now tell yourself help is on the way, “Love is here (even though you may not see it or believe it, just say it out loud), Love is here, Love is here.”

Just as the map would tell us the hurt is everywhere, we can teach the map about new roads to love and healing. Take a brave step to locate yourself on your map today. Be well.

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My Baby Moved Away Today

A poem for my children as I just passed another 
Mother's Day and another birthday:

My baby moved away today
and took grandbaby Mae.
Her and Him and all their stuff
North Carolina they now stay.
I have another child here
my son, my oldest boy. 
If you see him tell him please
to bring his Mom some joy. 

My circle of support shrinks daily
as I struggle to survive. 
My children have all flown the nest
and have moved on with their lives. 
My son became a father, 
my oldest daughter now youngest son.
My baby is a mommy now,
our lives are on the run.
Hustle, bustle, push, pull, drag
catching up when we can.
Long gone are the days of driving
 'round in our minivan.

A lot of love and work dumped in
to them my childen, see
Each one of them raised up I pray
To be who they chose to be.
My lonely heart breaks more and more
each and every day
For the babes that they once used to be 
now leave me in the gray. 
As I push back single tears of fear
for troubles they might find 
I also pray they've grown up now 
to be happy, strong and kind. 

My days of "teaching" may be gone
But now I am their friend. 
I now can undo errors made
To avoid a bitter end.
I've loved my children way too much
not enough and in between. 
Part of what a family learns
As we struggle to be seen. 

My kids and I will be alright 
No matter who flies where
It's love that we all talk about
And make sure that we share. 
My heart may still be broken
and my tears yes, still may fall
I've raised some strong-willed children,
and I know that they will call.

When comes the day they need their Mom
When only she will do
I'll be there on the other side
ready with my "I love you".

(c)  2017 Dawn Bennett


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“Thou Shalt Not Steal”

I read the most interesting perspective on stealing. It started with the declaration that whatever we have is not ours anyway, so that makes stealing doubly wrong. I believe it’s accurate to say that when we think of stealing, and the fact that it’s considered wrong, we naturally think of tangible objects. We can’t steal stuff from our neighbors, we can’t rob banks, we can’t “sample” fruit from the produce section. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

As I began to travel down the dusty road of my thoughts, I began to think to myself, but what about the intangible things people own: our thoughts, our feelings, our identity. What about that? How do those things fit into the equation of stealing and God and all that stuff. Here’s my thought:

If everything we have  and everything we own is indeed not necessarily ours but on loan, as in it was given to us (a big prim and proper religious term is bestowed upon us) then our identity also is a gift…and given. The ability to be a free thinker is given to us. The desire to love and be loved is a gift given to us. Stealing is not allowed. Who are are, what we stand for, how we see ourselves…it’s all a gift given to us. We are not allowed to steal another person’s identity. Let me be clear here, I’m not talking about their online identity (although clearly that’s wrong too) I’m talking about their gender identity, sexual identity, how they see themselves in this world and how they expect to be seen.

There are lots of hate groups who have decided that to “be LGBTQ” is wrong and those of us who identify under that acronym need to be “corrected”. (For those who are unfamiliar LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer). Folks who align with L-G-B are talking about their sexuality (very different and not related to gender); those who align with T are referring to their gender (male, female, both, neither); those who align with Q could be referring to either their sexual or gender identity. Further information can be found at PFLAG.org or HRC.org because this is not the blog post to go into this in depth.

Back to the stealing thing. When God (however you align with God or what represents a divine authority in your world) says stealing is wrong it is an abomination (another big scary religious word) and God cries. ALL of everything in what we call this world is made from the abundance of a divine authority who far exceeds any human capacity or authority.

When an organization or a person steals the hopes and dreams, the hard personal effort or blood-sweat-and-tears personal commitment from another person, a crime [against humanity] has been committed. We are what we are and have what we have as a gift. None of us owns any of this. We leave this “world” with the same as we came into it with – nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

When a person decides someone else is wrong for living into their full authenticity (i.e. sexual or gender identity) and advances are made toward taking it away, i.e. stealing it, we are no longer living as we are instructed. When someone robs another of a life worth living, a dream and a hope of a better life, a gesture of giving and receiving love…God cries. We are not allowed to steal.

Thou Shalt Not Steal. Not property. Not grapes. Not a person’s identity. Not a person’s joy.

Mind your business. Mind your manners. Mind yourself.


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Hollowed Out

Hollowed Out

It’s hard to go through life feeling like a carved pumpkin. Sometimes the faces can be scary. Sometimes they are funny, but never does it feel good to have your guts ripped out. What I have found to be helpful in these times is to write a gratitude list.

It may be hard to find things that I am grateful for, but that’s when the real digging begins.

Dust off the shovel and till the soil of your life.

Are you breathing? Have you been given a new day in which to make free choices? Do you have ONE friend in whom you can confide? It’s a good day.

When your guts are lying on the ground and your seeds are scattered, that is the time to look for the remnant that remains. Life can be hard.

But, if there is breath in your body, you can find a shred of gratitude.

Most pumpkins wind up with a candle inside to light up the darkness. This is the time to take your hollowed out self and bring in some light. Sit. Rest. Glow.

It’s hard to go through life feeling like a carved pumpkin, hollowed out. But finding the little things in life to be grateful for: breath, free choice, the comfort of a friend…it’s a good day.


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Mi Gente (My People)

Mi gente is Spanish for “my people.” In a recent conversation with a Puerto Rican friend about the massacre in Orlando, at which 49 brown and black people were shot dead, there is strong opinion that the coverage of the event has been whitewashed. “Whitewashed” is a term used by cultures other than Caucasians and describes the stripping of all things organic and cultural to a particular event. It is not a positive term. It is not a positive action. I want to bring this conversation into its rightful place, because in some sense people of color (POC) have been stripped bare of the vigils that have been held in many places of faith over the last week.

I attended several of the ceremonies and I’d have to agree, there was a definite lack of representation from the brown and black communities. The sadness is exacerbated by the fact that it was a gay bar that was shot up and the vast majority of the victims were part of the LGBT+ community. This community, is mi gente, even though I identify as a cisgender, straight, white person. Some POC would not allow me to claim this, and in all sincerity it is a stretch, I agree.

Let’s take a moment and unpack these thoughts. Why are they mi gente? Well, because half my family and one of my children is gay and I am an ally, so we are all part of the LGBT+ family, together. They are mi gente because we are all children of God and loved unconditionally and equally by our Creator. So, our familial lines bleed together as our bodies and hearts bleed together. Why then is it a stretch for me to claim them as mi gente? Because to do that whitewashes and attempts to normalize the atrocity, as if I suffer as the brown and black community suffers. Which is simply not so. I do not profess to intimately know the culture and customs that white America has stripped from POC, those who invest their time, talent and treasure in the same economy I do.

The majority of the vigils that were held this week to mourn for Orlando where organized and attended primarily by white folks. Where are the brown people? Where are the black people? Why are they not standing up? Why are they underrepresented? It is not for lack of want, I can assure you. Many are in hiding, in fear of additional victimization and harm. (This I know because I met with them.) They are huddled together in private masses and vigils held in homes where safety is not an issue. (This I know because I met with them.) Some would argue and say that the brown and black community should be grateful that the white community “stepped up” to organize gatherings. And those I spoke to are glad and grateful the white community has mourned along with them.

As a white American, I want to ask where our support for our brown and black brothers and sisters is on a daily basis. How do we engage with their culture in a way that celebrates our diversity and agape love for one another? It’s a nice sentiment to come out in droves to show support after tragedy; But white folks, where is the support during times of peace and harmony? How dare we commandeer their vigils? How dare we profess to know the ache that lives in their homes and in their hearts? How dare we whitewash religious services with comfortability and practices that are common to the mainline, white, Christian community in hopes to ease their pain?

To mourn with mi gente, I need to learn their language of love, so I can love them how they need to be loved, not how I perceive it so.  We must learn to love our multi-cultural country –  embrace our diversity. We must learn to sit in our discomfort and listen to the pains that spill from our brown and black family. I do not write this post to divide us, but rather to unite us. While my words may seem harsh, in reality it is my attempt to raise awareness of the additional victimization that takes place when white America rushes in to solve an issue we don’t know anything about.

The white LGBT+ community is a sibling to the brown and black LGBT+ communities.

How can we make a difference then? We can listen. We can support. We can mourn by the side of our ethnic family. We are all one family, true, as we all come from one Creator. However, around half of the victims were brown and the other half were black. There was not a single white victim. Therefore, as a white American, to claim them as mi gente only works to ease my pain. If I am truly interested in showing up for my ethnic siblings, and sincerely desire to ease their pain, it must be on their terms. In the blurred lines of the kingdom of God they are mi gente, but the love they need at this time will acknowledge, respect, and appreciate our cultural differences.


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It’s A Good Friday

It’s later in the month, later than I’d like it to be actually. I’ve been waiting for inspiration to give you something I felt was worth reading. It finally came today. It’s true, it’s real, it’s honest. It’s a page from my journal this morning. I know I’m not the only one in this quagmire, maybe that’s why I felt it’s worth reading. Happy Easter to all of humanity.

…..

“It’s a Good Friday!

Abba, so much is changing, but you have stayed the same. The tomb is empty this morning. No one knows where you are or where you went.

This season of Lent has been so incredibly painful. I’ve been so far from you – and so close to you. I’m scared, I’m isolated, I’m exhausted, I’m angry, I’m so incredibly sad. I’m eager, I’m demanding, I’m questioning, I’m forgetful, I’m desperate. I have anxiety; I’ve traveled far and wide to find peace – to create peace – to upset peace – and to enjoy the peace. It’s Good Friday, and like the rest of the fold, I’m seeking because the tomb is empty and I don’t know where you went.

Ferguson is still looking for you. Naples says they have you, the golden roads are supposed to prove that. Nashville sings all about you, but the people are still dying of hunger and thirst.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to see you in everything and be grateful, because honestly, when I don’t get what I want (and the way I perceive I need it to be), I think you either suck or you’re looking at someone else’s life. I mean, there’s lots of us down here trying to figure this crazy shit out. Maybe you got me mixed up?

It’s supposed to rain here Sunday – I’m looking forward to that. Everything is better after some cleansing rain. The sun will surely rise and shine, that’s all it knows how to do. Thanks for that too.

Thanks for never taking your eye off me. I’ll try to reciprocate that a bit better today. I love you.”


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Welcome Home Prodigal Me

Welcome home, prodigal self. There’s a story in the Bible about a son who took off with all of the blessings his dad gave him. His brother was really jealous because he stayed behind as the responsible one. The prodigal, however, took off and had a great time, but ultimately rendering himself broke, hungry and without adequate shelter.

He came to the end of himself. He made the brave decision to go home. As the story is told, the father saw him coming back from out in the distance and decided to throw a party.

Many of us have been the prodigal in our own lives and have had a tendency to punish ourselves time and time again without ceasing. We drive us to the end of ourselves. Then, in a very narcissistic but self-imposing way we cry why is my life such crap? How did I get here? Is it ever going to get better?

How about this. What if, you saw yourself, your prodigal self that is, off in the distance and you decided to throw yourself a party. Just as the biblical version tells it. Pull out the fine red robe, the signet ring, the fatted calf! All of it! Because you know what? When you’ve been to the end of yourself and you survive it – it’s worth a party.

The journey to the center of our birth, as my prior January post explains, is a long and sometimes treacherous road. It very rarely goes as planned and for most of us, there are lots of bumps and bruises (and maybe a few stitches and broken bones) along the way. So, when you make it back, you’ve earned a celebration.

What if I have no one to greet me, you think? YOU are there, are you not? That’s the only greeting you really need. After all, no one knows the details of the journey quite like you.

Listen, all I’m suggesting is that you treat yourself like the royalty you ARE, instead of adopting the idea of what you think you ought to be. Every one of us is a diamond in the rough. The number of cuts in a diamond determines the glisten. Well, there are never going to be enough “cuts” to make what you perceive, but the “cuts” you do have, the one’s that make you shine like the gem you are, you already have them. Every last one, you earned them. Along your road, remember?

Anyone who says they are not a prodigal, or has not had a prodigal experience is a liar.  Or an alien. Part of being a human being is coming to the end of yourself at certain times in life. Then, having to figure out how to get back on track and move forward.

Let’s talk a minute about the prodigal’s brother. He wasn’t perfect either. Jealousy is not handsome (or pretty, ladies). It is possible part of the reason you had a prodigal moment is because of rejection or neglect. Maybe you got the short end of a sharp stick. It happens. We’re all prodigals. We’re all humans (not aliens). So, when you turn to go back home, if you’re met with a negative Nate or Nellie, just walk on by.

The robe is yours to wear, the signet ring is your size and is yours to wear. The fatted calf has been prepared with sides and desserts, in your honor. Eat, drink and celebrate. You made it back. Now, shine on you crazy diamond.