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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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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Me or My Mask, the Beat Goes On

So, it’s Halloween! Last night I went to a trunk-or-treat at a local church. Thankfully we got there early! By the time we left the people were wrapped around the building. And I’m not kidding. There were costumes of all kinds. Kids and grown-ups alike. Before we left I read up on the activity and found that no scary costumes were allowed. That’s fine because there’s plenty of scary stuff in the world without having to make up additional stuff. Right!?! Anyway, now it’s the morning after and I’ve been looking over the pictures we took. The one of my husband with the clown, well, that one will live on in history! We had one taken with Batman and there was another of a man whose costume was himself sitting on the shoulders of a bear. Very witty and quite impressive, as far as homemade costumes go.

This morning my grandson was looking at the picture of us and Batman. He said, “Look, I’m a REAL vampire! My eyes are red!” (He’s 5 so he doesn’t know about red eye.) But he does know about costumes and masks and the fact that they are only pretend. Not real. He does understand that when we have a costume or a mask on that there is a “real me” under or behind it. What he doesn’t know [yet] is that for many people, a costume or a mask is a way of life. Yes. It’s true. For many of us in this crazy world, we don’t feel safe enough in our circles to be our authentic self.

In the past week alone I have had conversations with people affected by discrimination, bigotry, judgementalism, hate and just plain unkindness. What’s the deal? The deal is we are ALL hurting. There’s not a person on earth who has not been hurt and caused hurt. If you think you are absolved of this dirty deed, think again. We ALL have the capacity to inflict harm. Even children. This week my friend who has spent several years in prison told me that he is sad because life passed him by while he was gone. The truth is, life didn’t pass him by and he wasn’t gone. He lived all those days out, just not how he would have liked. The beat goes on. I spend time in a middle school working with youth in an after-school enrichment program. This particular day the program was over and our group, along with the other groups, were waiting for the the parents and bus driver to arrive. One of my students was minding his own business when another student approached him and poked him, called him some names (which he then repeated to the ten or so kids standing around them), laughed and turned away. This went on for about three minutes, back and forth. My student, a tall somewhat heavy young man (for his age) didn’t voice a reply. Instead, as I watched his face he flinched, multiple times. I began to count the flinches…1,2,3,4. Every time the other boy poked him physically or verbally [my] youth flinched. I silently yelled out, “Don’t take that sh@#!” The beat goes on.

Yesterday I participated in a conference entitled Adolescent Sexual Responsibility. It was very informative. I deepened my knowledge of sexual violence in the youth population, LGBTQ issues (of which I am an active advocate in the mission field), parental responsibility and advocacy resources for teens and families. The event kicked off with a youth advisory panel during which youth were very forthcoming about how they wish to interact with adults. They gave us keen insights about their knowledge and experience of sex, conflict and responsibility. They affirmed that they DO in fact value the input of their parents, teachers and caretakers……”so don’t give up!”…..they told us. I remember saying they same things as a youth. I wanted my parents to know what I knew and what I still needed to learn [contrary to how I may have behaved at the time]. What I experienced most is that today’s youth are a wise and talented bunch and they have wonderful additions to impart to our world. If we [adults] will just take the time to stop and notice them. Then take the next step to hear them. Then, to LISTEN to them. The beat goes on.

Back to the costumes and masks. Which face do you wear every day? Is it the face that requires a bunch of makeup to cover up the scars of hurt and pain from your past or present? Or do you let it be shown, the real you. The you that has experience in this world. No matter how scary it is sometimes, you have much to give to the world by way of your life’s experience. Age is NOT a factor. What outfit do you don? Do you dress up in costumes that only reflect the you you want people to see? Do you dress in clothes that create a fantasy life? Or, do you dress in “plain clothes”? The clothes that suit you? The clothes that reflect who you are INSIDE and OUT, clothes that tell the world you have some age and some miles, clothes that represent a person of vibrant color and detail. Our lives are a tapestry. With each life lesson, hurt, pain, success, failure, party, grief, accomplishment and good deed, we color our world and the world of those around us. When we release our colors into the world, the world absorbs them and the painting is changed.

Today, after you collect your candy, or rob your kid’s candy bucket, after you attend the party and enjoy the music, take off your costume. Take off your mask. Remember that party and candy is just a way to pass the time. Put your beautiful face back on , don YOUR own clothes and color your world with the people, events, causes and things that matter to YOU most. It’s YOUR life. The most beautiful mask to wear is NO mask at all. The beat goes on.


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Nice To Meet You, Authentic-Self

Nice To Meet You, Authentic Self.

Sitting in a coffee shop recently, I watched as people passed me by. I wondered if they lived the life they would like to live, or the life others expected them to live.  How often do we curtail our own desires and self-expectations to fit the mold that we’ve allowed others to place in front of us?

This question becomes more and more important to me, as I myself, have decided to journey in search of my authentic- self. It’s only in my own decision,  have I come to realize my children need to choose their own path; and I need to allow them to. I’ve done my job.  I’ve given them tools and rules to live by. They should have become, now that they are grown, guidelines. But so often I think we parents have an expectation that the tools and rules equate to coulds and shoulds.

Are you offended when your grown children make decisions that are contrary to “how you raised them”? It’s only in the second half of my life, second marriage and second chance to be my authentic-self that I admit I’m that child. I did what was expected of me, as a child, young adult, wife and mother. But rarely was I my authentic- self. Was my life a lie? No. It was sincere. There’s a difference. I sincerely loved my parents, my first husband and my children. I loved my friends and my job. But, if I’m honest, they chose me, I didn’t always willingly choose them. Wait. That may need some explaining. Yes, I chose my husband by virtue of our wedding. Yes, I chose my children, by virtue of my birthing and raising them. I’m talking about how I lived my life during those years. I forfeited my own authentic-self; my hopes and dreams, my goals, my wants and needs. It’s a very costly life, that non-authentic self.

I’ve made the most wonderful friend in the past few months. My friend lived his life doing all the same things I did – what was expected of us. I’ve learned it was just as costly for him. I’m glad to see she is now living her authentic-self life. Our changes are not easy, staggering and polarizing sometimes. But, necessary nonetheless. Very few people from the old life understand the requirement to declare authenticity, and we don’t all declare it. Some fortunate souls make the transition gently and over time. Their metamorphosis is celebrated. For a great many of us though it is shattering to our non-authentic world.

I read an article recently about the suicide of college students at Penn State. The strive to perfection is depleting and harmful. As a Christian, I can assure you, we will never reach it. We were not created to, actually. There is only One who succeeded. For the rest of us, we were created to live life as our authentic-self, the life gifted to us by our Creator, and through partnership with him, we attain ‘life more abundantly’.

I’ve met a great many people in the last few years who, by sheer requirement to continue breathing, have declared war on their non-authentic- self. It feels like war too, as societal expectations help to keep troops armored down with weapons.  I have a quote that has traveled in and out of my life for the past decade:

“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”
–Samuel Johnson

How little we know the power of this quote as we follow the path laid before us. It is only when we get to the end of that path and realize we are not there. The body that arrives is oftentimes the shell of our authentic-self, the innards are of another being.  Change must come.  Our very life depends on it. Otherwise, we leave this world, often by suicide, and the space in which we once stood is filled with grief and void.

As I reach, scratch and claw my way through the muck and mire in the pond of my old non-authentic- self, I see light and life awaiting me on the other side. The harder I swim, strangely the more strength I gain. Yes, I lose a bit of weight along the way. This weight represents the expectations put on me, either by myself or by others. There is no shame in letting go, regardless of how it feels. Swim, swim, swim. Harder, with more veracity. Your life awaits you. Don’t spend one more day in fins that no longer fit. Declare life to your authentic- self, no matter the cost. Surely there is a cost, you will pay it now, or pay it later. Make safe decisions. Get help from trusted sources when needed. But always, always, listen to your inner voice. When it stops yelling, talking, whispering or squeaking you will expire. Your inner voice is your authentic self.  It may take some time, some rest, some partnership along your path, but as long as there is breath in your body, your authentic-self rents a room in your being. Our non-authentic-self rents a room also, work to keep it a broom closet.


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Line Leader

So you want to follow me? Do you know where I’m going? Maybe I want to follow you. Where are you going? Either way, get ready for an adventure.

Being a Line Leader is a huge responsibility. In preschool a line leader is somewhat of a celebrity, at least for a day. But what about those of us who have advanced well beyond the years of preschool. Perhaps we are parents, or maybe we are in management at our jobs. Or, maybe a pastor in a faith community. Every day we go through our day we are a Line Leader in some capacity, if only at the traffic light. To be a good line leader, you’ll need three things: 1) A destination, 2) A map of the journey there, 3) All of the necessary equipment for the trip.

Let’s break it down. First a destination. As a line leader, everyone is expected to follow me, that is, behind me. Now, if no one inquires where we are going I could easily have a group of very misled people. Also, as a line leader I have control and opportunity over my fold. From their perspective, they offer me trust [that I’m going to lead them to a good place] and encouragement in the event that I get weary on our way. Some Line Leaders may enjoy the silent sheep, how very dangerous for that sheep. How easily you will be mistreated and misled ….. As a good Line Leader I will have at least two others to probe me with questions and hold me accountable for my choices. Lest in my poor leading I negatively infect rather than positively effect. If you are in line, who are you in line behind? Where are you being led to? Do you know? Do you care? You have responsibility to know. And to care. Ahead of time. If not, then you forfeit the right to cry about your destination when you arrive. Get to know your Line Leader.

Second, as an effective Line Leader, I’ll take the responsibility to map our journey ahead of time. Preschoolers know three things for sure. They know how to get to the bathroom, the snack table and the playground. There is a specific direction required to arrive at each destination. So many public figures are Line Leaders and they have not taken the time to map the journey. Or, maybe they have mapped it right straight back to their bank account. But, what about the account of people’s lives? Far more volatile than one’s bank account. As a Line Leader I must, and I repeat must, realize that mapping the journey is a critical step toward ensuring my safety and the safety of my fold (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually). Hence, my need for those two others who ask questions and hold me accountable. Being a Line Leader is no easy task. There is a human element. What happens when I make a bad move? Well, Moses had a bunch of ticked off people. Out in the hot desert, hungry and whining. Thank goodness for Aaron, or he’d ‘ave sunk. How many public ministers I can think of today whose ministries have gotten dangerously big. So big, that when they stumble they take thousands of people down with them. As followers of the Line Leader people, WE have a responsibility to know where we’re headed and the basic plan of how we’re gonna get there! (Otherwise, remember, we lose our crying rights when we all fall down).

Finally, as a Line Leader I am tasked with the responsibility of packing for the trip. Some preschool leaders get to carry a flag, to signify their leadership. As an adult Line Leader, my flag is my dignity and integrity. And let me tell you, they will shine like a beacon as long as I’m on top. When I fall watch out! Not only will the light go out, but I will withdraw so you can’t see me (a human defense mechanism). As a follower, think about that. When my Line-Leader-light goes out, how will you see where you’re going? You see, as a Line Leader, I’ve only been given the role for a short period of time (relatively speaking). The reality is I’m human just as the rest of my group. I make mistakes, sometimes horrendous mistakes. If I don’t have the necessary equipment, which is my plan, my integrity, my moral compass, and my ethics in my satchel, then shame on you [followers] for getting in line behind me. (And by the way, you can’t buy ethics, no matter how many conferences or classes your pay for; either you have them or you don’t. A conference will just you up on Best Practices).

People, seriously, think about it. We all fall short. We all stumble. We all fall.

In life we are only Line Leader for a day, and some may never get the opportunity, because of social caste. Those of us in front have a huge responsibility to be kind, equitable, responsible and accountable. We have a responsibility to make a well thought out plan ahead of the journey. If there are changes along the way, fine, reassess, but always with the group in mind. The very day we begin to lie, cheat and scheme is the first day of the end of our leadership. If you are in line, great, we need supporters. Don’t follow blindly. Ask questions, hold your leader accountable. Stand up and be counted. If you choose not to, and it is your choice – no one can choose for you – you will forfeit your right to cry if you end up where you don’t want to be. Then, your journey back may be much longer than you planned.

Choose to be your own Line Leader. Just know people are watching and waiting. And we are all human.


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What Do You See

What Do You See?

What do you see when you look at me? Do you see the scar between my eyes or my curly brown hair? Do you wonder what I would look like with blue eyes, or do you notice my eyes are green and be satisfied with what you see? I wonder sometimes if people see the pain that I carry around. What color is my pain? Do you think you know? My pain is black, most of the time. Today my pain is red, however. It is red because my heart is broken and I’m lonely. I was hungry until I found a little bit of food in my refrigerator. Can you see that I am satisfied now? What does that look like anyway?

I wonder what you would think if I told you I am gay, or that I had been emotionally abused in my earlier days. Would you still want to talk to me? Do I look like the kind of person who would allow herself to be abused in any way? Yes? No? What does that look like anyway?

Do you see that I’m struggling to know what to do with my life? Can you see God in me? He’s here. I assure you. But, I’m struggling to reach Him, and I know Him intimately. I wonder if you can see the scars from my past hurts. Hurts that I received from loved ones, well intentioned loved ones. Sure there are scars from those who deliberately used me and caused me pain. But, those don’t hurt as much as the ones that cut like a knife, straight through to the core of my person.

What do you see when you look at me? Do you see that I am educated? What does that look like anyway? Do you see that I want to become your friend? I would actually. I would like to become your friend. It would take some doing on both our parts, however. We come from very different cultures. People would talk about us, maybe behind our backs. Maybe to our faces. Would you still want to be my friend, if it would cause you some grief? I’m a good friend you know. Well, you don’t know. But you could know. That would take more effort on your part. You would have to look deep inside me. Past my outward appearance, since today I am not looking my best and I’m not in the best mood. Can you see that I have had a hard day? What does that look like anyway?

Can you see that my husband is a different race than I am? Does that show in my wedding ring? Can you see that he loves me beyond words and that he calls me his “Queen”. Do I show that in my actions and attitude? Can you see from looking at me, and at my life, that I have a brain- injured brother? How would that make you feel if I told you outloud after the “retard” comment you made. Can you see my pain? What color is it? Where does it sit on my body? What does that look like anyway?

What do you see when you look at me? Can you see that my father is dying and I am sad because I live far away from him? And my siblings are far away too, and my mother. I live down here all by myself. Can you see that my children are all grown? And I love them. Can you see my grandson in my eyes? The twinkle he brings to my heart. And the sorrow of not seeing my granddaughter in over a year. Can you see my heart for her?

What do you see when you look at me? Do you see that I am angry? Can you see that I am lonely? Can you see that I am struggling to make new friends because all of my old friends have fallen away? What can you see in me? Do you see my joy? My delight? The passion I have for my man and the eternal love I have for my children? What does that look like anyway? What color is it? Does my love for others speak to you? What does it say? Does my curiosity about you show? Can you see that I want to know you deeper? Can you see that I value our relationship? Can you see that I want to know more about you, and to have you know more about me? What does that look like anyway?

What do you see when you look at me?