a bad day for me and america

sadIt’s true that I was in pain, sick to my stomach, and dog tired all of this day. That alone would be be enough to account for me being grumpy and dispirited. As Baltimore adds its name to a list that sadly growing, another malady is revealed in psyche. A little bit more of my confidence in America’s ability to deal with racial justice flagged today. Between the Print Center where i work and salon where i get my hair done the canyon white and black was played out before my very eyes.

The gap is so wide between the white and black when it comes to the experience and perception of law enforcement that it feels like two parallel universes that can’t touch each other. It’s like something out of Star Trek: matter and anti-matter. Today I despair that there can be any true communication or any meeting of minds.

Maybe I’m just really tired and need a good night’s sleep. Maybe i need a mental health day. The second of these maybes is not going to happen. So perhaps I should just turn in early tonight and come out swinging tomorrow.

miserable night

It’s been a terrible night. I went to bed but in four hours I was up and out of bed. i couldn’t sleep. It was a miserable combination: my back pain had intensified (I re-injured it out of my own clumsiness) and a sever allergy attack (the-can’t-breath-want-to-tear-your-eyes-out kind).

In pain, feeling miserable and exhausted I decided to take the obvious action. Take allergy meds? No. Take an anti-inflammatory? No. Cry? No. Yell? No. Pray? No. Eat? Of course–and eat a lot.

Overeating-at-Christmas

It was a first class binge. As is the case in any first class binge episode for me, I eventually fell asleep. However I awoke at 5am feeling bloated and sick to my stomach on top of being in pain and fight an allergy attack and facing a full day of good old fashion physical labor at the Print Center.

I know that binge eating was not the right answer last night. As far as I can tell, binge eating is not the right answer at any time–not even when the question is, “What should you do when you’re hungry?” However it is a deeply ingrained pattern of behavior for me and it has come roaring back to life in me in the last 14 months. All the things I have tried have failed.

I do however expect a significant change that makes me hopeful. During the time that Howard and I were married I didn’t binge one single time. Was that because love is the answer? Not really. Companionship seems to be the answer. I simply do not binge eat when someone is around. I’m not sure why it works this way but it does.

In two weeks my niece arrives to spend time here before going to grad school. In three weeks my sister and her grandson arrive to visit. Quite apart from the fact that I love these folk and am eager to see them, I expect the anti-binge eating effect of company to kick in as well. Their company is going to be good for me on so many levels, including the very basic level of my health. Come company, come!

pictures at an….

hqdefaultI’ve just finished listening to Pictures at an Exhibition. It was a powerful performance of a powerful piece. It was Ravel’s orchestration of that Mussorgsky piano piece. It was a thoroughly satisfying experience. Though I’ve heard it many times I was struck this time by the genius of Ravel’s orchestration. It was so inventive. Part of me was listening and was astonished by how he heard those images: children playing, a cart driver’s song as his huge load plods by, the moor-evoking song of the troubadour, the stunning brass chords of the catacombs, the pursuing fury of the baba, the over-the-top, throw in everything that you’ve got grandeur of the Great Gate. Amazing!

Yet underneath it all the deep emotion of Mussorgsky. His piece creates a sense of walking through an exhibition, the Promenade even evoking his own awkward gait as he walks—but not just his walk but his feelings as he walks and considers the work of an artist friend now dead.

As he walks each picture shakes him out of himself and into a new image. Yet, his own sadness is everywhere. He understood what it means to mourn and to confront what those you love have created and to be pushed time and again into the present. I have been listening to this one piece since I was in third grade. I heard it done, live, by the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. However it was only tonight that I wept as I listened. Somehow Mussorgsky has captured the experience of mourning in notes.

How fortunate I am to know a bit about grief and a bit about music.

celebrity

patton_fleeting_glory_quote_rectangle_decalA surprising number of people have asked me my opinion of Bruce Jenner. Let me once again state my feelings abut celebrity.

The whole celebrity thing and the media that chases and exploits celebrity repels me at best and disgusts me at worst. Let me say that I have seen no photos, read no articles and watched no videos of Bruce Jenner nor do I plan to do so. I have no interest in following any celebrity trans-person. However, by the some token, there are many of my trans sisters and brothers who are following the Bruce Jenner story. They will have much more insight into the story than I. Go ask them and they will be happy to tell you their opinion.

I don’t know what makes Bruce Jenner want to share Bruce Jenner’s story but I know do know why do I share my story. I share my story for a set of reasons:

1) I share my story in order to help people have some insight into what it’s like to be trans.

2) I share my story in order for people to connect with other trans folk that they know.

3) I share my story in order to help people see the connections between my trans experience and their life experience.

4) I share my story so that people might connect my story to the Jesus story of death and resurrection and thus see their life stories as stories of death and resurrection.

As I age I understand that most of the reasons why I share my story are not so that I might be understood. I am a follower of Jesus and that means I believe that my life has meaning and impact beyond myself. I believe that I’m not here just to live my life all by myself. I live my life as one incarnation of resurrection. I’m not alone and my uniqueness is not about isolation or exaltation because I’m so special. I’m not special. I’m one among many. That’s it. That’s all.

Maybe this is why I so distrust celebrity in this culture. They exist in a world where they are told 24/7, “You are special. You are one-of-a-kind. You are not like other people.” Quite frankly, I think that’s bullshit. I’ve learned a different lesson: “You are unique AND so is everyone else. You have a chance to help others be their full selves. Take that opportunity and you will find meaning for your life.”

I’m learning a secret. THE STORY is so far beyond me that when I touch that truth it elevates me and everyone in the story with me. Anytime I seek to elevate myself alone, I commit, not the sin of Adam and Eve but, the sin of Lucifer. That is the genesis of wrongful pride.

I know it well because I’ve been there so many times. I know me. I’ve tasted the wine of fame just enough to know that it is addictive. Thus I am instantly suspicious celebrity–no matter who it is.

two work spaces

It’s been said that you can tell a lot about a person from their work space. I have two work spaces.

Usually, on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, you can find me at The Episcopal Church of the Ascension. Here are a couple of pictures of my work space there.

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This space now reminds me of what I once called my work space at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd: “The Creativity Factory.” In fact, it so evokes that place that I am preparing to name my Ascension work space: “The Creativity Factory II” (hmm, resurrection strikes again).

The true “Creativity Factory” exists in that mystical locale between my brain and my heart. However an actual space in which to do the work of the Creativity Factor is needed. The Creativity Factory must incarnate itself. For me, a space is needed to which I can go and create. This space is currently the upper room of The Church of the Ascension. It has become sacred creative space for me, a great place to think and plan for the ministries I’ve been asked to do at Ascension.

By contrast, here is my work space at the Print Center of Providence Health and Services in Renton.

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The differences are striking. There is nothing personal in this work space. There is nothing that speaks of creativity here. Nothing inspires in this space. It is compact and utilitarian. It mirrors the work I do in the Print Center. Here I am a worker bee.

Please understand that this is not an insult nor a slighting of the work I do at the Print Center. A colony of bees needs workers bees. The worker bee’s job is to support the colony by gathering food for the developing brood. Back and forth–flower to hive, for the colony. (and the greater good of the planet). At the Print Center I go back and forth (computer, printers, finishing table, shipping station, customer pick-up desk) all day, supporting the colony. This job calls for almost no creativity and doesn’t call on any of what i would consider my best gifts.

An interesting contrast that I live out day after day. What do my work spaces reveal about me? That I am perhaps two people? The humble and lovably Shoeshine Boy

Shoeshine_Boy_300 who in real life becomes that champion of champions,

images (1)Underdog (cue the heroic music).

Just an analogy (everybody laugh now).

an odd belief that i hold

patton_fleeting_glory_quote_rectangle_decalI believe a very strange thing.

Once upon a time I thought that God sent individual remarkable people into the world to do great things. I no longer believe that.

What I believe now is that God has sent hundreds of people into the world with similar sets of gifts, hoping that maybe one of them would be seen as a prophet in their age. Let me put it this way: I believe that God sent a hundred people with the same set of gifts as Francis hoping that one would have the impact of the man we now admire as St Francis of Assisi. Those other 99 died without recognition and without being known by history. Will their reward be less because their names are not remembered? Not if God is who I believe God to be.

Let the famous not regard themselves as about the judgement of history and of God.

jazz as prayer?

There is something magical for me in listening to be-bop on a warm evening as the shadows begin to lengthen. In a while the night will begin to come on and jazz makes a wonderful companion on a night at home.

When I was in high school I began to turn away from the music I was hearing all around me. There was nothing new in it and this strange and horrible musical form called “disco” had conquered the airwaves. I was retreating musically when a friend of mine introduced me to McCoy Tyner and to Weather Report. At that time in my life their music was beyond me but it attracted me. The idea of long pieces of music that weren’t classical but had a energy that carried me along to emotional places that were new and thrilling was irresistible.

Somewhere in those days came a trip to Detroit to visit family (hardly a new thing). Somewhere in that trip I discovered a radio station in Detroit that played jazz all the time. It was miraculous to me. We had no such station in Cleveland. When we would visit family there I would tune the stereo to that station and would listen deep into the night. I learned the cannon of the jazz greats and would cherish each visit to Detroit, not only because of my wonderful family, but because of my one-on-one love affair with jazz.

All these years later, jazz has continued as a favorite music mine. I’ve explored much of the world of music since then. I’ve discovered new and unexpected loves (e.g. celtic music, traditional music of West Africa, Native American music, classical music). I’ve been disappointed by others (hip-hop and contemporary pop). However through it all, jazz has been there.

jazzSomething deep in me resonates with jazz. Jazz has roots, structure, the American Songbook and the Greats. Yet it demands innovation, improvisation, and new expression. It reminds of the Jesus movement. It has tradition, history, a cannon and the saints. Yet it too demands (and these days is in woeful need of) innovation, improvisation and new expression. It seems to me that my own spirituality, right down to the way I preach, is jazz.

Perhaps jazz is my evening prayer. I offer it to God along with my prayers and the prayers of the church. As the night comes on, I kindle the vesper light and pray the Phos Hilaron as Coltrane plays on.