Sunday, June 19, 2016

Where I Stand

Every month, the Capture Your 365 photo prompts include this one - "Where I Stand."  I have pictures of my bare feet, my sock covered feet, my feet in comfy shoes, funky shoes, and dressy shoes.  Throughtout these photos I can be seen with my feet curled around the base of my desk chair, propped up on the couch relaxing, standing side by side with the one I love, on rocks and mountains,  close to home, and faraway.  Each photo tells a story of where I was physically in that particular moment on that particular day.

This week I was prompted to focus on where I stand not through my camera, but through my heart.  I was faced with examining where I stand emotionally, spiritually, theologically, and morally, not though pictures, but through my actions..  It is much more diffucult to create an image of where the inner me stands than it is to show where the physical me has planted my feet.

The week began with awakening last Sunday morning to the devestating news of the attack on the Pulse Night Club in Orlando.  Such an attack is horrifying in its own right, but when I learned that the attacker specifically targeted  the LGBT community, it felt like salt being poured into wounds that were already quite deep and painful.  The LGBT community is my friends, my family, my church.  If such an incident were to occur here in Dallas, I have no doubt that someone I know would have been among the dead or injured.

I actually went to two different church services last Sunday morning, the Episcopal church, the church in which I grew up, the church in which my children were baptized, and the church in which I was married...twice. :-)  Sadly, the events in Orlando were not mentioned during that Sunday morning service.  I then went to Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ, the largest LGBT church in the world.  There the events in Orlando were on the hearts and minds of everyone.  The response, however, was not one of hate, but of sadness for the great loss of life and a need to extend our love to a commuity that is grieving and in pain.  There was an outpouring of love for the victims and families in Orlando and for the LGBT community here in Dallas.  Yes, there was anxiety and some outright fear, but when we came together as a community a faith, that fear was lessesned a bit during that time when we all stood together in prayer and praise.

On Monday, I received emails from both churches.  The one from the Episcopal church sadi that the regularly scheduled Wednesday night Eucharist would be a Requiem offered for those who lost their lives in Orlando, but because the sanctuary was being used for another event during that time, they did not know yet where that service would be held.  Interestingly, I never recieved any further information about that particular service.  

From Cathedral of Hope came an anouncement that The Turtle Creek Chorale, a premier men's chorus here in Dallas, and the Cathedral of Hope Sanctuary Choir were going to offer a concert entitled "Songs of Healing" on Tuesday evening.  I was honored to be asked to sing as part of that concert.  In a time when I felt helpless, music was something that I had to offer.  

That Tuesday night concert was attended by 1600 people and watched by 500,000 more via live streaming broadcasts.  In addition to the gift of music offered by the collective musicians, those who attended the concert, through generous hearts, gave $18,000 to be sent to agencies Orlando who are helping the families of the victims with final expenses.  The people of Dallas showed their love for the people of Orlando.

This event was engineered and executed in forty-eight hours thanks to the hard work and commitment to the cause by many, many people, not the least of whom was the Dallas Police Department who sent sixty officers to keep us all safe that night.  For that ninety minutes, fear subsided.

I have no idea how many attended the service at the Episcopal church that I assume ocurred Wednesday evening in some undisclosed location.  

It should come as no surprise that because of Cathedral of Hope's position in the Chritian church and the LGBT faith community,  our head pastor was sought out by reporters for his thoughts and commentary on the week's events.  As ones who are proud of the work of our church and its leaders, we shared many of those articles and videos through social media.  I was no exception.

I was surprised yesterday when my Facebook feed included a "rant" against our pastor's words by someone I consider to be a good friend.  At first I was hurt.  Then I was sad.  I then felt God's hand on my shoulder and words in me ear telling me that this was my chance to show where I stand.  When I am hurt or upset, I generally have one of two responses - withdraw completely from the situation, or fire back in "unpleasant" discourse.  I knew that neither of these responses was acceptable this time.  The person who wrote the post in question is someone who I believe God intentionally brought into my life.  We have had several different, all positive, encounters prior to this.  And as I said, this is someone I consider to be a good friend, so withdrawing would be a personal loss to me.  And now more than ever, as is evidenced by the political climate in this country, I know that angry discourse is a coward's response.  It is a response from the head, not the heart.  The heart responds with love as its guiding force.  With God's help, I did my best to respond in love - balancing my love for my church, my pastor, my faith, myself, and my friend.  I received a gentle response saying that we could agree to disagree.  Indeed we could and that was ok.  I honestly believe that responding to the initial post was God calling me to articulate in a respectable way, where I stand not for my friend, but for me.

As if all these things weren't enough to make one question the goodness of life, on our way to Cathedral of Hope this morning we received a text from a friend saying that the building had been evacuated because of "suspicious packages" left on the premises.  The worship service was moved to a safe spot outdoors, away from the packages.  Amidst the Dallas bomb squad and a number of other police officers, worship went on.

I have written here many times that I am not a risk taker; yet despite all that was going on, it never crossed my mind that I should not attend the worship service at Cathedral of Hope this morning.  Another opportunity to show where I stand.  This morning I stood with my closest friends, surrounded by lots of love and police officers.  And it was good.

As it turned out, the "suspicious bags" were harmless, clothes and a cell phone.  We were able to return to the building, and the air conditioning,   There was an amazing sense of community as we all held hands and sang, "How great is our God" after breaking bread together.   Love will conquer hate. It may take awhile, but love will win.

As is the case with our "village" of friends, we headed to brunch after church.  On the way, I checked my Facebook feed.  There were lots of posts about the morning's events at church.  Hidden amidst all of that was a notice that my friend, with whom I'd had the exchange yesterday, had tagged me in a post.  In it, she said that she had misinterpreted the article that was posted, responded without fully processing what was said, and after some time to let it settle, now understands what was really being presented and what I was trying to say in my response.  Wow!  The Spirit is at work!

There was a huge lesson in this for me.  First of all, I neither retreated or responded from the wrong place when faced with, what was for me, a challenging situation.  Nor did I judge my friend, because I have done the very same thing...replied to someone or something without taking time, without listening to God guide me through to the place where I should be.  I also learned from my friend how to admit when I have made a mistake.  I hope that I have the courage to do as she did the next time I find myself having jumped to a conclusion too quickly.

So as a new week dawns, where do I stand...
  • Still deeply saddened by the loss of life in Orlando
  • Grateful for the healing power of music
  • Proud to be part of a community of faith that not only talks the talk, but walks the walk
  • Thankful for the support of the Dallas police department throughout this week
  • Truly blessed by friends both far and near
  • Certain that love conquers hate
  • Confident that God is good.