Archive for the ‘memoir’ Category

If You Come Here from GEEZ #27 where I have two memoir pieces…   1 comment

Geez Magazine, editor Melanie Dennis Unrau, selected two of my short pieces to go in Geez’s fall issue.  One of them, Undercover at the Festival of Faith and Writing, you can read as a web-exclusive.  The other “As the Spirit Moves Me” is available in the newsstand print copy.

If you came here from Geez 27, thanks!  and Welcome!  You’ll find some additional pieces from my trip to the Festival of Faith and Writing.  Think of them as addendums–things I couldn’t fit into such a small space.

Four essays:

Gay at Calvin College: more about going to the festival and wanting to do something to help those who are gay at Calvin College

The Last Supper: Johnny’s Cafe remix: mainly a photo where I asked students in the cafe to recreate Da Vinci’s  Last Supper.

Christians (Wanting to) Talk about Sex: where I go into depth about one of the seminars there—as no one recorded it for later discussion.

Marilynne Robinson, Hero–which talks in depth about her keynote address and the reaction of the crowd, and later comments at the college

Together, they comprise most of my Calvin College experience.  I should write up more of the seminars–and I will.  Certainly they will not be what others gathered there.  Take into consideration who I am and what I felt being there.  I am a Christian, a Writer, and a gay man.

I enjoyed Calvin College’s conference immensely and will go back in two years.

I hope these four supplemental blogposts will enrich the essay you did read in GEEZ.

It’s sometimes impossible to boil down an experience into 1000 words, or 1500, or 750.

“As the Spirit Moves Me” is a 500 word piece on going to my birthmother’s church, at Camp Chesterfield, a famous psychic institution.  I need to write the full story there—it’s quite amazing.

Thanks.  J

 

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How Anne Lamott Saved My Life: the Mercy of ‘Traveling Mercies’   3 comments

Having been raised in churches all my life, having done the double, triple, renewing salvation genuflect that Baptist kids do over their lives, knowing the plan of salvation in scripture form, calling card form, bracelet form, code form— you’d think that I was duly saved.  You don’t really have to do it so many times.

Until your life is at stake.

Coming out to myself really hit me hard.  It threw my sense of what I could believe in the Bible.  Waking up to the idea that I had been misinformed at such a deep level about who I was, and what I was, made me wonder if the Bible (or Christians) could get wrong how God felt about being gay, what else could they get wrong?  It threw me, too, into a world where I felt pretty lost.

But then one day, I found Anne Lamott.  Actually, she was given to me, and the man who gave her book to me said, “Many people who have lost their faith have found it again after reading this book.”

He was a pastor in Oyster Bay, Peter Casparian, 1988 Quatrofilio Alfa Romeo-driving liberal Episcopal pastor preaching in an historic church, Christ Church, the church of Theodore Roosevelt.  Over croissants and jam outside of a French Bakery, I came out to him.  Because I was shaking, because I cried, and because I didn’t know what I wanted to believe any more, he said I should find a copy of Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, that it would restore my faith, or at least calm my nerves.  I was frightened of churches, a little scared of the Bible…as if it were now riddled with land mines.  If I go to Romans, bam! If I head to Genesis, boom!

Traveling Mercies is Anne Lamott’s honest memoir of trying out church.  It’s not written like anything you’d find in a Christian bookstore.  It’s refreshing.  It comes at faith from a non-churched point of view.  God is surprising, he’s real, he’s around the corner; Anne is the kind of believer who questions God, gets upset with him, does things wrong! does things surprisingly well!  She is fearless in her attempts to believe in God, and in a quirky group of believers.  Thank God she didn’t go to a stuffy, we-have-all-the-answers church.

I’ve heard people come away loving this book–and I certainly did.  It renewed my faith despite having had it trounced by well-meaning folk.  She provided a way back to the parts of faith that I loved and remembered.  Faith is not Religion, but Religion can be made of Faith.  For her there are only two prayers, “Help me, help me, help me!” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”   I think that sums up most prayers well.

Anne Lamott allows herself to be so vulnerable, to be, as she puts it, “such a mess.”

It allows the rest of us to be imperfect, to approach God as people who don’t have it all together, who aren’t doing everything right, who don’t sometimes believe in every unbelievable thing, but we’re trying.  Traveling Mercies reminds me of that Tim Allen show, Home Improvement.  Tim’s marital problems are given the best advice by Wilson, who seems to embody Robert Bly and Joseph Campbell and God all rolled into one.  But Tim, as he tries to carry that advice in his cupped hands back to his wife and family, spills most of it, and always blurts out a tainted version of that wisdom, a splattered, messy version of wisdom that somehow works–mostly through the forgiveness of his wife.  Anne Lamott is messy in that Tim Allen way.  She wanders into the same kinds of sermons and wisdom we all do but the application is messier than she thinks.  And wow, it’s messy for all of us, but none of us admitted it.

Anne allowed my faith to be messy, and allowed me to approach church in a different way–not of trying to regain some shallow perfection I thought I had, but in trying it out in whatever way I could muster.  She allowed my approach to God to be a little wobbly, a couple of bounces and skids, and sometimes I circle the runway for days…  It was never a perfect landing.  Faith is trial and error not a performance.

If Anne Lamott can be human again, then so can I.  If she can be a Christian, outside of perfection, then so can I.

Churchiness takes the humanity out of you.  Traveling Mercies somehow puts the humanity back into Faith.

Here’s an excerpt from Traveling Mercies on someone else’s page.

Thank you, Anne Lamott!  I know you’ve probably saved a lot of lives before–and perhaps you don’t even know that you’re doing it, but honest memoir saves lives.  We may write it only to save ours, but it ends up having multiple life-saving effects.  Resonance.  Mercy.

Newsweek: Let me Worship as I am   Leave a comment

photo by Danny Rothenberg / Rapport for Newsweek

A wonderful first person essay in Newsweek in June. Jimmy Doyle writes from the heart. His search for a church that accepted him and accepted his gifts and his worship resonates with every gay Christian who sits in the pew of a non-accepting church, as well as those who get up, walk out and find a new one.

Gays must be included in the life of the church as God planned them to be.

__________________________________

Let Me Worship as I Am

From a young age I felt called to Christ. But as a gay man, I took a long time to find my spiritual home.

In October 2005 I took the soup. To an Irish Catholic, “taking the soup” means going to the other side, turning Protestant. During the famine years, one could get a bowl of soup if one sat through a Protestant service, which meant automatic excommunication in those pre-ecumenical days. So the slang was born, implying desertion of the One True Church in order to make life easier.

I suppose what I took wasn’t soup, but it was comfort. I took a life steeped in the mystery and rhythm of the church along with what I hoped was a life with the integrity of being an open, practicing gay man. When I turned to the Episcopal Church, I saw a Christianity that was alive and evolving, one that delighted in difference and saw God’s creation in many things, including women and openly gay men serving as priests and bishops. I saw a chance to get past the separation and sanctimony of the more vocal Christian presence in American society, and a challenge to get to the more nuanced and tricky teachings of Christ—loving your neighbor and all that. I hoped to live and worship as I was created, not as I was condemned. And so I took catechism at St. Thomas the Apostle, where the smells and bells made me feel at home, although the challenges of parish life made me want to sleep some Sundays. After six months of classes in the teachings of the Anglican faith, I was “received” into the communion in a high mass attended by friends and my partner, with not a dry eye in the house. The healing I felt as I stood before the assistant bishop and reaffirmed my faith was, without a doubt, of the Spirit.

Read the rest here: “Let Me Worship as I am”

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