When A Cross-Dresser Meets An Off-Key Kumbayah

Screen shot 2013-02-17 at 12.02.08 AMI quit all service-related activities this past summer when I burned out.

And I haven’t been back at them since.

But the thing is, when you go too long with your heart-values being unrequited, something different—but equally damaging—happens: your heart starts to choke on your own values because they just keep sitting there, stacking up inside you.

Until they come so high you can nearly taste them crawling inch by inch up the back of your throat, suffocating you for their need to be released.

So it was no surprise to walk into Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry at butt-early o’clock on Saturday and feel like I could breathe again. I had come home. Home, I tell you. A place so familiar I can smell it in my sleep, with sounds and sights cascading dreamily through me like a favorite childhood memory – maybe the one where I sit on the counter in our growing-up kitchen, sneaking dough and keeping my mama company while she makes my favorite cookies. Comfort, contentment, intimacy, warmth down to my little white feet, that’s what flooded over my body when I travelled across the threshold of that church-basement pantry.

I’ve said it before and I’ll I say it again: there is never a greater sense of belonging then in this space, where my soul is catapulted to the center of an unwashed, undignified sea of quirky people. I love the loud-mouths, the misfits, the skin colors and wrinkle patterns. I love the offending scents, bad language and indecent behavior. I love the spectrum and volume of energy buzzing and pinging from wall to wall, the graceless chaos of pushing and shoving. I love the reluctant acceptance and show of community. I love the joy that still comes when someone starts yelling at me because I can’t understand the name he mumbles at the registration table. All this—even much more—and I feel like I’m the opportunist who found herself in heaven because she already chose to die.

Jay-Z and Kanye were wrong, you know. There IS church in the wild and I find it every time I’m there in that jungle of battered humanity, where I am chief of all the rabble-ish creatures. But, for absolutely dead damn certain the finest part of the whole [rethink] church service that morning was the moment when a lively cross-dressed man (complete with giant gold hoop earrings) flaunted in and started serenading the crowd at the very height of his off-key lungs. Round and around and around he would weave himself slowly through all the food-seeking bodies with an open hymn book in hand, singing song after song. He was so LOUD y’all, but in my estimation this man seemed like he represented The Glue that stuck all us kids together that day . . . not only did his off-color character invite you to come just as you are with all the strangeness and skeletons you stand up under, but because the first song he belted forth was none other then Kumbayah – the tune “originally associated with human and spiritual unity, closeness and compassion”. The whole eccentric event made me want to whoop and dance and grin as wide as the lousy limitations of my face would allow. And my spirit was so stretched with colliding and ricocheting sensations, the feeling you might have when something shamelessly pure and indescribably right and incandescently beautiful rises from an unseen place and expands your chest with all the good things. Bursting, I have heard it called before.

I am bursting. And all the craziness and Kumbayah singing doesn’t stop me from pausing within the bedlam just to inhale him, my Jesus. Pausing and breathing and shutting my eyes for only a moment and I can see his figure moving around the earthbound bodies in that fluid way – touching shoulders, bathing feet, bending close for every hug, delivering that celestial-sized smile he’s famous for . . . You see? The reason I go is selfish, really. I just want to be close to Jesus and remember who he is [especially] during this Lent season. Not only is he all over every person I smell and touch and serve, but his Spirit is also whorling between every piece of food and flesh. I mean, you literally and certainly CAN’T miss him. Of all the reasons for dragging my arse out of bed on a Saturday morning, that one is the absolute best.

{Image: SOURCE}

What Makes Me Insane

Screen shot 2013-02-04 at 1.59.33 PMDo you know what I would like to will tell you today? I would like to will tell you that my heart [literally] burns a [metaphorical] hole right through my chest in reckless response to all the pressing and painful needs scarring our globe (I wish to God I could be a part of relieving every single one). I can’t watch the news because whatever affliction my little eyes see and whatever sorrow my little ears hear always ends up with my little spirit getting ground down to powder, my little arms feeling bereft, my little love going unrequited, my peaceful little home seeming like too great a gift for me to bear and  . . . etc. etc.

We saw Les Miserable and I poured like a full-on faucet afterward, closing my shaking-self in our bathroom with “I Dreamed A Dream” on my headphones, desperately sobbing for hours. It isn’t hard for me to go to the shadow spots of any city whenever I close the lids on my soul-windows. Or slip inside the skin of a 10-year-old slave girl and feel at least a fragment of her fractures. But this time I swear to you that the whole oppressed and hurting world was wrapped around my body and crying for help right in the crook of my neck and I just had this burden that wouldn’t let go until my emotional reservoir had totally dried up of all the tears and all the prayers it had to give. The whole torrential episode felt like a Hoover-size dam had broken through and flooded every one of my arteries and atoms – very exhausting and un-civilized. Not to mention the groaning and keening that I worked so hard to keep behind my clenched teeth. I kept thinking that I couldn’t let this barbaric sound out of my throat because Lord knows how thin our old walls are and how close the neighbors live and the last thing I needed was for next-door Jimmy to think I was a premium candidate for the insane asylum. I would do anything sometimes for a piece of land big enough where no one else on the earth could hear what sounds want to come rushing from me. I would go out to that land and yell my lungs out against whatever sky happened to be hung up in the atmosphere that day. Seriously, that’s what my prayers look like sometimes – like someone has lost their freakin’ mind. My kids and my husband are used to it, thank God. Austin tells me it’s one of his favorite things about me, which is another way of saying that I married exactly the right person to compliment who I was made to be.

Please, someone tell me that God also made them this kind of “special”? Anyone else have a heart knit inside them that is just too big for their britches, let alone their bodies?

Anyone?

This passionate nature makes me shiver sometimes, but no matter how hard I try? I can’t stop feeling the way I do. Nor can I hide from it, regardless of the vulnerability that manifests on the inside or the embarrassment that flushes my skin on the outside. When I stop being me, the bad guy eats my soul for an early afternoon snack.

(And now that I’ve exposed myself, just like . . . affirm me or something, okay? :))

All that to say: Several weeks ago the Mr. and I watched  a movie from our “Instant Play” list on Netflix titled The Whistleblower, starring Rachel Weisz and Monica Bellucci. The movie documents the true story of a lady cop from Lincoln, Nebraska who took a job with the United Nations International Police in post-war Bosnia. During her time there as a peacekeeper she unintentionally uncovers a wide-scale sex slavery trafficking ring – only then to learn that most of her male colleagues at the U.N. were complicit in the trade. They, in turn, threaten her every which way to Sunday as a way of scaring her into keeping a lid on their illicit activities. She – fierce woman, hear her roar! – chooses to air her findings regardless of all the warnings and blackmail, even survives a number of death attempts while trying to get her information to the someone with enough authority to shut down the flesh-buying insanity. She loses her job, but was still able to get her evidence to the BBC, who consequently went public with the information.
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What I didn’t tell you about the movie was how horrifying it was. Dark. Dirty. Brutal. Maybe if we had discerned from the preview that the depiction of this story was going to be so violently graphic in nature – enough to make me physically ill – we would have opted against it? Either way, let me tell you something:

I’ve been intimately acquainted with the anti-slavery conversation for the past 13 years. One of my closest friends co-founded LOVE146. I am not unaware of the tales of tragedy (and triumph). This movie wasn’t telling me something I hadn’t already heard about in some form or fashion. And yet, I crawled my broken heart into our safe and cozy bed that night like I discovered this atrocity for the first time, again. Weeping all over the IKEA sheets and overwhelmed down to my middle-class toes by the anguish in this world (a world where slavery is illegal in every country, but has more people “owned” then any other period of history), I dropped my forehead to Austin’s shoulder and we prayed together and the tear-filled words that left my heart were simple and fervent: “God, if there is one more thing I can do to help? Show me.”

When a weight comes, I have learned the sustainable power of offering myself to do just “one more thing”. Sometimes “one more thing” is praying until the heaviness lifts. Sometimes “one more thing” is starting a movement. Sometimes “one more thing” is sharing more of the resources we have. Sometimes “one more thing” is:

The very next morning I woke up to a Facebook message from my friend Laura Parker asking me if I would be interested in “blogging for abolition” on behalf of their non-profit, The Exodus Road - an organization that fights modern day slavery.

Let me tell you that I barely thought once before saying “YES”. Because what better way could I spend my free time? I can’t pound the pavement or storm SE Asia at the moment (although, in my imagination I’m always the girl drop-kicking all the bad guys and rescuing all the every-bodies that need freeing). There’s not a lot I can do besides give money, beat the sky with my prayers and use my words. Formerly, I was mostly active with the first two. And now, here I am asking you if you would you take a long, good look at The Exodus Road? Watch their videos and read their blog? Get to know their grassroots-kind-of-hearts? Maybe getting involved in their movement through time, money, prayers (or some other creative way) can be a “one more thing” for you, too? If everybody in the entire free world did just one more thing, I wonder . . .

Also, you can follow them on Facebook HERE.

 

Photo Source : Annah Kaden

What I Know [And Don't Know] About Hell

Screen shot 2013-01-03 at 10.46.02 AMLet me tell you what I don’t know about hell:

I don’t know if this hell the Good Book tells us about is a literal place or a metaphorical mystery; an eternal torment or temporal purgatory. I don’t know if there will be blackness and brimstone, flesh-eating flames, teeth-gnashing, weeping or loneliness big enough to block every kind of light. I don’t know if it’s none of those things at all, or something totally other and unfathomable. You won’t see me stomping my foot down or dying on a hill of hell-certainty. I am okay with not knowing or “landing” because I believe unequivocally in God’s goodness (mercy and justice). How that ends up being defined, I can’t imagine from within the confines of my finite mind. So, can I gently ask you to spare me your scriptures? I revere, honor and take each one very seriously, but I’ve already pondered every hell-related text you could speak my way. And I’ve heard the verse-backed-arguments for and against this point-of-hell-view or that point-of-hell-view and neither is the actual point I’m looking for. Because anyone can reinforce their arguments with carefully selected Bible-lines, hmm? And additionally claim that God directly confirmed their beliefs through the Spirit during last Sunday’s quiet-time – an old Christian trick, often used for the purpose of proving ourselves “right” about something.

(This isn’t to say that I don’t have my leanings or understandings or [indefinite] beliefs about life on the other side of the grave for the [un]believer, cause I do. But that is for another post perhaps . . . or, not. Because I just said that wasn’t the point for me, eh?)

Let me tell you what I do know about hell . . .

It’s getting hot over at Deeper Story where this post continues! Join me there?!

 

{image VIA weheartit}