Category Archives: Family

Yes means yes, no means no

I read about the allegations against Bill Cosby.

And my stomach churns.

I post about the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

And my head hangs heavy.

I read the Rolling Stone article about rape at the University of Virginia. (Note: as I wrote this,  it was reported that the University of Virginia has asked for an investigation of events described in the article.)

And my heart breaks.

highlight-fact-evaw-en-244 pngI read  The Guardian report that “One in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence from their partner, while 7% will be assaulted at some point in their lives by a non-partner.” A new series of papers in the Lancet provides the source. The World Health Organization and UN Women report similar figures to document further the violence women endure.

And my tears flow.

I recognize that only a portion of the sexual and physical violence against women is reported.

And I wonder.

I wonder about what I have done and left undone. I wonder about what I will do. And I wonder if I have taught my sons and other men well enough not to rape and to challenge rape culture.

In my speaking and my acting, have I said clearly enough:

People, all people, all people of every sexual orientation and gender identity, are precious and to be treated with dignity and respect.

Rape and sexual violence are wrong. Don’t rape. Don’t commit sexual violence.

Yes means yes. Sexual relations must be consensual. Without consent, sexual contact is rape. No nuances. No maybes. Consent. Freely given. Yes means yes.

No means no. Whenever no is said. No matter how many yeses may have preceded it. No means no.

No circumstances justify rape or sexual violence. None. No one “asks” to be raped. No one “deserves” to be raped. No circumstances!

Each person is a human being. No one, no group of people, are objects to be exploited for other people’s pleasure.

Believe someone who says they have been raped or violated sexually. Alleged perpetrators deserve their day in court. But too often people who report rape are automatically discounted and discredited. That needs to stop. Perhaps there are a few false reports. The overwhelming, overwhelming majority are not. It takes enormous courage to come forward and report a violation. We need to have the decency to listen and believe. We need to make sure that systems and structures are in place to support those who report abuse and to make sure full investigations followed, when appropriate, by trials or other legal measures, take place.

Patriarchy must be dismantled. Masculinity redefined. Ideas of control and power and violence that combine to fuel rape must be re-imagined and replaced with ideas of mutuality and equality.

Intervene. If you witness rape or sexual violation happening or about to happen, say something. Do something. Report. AND say something when you hear people objectify or describe about others inappropriately. Or express a desire to treat others inappropriately.  Or tell jokes that demean or degrade people sexually.

People, all people, all people of every sexual orientation and gender identity, are precious and to be treated with dignity and respect.

I wonder. And I hope and pray that I have taught my sons and others well. I hope and pray that I will continue to do so. I hope and pray that I will work to end rape culture and honor all people.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Current Events, Family, Human Rights

Pam and Tricia, Tricia and Pam

Pam's buttonWe never work for justice, in any sphere of our living, alone.

Each of us does our part, whatever that part may be. But we do our part within the context of a larger community. That can happen without our ever meeting others in the community. Together we work, and our work together makes a difference but our paths do not cross in person.

It can also be the case that we work for justice with people on a daily or regular basis. That can be challenging and frustrating. It can simply be the way things are. It can be an absolute blessing. It can even be a mixture of all those dynamics.

My partner, Tricia, has worked for justice for our sisters and brothers in the LGBTQ community for over twenty years as a volunteer and in a professional capacity. She has worked for full inclusion in the church and for human rights within society. She has worked with many people through that time. And she has known frustration and challenge. And she has known joy and blessing.

Pam Byers served as the founding executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. Tricia worked with her as the network’s national organizer until Pam’s retirement. They made an amazing team. They developed a deep friendship. They worked well together and did good work.

Tricia and PamIn 2011, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) amended the Book of Order changed to remove G-6.0106b. Pam and Tricia, Tricia and Pam were among those who helped make this happen. As part of a community, they helped change the culture of the church in relation to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Work remains to do, much work, but Tricia and Pam, Pam and Tricia with their friends and colleagues helped bend the arc of justice a bit.

Pam Byers, child of God, justice-seeker, ruling elder, tireless evangelist, loving family member, devoted friend, died of cancer on October 27, 2014. And I grieve.

I grieve for and with Pam’s family who played an important role in her life and her ministry.

I grieve for and with her congregation and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) which she loved so fiercely and served so courageously and faithfully.

I grieve for and with her colleagues in the Covenant Network, the LGBTQ community, and other groups and individuals committed to, and working for, justice.

And I grieve for and with Tricia who mourns the death of a trusted and respected colleague, a dear friend, and a sister in Christ.

But as I grieve, I give thanks. I give thanks that Pam’s pain is ended. I give thanks for her life and love, her witness and faith. I give thanks that the journey to justice continues. And I give thanks that, in the Communion of Saints, Pam Byers accompanies us on that journey.

See you along the Trail.

A word about the photos. The first photo shows a button Pam regularly wore at meetings of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly. Tricia posted it on Facebook. The second photo shows Tricia (in the flowered jacket under the banner) and Pam (to her right in the photo) among friends and colleagues as is only fitting. It comes from Ray Bagnuolo.

You are invited to join in a toast, beverage of your choice, in memory and honor of Pam Byers at 20:11 (8:11 PM) Eastern time or in your own time zone.

 

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Filed under Family, Friends, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

We are loved

lion and lambI read several stories yesterday and today about Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was killed while standing guard at the Ottawa’s National War Memorial. None carries the power, poignancy, and grace of the editorial cartoon by Bruce MacKinnon of Halifax’s The Chronicle Herald. Yet almost all are touching and moving tributes.

This evening, I read a story about Barbara Winters and others who ran toward the gunshots and provided first aid to Cpl. Cirillo. Their efforts failed, but they were marvelous, noble efforts. Humanity at our finest.

The story closes with a quote from Winters, a lawyer and former member of the Canadian Forces Naval Reserve:

When you are dying, you need to be told how loved you are.

Deep truth resounds in her words. Deep, deep truth.

But I want us to remember another truth:

When we are living, we need to be told how loved we are.

Each day.

Every day.

We are loved.

We are loved.

We are loved.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Current Events, Family, Friends

Thanks to my village!

A good friend gave me this plaque on Friday: IMG_3419

It speaks profoundly to my experience. We do not travel the Trail alone. We do so accompanied by family and friends who care for us, sometimes in ways we fail to realize. We do so surrounded by neighbors and people we do not know whose lives touch ours in surprising, amazing ways. And we do so supported by sisters and brothers we will never meet, sisters and brothers who work hard, and whose labor is sometimes exploited, to allow us to enjoy the lives we have. There is much to ponder.

For tonight, I use this plaque as an opportunity to thank those who support my self-care effort. Tricia, Sean, and Eric have been great! Certain friends are key to my effort. Many are always there. A number have become part of my community of accountability, receiving self-serving emails with gentle grace. Their support comes in many forms: reading what I write, responding, sending an unexpected text, providing a plaque and vitamins, answering questions, asking on Facebook, “Have you been to the gym?”, and more.

A wider community also takes care of me. People who like or comment on Facebook posts. People who take the moment to say encouraging words. People like Greg, who literally gushed about my progress before and after the service when I preached at the Church of the Covenant.

It takes a village to lose a boatload of weight and take care of oneself. At least it does for me. To each of you – to all of you – in  my village, my thanks. I hope I care for you as well as you care for me.

See you along the Trail.

 

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Filed under Exercise, Family, Food, Friends

Announcement: a roommate

I have a roommate.

There. I have said it publicly.

Oh, Tricia visits the Shire from time to time, not enough. Eric has been here. Friends stay with me.

But now, I am no longer alone. I have a roommate.

We have been together for a little over a month. I wanted to see how this new relationship would work out before I acknowledged it. That probably was not fair to my new roommate, but one can never be too certain about how new relationships. They change our lives. They have the potential to impact existing relationships. But it has worked well. So this seems the opportune moment to let the world, or at least the two loyal readers of my blog, know.

My roommate is the strong, silent type. It may be even more accurate to describe my roommate as the strong, silent, immobile type. One might even use the word potted and speak the truth.

While my roommate asks nothing and says less, I can count on a welcoming wave at all times of day.

With thanks to Lydia who introduced us when she stayed at the Shire, and apologies for my hesitancy in acknowledging our relationship, here’s Norman:

IMG_3418
See you along the Trail.

 

 

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Filed under Family, Friends, New York, Photo

Love that never ends

There are people whose words carry deep weight and profound meaning. They matter.

JHerbert and motherJohnalee Barnes Nelson was such a person. A woman of deep faith and profound courage, she personally witnessed for justice and peace. She supported her husband and their community in their shared witness. And together with her husband, and on her own, she raised her son to be an advocate, a witness.

I am humbled and proud to call her son, J. Herbert Nelson II my colleague, my friend, my brother. I know he is who he is, he lives as he lives, he serves as he serves, in large part because of his mother.

Each of us is shaped by, among other factors, the people in our lives. When we meet someone, we meet, to some extent, the people who have shaped them. Family. Friends. Neighbors. Teachers. Co-workers. And more. In J. Herbert, I met Johnalee Barnes Nelson.

But I also had the privilege of meeting Johnalee herself on several occasions. The most recent occurred at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Compassion, Peace, and Justice Training Day on March 21 of this year.

With my friends and colleagues and sisters Christine Hong and Esther Lee, I led a workshop on how different faith communities can work together to prevent violence. Johnalee attended. Because I was helping with the closing worship, I had to leave early.

As the worship ended, Johnalee made her way across the sanctuary of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. She sought me out. And when she found me, she thanked me for the workshop and said it had been the best one she attended that day. Because of who Johnalee was, I have treasured her words. I can think of no better feedback I have ever received.

Johnalee faced health challenges. She moved to live with J. Herbert because of those challenges. At the end of September, she was hospitalized.

Today, along with my colleagues in the Compassion, Peace, and Justice Ministry, I received an email with a brief message:

I am emailing to inform you that on yesterday my mother, Johnalee Barnes Nelson transitioned to be with The Lord. The members of my family are grateful for the love and support that you offered during her lifetime.
We are planning a memorial celebration of her life in Jesus Christ. Your prayers are solicited.
In the faith we share,
J. Herbert

I grieve with J. Herbert and his family and all who loved Johnalee Barnes Nelson. I pray they may find comfort and strength in this tender time.

I give thanks for the faith and witness and love and witness of Johnalee Barnes Nelson. Faith that gives us hope through Jesus Christ. Witness in Christ’s name that has inspired others, including me. Love that never ends.

Thanks be to God.

See you along the Trail.

 

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Filed under Family, Friends, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Charley III

As Jules places his head in my lap

Jules

I remember Charley

Charley

Charley

And, after all these years,
pain tweaks my heart,
my eyes leak,
love dances in my spirit
and a smile plays across my lips.

8 October 2014
Louisville, KY

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Filed under Cleveland Heights, Family, Louisville, Photo