Book Review: A Gracious Heresy

A Gracious Heresy: The Queer Calling of an Unlikely Prophet, by Connie L Tuttle.

unnamed-4

Any of us who have ever argued with the Divine over a persistent, unyielding Call to ministry will see ourselves in Connie Tuttle’s story. She honestly shares the journey from discovery to living out her Call. Only one problem: as a lesbian, every time she reached a milestone, she had to fight the same battles for understanding and full inclusion.

A lesser person would have quit, or turned her back on God. Connie took on the full frontal assault of her identity and her love for God. She dealt with the society-imposed shaming of her sexual identity. From the co-ed who wouldn’t ride in an elevator with her, to the fellow seminarian who informed her she was going to hell for being a lesbian, Connie walked the road with faithfulness and determination.

Tuttle’s writing is honest, thoughtful, provocative and real. Her words are from her heart, one that fully trusts, hopes and believes in the Call of God. On more than one occasion, as she faced opposition, she had to decide: was her faith one that followed rules and sought to be pious? Or was she someone who had a call to justice, and sought to be righteous? Over and over, she chose: “I want to be righteous!” Integrity and authenticity shaped her responses.

Her journey encompasses many of the hurdles familiar to seminarians and clergy: getting through seminary, facing ordination boards and faculty committees, finding a summer internship, and coping with the self-learning (and tears) in CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education.) She grappled with how her identity would be and could be a part of her pastoral formation. Oh, and yes, as a single mom, balanced, home, classes, and parenting.

While Presbyterians (PCUSA) now affirm and ordain women and individuals of all gender identities, at the time when she graduated, it was not even a remote possibility. Even so, as Tuttle continues to love and care for the people God has called her to as a pastor, she reminds us all to tell our stories.

And Connie’s story, full of love and grace, is one you should read. One day, I look forward meeting her, because I suspect we will enjoy many laughs and share the heartaches of our ongoing journeys, compelled to serve the Divine.


A Gracious Heresy: The Queer Calling of an Unlikely Prophet, by Connie L. Tuttle. Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2018. Paperback: 195 pages. ISBN-13: 9781532655722.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Cold-hearted

IMG_0296

The Mid-Atlantic is not known for supremely cold winters. Oh, we get a “cold snap” here and there in the winter months, but anything that lasts more than a week or two, and the natives get a little restless.

After all, we’re not Buffalo. Or Minnesnowta. We have plows and salt trucks, and it’s not unusual to have to wait a day to get plowed out in our neighborhood.

The last few weeks the temperatures have stayed below 40 degrees. The federal government closed at least once, and schools have been closed or delayed. Even our daughter’s college closed because the roads were not safe.

I know. You’re laughing at us. We accept your disdain. At least we’re honest.

Now it’s been cold long enough that the cumulative effects of the cold are starting to show up. Little by little, I see changes that aren’t “normal” for around here. For instance, I don’t quite remember the color of my car without dried salt spray on it. The back gate is frozen shut. I feel the tension in my shoulders from hunching down into my coat as I go from my car to the facilities and homes where my patients live. And there are very few things which will drag me from home once I’m holding a cat and warming up.

When I drove by this pond near our house and saw the geese scattered across the ice, I wondered at the change. A month ago, even a few weeks ago, the water was open and clear. Normally they would be paddling about, feeding and waddling and honking. Today, they were more like peppercorns spilled over an icy table. Cold. Quiet. Still.

The change was gradual. The result is clear.

In the season of Lent, there is a call to renew the spiritual connection, to find that spark that has diminished and rekindle it. The human heart — my heart — can grow cold and unfeeling.

The words of Keith Green’s song came to mind…

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to you and dead to me…

During Lent, I’m about this business of renewal. Remembering the mercy shown me. Living into God’s compassion. Reclaiming the love and fire I have for my work.

Spring will come. My heart will thaw.
I’ll join the song…
Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Friday Five: Recovery Edition

Over at RevGalBlogPals this week, I’m hosting the Friday Five! Play along if you’d like!

WHOOOOOOOOSH!
That was the air rushing out of our collective pool of energy. Whether you led one small service or 5 huge ones, let’s talk about recovery mode. In less than 48 hours, there’s another Sunday service, or a weekday ministry starting up again. So, tell us:

1. What’s your “chill out” foot gear? Slippers or socks? Or Birkenstocks? (Poem not intentional)
I’m a “Wicked Good” slippers kind of gal. Or I’m barefoot. Really not much in-between!

2. A holiday treat or beverage that just makes you say “AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!”
Peppermint hot chocolate. In a nice tall mug. With a lap blanket. And a purring cat.

3. What sight or sound moved you during the season? (This can be good or bad.)
Seeing the response to the labyrinth made of Christmas lights at our “Longest Night” service. First, that my family created it (in less than 2 hours!) Second, how it touched a spiritual chord with the participants. I blogged about it here…)

4. With whom did you enjoy sharing time with over the Christmas season?
My beloved, our daughters and two wonderful “Plus One” boyfriends. Not everyone was here at the same time, but it has made our break an enjoyable one. Full of activity in the kitchen and with much use of bandwidth and the comfy couches.

5. Was there someone missing from your festivities? How are you doing with that?
Work schedules and family prevented our traveling south this year. And finances prevented plane flights in our shorter window. I missed seeing my family (sibs and Mom).

BONUS: A photo of a bodaciously wonderful present, delicious food, or lovely place that was a part of your holiday.
How about these cookies? (And everyone needs more cowbell!)

IMG_7124.JPG

It’s my anniversary!

layingon

Eight years ago today I was ordained to Christian ministry. Like today, it was a hot, muggy July day. The A/C worked to keep up. And we enjoyed some prime family time. My co-ordinand, Glenn, and I chose a “luau” theme to keep things in the spirit of celebration. And celebrate we did!

In these eight years, I’ve worked in 3 hospitals, 2 churches and one hospice group. I completed four units of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) after finishing my Masters of Divinity.

It’s been a good journey. Difficult at times, stressful at many points, but it’s inconceivable to me that I would be doing something else. (And yes. I do know what that words means. 😉 )

But beyond remembering and thanking God for these holy moments and encouragers, I look forward to more years in harness, doing the work that I’m called to.

Thanks be to God.

Friday Five: All Around the Mulberry Bush

3dogmom has this week’s Friday Five over at RevGals:

It’s been a week of ups and downs at our house. On Tuesday I received word of the birth of my goddaughter’s second daughter, a blessing to that family, and the hope of the first daughter happily fulfilled. That evening I learned that my sister-in-law, a breast cancer survivor, is facing a recurrence of cancer in her lymph nodes, and probably her lungs. Joy and concern pressing in on my heart has made for a week of lots of deep breaths and deep-in-the-marrow prayer, smiles and tears. At times like this I my soul finds comfort and seeks expression through my senses. Pinterest feeds my visual need for beauty and color (not to mention adorable puppies, and herds of sheep). Cooking fills the house with pleasant aromas, and the results satisfy my palette. My hands find tactile pleasure in massaging my dogs, and music penetrates and reverberates in the fiber of my being. When you need to hold disparate parts of your life in tension, what do you do? Share five things that steady your pace, recharge your batteries and invite peace to your soul.

I made my list and then went back and reviewed it. What is interesting is that though I am an extrovert, when I need to refuel, I tend to move into solitary experiences. It was an important aspect of my CPE to realize what I needed to be ready to give in ministry the next day.

1. Labyrinth: I go walk the labyrinth in my backyard. I’ve walked in the heat, snow, rain and now it’s mud season! It’s a place to hear and see the world I live in and to separate myself out from it, just for a little while, to pray.

2014-03-30 13.32.47
It’s Mud Season in my labyrinth.

2. Photography: I have no delusions that I am an amazing photographer. But every now and then, I get some good shots.

2014-02-22 CnO Canal 1
C&O Canal near Antietam Battlefield, Maryland.

3. Knitting and crocheting and vegging: My latest projects have been hats and lambs for infants (knit) and matching afghans (crocheted). The blankets take a LOT longer. I’m also looking into creating preemie clothes for the NICU. We have lots of “million dollar babies” and their parents appreciate the handmade things. (If you have a hospital with a NICU, call and ASK them what they need.)

2014-03-03 22.18.41
Henry is not amewsed.

4. Music: Right now my piano is covered because of all of the construction dust in my house. I can’t wait to uncover it and play again. I really miss it.

IMG_2788
My piano.

5. Coloring: I have started dabbling with coloring. At home I have colored pencils and various designs that I color (mandalas, labyrinths, patterns). Away from home, I play around with the “Paper 53” app on my iPad. No delusions that I’m a great artist… I’m just letting the arts be my muse.

Tree in Winter. Made with Paper 53 app on my iPad.
Tree in Winter. Made with Paper 53 app on my iPad.

Dear Mrs. Hall: We need to chat

Hey friends…
I don’t usually get involved in these “my thoughts on your post” kind of things. But since I happen to have two lovely young adult daughters, I kinda took this post personally. You may disagree with me… but I wanted to share my heart on this.

Dear Mrs. Hall:

I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Friends of mine with young sons posted the link to your blog post. I read it. Said, “huh, well I think she’s wrong. To-MAY-to, to-MAH-to, let’s move on.”

Except that friends have been posting it all day and cheering you on. And I said, “Huh. Well, I get that moms want their boys to make good decisions. And to help them make good decisions, sometimes they get a little over-protective. Po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to. Whatevs.”

But then it continued to bother me, and I figured out why. I realized that I was a little put off by your post chastising young women for their social media pictures. The photos you described were ones that you discovered while you looked at their social media accounts — something you do regularly with your kids — perusing the pictures and videos that are posted by their friends online. You noted:

“We have teenage sons, and so naturally there are quite a few pictures of you lovely ladies to wade through. Wow – you sure took a bunch of selfies in your pajamas this summer! Your bedrooms are so cute! Our eight-year-old daughter brought this to our attention, because with three older brothers who have rooms that smell like stinky cheese, she notices girly details like that.

I think the boys notice other things. For one, it appears that you are not wearing a bra.

I get it – you’re in your room, so you’re heading to bed, right? But then I can’t help but notice the red carpet pose, the extra-arched back, and the sultry pout.”

Ah yes. Duck lips, I believe we call it. But really – going braless was an issue? Was it because you could see her nipples? Maybe she needs a thicker bra. Or a warmer room. Sultry poses? Goofing off and being silly, perhaps? Are you sure she was trying to be a siren and cause your sons to crash on the rocks?

One of the standards that you mentioned in your blog post was this:

Girls shouldn’t post pictures in poses which are provocative.

That’s fair. But what is “provocative” might I ask? I think it is in the eye of the beholder. You put up a picture of your four, lovely children in their bathing suits. The young men’s suits were all below their navels. Well below their navels. In fact, you could see their tan lines. Isn’t that a little too sexy for a post on purity? And they were making “muscle” poses – yes, in fun. I get that. However, based on the blog comments, I wasn’t alone in thinking that perhaps you missed the point that what is “sexaaay” for the goose is “sexaaaay” for the gander.

You said,

“Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it? You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?”

Do you think the picture of your boys in their bathing suits will just be deleted from their female schoolmates’ minds? That once they walk into school in their uniforms or their Tshirts and jeans, that they won’t remember pictures from this summer? And for the record, I think this is a bit over-stated. What I think you are suggesting that only males are titillated by the visual. I would suggest that you are wrong. If not, then why would females spend so much time pouring over pictures in magazines? Why do they notice when someone is hawt?

You don’t give room for teens and young adults to grow up.

There’s no room for grace. Jeff VanVonderen in his book Families Where Grace is the Place talks about the need for learning the difference between our job and God’s job. He says,

“God’s job is to fix and to change. Our job is to depend, serve, and equip. This is the work of grace… God and you can build anew with the people you love, relationships that let in fresh air and light.”

He goes on to talk about premarital sex, which I think is what you are worried about by your hard and fast rules…

“When a teenager becomes involved in premarital sex, is it just because of raging hormones? Is it simply a matter of ignoring the rules? Or could it be an attempt to feel loved and accepted, important, or not alone? I think so. …They need to be reminded that they are unconditionally loved.”

You wrote:

And so, in our house, there are no second chances, ladies. If you want to stay friendly with the Hall men, you’ll have to keep your clothes on, and your posts decent. If you try to post a sexy selfie, or an inappropriate YouTube video – even once – you’ll be booted off our on-line island.

I see. In doing so, you remove any possibility of being able to speak into these young women’s lives. You put them in the category of “forbidden secret.” You mark them as “undesirable” or as “forbidden fruit.”

Do you not remember your own teen years? Forbidding something does not mean that it is going to make it go away. Just because your children can’t see these photos or videos on their devices, those which you deem objectionable, doesn’t mean they can’t see them on their friend’s computers/smart phones.

If your children are friends with these young women, I would assume that you could possibly live in the same general area as their parents. Have you talked to their mothers? Have you sent them an email? Have you called them? While many parents do not have a social media review as your family does on a regular basis, there is something about parenting “in the village” that is very, very helpful. If you are pro-active instead of re-active, you can offer more than one chance.

It may be that you have been rejected for being “too strict” but by making things so iron-clad, you have shut down what could be an ongoing, healthy conversation.

You state that “We hope to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls.”

Iron-clad, no-exceptions means that if someone grows and changes, you won’t know. You won’t be around to encourage them, to remind them. You won’t be among the trusted women who can talk frankly with them about their wardrobe choices.

You are obsessing on the exterior and are not giving your sons practice at living with integrity.

They will be heading to college soon. Very soon. Sooner than you can possibly imagine. Even if they go to the most restrictive Christian college, there is still temptation and sexual tension. By not helping them wrestle with it — while they are in your home — you are going to set them up for some hard days when they are on their own. Perhaps you are a family who does not send your children away to college. Even if they are on a community college campus, they will meet up with men and women who are very different from the standards they are learning from you. And instead of being comfortable talking to them and gaining an understanding, you have a hard wall of NO.

Life does not work this way.

Even if you clean out every objectionable image in their social media files, the world has many more staring them down. I used to take my children through the “no candy, no tabloids” aisle at the grocery store when I checked out. And then I discovered that the magazines (non-tabloids) had low-cut, sexily-posed models on the front. I realized how low-cut when one daughter said, “Mommy, is that a nursing top?”

The images of misused sexuality are everywhere. To teach our children good judgement and a “strong moral compass,” we have to teach them to first see the men and women around them as human beings who are sexual, not sexual beings who are human. You can’t do that if you try to install electronic blinders on them.

What is the best way to encourage the personal character of our teens and young adults?

Is it by judging them? Ignoring them? Refusing them entry into our Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram lives? I don’t think so. You’re removing yourself from the conversation.

Here’s what I would love for you to reinforce to my daughters, actually to any mother’s daughters:

You are made in the image of God. You were created to make a difference. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are bright and caring and have much to offer this world. You are more than the clothes you wear or the make-up you put on your face. You are more than a test score, a percentile or an athletic achievement. The number of pounds on the scale mean nothing. You are loved by your parents, but even more by God. Go chase down the dreams you have on your heart. And don’t let comments about your outside make you think there’s nothing inside.

One last thought. Talk to your sons about outward images and inner self-control. Make them own their sexuality and their choices. Do not blame or suggest that any mistakes they make are because of how the women around them dress themselves. Teach them that clothing is not a “message” — it is a cultural trapping. It is not an “invitation” to do anything other than respect and respond in accordance with their own personal guidelines. This is a shared responsibility. One that young men AND women should take seriously.

I’m glad we had this little chat. To be honest, I almost didn’t post this essay. After all, it is easy enough to just roll my eyes and move on. I’m not even ‘outraged’ or ‘mad’. I am frankly a little sad. Because you are missing an opportunity to become a mentor and surrogate mom to young men and women who would otherwise never cross your path. And they are missing out on getting to know you and to understand your point of view.

 

 

ADDENDUM: Friday, September 6, 2013:

Mrs. Hall took out all of the pictures of her boys on the beach (really) because of comments from readers and bloggers. So you can disregard my comments about boy tan-lines etc. But the rest I still hold as true…

Here’s her comment on her blog update and changed photographs:

“Readers, two days ago I wrote this post for my normal audience, which is usually very small. That said, I included recent pictures of my kids at the beach, and many new readers found that to be a grave lack of discernment, considering the topic.  I agree, and have replaced them with different photos than the original post. Thank you for your counsel.”

Rain

Worth repeating this song on my blog again… because sometimes there are days we need to be reminded that life is NOT all puppy dogs, butterflies and rainbows. And God is still there, standing beside us in the struggle, and fortifying our hope and courage.

It’s hard to know when to give up the fight
Some things you want will just never be right
It’s never rained like it has tonight before…

Strange how hard it rains now
Rows and rows of big dark clouds
But I’m holding on underneath this shroud
Rain

23 Jesus said to him, “‘If you can do anything’? All things are possible for the one who has faith.”
24 At that the boy’s father cried out, “I have faith; help my lack of faith!”

Mark 9:23-24