Monday, June 25, 2012

You Take a Step - Year One

Not too long ago I wrote about my journeys of this past spring in reconnecting with old friends. It's one that continues in earnest with a profound opportunity on the horizon in just about 3 weeks.

I've never attended any high school reunions. Nothing against the fine folks at Wooddale's Class of '82, but that was never home. Southside? Southside felt like home, but I've not really reconnected in any meaningful way with my classmates. Truth is, I ran with the older bunch. For the guys I hung out with back in the day it would have made more sense for me to be a part of the class of '79. To this day I'm not sure how or why I was welcomed into that bunch, but I'll be forever thankful for it. There's some stories that could be told of the exploits of our crew south of the Forked Deer River, but you ain't getting 'em out of me.

If there was a class that I would have longed to be part of, it's Mayfield's Class of '82. I've reflected on that period of life and how formative it was for me. In the past year or so, as I've moved from believing all that was is past, to something yet unknown and wonderful could emerge, I've enjoyed having the Mayfield chapter of my life refreshed by new engagements with childhood friends.

So imagine my curiosity/surprise to receive an invitation from Mayfield's Class of '82's 30 year reunion. You're kidding, right? I left there in the 6th grade. Really?

And yes, it is real. And yes, I'm going. It's even over my birthday, but I'm going. Would not miss it. Have no idea what to expect, and don't really care...that's huge movement for me.

Movement has been a key word for me in the last 18 months.

Tomorrow, June 26, marks the one year anniversary of my intentional, daily physical movement. I started walking.

I was just beginning vacation. It was a time of focus. Something on the outside needed to begin reflecting the stirrings on the inside. And so I started.

I went from "I've got to start walking," to "walking." For some of us, the gulf between the two is immense.

In the last couple of months I've been asked a lot of questions about what, how and why of this whole thing. I've never really addressed them in any real way, until now. Let me say, I do this not to inspire, but to explain. And as much as I offer some detail of the movement in me, there's much more I cannot speak to through this medium. This is not one of the "brag" testimonies. So help me, when I was at my worst, watching or reading any of them did not inspire. They pissed me off.

We all have to find our path. This one's mine.

First, I have no idea how much weight I've lost. I don't care. It was never about a number. I've had to buy new clothes, twice, so if numbers matter, there's something to go on.

Second, it is true, I walk every day. Every day. Every day. I've missed a handful of days (5) in the year. When that has occurred it's because I was traveling or some extraordinary circumstance. Why? My logic is this - I walk because I don't want to die, not yet anyway. And when I don't walk, I don't exercise, and the temptation to be sedentary whispers. The daily goal of the alcoholic is not to drink, today. That's a good day's work. The daily goal of someone like me is to walk, today.  No need worrying about tomorrow's "oughts."  I deal with the daily.

Starting is hell. It was tough. But my life was on the line. So I did it. Into the second week while still in Florida last Summer I rolled my ankle on a pine cone. I was so frightened that I had done myself in before I started. I missed a couple of days and kept on going. Took forever for my ankle to go down, but hey, I know me. If I give myself an excuse, I won't do it.

Man, my feet and legs hurt for months. But I could not stop.

How much? For most of the year, I walked no less that 4 miles/day. A couple of miles wasn't enough. It had to be something that demanded real time. I walked in the brutal heat, the pouring rain, snow/sleet (which was awesome). I usually walk at night, sometimes very late. If you're in my neighborhood between 10-11:30, you'll probably see me. At least I hope you do, I've had to go to reflective clothing so I'm easy to spot. In the last couple of months, I've stepped up to 6 miles/day. I've walked through three pair of walking shoes in one year. Right now, I'm a Brooks Ghost fan. Like that shoe.

I've never done anything like this before.
Do I feel pride in myself?
Truly?  No.
I look at the image in the mirror and I still have issues with him.  Guess I always will.

Don't pat me on the back for discipline when desperation to not merely survive, but live - is the truer motivator.

Something walking has taught me...a simple lesson.  When you walk, run, move...whatever it is you do, to do it means that by definition you are moving away from something and toward something else.  Every step puts that much distance between the "you" you are, or were, and the you that's to be found ahead.

And maybe it's only now in my life that I could emerge and be what I'm called to be.
I've long thought the the insulation I carried was my version of a shield to protect what's out there from getting in. There may be some truth to that.  You who know me know that I'm a good listener.  I counsel well.  I can be deep and insightful.  But want to know what's going on in me? Not going to happen. Ain't nobody getting through...and with the rarest of exceptions (like one), nobody has.

But this past season has revealed something I least expected and the ramifications of it are at once liberating and frightening.

I've discovered that what I was doing was providing a barrier preventing who I am from being set loose out there.

It's easy to do. A life of complacency is easy to come by when occupied by life and all its entanglements.

If your rationale begins "for the good of"..and the next word is someone/something else that, while seeming to be noble brings you insulate yourself.

The job. The Church. The relationship. The family. The business. The reputation.  If the "for the good of" mutes life's joy, what are you to do with that?

When am I going to stop? I stop. I die....physically, spiritually, and every other "ally" you can list.  It's that simple.

How do I feel? Never like I've arrived. But I'm on the way. And I'm not sure where "there" is just yet.  That has become so OK with me.

In my reflections in a recent post, I wrote, "... when you're lost in the wilderness, how do you even know where to begin to find your way out?  Answer? You take a step.
Both literally and spiritually, you take a step.
And I've taken many in the past year, but not nearly as many as I've yet to take."

So there's my witness, such as it is at this point.

Lest you're tempted to ask "Who are you and what have you done with Johnny Jeffords?"

You'll find me on the road, earbuds cranked (I like the rock and roll), and moving somewhere between 4.3 - 4.6 mph.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In Response to 'Inconvenient Truths'

For those who read this and don't know either of us...this is not an argument.  It is conferencing.  It is in the great Methodist tradition of Mr. Wesley who often penned letters articulating points of disagreement.  Sky and I go back over 25 years. He is to this day one of my few trusted friends.  I love him as a brother in Christ, and he has been as a brother to me, especially when I lost mine.  I let him know I was writing a response, and he has seen it before I've posted it.  The contents of this post does not contain anything he and I haven't discussed many, many times before.

Sky and I are contemporaries.  In fact, I was ordained elder in the class a year ahead of him.  We go back to college days and summers at Lakeshore.  Our friendship, our love of worship and liturgy, our appreciation for a pint of stout or a fine bourbon is mutually shared (although, even from The Commonwealth, I have a heart for what emerges from Lynchburg, Tennessee). Sky is a faithful servant now swept up into a level of church leadership that I don't envy.  It is a thankless task, and he is among those faithful to it.

I just want to acknowledge from the jump - anybody who quotes Zefram Cochrane to start a blogpost is already aces with me.

It is not my intent to point/counterpoint every one of the items he posits.  Truth is, I'm in league with him on most of them, although I'd likely come at some of the same points from different perspectives.  That's just the nature of being different people who seek unity in essentials, liberty in non essentials and charity in all things. I want to offer some basic points and then focus specifically on one that I want to come at differently.

Sky and I stand alongside each other in many ways as we have our lover's quarrel with the Church.  We don't hate the Church.  But the Church needs to change.  As I've alluded in previous posts, I'm fearful that as a system, we, the Church, have so boxed ourselves in that the capacity to adapt and innovate is gone.  We bought in wholesale to the thought that the Church stands firm while the world must be convicted to conformity. Whatever wisdom and intent there was in the establishment of polity to that end, the result is arrogance, a malaise of spirit, and an intractability of perspective that tins the ear of the Church from the real needs of people where they are.

The guiding presupposition, whether spoken or assumed, was that people will always see the Church as a constant pillar of strength, and will bend to it ultimately.  You want to know why people don't come to church, or why they call themselves "spiritual" but not "religious?"  It has nothing to do with Jesus, it has everything to do with the people who say they represent him.  And I don't think the Church will ever understand the magnitude of amazing grace until it offers full, complete and unconditional confession to God for the ways we have masked our biases and prejudices in religious rhetoric and thereby poisoned a soul from ever wanting anything to do with God.

What was it that Jesus said of those who cause others turn away?  Something about millstones?  Necks?  Very deep water?  The capacity to pervert the holy for purposes other than God have always been there.  It was that way in Jesus' time.  It's that way now.

My friend Sky is a "facts" guy.  He loves the stats, the actuarials, the structure of things.  Being the pragmatist he is it's a perspective that must always be in the room.  It keeps guys like me (you know, a Vandy liberal) from venturing off into theological la la land.  And he's right, our mistrust of one another as a denomination will be our undoing as certainly as any other of the mountains we've to climb to reach wholeness.  And yet, it is the historic track record to do harm to our own by virtue of being "other" (gendered, raced, prophetically witnessed, etc.) that gave the guaranteed appointment a theologically grounded place in our polity.  There are constituencies that would never had voice in the church without the guarantee that they had a place.  I agree that the unintended consequence of what the guaranteed appointment has wrought on our Church justifies ending it, but to lump it into a consent agenda at GC, have it done away with so easily without articulating clearly that this is meant to deal with those who are ineffective, not those who are prophetic, was a moment missed to bring that disjoined bunch in Tampa together.

The work of DS gives Sky a keener view of the issues wrapped up into appointments, the itineracy and the obstacles in both.  I honor and respect his perspective.  The appointment system is a mess and it is complicated by those of us (like me) who serve appointments without parsonages and have our own homes.  The cascading impact of inconsistent itineracy, diminishing congregations and the consequence of their lack of resources from the local level all the way up the pipeline while having placed from the top/down increasingly heftier prior claims on every dollar (mostly because of clergy benefits) is purely untenable.  It just is.

I was in the room when the discussion was ongoing on the floor of annual conference about the salary adjustments for our superintendents.  I didn't engage the conference on that point but I did have fun texting Sky and admonishing them for the money grubbing scoundrels they all are!! :)  There were multiple dynamics working in the room,  more than any one of us could identify. And while I think Sky's perspective has place on this point, it is not the totality of what was operating on the floor that day.

But the disconnect between what we say about God reflected in our conference theme, "Extravagant Generosity," and what we actually do as a people is an apt image for the Church writ large identifying the existential crisis of our time.

And now I address the point in Sky's blog where I come at a question from a different perspective -
His first point, "Changing the stance on homosexuality in The United Methodist Church will not stop the loss of membership in the denomination." Wanting to be clear that I understood exactly what he intended, I called him.  I take the position that the statement is a red herring.  It's the wrong question.

I'm not clear who would be making such an assertion that changing the denomination's stance on homosexuality would equal an increase in church membership.  It's wrong headed on its face.  And Sky gives stats as to why that's the case.  A misdirected question further obscures the heart of the matter. It comes off as rhetorical subterfuge to avoid what must really be addressed.  My suspicion is that to change our position would accelerate a decrease on some fronts but not all. .  And doing it is still the right thing.  It's the gospel thing to do.  And to my mind, nothing else matters.

He and I are not of one mind on this point.  I know it.  He knows it.  And we love each other through it.  As the Church, we are utterly entrenched, so much so that we are unable to acknowledge what is true about where our Church is on this matter.  Think of it this way - when justice, God's justice is subject to a vote, you know we've got an inherent problem.

Consider...our Church continues to codify exclusion.  It's just that simple.  And we have wasted so much energy defending turf, doing battle...the leading voices are mere caricatures of the polemic.   When I have to argue with a caricature, I don't have to deal with the particular, the personal, the one I know who is so powerfully gifted by God to spread Gospel and our hearts are too hardened to care, and our system won't allow it.

Another red herring...we have to keep it as is for the good of the Church.  Child, please.  "For the good of the Church" is code for "keeping things as they are," which means keeping them the way the majority wants.

If ever you think a democracy equals Christocracy, somebody needs to wake up.

Do you hear Jesus saying "Great job! United Methodists!  It's unfortunate, but necessary, for the good the Church, keep those folks out!"  That's full blown, unadulterated "cover' for the system.  It's not grace based, no way, no how.

Fear a split in the Church? What Tampa has shown is that if there is a split it will be about power, who has it and who doesn't and not so much about human sexuality. It is the appearance of a social issue being the culprit that masks truer intent.

"But we're a global church, and different realities necessitate keeping things as they are."  Take caution, United Methodist Church, the very thing we herald with pride, being a global church, might well be idolatry of another kind.

I believe the Church could have its heart transformed by this change.  And I grieve another day of it not happening.  And while I believe the Church is wrong on this front, I will not be an insurrectionist.  I will not dishonor my vows.  I do not judge those who are choosing that path, but I do think it unwise.  It's hard to see how that ushers in an age of grace. Rather, it furthers the entrenchment.

This issue is not about whether or not you understand, or even agree.  It's about whether or not
we as a Church will be guided by the inexplicable nature of God's love and grace.  And let's be clear, we are not modeling the grace we say matters so much in our behaviors toward each other on this point and on more than a few others, including how we will order our  life together going forward.

And the world is watching.  And so is God.

That may well be the most inconvenient truth of all.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dispatches from Renewal Leave - Witness, Part II

Throughout my life I've been witness to many sacred things.

I've stood watch with the dying as they breathed their last.
I've been with new moms and dads as they welcome their children into the world, sometimes against all odds.
I've presided the promises made by two people in marriage covenants.
I've placed baptismal waters on the heads of infants, adults and even the aged.
I've looked into the eyes of disciples who've come forward with hearts opened wide and hands outstretched to receive the body of Christ, broken for them.

What constitutes the sacred? My sense is that it's when what is true is known and claimed in the midst of life, in whatever context, then that which is sacred rises. The preamble to "A Modern Affirmation" says it clearly..."Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the one true Church..." Or, maybe St. Paul says it better, that "nothing in life, in death, in life beyond death can separate us from the love of God."

The dailyness of life makes that truth no less real. However, dailyness without spiritual discipline dulls awareness of what is always true. And that's where most of us live most of the time.

There's always a sense of wonder, awe and mystery in presence of the sacred. And it is in these moments that the inner voice whispers, "Remember what you've seen here, and bear witness to it."

I didn't know what to expect as Kristy and I travelled out of the New York by bus toward New Jersey. I was eager to see my friend, Leslie, again. Having dined with she and her family only days before, I was eager and curious about what the night would hold. And even though I was convinced that the desire of Victor and Leslie was for us to be there, and even though I wanted to be there to spend more time with them, I couldn't help but feel in some small way that we were intruding.

That feeling abated quickly however, upon arriving. It was a party! Victor, remembering what Kristy was drinking at our dinner a few days earlier, had played bar tender and had a spirited beverage ready for her as soon as she walked in. It was a lovely April evening in New Jersey and the back patio was the place to be. The food? A Polish feast. Poland is the land of Victor's family and those roots run deep. The cuisine wasn't that familiar to me, and although I didn't eat too much of it, what I had was good.

There was mixing and mingling - the Ohio part of the family was curious about their Swedish cousins they didn't know they had, and vice versa. The lore of family was told for fresh ears to hear (and retold for others who'd heard the tales many times before). We weren't the only folks there we were not family. Neighbors were there, too. For a time, it looked just like any "get together."

Part of my time there was spent searching though photo albums of long ago. Leslie documented much of our journey at Vanderbilt. Based on the number of photo albums she has, she is keen on documenting life, photographically. So we spent time looking at who we were back then. We were in a sunroom/library. It sparked memories of people I've not seen and for some of them even thought about since 1990. I found myself more than once asking "Who's that?" I remembered faces readily. Names had faded, as had some of their stories. But the benefit of any witness is to remind you of what you once knew. Leslie's capacity to stoke my recall was remarkable.

We were in a library/sunroom - a place where living occurred. After all had eaten and while Leslie and I were looking at photos, Victor came in. With DVD in hand he turned on the tv and cued up its contents. It was then that I became aware of Victor in a different way. There was a burden...well, not really a burden, but there was a weighty responsibility that he was carrying. Within every family system, we each have roles to play. Among the many that had fallen to him over the years, it was this one...the carrier of the story of family estranged by evil only to be reunited was his to convey. He was the bridge. I sensed he felt the fullness of his responsibility and this opportunity to change the trajectory of a family's story hereon.

The gathered party was summoned to the room where Leslie and I had been reminiscing. And after a few words of introduction, Victor told their story. It's the story of the impact of evil on a people across the generations.

There is a lingering pall that falls on the family of one victimized so terribly. And that was the case for Victor's family. Being the children of a Holocaust survivor is never not in the room when the family gathers. It's the pain of the father that is visited on the children. There is so much loaded in the nature of the victimization. The very recollection of it revealed that the pain is always within's just right there.

Polish Catholics were also victims of interment and encampment during World War II. And this family was among those impacted. While the details of the story are theirs to tell, the gist of it is this. Forced separation. In post-war, one sibling ends up in Sweden where she grows. The other goes to America. Living in the belief that the other sibling is either dead or never again to be found, connections are made and identities confirmed 60 years later.

So a few years ago Victor undertook a pilgrimage to Sweden to meet his aunt and her family. Her name?  Wiktoria (Victoria).

It was then that he hit "play" on the DVD and the room witnessed this reunion/introduction. His aunt, who has since died, was in a elderly care facility. Her granddaughters, Camilla and Martina (the young ladies I'd dined with and toured the 9/11 Memorial together only days before), videotaped the introduction and served as translators.

All of us in the room were glued to the television. It was sweet, powerful, exciting, with some sadness added in, too. They communicated with each other through their smiles, the countenance, their teary eyes. The girls guided conversation as they could, but there was so much unspoken that didn't need to be spoken. It was being communicated loudly and clearly. After this long, the grace found in being there with someone else was what mattered most.

And then there was this moment of greatest import. Victor brought a present. It was his grandmother's (bubci), her mother's  rosary. Her recognition of what she held was almost instantaneous. She spoke the name "matka" as her frail hands clutched her mother's prayer beads with a combination of reverence and passion. It was these beads that Victor's grandmother, Victoria's mother, had given to him.  It was the first thing she had touched of her mother's in 66 years.

Not a dry eye in the room. It was sacred.

Once the video ended, Victor shared the sense of opportunity that lay ahead for their family. The relationships they forge honor the ones who were forced apart long ago. And to that end, even though the family from Ohio and Sweden are as different as can be, what they hold in common is priceless.

In a note I sent to Victor shortly after we had returned to Memphis, I shared with him a sense of what I thought the night meant from what I had witnessed.

It is no small thing to be invited into the telling of a family's story of deepest pain. A pain that traverses multiple generations. It is a pain that speaks to the capacity humanity has to do violence to one another, and the ripples across time that such violence is felt. For many, too many, stories of this sort cripple the ability to love, to feel, to embrace. And like too many survivors and their progeny, they may no longer be in the camp physically, but make no mistake...part of them never left.
But your family has sought liberation. It is a work of grace, to be sure. It takes awareness of what was, the willingness to deal with it openly, and the dogged determination to declare that in the end, Love wins, always. The scriptures speak of being "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses," who cheer us on as we "run with perseverance the race that is set before us." Victor, my new friend, the cloud of witnesses- the ones who've gone before, the giants upon whose shoulders you all stand, are celebrating with you all and through you all.

I was honored to be witness the be there as a family tells its truth...a new truth that changes the trajectory of what will be. That's a God thing if ever there was one.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Clarification of My Remarks at Annual Conference

Seems that in light of the confusion surrounding my statement on the floor the annual conference, that some further word of explanation/interpretation is in order.

The confusion comes primarily from that the fact that due to the poor sound set up with the PA, the people on the dais and the podium could not hear what anyone said on the floor.

First, let me offer a series of admissions.
It was not my intent initially to name Selena as one who had endorsed the candidacy of someone from another conference. When I was called back to the mic to further clarify my remarks, I first thought the bishop wanted me to be more specific. What I later learned was that they literally couldn't make out what I said because they couldn't hear it. While that bell cannot be unrung, my only regret is that I spoke her name without her having the benefit of knowing I was going to do so in advance. The fact of her endorsement is hers to interpret.

What I was seeking initially was this: to remind people that although we cannot bind a delegate to vote for anyone (each delegate is a free agent at that point), the conference needed to understand that although we had endorsed Randy, it was no guarantee that the delegates (whom the conference had elected to represent them them year before), would honor it. It is easy to fall into the world of assumptions that it's a foregone conclusion that the delegates would abide the desire of the conference who elected them. It is not the case. Never has been.

One of the last things that was spoken during the General Conference report was not really a part of the report as much as it was word of caution spoken by Selena to the Annual Conference that we needed to know where our delegates stood on issues before electing them. It is the logic of her point I was trying to make.

A second admission.
I support Randy's candidacy. As I look across the landscape of candidates, there are some who are quite gifted for the work of bishop and will serve the church well. There are others who shouldn't run and will further hurt the church if they are elected.

None of them have heart for the Realm of God held more deeply than Randy. In this time of great systemic distress in the Church, we do not need any more system managers. The system itself must be re-formed. It will not reform itself. It can't. I've already addressed that in previous writings. More than that, however, our bishops must no longer be those who feel entitled because they're next in line, or their CVs are veritable brag sheets of what they've done.

Their love for God, their deepest desire to follow Jesus, and their desire to craft a movement of people in the image of the Acts 2-4 Church is THE thing. All other issues are secondary to that.

I know Randy's heart. I lived in a weekly accountability covenant group with him for a time when we both served in the Jackson District.

Does Randy have the experience of time on the cabinet that other candidates have? No. But so what? Neither did Ken Carder. And our conference has not had a spiritual leader of his kind since. And God knows we need one.

There've been candidates elected preeminently qualified within the system to be bishop, but nary an imagination of any prophetic substance. Systemic experience isn't a sufficient barometer.

System stuff can be learned.
A faithful heart for Christ lived with integrity cannot. You either have it, or you don't. Randy does.

A final admission.
While a delegate must vote as their conscience dictates, to not vote for the candidate from your conference seems to me, in the words my mother uses when something seems just a bit off, to be "tacky." It's just poor form. There's nothing theological about that. It just begs the question, "why?"

Well, there it is. Some thoughts about what happened, as I understood it, and what was driving me, which time at the mic doesn't allow. I hope that clears anything left unclear about my part in this.

In the meantime, I offer prayers for all delegates and candidates for the days ahead. I offer prayers especially for our episocopal area and the leadership we must have in this next iteration of our life together.

Dispatches from Renewal Leave: Witness, Part I

It was Wednesday of our week in New York before I saw Leslie. 

She had come into the city with the family from Sweden, her son and his friend, to take in a matinee of "Wicked."

Kristy and I were attending the matinee of "The Best Man.". Wow, what a show with a veritable murderer's row for a cast - James Earl Jones, Angela Landsbury, John Laroquette, Eric McCormick, Candace Bergan, Michael McKean - unreal, and while the 3rd row seats were an admitted splurge, it was something to see. 

Leslie told us to meet them at the West Bank Cafe, just off the theater district. Leslie's husband, Victor, is an actor, and this is a favorite spot of his. Kristy and I got there first and had time to sit at the bar to take in the atmosphere.

I wasn't at all anxious about the dinner.  I was excited, hopeful even.

She walked in several minutes later with her party.  Her gait was familiar.  In fact I recognized her by her walk as she came in before I could make out her features inside the darkened restaurant.  Making my way toward her from the bar she noticed me coming toward her.  Hugs, introductions, oohs and ahhs of how we look given the time that's past...and to our table we went.

I was taken by how quickly she and I struck back up after these many years.  It was minutes...almost instantly.  It was as if we'd all gone through a semester break and were back at Hogwarts as the new year begins.  

It is a wondrous thing when there are relationships like that.  I have a few.  I cherish them all.  Certain people operate at the same frequency.  We may look and act differently.  We may come from different places.  But when placed in proximity with one another there is resonance.  It is immediate and undeniable.  Leslie and I resonate.  Years of distance didn't matter.  The current moment did.

Shortly after taking to our table, Victor arrived after having spent the day at work filming an upcoming HBO movie.  As interested as I was in meeting a working actor, I was even more curious to meet the man who married my friend.  Leslie is a formidable woman ( I seem to associate myself with such people - - throughout my life).  It was going to take a particular spirit to honor her nature and while building a life of meaning.  

Our dinner was wonderful.  We didn't linger in small talk.  Rather, the comfort we found at table in our fellowship was as satisfying as the food we shared.  Their son and his friend were charming (the friend was offering to work me a deal for Mets or Yankees tickets..."no problem, I know people.")  The young women from Sweden were there.  Camilla and Martina, beautiful young women who had come to New York for the week to see the city and to meet family they never knew they had, were open and curious about everything, even stangers from Tennessee.  They took this photo around the dinner table.

Having been aware that the moment of meeting was just a few days away, I felt the need to be certain with Victor that Kristy and I were welcomed to be there.  Neither of us wanted to be instrusive on what was so obviously a time of great signficance in this family's life.   What the dinner confirmed in me was what I think I already knew.  Leslie and I resonate.  Leslie and Victor resonate.  The transitive property of equality (that's right, I used a mathematics reference) dictates that Victor and I would, too.  Not only were we welcomed to be a part of the evening to come, I got the sense the Victor was glad to have someone witness it. 

It was indeed a night of confirmations. 
Some relationships transend time.
Among the things I've done in my quest of this past year in pursuit of wholeness is to do that which I've never given myself permission to do before - tie the disparate chapters of my life together.  No longer sequestered from one another, it is the unity of them as a whole entity that defines me.

The relationships I've been able to touch and re-engage prove to me so powerfully that resonance is real.  Any regret I feel for not having pursued this earlier in life is mitigated by the joy I feel now in having done so.  But when you're lost in the wilderness, how do you even know where to begin to find your way out?  

Answer?  You take a step.  Both literally and spiritually, you take a step.  And I've taken many in the past year.  Sometimes those steps are as close as the street outside your door.  Sometimes it means you catch a bus at the Port Authority into Jersey to observe a sacramental moment - one of profound grace and power, the moment that says, in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "Goodness is stronger than evil."

Or as I come to think of it, love wins...always.

Next Dispatch from Renewal Leave:  Witness, Part II