god’s work isn’t done by god. it’s done by people.

oh, right. there was another part of christmas eve that i forgot to write about.

over vacations, i like to work at an independent bookstore in bernal heights. i used to work there regularly before teaching, but now i don’t have the time or energy– except during long breaks from school. since it’s my “fake job,” it doesn’t feel like work as much as just a fun thing to do. the only part that feels like work is waking up and getting there. once i’m there, i have a great time shelving books, talking to customers, making me to-read list even longer.

i’ve got another friend who works in retail around here, but it’s her real job and it’s a bigger store. not just a little neighborhood bookstore with loyal customers, but a department store downtown. as i was leaving my shift at 3 on christmas eve, i texted her something about being in the home stretch.

she didn’t respond until i was walking down 24th to the christmas pageant. i felt my phone buzz and looked to see she had sent me a text message that said, “dead god.”

it turns out that she meant dear god, but from a large retail perspective, christmas eve is about as “dead god” as you can get. not only is god dead, but you’re about there, too. i remember when i worked at jo-ann fabrics and crafts, etc. just how soul-sucking it all is.

and that’s the irony of the season that we all know. christmas corporate retail may be the biggest reason for atheism there is. “THIS is how we celebrate god’s birthday!? f*** that. if he was real, he wouldn’t let this happen for any reason, let alone for him.”

so, i laughed a lot out there on 24th, about getting “dead god” text message on my way to a christmas pageant. but then, that christmas pageant, with it’s men in angel wings and a real live baby for jesus, reminded me of the aliveness of god. in fact, there was a line that we in the congregation said, “christ has died, christ is risen, christ will come again,” which can metaphorically describe that paradoxical moment, the paradoxical moment we all live in every day. every day we are killing christ, and every day… we can be christ.

after i got home from the pageant, i discovered that the issue of “western friend” i was about to read had a big section on the occupy movement. and from someone who is either not called to actively participate in that movement or who is too lazy… i see that christ aliveness in the occupy movement.

we always say that if we had been there, we would have been right there with jesus, or we would have fought the nazis, and then there are those moments where we realize we might have just been cozily at home instead. would that have been a moral failing then, and is it a moral failing now? or is that the wrong question?

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tonight, i followed my recent christmas tradition of visiting a new church for one of their holiday services. a few years ago, i managed to pack in 3 services in one christmas, but this year it will just be the one. i’m not going to make it to meeting tomorrow, even.

tonight’s service was at a church in noe valley called holy innocents. i started my decision-making process based on churches that would be near where i was today and that had an early evening service that wasn’t at 5:00 because I wouldn’t be able to make it for that. i found 3 churches that fit those criteria, via google, and then i decided on this one, because it was a christmas pageant and because the website invites you to come early so you can get a costume.

as i walked through the mission at 5:30, i marveled at all the things that were closed. there was sort of a nice hush over things. i have mixed feelings about holidays, but i like moments that are set aside for coziness, nonetheless. i know it probably sucks for a lot of people who don’t celebrate christmas, but the idea of everyone being still on some level is appealing to me. perhaps that is judeochristianically oppressive of me…

the pageant was wonderful. it not only told the story of the birth in the manger, but also the story of the first christmas pageant, which they attributed to francis of assisi, and we all got to be involved, in costume or not. i was a strange stranger, in my bright yellow bert sweatshirt, with an ill-placed coffee stain on my pants, and a “michelle obama, first lady of fabulous” totebag, but i still felt welcome.

ever since christopher hitchens died, i’ve been doing some extra thinking about religion. it actually happened as i was starting karen armstrong’s the case for god, and if you know me, you know i’m a much bigger fan of armstrong than of hitchens. the way i think of it is that armstrong and hitchens are in opposite camps, not because one believes in god and the other didn’t, but because of their very different conceptions of what god even means and what the debate over religion is really about. because to me christopher hitchens and “the religious right” are on the same side, because they think god is about going to heaven and believing in impossible things. but for me, and from what i’ve read by armstrong, for her as well, god is about living in such a way that the kingdom of god can be here and believing in god is more about trusting in the possibility of that world. and that kingdom/world is not about others going to hell but about merciful, inclusive love and justice…

one of the ways to bring about that world involves discipline, as i am reminded over and over again by armstrong’s tracing of the history of faith. at one of my first quaker meetings, robin m. spoke about discipline. at the time, i thought she was being too hard on herself about whatever it was she was speaking about, and smugly thought discipline wasn’t that important. but the thing with god, for me, i think, is that… things can be fine without god, actually, but they are so much better with god (like sex and love). there is some anne lamott quote, i think, about how god is sort of found by accident, but prayer makes you accident-prone. and so that’s where the discipline part comes in. i’ve been using a method of prayer i found in a book by brent bill recently, and even though i’ve been extra-aware lately of my lack of discipline, i think i’m getting better.

as a quaker and as a liberal, i have mixed feelings about holidays. as a quaker because everyday is sacramental and as a liberal because our society’s main form of christianity is pretty oppressive. and then there’s the whole commercialism aspect etc. but man, i love light in the darkness. as a weak, undisciplined human i love it. every christmas tree in a window makes me smile, every christmas song on the radio (except “do they know it’s christmas,” ugh) makes my toes wiggle, and i’m wearing a red-and-green set of pajamas right now.

anyway, before i left the church, i took a final restroom break before getting on the bart to go home. the toilet paper was running out, and so i hunted down a new roll. and i thought about how sometimes that better, kingdom-of-heaven world that is possible, gets it start from small moments of discipline, like the ministry of putting on a new roll. that sounds potentially sardonic, but i don’t mean anything disrespectful. i mean, respecting the next stranger who comes along, having no idea who they will be.

the three new stages of cubbie.

1) i’ve reached a new stage in my transition.

now, when i make eye contact with and smile at men, they look at me funny.

i have no idea what to do with that, especially in light of that whole “walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of god in everyone” thing.

how do i live my gender & my faith and not get punched in the face? how is it that the traits that i’m cultivating in my quaker life have already been socialized into me via the gender i was raised in– listening, caring, smiling at people in the street? is quaker essentially feminine? (WHAT DOES THAT MEAN ANYWAY!?) and then, also, why are there so many more men in my meeting than women? is that across the board in quakerism?

2) i’ve reached a new stage in my quakerism.

i went to the war anniversary march and rally on wednesday evening. most of the local quakers had participated in civil disobedience (or holy obedience as someone said today) in the morning, but because of work, i couldn’t do that. but a few of us were able to meet at the evening event.

there weren’t a lot of us, but i think it was good that we were there. i think it was good for us, and also good for the atmosphere to have us still and silent and peaceful at this rally where people were proclaiming that need for the end of war “by any means necessary.”

for me, the most incredible experience was when a man came up to me and talked. at first i was very nervous, because i wasn’t sure if i would be clear or correct, or if i would make myself and/or quakers look stupid. so instead i just listened to him. he had a lot to say, and i smiled (and made eye contact) and nodded and made sympathetic faces and noises, and i didn’t say anything. he talked for awhile, and then clamped me on the shoulder and said he felt better.

i said, “thank you.”

that was one of those “yeah, i’m a quaker and i’m so glad” moments.

3) i’ve reached a new stage in my theology.

quakers don’t do holidays, because we’re supposed to be living those holidays all the time.

but i also think there is a human need for holidays and remembrances and things. to remind us. maybe we should always remember, but it’s nice to be reminded.

i particularly get the winter holidays. how else would we get through winter without hopeful feasts of light and love?

it’s funny that i get them, because i grew up in florida. and i attribute my florida childhood to the reason why spring holidays don’t move me as much. light in the darkness grabs me more than the gradual entrance of surrounding light. part of it is that i’ve got horrible flower allergies, so i meet spring with some nervousness, dread, and pain each year.

AND, as i’ve been contemplating jesus and the meaning of his life, i’ve gotten stuck at that last bit. that death and resurrection bit. i’ve known it as a story from my childhood that means something on a deep level to many people– and there death has made sense, but the idea of a literal resurrection has been such a block for me that i haven’t been able to figure out the metaphor.

and then last night, during the young adult quaker movie night, we watched “portrait of a radical” from the series “crisis of faith.” it was about jesus and his life and what it meant. and i don’t think it was said, but suddenly something clicked and i could understand the resurrection as that amazing realization that jesus’s life and spirit didn’t end with his death. which is something i’ve been contemplating lately anyway– how to live a christlike life and stuff… and so the joy of realizing that sort of resurrection made sense.

it’s interesting because for me, my own easter happens over halloween. the anniversary of my father’s death and being faced with the world’s mockery of death brings me to a place of reflection about the power of life and love. i mourn over his self-destruction and remember that there can be so much more for me. i don’t have to drown in myself and the world. i can keep going, keep loving, keep living.

it’s not exactly the same of course. my father is not christ, my own human potential is not what easter is about, but the sense of transformation is similar, i think.

our goal should be to figure out our role within the context of the whole

my therapist said, “you were unpopular growing up, of course you like having such an accepting spiritual community.”

this was in february or something. it sticks with me in the paranoid moments. she didn’t exactly phrase it that way, like, “i know this fact about you that i’m going to bring up as you are telling me a joy,” which is what it looks like. we were just talking about this or that, and then she brought up that or this.

if god is love is community, and i want community because i was lonely once, where does that leave god?

but not always. because it’s not always that simple.

i finished the rob bell book, and in fact it did get all “marriage is between one man and one woman.” it never got “and so not two men or two women or 5 people of various genders and definitely no intersex people or trannies.” but it seemed strongly implied.

and sometimes his descriptions of love and holiness were so Good and right on and just right, and so i want to scream at his smug way of sliding past me and slamming the door.

because no matter who i become, what i look like, how much i pass, who i’m with, i’m still queer, and i think of that as a blessing. i like that part of me. in the same way that i like the weird ways my middle fingers bend away from each other and the color of my eyes and my musical taste. it’s how i fit here. and i’m not about who i sleep with or how i identify, but it’s still there.

dear rob bell, how is it that the way that i love less holy because i can’t make babies?

dear god, and why is it that i can’t make babies?

i saw juno on christmas night. i went to the swedenborgian church and st. gregory’s episcopalian on christmas eve night, and then i went to the quaker meeting and the potluck after that and then i went home and i sat down on my bed, and then i remembered i’d wanted to see juno at some point and so why not now. the secret is that as i was sitting at meeting, i was getting some mean menstrual cramps because i’ve been taking progesterone this week to get some stuff out of my system that’s been building up for the past year. so going to a movie about a pregnant teenager on christmas while i was bleeding was surreal on a whole lot of levels. i’ve got a bad case of baby fever, and the film didn’t help.

there was a point to this other than some sort of weird “this is what a tranny’s life is like sometimes” moment, but it’s true. sometimes, you feel weird and unnatural because you are putting the hormones that your body would naturally be producing in your body instead of the ones that feel much more right. and you ask yourself a lot of questions about that, especially if you’re me. but i’ve had this minor crazy feeling this past week. all unsettled and off and crazy. and it’s reaffirmed my trans identity, even though there’s a part of me that is viewing it as ridiculous. how is it that i only feel at home here (here=in my body) when it’s got this stuff in it that my body does not make (or makes in lower doses?). i don’t know. but that is the state of things right now.

charles gave me a photocopying task this week. he knew that i wasn’t working at the school and so he offered to pay me for photocopying this beautiful old book of edward burroughs’ works. it was published in 1660something (i think 1662) and has all those beautiful elements– multi-sized fonts, the long s that looks like an f, the slight indentations from the printing. and misnumbering like crazy. 346, 347, 843, 349…. 561, 572, 573, 564, 565… etc. but it always eventually sorted itself out and the numbering was correct again. is there a metaphor in this?

i did not do the photocopying in quaker silence. i broke out my ipod (someone abandoned a charger cord at my house just before i moved in and we’ve officially declared it unclaimed, so when i have access to a computer, i can charge mine!), and listened to some of my favorite things that i haven’t heard in ages. kimya dawson, the mountain goats, christina aguilera’s back to basics, the idlewild soundtrack, le tigre’s “keep on livin'”! and i danced! and i turned the pages, gently pressing them down against the glass as i bobbed my head and kicked my feet, and i thought about joy and life and love and how much i like liking myself. how much i like “keep on living” because it reminds you that you are worth something, even when you don’t need to be reminded. how much i like the mountain goats because they are always so sad and yet there is something hopeful there. how much i like kimya, because her music and her life are these giant inspirations because she’s been through shit and she’s still here and she wants to give people what she’s learned because it’s important. because the world is beautiful and we have to remember that.

and then i got home and i looked at my livejournal, and there was an entry from kimya about hitting 9 years of sobriety. and i thought about how hard it is to live, to not self-destruct sometimes, and how grateful i am to not be there right now. and if god is love is community and that is how we survive and how we thrive, what more is there? what more can there be but the things that make us remember why we are alive? except then it got so so so sad because someone she knew died and and and… that is part of life too. part of living and loving life and getting through it and pushing past the self-destruction is learning and relearning and relearning that there are people that will stay there and eventually they will leave and it’s not your fault and it hurts.

and where does self-help end and religion start? of course it is god, but when god is love is community BUT also those moments of deep deep aloneness that is not aloneness that is indescribable but is part of yourself… what is it? what is it what is it what is it?

this past week’s on faith question is about hr 847, the house resolution about christmas. i read starhawk’s response today and found it to be a very loving but challenging answer, going into what christmas is and what it means and how our current politics reflect that meaning… or don’t. the comments were also interesting, too.

that’s all. good night.

Published in: on 30 December, 2007 at 12:35 am  Comments (4)  

so this is what the volume knob’s for.

i’m reading sex god by rob bell right now. among other things. i read a lot of things at once. not at once exactly, but they’ve got bookmarks in them. i open them at least once a week.

rob bell is the guy who does the nooma videos, which robin m. introduced to our meeting about a year ago. they’re a mix of earnest and too clean, but they were definitely thought-provoking. it’s been exciting to read a book by him, even when i feel a bit like i’m being played. as someone who came to see a few of the nooma movies with us said, “this isn’t a movie; it’s a sermon.” and there are aspects of sermons that you learn from and there are parts where you just watch the person’s attempt to teach you and that distracts from your ability to hear it.

anyway, sex god is about sex and god. and in general, it’s smart and loving, two things i like in my sermons. but i was about midway through, and i was noticing a distinct lack of mention of homosexuality. and i got really curious, so i decided to go on the internet and google the words “rob” and “bell” and “homosexuality.”

and then i found myself in the magical land of homophobia! *sigh* not exactly the best way to end christmas night. i forget that people think this way sometimes. i forget that love is lost and forgotten, joy is completely out of the question, and bible-based self-righteous rage is all that is left.

and i am so permeable and malleable still. and that was the first i ever heard of homosexuality really. not from my family. my dad made some gay jokes, but i didn’t know that’s what they were. but when i was in high school and depressed anyway and then starting to come out and then suddenly BAM, i heard that the way i was feeling was a straight road to hell. and i’m having a mean ol’ case of baby fever these days, and the echoes of the way that traditional baby having is not possible in my case (and there is relief, of course. it’s a lot harder for queers to get accidentally pregnant than it is for straight people. but it also hurts.). and it was, you know, the middle of the night, and i just couldn’t stop reading, curling further into that high school angst and sadness.

but at some point fortunately, i remembered joy. i remembered it as something bigger than what was being talked about. i remembered that there might be words written that say that things that feel Right to me are Wrong, but that my gauge of Rightness vs. Wrongness is the joy in it. there is love where i live and it’s better for me than following rules that hurt. and that’s what i know.

in san francisco, there’s a group that’s called gay shame. they do a lot of anarchist action and graffiti and one day i saw a sign they’d made that said, “fags hate god.” and it was so obvious. if all you know is that god hates you, all you’re going to do is hate god. but… for me at least… there’s joy in god too. god is all truth and queerness is part of my understanding of truth. god is in my queerness. hating one is hating the other.

oh, right, back to rob bell. all i could find out from my reading is that no one knows what he thinks about homosexuality. that he keeps being vague about it. the people who sounded so angry were angry because it implied softness. i’m just nervous because not knowing is worse than knowing the worst. not that i need rob bell’s endorsement, but you know, when you’re reading a person’s books about how sex and god are linked, you kind of want to make sure you have the same definitions of sex.

Published in: on 27 December, 2007 at 2:12 am  Leave a Comment