Marriage Equality

I believe that every citizen – regardless of race, ethnicity, social and economic status, religion, non-religion, gender, or sexual orientation – should have the exact same rights as every other citizen – including the right for consenting adults to marry whom they love.

This month my husband and I will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. Every year about this time I find myself thinking back to that happy day and the days leading up to it.

You know those shows you see on television where the bride spends HUGE amounts of time, thought, and bucks choosing the just right ring, dress, caterer, flowers, music, photographer, and reception venue for her “big day” – those shows where every minute detail of the wedding production is analyzed, critiqued, and judged for its merits on visual perfection? Where the ceremony is somber and refined and the highlight of the whole shebang is the dress the bride wears?

Yeah. That wasn’t us.

My engagement ring was a little garnet ring I picked out from a small jewelry shop in Pike Place Market in Seattle, and the man who sold it to us was cheerfully, flamboyantly, hilariously gay – he had us cracking up the minute we walked into his shop. My wedding dress was the first dress I tried on from the sales rack at our local Bon Marche. Cost me $120. Our minister was a hoot – we’d met with him for a required counseling session, and when he told us that anything he had to say to us would be pretty much useless at this point – because it’s really only AFTER the wedding that the bride and groom realize what they’ve gotten themselves into (we later learned that he’d just recently been divorced), we immediately recognized the man had a sense of humor, and he was, for sure, the minister we wanted officiating our nuptials.

The wedding was a joyful, light-hearted affair in a small Methodist church in Gig Harbor – I remember the minister asking us if we really wanted to hold the service in his church – it was very small – could maybe hold 100 people – and very old (it’s since been torn down and a larger church built in a different location) – but, for our purposes, that little church was perfect – I liked the cozy smallness of it and the stained glass windows – and from the church’s steps we could look out across the water and see Mount Rainier rising above the hills in the distance. The wedding itself was simple, joyful, and natural. We weren’t too concerned with “perfection” – we just wanted our guests to feel comfortable and loved. The reception was held in my parents’ backyard – with the sound of laughter, and the smell of daffodils and plum blossoms, filling the air. And we played volleyball in the pasture – the groom’s team won, but it was a close game.

The minister came to the reception, and fit right in with our hooligan families and friends. Before he left he told us that sometimes he’s really worried about the future of the newlyweds he marries – they often seem more concerned about the wedding than the actual marriage – but, after watching us yukking it up with our families and friends, he felt good about being a part of our ceremony. He knew we were going to be alright. We knew how to laugh.

When I think about that day, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to deny other people the right to a wedding, and to a life-long commitment in marriage with the partner they love. I can’t understand why any heterosexual couple would feel their own marriage is threatened by giving homosexuals the same rights that they have. I feel a real yearning for other folks who love one another, and are brave enough to make a commitment to each other, to be allowed to have what my husband and I were allowed to have.

***

“Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.” –
from the chapter titled ‘Marriage’ in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

wedding photo

Karen and Scott Terrell, 3-31-1984. Photo by Bob Harbison.

Abortion

Warning: This one is of a political nature. 

I have noticed at least one politician who brings up abortions whenever his approval ratings drop. The word “abortion” seems to bring an instant knee-jerk reaction from people – they immediately fall into lock-step behind him. All the other things that need attention – global warming, mass shootings, poverty, homelessness, and national security – are put aside. People seem willing to throw out the Constitution and the well-being of their fellow citizens for this one issue alone.

I’ve never had an abortion. I’ve never been in a situation where I might have to make that choice: Both my pregnancies were planned; The pregnancies didn’t endanger my health or life; The sons were seen to be thriving and whole in the womb. My pregnancies were full of joyful anticipation. I could see my sons moving around on the screen – could see their little hands and feet moving and their hearts beating – and they were both very real to me. I can understand the feelings anti-choice people have about abortion, and I can relate to those feelings.

But I have empathy, too, for women who might find themselves in circumstances different than mine – I can imagine the gut-wrenching despair and heartache a woman might feel if she found herself in a position where she had to make this choice. I have had friends who had to make this choice for themselves and none of them celebrated abortions – there wasn’t wild rejoicing and laughter and applause. None of them approached this choice without deep reflection and thought. For each of them it was a somber, serious, sorrowful time in their lives.

No one should view another woman’s pregnancy cavalierly – like pregnancy and childbirth are just small blips in a woman’s life. Women die from pregnancies. Women die from childbirth. And to force a woman to go through a pregnancy that might endanger her health, or cause her death, is unthinkable to me. To force any woman to go through a pregnancy without consideration for her feelings and needs is just wrong. It’s not my place – or anyone else’s – to take control of another woman’s body and choose how it’s going to be used. Her body doesn’t belong to me, or to you.

Yeah, I admit I have sometimes found myself making judgments on women who have had multiple abortions, or who choose to have an abortion rather than give up their dream for a new car or a trip to the Bahamas or whatever. But I’m not proud of that. When we, as a society, start trying to add certain restrictions about who can get an abortion and who can’t and for what reasons, we’re making the right to get an abortion a subjective thing, rather than a medical procedure. Who am I to decide what reasons are good enough to allow a woman to have an abortion, and what reasons are not? All women should have the right to have control over their own bodies. And my personal biases – and yours – shouldn’t enter into the discussion.

Should there be laws that protect a sentient life from harm? Absolutely! And there are laws that do this. No state allows for murder. No state allows for infanticide. Any claims to the contrary are wrong.

Do I post this? Or do I not?
Okay, here goes..

“Cool! What is that?”

“The weapons of bigotry, ignorance, envy, fall before an honest heart.” 
– Mary Baker Eddy

I didn’t usually tell people right away – and certainly not the men I dated. I always thought it was better if they got to know me first as a human being. Sometimes it took months for me to tell my friends. Sometimes years. Sometimes the moment never came. I have friends who maybe STILL don’t know. After a number of early experiences, I’d come to the realization that some people would see me differently as soon as they found out. In the past I’d had all kinds of labels attached to me that weren’t really me – I’d been instantly lumped in with fundamentalists and creationists; with people who speak in tongues and handle snakes; with dominionists and faith healers and fire-and-brimstone folks. When one friend – who’d known me for years – finally found out, she’d asked me if I would just leave her bleeding and injured on a sidewalk if she was hit by a car. Which. What…?!

So I guess it says something about Scott that I told him on our first date. I no longer remember how the subject came up, but I found myself saying, “I’m a Christian Scientist.” I guess I half-expected an awkward pause after my reveal, but Scott quickly responded with, “Oh! That’s cool.” Then he glanced over at me, and asked, “What’s that?” 🙂

Turns out he’d never heard of Christian Science! And that was AWESOME – it meant I could explain what it was all about from my own perspective, without any preconceived ideas on his part. I can’t remember now exactly what I said – I probably talked about the Christian Science idea of God as the power and presence of Love; I probably talked about how I had experienced healings in my life by drawing my thoughts close to this power of Love.  And as I talked he listened and nodded and accepted me. He shared some of his own thoughts about God – he’d been raised in the United Methodist tradition of New England and he, too, had been raised to believe in a loving God who cared for His children. He understood the beliefs I was describing, and accepted me as “me” right away.

Scott and I have never had a need to “convert” each other – to try to make each other hold the exact same religious beliefs. If asked, he’d probably still say he was a Methodist. If asked, I’d probably still say I was a Christian Scientist. But beyond religion, we share the same values – we both believe in the power of kindness. We both believe we should be generous to those in need; fair and honest in our dealings with others; and protective of our natural environment. We both believe we shouldn’t be quick to make judgments about others.

It’s been thirty-six years now since I  had that first conversation with Scott. Through all that time he’s continued to be supportive of me and my practice of Christian Science. I am so grateful for him, and for people like him – people who approach others with open minds and hearts – ready to listen and share and learn from each other – people able to go past stereotypes and see the individuals behind the labels.

what people think I do

A Change in the Air

I felt it this morning – a lightness, a lifting –
a change in the air. A peace that hasn’t been there
for a long time now – a couple of years. A shifting
of the heart from doubt to hope.
This is what it looks like – no balloons or parades –
just smiling people greeting each other
in the sunshine and a pigeon
stretching her wings.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Pigeon Takes flight

A pigeon in Bellingham, Washington. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

 

Here’s what would be really cool…

Here’s what would be really cool, I think. If egos would take a back seat. If people weren’t branded as the “winners” and the “losers” in every political machination. If it wasn’t all about taking credit and laying blame. If regular people weren’t treated as pawns. If it could just be about… you know… actually helping people – helping the homeless, the oppressed, and the vulnerable . Saving the environment. Doing the right thing. Being kind. Being honest. Being decent. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Alrighty. That is all. Carry on then…

kind-people-unite

*Becoming* by Michelle Obama

Becoming touched my heart. It made me cry, it made me laugh, and it made me remember the pride I felt in America when we came together to make something amazing happen. In an odd way, reading Becoming – a book that recounts the author’s past – renews my hope in the future. I figure if Americans can come together to elect Barack Obama for our president, we have the potential to do great things in the future, too.

Michelle Obama is a wonderful writer – a natural. Reading her book feels like sitting down at the dining room table with her and talking with her about the things that women friends talk about when they’re together – the experiences of being a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a career woman – and how we juggle all of that.

I feel like I know Michelle Obama now. Like she’s a friend. I’m so glad she’s taken the time to write Becoming and to define, herself, who she is – rather than to give that power to others.

***

“I confessed then to the Queen that my feet were hurting. She confessed that hers hurt, too. We looked at each other then with identical expressions, like, *When is all this standing around with world leaders going to finally wrap up?* And with this, she busted out with a fully charming laugh.

“Forget that she sometimes wore a diamond crown and that I’d flown to London on the presidential jet; we were just two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“That was how we talked about bullies. When I was a kid, it was easy to grasp: Bullies were scared people hiding inside scary people.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“Everyone on earth, they’d tell us, was carrying around an unseen history, and that alone deserved some tolerance.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“I’ve been lucky enough now in my life to meet all sorts of extraordinary and accomplished people… What I’ve learned is this: All of them have had doubters. Some continue to have roaring, stadium-sized collections of critics and naysayers who will shout *I told you so* at every little misstep or mistake. The noise doesn’t go away, but the most successful people I know have figured out how to live with it, to lean on the people who believe in them, and to push onward with their goals.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“You had only to look around at the faces in the room to know that despite their strengths these girls would need to work hard to be seen…I knew they’d have to push back against the stereotypes that would get put on them, all the ways they’d be defined before they’d had a chance to define themselves. They’d need to fight the invisibility that comes with being poor, female, and of color. They’d have to work to find their voices and not be diminished, to keep themselves from getting beaten down. They would have to work just to learn.

“But their faces were hopeful, and now so was I. For me it was a strange, quiet revelation: They were me, as I’d once been. And I was them, as they could be. The energy I felt thrumming in that school had nothing to do with obstacles. It was the power of nine hundred girls striving.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“One day in San Antonio, Texas, I noticed a minor commotion in the hallway of the military hospital I was visiting. Nurses shuffled urgently in and out of the room I was about to enter. ‘He won’t stay in bed,’ I heard someone whisper. Inside, I found a broad-shouldered young man from rural Texas who had multiple injuries and whose body had been severely burned. He was in clear agony, tearing off the bedsheets and trying to slide his feet to the floor.

“It took us a minute to understand what he was doing. Despite his pain, he was trying to stand up and salute the wife of his commander in chief.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“I was getting worn out, not physically, but emotionally. The punches hurt, even if I understood that they had little to do with who I really was as a person. It was as if there were some cartoon version of me out there wreaking havoc, a woman I kept hearing about but didn’t know – a too-tall, too-forceful, ready-to-emasculate Godzilla of a political wife named Michelle Obama.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“I was used to it by now – his devotion to the never-finished task of governing. For years, the girls and I had shared Barack with his constituents, and now there were more than 300 million of them. Leaving him alone in the Treaty Room at night, I wondered sometimes if they had any sense of how lucky they were.

“The last bit of work he did, usually at some hour past midnight, was to read letters from American citizens… He read letters from soldiers. From prison inmates. From cancer patients struggling to pay health-care premiums and from people who’d lost their homes to foreclosure. From gay people who hoped to be able to legally marry and from Republicans who felt he was ruining the country. From moms, grandfathers, and young children. He read letters from people who appreciated what he did and from others who wanted to let him know he was an idiot.

“He read all of it, seeing it as part of the responsibility that came with the oath. He had a hard and lonely job – the hardest and loneliest in the world, it often seemed to me – but he knew that he had an obligation to stay open, to shut nothing out. While the rest of us slept, he took down the fences and let everything inside.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

 

Spinning Heads and Pea Soup

(Originally published in 2013. Excerpted from The Madcap Christian Scientist: All Things New.)

I’ve never seen The Exorcist, but I have seen that scene with the pea soup and the spinning head – and lately I’ve seemed to encounter a lot of what I would put in the “pea soup and spinning head” category. There have been times, recently, when personalities have seemed to spin themselves out of alignment with the individuals they really are, spewing out all kinds of hell – anger, frustration, jealousy, fear, revenge, hatred, finger-pointing. And I’m embarrassed to say that on at least a couple occasions at the beginning of the week I myself was the spewer – feeling really angry and hurt that someone who had scorned me and treated me unfairly had managed to get himself promoted to a position of even greater power.

It none of it felt good.

But something became really obvious to me a couple days ago when I came across yet another spewing spinner in a conversation on a discussion board.  I found myself just stepping back and kind of observing in interested fascination as the pea soup flew and the vitriol sprayed my direction.  The pea soup and vitriol were so over-the-top and spewed so high in the air that it simply erupted above the spewer’s head and ended up landing back on her.  It didn’t touch me at all. And, standing there on the outside of the mess, it became really clear to me that the spinning, spewing personality was not at all the real individuality of my fellow poster. It was obvious that what I had just witnessed was nothing but a spinning, spewing counterfeit of the real man and woman, made in God’s likeness – made in the likeness of Love.  And it also became clear to me that I had no desire or need to spend my time engaged in conversation with a counterfeit. I was able to step back and move on and find other interesting dialogues that better served me.  I didn’t give the counterfeit the power to push me OUT of a space where I belonged, and nor did I give the counterfeit the power to pull me INTO a space where I didn’t belong. I didn’t have to react or respond to the counterfeit at all.

This encounter with the counterfeit poster, helped me come to terms with my feelings of anger and wish for vengeance towards the personality who had treated me so poorly in the past and been promoted. I had to recognize that the real man is the child of God – that God loves him no less than he loves me – and that God is instructing him, and leading him down his own path in life, with its own lessons waiting for him. And none of that is any of my business.

My business is keeping watch on my own thoughts and actions. Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Christian Science commands man to master the propensities, – to hold hatred in abeyance with kindness, to conquer lust with chastity, revenge with charity, and to overcome deceit with honesty. Choke these errors in their early stages, if you would not cherish an army of conspirators against health, happiness, and success.”

As Paul says, we all must work out our “own salvation.”  It’s rewarding work. It’s satisfying work. And it’s also enough work to fill my moments and my days for eternity. Who has time to worry about working out someone ELSE’s flaws and foibles, when I have enough of my own to worry about?

Spinning heads and pea soup, be gone!

“Evil is nothing, no thing, mind, nor power.  As manifested by mankind it stands for a lie, nothing claiming to be something, – for lust, dishonesty, selfishness, envy, hypocrisy, slander, hate, theft, adultery, murder, dementia, insanity, inanity, devil, hell, with all the etceteras that word includes.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

“Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

“Love has no sense of hatred.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

Universal Love