A Prayer for Moving On

By: Autumn Elizabeth

I am getting ready to move on again. I am moving from one European country to another. Leaving friends I love behind, hoping to meet new ones. During times like these, you know, the stressful ones, full of bittersweet emotions and a need to let go, I find myself turning to prayer. So here is a prayer I wrote to help me move on, from a bad situation, or a good one. It is about movement and about change.

 

A Prayer for Moving On

Dear Spirit of Movement,

Let me embrace the new movements in my life,
help me release the past’s grip on me,
so that I may find space to embrace a new future.
Bless my new path with relationships that sustain me,
wisdom to guide me,
and love to empower me.
Help me find the strength to move on,
from this place, from this time,
into the bright unknown that is my future.

Amen.

All are Welcome

By: Autumn Elizabeth

This is a story that is quite personal.  It involves my home church, and our struggle together to witness the equality God has shown us. This is not a story with a happy ending, or a story that is meant to chastised. This is the story about how I asked my church to marry me, and how this request was denied.  This is a story about what it means to ask for radical welcome.

When I joined the Disciples of Christ Christian church, I left behind a church where, as a woman, I was seen as unequal, and where I couldn’t embrace me whole self. Living now, far away from the home church that denied me the nothing except the one thing I asked for aloud I have come to face the heart breaking reality that although I still firmly believe in a Jesus who would have fought the police at Stonewall and a God that suffered along side Matthew Shepard, my faith in humanity finds itself on softer ground.

I several years ago, I asked this welcoming church to bless the marriage of my same-sex partner and I. There was hesitation. There was discussion, there was love, there was support, and then there was an answer. That answer was “no”.  The church continued to journey towards a place where that answer might someday be “yes” for someone else. But the truth remains, before I came along, no one stood for me. Before I asked these questions no one asked. Before I argued, no one made a peep. I do not mean to imply that I was alone among my fellow chruch-goers in my sexuality, far from it in fact. But the de facto “don’t ask don’t tell” policy of many christian churches, where LGBTQ people are not shamed, but not welcomed, meant that I had to be the one to ask, and I had to be denied.

My favorite Disciples of Christ quote is etched on the side of my home church. “In essentials, unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things, charity.” Indeed this is the quote most often shown to me as a claim that I must not force any church to be open and affirming of LGBTQ people. Yet, when one looks closely at this argument, it becomes clear that despite the importance of “all are welcome”, welcoming all people, regardless of sexual orientation, or gender identity is actually not essential. Thus, I use this quote to disagree, to advocate that welcoming everyone means equality is essential in the eyes of God.

As long as the single most important essential of disciples doctrine remains “all are welcome”, then in fact, there can be no questioning, no doubt. In all things we must offer charity, we must always have our hearts, our hearths and our doors open. What I offer you, I cannot deny to the person who asks me next. Acceptance of all people, blessing of all unions, welcoming of even our enmities is an essential tenant of Christianity, or at least it is an essential tenant of any Christianity I want to believe in. As people who beleive in the radical love of God, the impossible expanse of God’s welcomeness, we must let everyone participate equally. This radical equality means we must love and accept all who enter our churches’ doors, and it means LGBTQ people must be allows to participate in every ritual of the church. It also means that as LGBTQ people, we cannot deny ourselves access to being full members of our faith groups, nor can we deny ourselves the freedom to be open and honest with our fellow church members about who we are.  Finally, the radical love of God insists on all of us, that we not wait for someone else to ask for justice, whether we are part of LGBTQ communities or not, we all must demand that our faith communities act with justice, act with love, act with radical welcome.

My faith in human nature now rest, as it often does, on the next generation, and in the fact that, despite the outcome of my personal request I have done my part. I have ensure that when the next generation stands, they will not do so alone.  They will be able to look back on this moment, when I asked, you denied me..will you deny them too? They will know that someone, hopefully many someones, have stood up for the radical love that Jesus preached, and asked again and again until their voices were heard, “When will you truly welcome me to the table?”

Strength to Endure

By: Autumn Elizabeth

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I love the Ramones. Their music has always spoken to me, so it is no accident that the title of this post is also a title of one of their songs. I have been honored this past month to see the amazing post about the strength of people around the world to bear burdens, to survive hardships, and to live with grace and laughter. Yet I cannot help but notice, that most of these posts deal, in one way or another, with the burden of womanhood. Since I was a very small girl I have been aware that there are burdens many women know that many men will never face. I have been aware that it requires a special strength in order to endure the label  “girl” and the labels that come with it like “whore”, “sweetheart”, “bitch”. The recent tragic events in Santa Barbara, California, have only made me more aware of what can, and does, happen when patriarchal ideas are taken to a violent extreme.  (For an intelligent summary of this check out Laci Green’s video on Elliot Rodger and the media reaction to this tragedy. It is worth watching but may be quite disturbing for anyone who has a brain and a heart). In light of this, and other tragedies, both personal and global,  it seems that we all must be more aware than ever of the strength it takes live in this world.

But here is what this month has taught me: we women, we who have endured  more than our share for so long, we have the strength to endure. Moreover, I have seen proof that despite tragedy and suffering, the strength of the human spirit, across all genders, sexual orientations, races and religions,  will always endure.  We all have the strength to continue to walk along the  never-ending road toward justice and equality.

Which brings us to this month’s theme of Equality. This month is not just about gender equality, it isn’t just about LGBTQ equality either. This month is about how if we all have the strength we can create of would that treats people with an equal love, equal respect and allows everyone equal rights. So show the world your strength, your commitment to equality and submit now! I, for one, can’t wait to see the hope and strength of spirit this month brings. And let’s all remember the wise words of the Ramones:

I have the strength to endure
And all the love so pure
I have the strength to endure
Because… because…

-The Ramones, Strength to Endure

A Prayer for Strength

 

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Dear Universal Source of Strength,

We pray for the strength to listen to the burdens of others, and the strength to bear burdens of our own.

We ask for help in negotiating the fine line between personal strength and public aggression.

We hope the we show our own strength in the wisest of ways.

We pray for those who must summon strength all too often, those who battle, those whose suffering seems unfairly immense.

We hope that their strength is honored, not exploited.

We ask that you continue to show us the ways we can support the strength in those around us.

We ask for strength that comes from a friend’s hug, a warm cup of tea, and a good meal.

We hope that we find this strong support easily.

We pray for those for whom the strong support of loved ones is not available.

We hope that when we search ourselves for strength in times of trouble, we are able to find it.

We pray that when we cannot find it ourselves, someone does us the kindness of showing us our own strength.

We ask for the wisdom to recognize our own strength, even when it comes in quiet forms.

We pray that the strength of this world, this time, be a strength of compassion, love, and tenderness toward all things.

Amen.

Awakening to the Unity of Grief on Easter

 

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“Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll” –Psalm 56:8 NIV

By: Autumn Elizabeth

This is the first Easter that I won’t call my grandmother. I won’t update her on the sermon I heard, or tell her about which language I said the Our Father. I won’t describe the city I am in, the old church I found, or the breathtaking celebration of Easter I discovered. After years of celebrating Easter all over the globe, this year I will tell my Easter story to no one.

Except, I am not alone in my loneliness. Holidays after losing a loved one are always the hardest. The pain of their absence is keenly felt when we see their empty chair at the decorated table, their empty pew at high mass, the empty entry in our contact log.  This is the part of humanity that becomes general, global, universal. Whether it is Passover or Easter, Eid al-Fitr or Holi, the missing presence of a lost loved one is palpable.

As some point most spiritual quests must deal with death, with loss, with grief. In this way, we as humans are united. Not one of us can live forever, not one of us can avoid loss. As we grieve we must awaken to new possibilities, new life. As we celebrate holidays, we must awaken to our unity despite our differences.

This year as I awaken to a glorious Easter morning, as I attend a beautiful Easter mass in an ancient church, I will grieve the loss of my grandmother, and that grief will unite me with strangers I haven’t met yet, and I will find me someone new with whom I can share my Easter story.

Honoring the Choices of Others

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Today, we start a series of responses to Faith Aloud’s multi-faith Forty Days for Prayer. After looking at the prayers, which are currently being prayed during the Christian season of Lent, we invite you to send us your responses. Today’s post comes for our very own  Autumn Elizabeth.

I have made a lot of choices in my life. I’ve chosen which church to attend as an adult. I’ve chosen which birth control method to use, which people I want as romantic partners, and even which countries to live in. I’ve chosen to make a lot of decisions that other people may not understand. But in every decision, I know that God understands.

The God I know, the Jesus I follow, does not require me to justify my choices to those who do not know me. I am called only to make my choices with my God, and to let the choices of others remain between them and their God.

We can never know the real reasons for the choices of others. Yet, the universe calls us to love, not hostility.

I have chosen to protect the very women today’s prayer honors. I have stood in front of anger, hatred, and violence at abortion clinics and tried my best to project the love of God. That was my choice–to protect the choices of those who I do not know.

So today, I choose again to use my voice, my faith, and my love to shield people from harm.  I pray for the women who must walk through crowds of hostility and anger. I pray that more people will choose to protect everyone’s right to make their own choices with their own God. I pray that we all choose to honor choice with love, respect, and care. 

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Heartbreak, Marriage, and Divorce–Love Embraces It All

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By: Autumn Elizabeth

I’ve been thinking a lot about the life I would have now, if I were still married. I’ve been thinking about all the things in this life I have now I would have missed, and all the things I would have gained. Life isn’t always as simple as we’d like it to be. There isn’t just married and divorced, now and then. Everything bleeds together, and a little bit of the past always seeps out of a broken heart.

I’ve watched people lose everything when partnerships break, and I’ve seen people gain unbelievable freedom, I’ve seen divorce law work against everyone, and marriage inequality leave people without a legal leg to stand on.  I’ve seen the end of a marriage strip people of dignity and faith, and I’ve seen it restore belief.  I’ve seen all this in the lives of others, and in my own life.

I’ve also thought a lot about what it means to move on, to start over, and if that’s even possible. I think for some people moving on involves taking down pictures, and throwing away old love letters. But my elopement celebration pictures are still buried somewhere on Facebook, beneath almost two years of photos from my new life living abroad, but they’re still there. For me, the past doesn’t go away, life just steps in, putting ever more distance between the now and the used to be.

I haven’t forgotten how the refusal of my church to bless my same-sex union tested my faith in religion, but I also remember how the end of that union brought me closer to understanding the ways divine loves works through us all.  Where there is love, there is God, and my life, before and after my divorce, has been filled with love. Heartbreak just made me look at that love differently. Our hearts may be fragile and easy to break, the love of the universe is far sturdier.

Love flows through broken hearts, and wedding vows, it continues whether we erase our past or relish it, whether governments and churches sanctify or vilify it. Love continues even when we doubt its very existence. Love is there, in the smile of a stranger, and the hug of a friend, in the blessings and the break-ups.  Love lives, today and every day, and even the whole world’s collective heartaches can’t break it.

I’ve seen a lot for my time on this planet. I’ve been engaged to my high school sweetheart, I’ve eloped to Paris with a brave Midwestern woman , I’ve had an un-blessed, illegal marriage, and a lawless divorce,  and I’ve moved across an ocean for a new love. Everything bleeds together, the good and bad, the past and the present, the wedding vows and the divorce papers, it all runs together and somehow love embraces it all.

Beginning to Doubt

I’m a doubting Thomas,
I’ll take your promise,
Though I know nothing’s safe.
Oh me of little faith.
–Nickle Creek

Sometimes, it is not easy to live a life of uncertainty, a life of faith.

A few days ago, I got another rejection from a magazine that I had hoped would publish a piece of fiction I wrote, a piece I really believed in, a piece I really thought was good. But now I am beginning to doubt. I am beginning to doubt myself, my calling, my talent and even my faith.

I feel most in-tuned with God when I am writing creatively.  Most of my work as a Christian is tied to my work writing and editing for this very site. So when I start to doubt my writing, I begin to doubt everything.

Faith, like creativity, cannot be proven. I may never know if the God I believe in is real, just as I may never be able to empirically evaluate my talent as a writer or editor.  And just like faith, it doesn’t matter how many times someone else tells me that I am good, or that God exists, if I can’t believe it for myself.

So, one big rejection and I am beginning to doubt it all. Yet, I know as both a writer and a Christian, doubt is as essential as faith. I might even go so far as to say doubt is essential to faith. There are no sweeping comebacks if we don’t fall down.

I think to make sure I am sane, I have to doubt. If I am to continually believe in things that cannot be proven, I think a bit of doubt and perspective might help me decide what I want to believe in, and what might just be too far-fetched.

But the most important thing about my doubt is that I don’t leave it there. I work through the doubt, in my faith, in my writing. Will Donnelly recently asked “What if we were to see it [doubt] as the fire-starter it is?” Indeed, I know that doubt can move me to better places as well as bitter ones.

My goal has never been to have unwavering faith, or constant inspiration. I want my doubt to move me. I want to work through my doubt to something greater. I want to have enough faith in my path, in my God, in myself to keep going with my doubts until the universe stops sending me rejections and rings with a resounding yes.

I often wonder what kind of example of faith I can be, when I question so much. Yet, I know that this is the only way to be an example of what I believe–to be myself, and live my life as I feel called, no matter how ridiculous I look or feel. I must share my doubts, when I have them, and my strength when it finds me.

But for now, it’s just me, here with my doubts and my determination. Just a doubting Thomas, with just a little faith–but that’s just enough to get me to somewhere good.

 

A Prayer for New Beginnings

By: Autumn Elizabeth

As we explore beginnings, I wanted to offer this prayer for all of us who are starting new journeys. This prayer is my beginning, so everyone is welcome to modify it, customize it, and re-create to better fit their own journey and beliefs. If you would like to share you re-creations, we welcome you to do so in the comment section, or to submit your own prayer.   

Dear Spirit of Creation,

As I journey towards new places, new visions, and new dreams,
I ask that you go with me, and help me discover the beauty of this world.

I ask that you remain with me even when I question or doubt my new direction.
I ask that  together we carve out the trail that is best for me, in this place, in this time.

Help me to find my strength when I stumble or fall,
and help me to empower others as they journey along their own paths.

Assist me in seeing the help others have provided for me,
and help me to provide assistance to those I meet.

Spirit of Universal Creation, create with me a path of wisdom
and help me share love along my way.

Amen


Please feel free to use this and any of our content in services, prayer groups etc., just remember to link it back to us! 

Looking Back, Looking Forward, Beginning Again

By: Autumn Elizabeth

When I look back on 2013, I don’t quite know how to sum up a year of so many highs and lows, of so much loss and so much growth. As I look forward, I still have very little idea what 2014 will hold for me, even though I know it will hold a mid-year move to Paris and lots of continued work in graduate school. As I look back and as I look forward, I find more questions that answers, and yet, the new yer has begun, and I must begin again with it.  

I think that perhaps it is a blessing that I cannot distill the past year into a neat and tidy list of the top events, or a quick two-sentence summary worthy of a late Christmas card.  Surely the years in which we grow the most, the years which forever mark our lives, cannot be so easily summed up.  I have felt deep loss this year, losing several family members and friends. I have felt this lost keenly as I begin a new year in which none of these loved ones will share. I am beginning again, but they are not, at least not in the same way I am.

Yet, this past year has also held some brilliant moments of joy. I enjoyed several publications, I was accepted and began a graduate program, and I flourished in a country that was utterly foreign to me. As deeply as I felt the loss of my loved ones this past year, so have I felt the immense joy of my successes.

This past year has also marked world events of both pain and promise, as I believe many years do. Some causes for which I have prayed and worked have achieved great success, like the end of DOMA, and the return of the Arctic 30, and other causes have seen nothing but sorrow and violence, like the war in Syria.

And what does the future hold? What does it mean to look forward after a year of such uncertainty? As I look forward into 2014, I do see more uncertainty, and yet this does not disquiet me as much as it used to. I could not have predicted many of the events in 2013, and yet the happened and I survived, grieved and rejoiced in them. Looking forward, I expect 2014 will be no different.

I know that loss may come again, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping for joy in the new year.  I still feel the losses from 2013, I am beginning to see how much growth I experienced, and how greatly 2013 will mark me. I am just beginning to comprehend the enormity of last year, of each year and so I begin another year, with all the wisdom, love …and yes even lint, I can muster.