Category: ‘Love’

My Gay Deli

21 June, 2009 Posted by liascholl

I went to seminary at a very conservative, Baptist divinity school at Samford University, called Beeson Divinity School. There were a lot of great things about the school, not the least of which was the amazing faculty, who were (for the most part) very supportive of women in ministry.

BUT… there were students who were very conservative on the issue of women in ministry, and many times I was told, “You can’t be a minister! You’re a girl!”

So while I was in school, I worked as a short-order cook in a local deli. A gay deli. Every day I would go to work and a handsome, funny, gay man would say, “You’re gonna make a fabulous minister!”

It balanced things out for me, because the work you do in seminary is lonely. You do spend a lot of time thinking about your relationship with God, but you also spend a lot of time recognizing your faults. And while you can make some wonderful friendships, you also begin to get a taste of the criticism that the church holds for its servants.

I was telling a church member about my gay deli the other day. He’s in a PhD program at a local school. He grinned and said, “Richmond Mennonite Fellowship is my gay deli!”

If you’re looking for a church in Richmond, Virginia, I recommend Richmond Mennonite Fellowship. It’s welcoming, affirming, loving, peaceful, and thoughtful. Come visit. Drop me a message though this site, and I’ll give you directions.

Best Thing About Facebook

26 March, 2009 Posted by liascholl

I know lots of people think facebook is a waste of time. They’re right. It’s a major huge suck of time, although the newest layout changes are helping me stay off there, and all the problems with their server are helping, too.

But there is one amazing thing about facebook. It really connects people, whether they have lost touch or whether they were never really in touch.

Meet my friend Steve Huff, one of my favorite facebook finds. Here’s a picture of him from about the time I met him:

Awesome!

Awesome!

And I’ve just found a friend from the 7th and 8th grade, a woman I think of every time I think of Rick Springfield.

Her name is Missy, and we used to go over to her house in the afternoon and watch General Hospital. Missy lives in Texas now. We talked on the phone for over an hour last night.

So, thank you facebook. Suck of time? Perhaps. But adding much joy to my life.

Yes! Yes! and Yes!

26 January, 2009 Posted by liascholl

My friend, Malcolm Marler, is the chaplain at the 1917 Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. The 1917 Clinic is an HIV/AIDS clinic, and Malcolm has been working to provide compassionate care for folks with HIV/AIDS before treating them with compassion was cool. Malcolm pretty much rocks.

He wrote this in his blog today:

One day I was asked by one of our nurses if I would talk with a single mom in her 30’s in one of our exam rooms who was recently diagnosed with advanced HIV disease and “was crying a lot.” I seemed to get called for a lot of these situations.

I walked in, introduced myself, and sat down.

She could hardly talk through her tears. After a few minutes she stopped her tears and blurted out, “I just want to know the answer to three questions:

1. Does God still love me?

2. Will anybody ever love me again?

3. Will I ever get another hug?”

I think Malcolm is on to something here, when he goes on to say that these are the questions that we all ask every day. Does God still love me? Will anyone ever love me again? Will I ever get another hug?

I know it’s what I wonder when I look at pieces of my life…

Those are the questions that I ask when I really look deeply into who I have been, who I want to be, and how I have been. They are the questions I ask when I start thinking about my history and sharing it with people. And they are the questions I ask when I put myself out there in a new way, whether in a new relationship or a new job search or a new position.

I want to believe that the answers are Yes! Yes! and Yes! But even more than believing with my head that the answers are Yes! Yes! and Yes!, I want to feel in my heart that the answers are Yes! Yes! and Yes!

That is my prayer today.

MLK and the "Irrelevant Social Club," a.k.a. Church

19 January, 2009 Posted by liascholl

Every Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I take some time to read Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Although I was raised all over the southeast, Birmingham is home for me.

Nine years ago, I was leading a mission trip to El Salvador, and had arranged for our team to visit the final home of Monsignor Romero, and the chapel where he was killed. We also went to the UCA, spoke with Jon Sobrino, the Jesuit priest who narrowly escaped death during the Salvadoran civil war. It was a day filled with martyrs, being thankful for the sacrifice they had given, for the example they gave, for the love they showed.

I went home to my hotel room that night, sat in front of the Spanish television, and watched all of Spike Lee’s movie, Four Little Girls, recounting the story of the young martyrs of Birmingham, Alabama. People I knew were filmed talking about their relationships with the little girls. And I’d had no idea.

This is one of the most significant moments of my life. I’m not sure if I didn’t pay enough attention to my hometown, or if I willingly disregarded  the pain in my own neighborhood, or if I was just ignorant about the fight in Birmingham, but I vowed to change that. One way is by reading MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. And every time I read it, I glean something else from it.

Tonight, it was this:

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

I wonder if that’s why the church feels so disconnected for me. It feels like an “irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.” In fact, so much of the church marketing of the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s has been about making sure that your congregation is a “social club,” although the marketing materials call them “affinity groups.” They told us that they way to success as a church was by putting like-minded people together.

The most REAL relationships I have are with people who I don’t agree with. They are people that I cannot fully understand, because our worldviews are different. We try to understand, but we bump up against differences, and have to decide, over and over again, “I may not understand, but I love.”

MLK continues about the Church:

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.

I think Dr. King answers his rhetorical question, ” Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?” with the answer, “No.” Every time it stands up for something right, every time it refuses to limit God, every time it opens the doors of the church wider, every time it expands it’s understanding to include all people, every time we try to understand, but we bump up against differences and say, “I may not understand, but I love.”

That church? I want to belong to that church.

Other Thy Neighbor

10 November, 2008 Posted by liascholl

I wrote this for the Star Light blog in October, 2008:

I had a dream a few weeks ago. I was hanging out in a brothel. The brothel was raided by the police. The police started rounding up all of the women there, me included. I kept thinking, “I’m a minister, not a sex worker.” And then I would think, “I can prove it!” Then I realized that I could not prove it. I had nothing on my person or in my purse that proved that I was a minister. I was handcuffed and taken away. I remember being resigned to this, to not fighting my way out of it, because this is what sex workers face all the time.

When I awoke from the dream, I knew something was different.

Maybe it’s only a tiny shift, but it’s a shift nonetheless.

I have worked, since the inception of Star Light, for viewing sex workers as whole people, as bright and shining women and men, who are powerful agents in their own lives. But in all honesty, when I started this ministry eight years ago, I thought there was a difference between me and the sex workers. I believed I could help. Mind you, it was never a sense that I knew what was right for any woman, never that I knew better than her where her life could go, never that I had all the answers, but it was, perhaps, that I had more experience, more networks, more maturity and could help. Basically, I thought that I was better than sex workers, even if only in degrees.

In my immaturity, I committed the sin of othering, especially when it came time to talk about the ministry I was doing. I talked about the kind of statistics Melissa Farley talks about. I used the “these poor women” tactic, because it was the only one I knew. I shudder now when I think about talking about some of the sermons and teaching I did. I try to imagine myself saying those things in front of the women I work with, and I just can’t imagine it.

I’ve been thinking about a sermon I heard in my preaching class in seminary, by a friend named Kara. The type of sermon we were supposed to be preaching was on a specific social justice issue, and hers was on homosexuality. As a rhetorical device, Kara used a lot of “those people” statements, which were very effective for understanding that “those people” weren’t different from everyone else (by the way, this was a VERY radical view in our seminary, which I shared with Kara). The finale of the sermon came when Kara, this straight, sweet, innocent woman with a lilting voice, exclaimed, “I’m a homosexual!”

I saw myself as “other,” and that is sin.  I am sorry.

I perpetuated that othering through conversations, preaching and teaching. I am sorry.

Ultimately, though, I realize that I didn’t take the role of prophet far enough. I am convinced that the church is replete with well-intentioned people who are committing the sin of othering through their mission endeavors. Church members are concerned with the sin of commercial sex, but, really, it keeps them cozy in their feeling, “I’m better than you.” Failing to understand this, and failing to point this out, put me in collusion with their sin.

And I am sorry.

Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth, he begins explaining to his disciples that he’s going to be killed. Then he says, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends.”

I don’t resonate with Jesus calling his disciples servants. However, the shift in his understanding of who the disciples were does resonate with me. It’s a shift from “I’m better than you,” to “I’m equal to you and you are equal to me.” It says, “I no longer teach, I learn. I no longer comfort, I am comforted. I no longer lead, but I am lead.” There’s a healthy reciprocity in the relationship. I feel that, and I think my dream on Saturday illustrates it more than anything.

I am grateful for my friends who are sex workers for putting up with me thus far. You have taught me about strength. You have taught me about resilience. But most of all, you have taught me acceptance, the greatest component of love. Thank you.

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    Lia practices radical acceptance for those who the church has vilified and shamed. It's not just something she preaches, but something that she really tries to reflect in her life.

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