Tag Archives: relationships

Can These Bones Live? Part 2

Last week I ended part one of this post with the following:

“Here’s a thought. When asking the question “Can these bones live?”, why not consider the answer, “God only knows.” I’m not implying we should just throw our hands up in the air, sit back and “watch God work,” either. To me that’s not faithfulness, that’s laziness. So what do I mean when I say consider the answer ‘God only knows?'”

In part one I was specifically referring to churches. At the same time, I think you can take the following thoughts and apply them to any number of scenarios.

First, however, I want to back up and stir the pot a bit. When considering the question, “Can these bones live?” I think its important for us to be clear about what it means to “live.” And that definition most likely changes from person to person, relationship to relationship and church to church.

For some people, a church isn’t “alive” unless it’s a certain size, has inspirational music, worship and preaching (and the definition for “inspirational” changes from person to person–trust me). For others, a church isn’t alive unless it has a vibrant social justice ministry. Other folk find “life” in thought-provoking educational programs. For others, a lack of children and youth programming is a sure sign of impending death. For still others, a living church is full of the “Spirit.” In some of these scenarios, this spirit is evidenced through very loud and demonstrative worship, music and preaching (shouting, speaking in “unknown tongues,” running the aisles of the sanctuary, etc.). Without these demonstrations on a regular basis, the church in question is soon deemed spiritually “dead.”

So, think about it. What does it mean to YOU for something to “live”?

Perhaps “living” for one church means meeting in homes for study and support, and then living out their faith through participating in various community projects; while living for another church means worship that rivals a Broadway production. Life for one group may mean an education program that produces some of the best available contemporary theological thought and published works; while for another life means occupying anything and everything that seeks to exclude and oppress anyone. Some communities live through their care and education of the young, while others find life in their care of the elders in their midst. And some communities even manage to do a little bit of all these while not focusing on any one element of community life.

In deciding what it means to live there is only one rule: No one community of faith, religion or denomination defines for anyone else what it means to live. We can offer our thoughts and experiences; still, we don’t issue stone tablets to anyone. After all, remember what happened the last time someone tried that?

Second, I think the answer “God only knows” is somewhat a faith-based response. That is, we admit we don’t know. Rather than assume if only we pour our whole heart, soul and mind into a worthwhile endeavor God will bless us with amazing success, we admit that we don’t really know if the scattered bones of a weary relationship, career or community of faith will fully come back to life. Like the story in Ezekiel the bones might come together. We might even get some muscle and skin on those bones. Yet, is that real life? Still we pour our whole heart, soul and mind into the endeavor–whatever it might be–because we believe its worth the time and effort.

And what happens if the relationship does indeed end, the career path reach an impasse, the church close its doors? Did we fail?

Well, it depends on how you define “failure.” If failure to you means not achieving the desired outcome, then yes, you failed. Failure, however, can carry the seeds of future success–if we learn from our experiences. And if we choose to learn from those experiences, have we really failed? I don’t think so.

Can these bones live? God only knows. Whether or not those bones (be they a relationship, career, church or something else) live, remember these words of wisdom:

“The only real failure in life is the failure to try.”–Unknown

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”–Winston Churchill

Blessings on your journeys!




I Now Pronounce You…

“For as much as Richard and Danny have consented together in holy wedlock in the presence of Almighty God and these friends and family, and have pledged their faith in the love of each other, and have declared the same, by virtue of the power vested in me as a minister of the Gospel by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches and the state of Iowa, pronounce them married in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and
Sustainer.  Amen.”

With these words, spoken in Davenport, Iowa on October 16th, 2010, another part of my identity was born—or at least legally recognized in the few states and countries that allow gay marriage, that is. Then on June 1st, 2011, Richard and I were officially “unionized” in the state of Illinois by virtue of our marriage in Iowa last year. In a nutshell, “unionized” means we’re “sort of married” now in the states that recognize civil unions. That is,
we have most of the same legal rights and responsibilities as heterosexual married couples in the state, and none of the federal benefits that come with marriage.

If I sound bitter, don’t misunderstand me. I’m thankful for the progress made on the gay marriage issue. At the same time, our marriage/civil union raised some interesting issues.
For instance, you can imagine how much fun it is now for us to fill out paperwork that requests our marital status, since most of these forms do not have a “unionized” option. I’m tempted to add a box and label it, “It Depends.”

See, in some places we’re married; in some places we’re unionized, and in most places we’re considered legal strangers. Then there is the whole question of what to call us individually: domestic partners? husbands? spouses, or perhaps “crazy”, as some of our friends have jokingly (I think) called us.

We’ve decided we like to be called “Richard and Danny.”

To be honest, however, Richard and I don’t dwell on these and other semantic issues too much; because even after 15 years, we’re too busy still learning how to navigate the joys and challenges of being a couple. Unfortunately, the marriage license didn’t come with a handbook on how to do this thing called “marriage.”

There is one question, however, we’ve discussed at length. Does marriage make a difference in our relationship? Well, no and yes. No, because I still “encourage” (read “nag”) Richard to follow our doctor’s orders about his diet and exercise, as well as his procrastination tendencies as much as I did before we were married. Richard
still “encourages” (read, “nags”) me to be more serious about my writing, about working too many hours, and not spending more time on my favorite hobby, cooking; which then usually leads us back to the whole diet and exercise discussion.

We still share the television remote—and we still roll our eyes at each other’s viewing selections. We still love the children and grandchildren we share, and debate what we think is best for them. Sometimes we even ask for the kids’ opinions. Lately we have been discussing how best to take care of my aging mother and stepfather. Oh, and we still love
each other even after saying, “I do.”

Marriage—and now, civil unions—didn’t change any of these things about our lives. When we were married, a light from heaven didn’t fill the church, and an angelic chorus didn’t break out in song —and fire and brimstone didn’t consume the church and wedding guests, either. We didn’t get married to set an example for the people of the church I pastor; and we didn’t get married so God would love us and recognize our relationship, either. The God of our understanding loves everyone and honors all loving relationships—whether governments recognize them or not.

At the same time, marriage—and now civil unions–did change something about our relationship. I just wish I could succinctly name that something. All I know is that “something”—whatever it is—feels good and peaceful.

Who knows? Maybe I should quit trying to analyze it, and simply enjoy the blessing that is
our marriage/civil union/domestic partnership/friendship.

Blessings on all your relationships!