Comfort in Failure (The Year I Met God At a Rock Concert)

“Nothing turns out like I pictured it / Maybe the emptiness is just a lesson in canvases.” -Julien Baker


In terms of years, 2017 was a bad one.

In the early months, I was formally diagnosed with depression and several anxiety disorders. In the summer I lost a church—one I’d probably lost a long time ago, but never expected to so thoroughly break from. I gained 30 pounds from the depression-eating and because I had to stop running when the panic attacks got too bad. I left my job. It wasn’t a bad job but it was a hard one, a job that demanded a lot from me emotionally and spiritually, and when I left I lost Sundays with my youth, who were only ever grace to me.

I’ve been trying to sum up my year, to find some resolution that sounds like happiness.

I feel pressure to talk about what an outrage this first year of Trump’s presidency has been, but also to sound strong and happy: to present myself as queer, Christian, and thriving, like every comment by some ‘well-meaning’ stranger didn’t hurt.

The truth is I went to concert at the end of December with some people I don’t know very well. I went because I love Julien Baker with my whole heart. Her music is what pumped through my speakers as I drove across the I-90 bridge into the setting sun every winter afternoon, what kept me company at night.

Julien was mostly alone on stage. She had lights behind her, incandescent bulbs in black wire cages, and she sang from her toes, throwing her head back and screaming notes. This was not singing pretty like I’d been taught in choir—this was survival.

I grew up believing my heart was a brush pile, ready to ignite and burn if only the right spark caught it. I thought having a heart burning for God would make me happy, burn the sadness out of my skin; my metaphors were about fire and water, light and darkness.

Maybe it was more complicated than that.

I don’t know. Listening to Julien Baker sing felt holy, which is weird to say about a rock concert but not the presence of the Lord. Swaying with a room full of people, I closed my eyes like I used to do in church and wept in front of strangers. Jesus said “blessed are the poor in spirit,” and it had been so long since I’d felt blessed.

There were good things this year—grad school, where I cried under bright New Mexico stars and then went inside and danced like an absolute fool, where I smoked American Spirits on a balcony full of strangers and felt whole for one moment that drifted and lingered, diaphanous like smoke, for days. Watching Stranger Things on the couch with my mom. Diving headfirst into the Pacific in my underwear, shivering and radiant with three people who knew my whole heart. Standing on a bridge in Selma, Alabama, cars rattling past and heat haze drifting off the pavement, a muddy river flowing beneath us and a storm rolling in. My best friend kissing her husband, in a white dress on a hot afternoon.

Maybe I’ll always be depressed and anxious, picking at the edges of faith with my nagging doubts. Not burning up but knitting together the ragged threads.

Maybe it’s okay to cry at Julien Baker concerts and be a little sad all the time. To accept sadness for a little while, as some ineffable part of me. Maybe it doesn’t preclude joy. I hope.


Bookshelf: Third Annual Reading Round-Up

Welcome to my third annual reading round-up, my extremely biased list of my favorite books of the year. As I’ve said before, I don’t read the newest books, so if you want reviews of the new bestsellers you’ll have to find someone who gets paid to do that. Here are 25 of my favorite books of the year, plus some bonus ones thrown in there because I’m bad at decisions.

Bragging Rights 2k17:

alexanderhamiltonAlexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow — This may have inspired the musical Hamilton, but unless you really, really aren’t satisfied with the musical and wikipedia, you don’t need to read this. It is very thorough and well-written but it is very long and now I know more about Alexander Hamilton than I ever thought I would.

Non-fiction (misc.):

howtosurviveHow to Survive A Plague by David France — I knew almost nothing about the AIDS crisis going into this book, and it truly didn’t matter. France captures the rising panic in New York’s gay community as AIDS spread and killed more and more gay men, and captures the personalities and contributions of the major players well. Despite knowing how the story (sort of) ends, I was engrossed.

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison — which I talk about here

SunshineState_Large-690x1024Sunshine State by Sarah Gerard — This is a collection of essays about Florida, which sounds boring and myopic at first glance, but soon you realize Gerard isn’t writing about Florida, she’s writing about America, and being a female American, and being human. Also, you learn some truly bizarre facts about that truly bizarre state.


the art of deathThe Art of Death: Writing the Final Story by Edwidge Danticat — This is ostensibly a book about how to write about death, but it is also a memoir of the death of Danticat’s mother, and a close reading of much death-writing in Western literature. It reminded me most of Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s short and fascinating, heartbreaking and hopeful.

onedgeOn Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety by Andrea Petersen — A large part of my year has been devoted to managing my anxiety, and trying to understand what anxiety is and how to move through the world as an anxious person. This book is a hybrid memoir of Petersen’s struggle with anxiety and an examination of anxiety and mental health in America, from scientific research to cultural perceptions. It’s excellent for anyone who suffers from anxiety or loves someone who does.

Honorable mentions: All The Lives I Want by Alana Massey; Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Peterson; My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel


Abandon Me by Melissa Febos — which I talk about here

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood — which I talk about here

whenwomenwerebirdsWhen Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams — This is short and enchanting. Williams’ mother left her all of her journals, 54 of them, all of which turned out to be blank. Williams explores her mother’s life and death, and what it means to be a woman and have a voice. It’s a quick read, so try and find it at the library.


andyourdaughtersshallAnd Your Daughters Shall Prophesy by Adrian Shirk — I found this at my local bookstore in Seattle and then listened to an interview with the author that sold me on it. Shirk is a millennial exploring the religions of America, which are held up by women who prophesy and testify and break the boundaries imposed on them. Her explorations range from Pentecostal evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson to voodoo priestess Marie Laveau to Southern saint Flannery O’Connor. It is both informative and personal.

heavenscoastHeaven’s Coast by Mark Doty — Read this after you read up on the AIDS crisis, if you don’t know much about it. This memoir is about the death of Doty’s lover from AIDS. It was written in the midst of his death and the aftermath, and Doty makes few concessions to people with little knowledge about the disease. This book is heartbreaking and incredibly beautiful and ultimately hopeful, and I definitely cried my way through it.

Honorable mentions: Hunger by Roxane Gay; Insomniac City by Bill Hayes; The World’s Largest Man by Harrison Scott Key


wehavealwaysWe Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson — This was my year of Shirley Jackson. I read “The Lottery” early in the year because I missed it in high school, and I was hooked. Castle is widely regarded as Jackson’s masterpiece, for good reason. Merricat and Constance Blackwood are two creepy sisters living in a decaying house that you root for in spite of yourself.

deathcomesforDeath Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather — If you love classic literature, this is for you. Structured in a series of connected vignettes rather than one long story arc, it’s good for reading in short spurts (if that’s what you need). It is subtle and lyrical, and Cather meditates on faith in beautiful and surprising ways.


itIt by Stephen King — Look, this book is probably twice as long as it needs to be, but I love it anyway. It’s weird and bulky and uneven in places, and there is at least one *ahem* SUPER PROBLEMATIC scene. But if you like being genuinely frightened while reading good writing, this is for you. It’s impossible to find a cheap paperback copy of this right now, so get it from the library if you’re a fast reader.

silenceSilence by Shusaku Endo — Martin Scorsese made this into a movie that I don’t plan on seeing because I cried all the way through this book. It gutted me. Silence is one of the most honest portrayals of missionary experiences that I’ve ever read, and on top of that it is brutally well-written. Through the story of Portuguese priests sneaking into feudal Japan in search of their mentor who has supposedly apostatized, Endo explores heavy topics like colonialism, doubt, cross-cultural communication, and the gray areas of faith. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth it.

mybestfriendsexorcismMy Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix — This is like an 80’s horror movie in book form. I’m not usually a huge horror reader, but this strikes the perfect balance of creepy, heart-felt, and occasionally truly horrifying. It’s a super fun read and the cover design is incredible as well.

Honorable mentions: Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion; The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood; The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

YA Literature:

thehateugiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — Everyone you know is reading this for a reason. The main character, Starr, witnesses a white policeman shoot her childhood friend, a black teenager, in the first chapter, and the rest of the book is an emotional rollercoaster that feels entirely too current. The book hits the language and ever-shifting social media etiquette of teenagers spot-on, and the ending is satisfying without coming across as unbelievable. It’s also being made into a movie starring Amandla Stenberg, so read it now.

everythingeverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon — This was already made into a movie, also starring Amandla Stenberg. Maddy can’t leave her house because of a lifelong illness, but as she falls in love with her new next-door neighbor, a boy named Oliver, she starts to test the limits imposed by her illness and her mother. Yoon has stated that she wrote this book to give her daughter, who is half-black and half-Korean like Maddy, a story to relate to. I thought it was a beautiful love story, if it did stretch the limits of believability at points. Get it from the library.

cameronpostThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth — This book is a little more explicit than most YA books I’ve read. Cameron, the main character, lives in a small Montana town and falls in love with the prom queen of her high school, but when their relationship is discovered she’s sent to a conversion therapy home that’s based on real-life campuses run by Exodus International. While it’s definitely for older teens, the book deals with important topics like losing friends, figuring out sexuality, and the death of parents and role models, and I loved it.

onceandforallOnce and For All by Sarah Dessen — I’m a Sarah Dessen stan so I read this as soon as it came out. It’s not as good as her last book, Saint Anything (which might be the best book she’s written) but it’s still a fun, light read. Get it (and all of her books) at the library.


annieonmymindAnnie On My Mind by Nancy Garden — This is a classic of both YA and lesbian literature. The narrator, Liza, meets Annie in an improbable meet-cute, and romance ensues. But it’s 1960’s New York, so a number of obstacles get in their way before they ultimately live happily ever after. The story is a little bit cliche and some characters are more like caricatures, but I felt a lot of feelings while reading it.

Christian (because, contrary to some reports, I am one of those):

Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World by Amy Peterson — which I talk about here

revivingoldscratchReviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted by Richard Beck — I was about as skeptical of a book about the devil as I am about a literal devil with red horns and a pitchfork, but this is a thoughtful and provocative meditation on the devil in American Christianity. It won’t leave anyone, theologically conservative or liberal, feeling comfortable at the end. I didn’t agree with all of Beck’s conclusions, but I did appreciate how he got there.

walkingonwaterWalking on Water: Reflections on Art and Faith by Madeleine L’Engle — Did my year really count if I didn’t read at least one Madeleine L’Engle book? As always, I loved reading L’Engle’s thoughts about how faith informs art, and vice versa. It felt particularly topical this year, as I struggled through some guilt over committing to an MFA program and devoting myself in some way to art, in the face of so much injustice in the world.

So Nice I Read ‘Em Twice (notable re-reads):

the entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling — In this hellscape of a presidency, we all need a little escapism. I chose magic.

Best Web Thing I Read All Year:

The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems | Courtney Martin for BRIGHT

What were your favorite books and articles of the year? Let me know in the comments!

Bookshelf: In Praise of Unruly Women

Because I am an angry feminist with nothing better to do than corrupt the youth and therefore our collective future, I have been reading a lot of books by women with opinions (a sure road to destruction). The topics range from celebrities to family dynamics to relationships with our bodies, but all of these books are written and about women who are in some way ‘unruly’ and trying to be unapologetic for it. These have been some of my favorites of the past few months.


Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of Unruly Women by Anne Helen Peterson — Peterson is a culture writer for Buzzfeed (and a UT alum, hook ‘em!). I read everything she publishes on the internet, so obviously I was ecstatic when her book came out. This collection of essays analyzes ten different female celebrities who are all, in different ways, ‘unruly.’ They break the norms of traditional femininity and challenge the traditional gender roles in Hollywood. Go read everything AHP publishes, like I do, starting with this book.


Priestdaddy: A Memoir by Patricia Lockwood — Patricia Lockwood is a poet who was once called “the poet laureate of Twitter.” Lockwood’s memoir is about growing up with a Catholic priest for a father. But her father is a decidedly untraditional priest, and she is a wonderfully untraditional writer, weaving in poetry, hilarity, and commentary on Midwestern culture (she says she was raised in ‘all the worst cities in America’) to her story of moving back into her parents’ house with her husband during a financial crisis. I literally cackled aloud while reading this alone in my bedroom.


All The Live I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen To Be Famous Strangers by Alana Massey — In this collection of essays, Massey analyzes what the treatment of female celebrities and pop culture figures (ranging from Lil’ Kim to Gwyneth Paltrow) says about womanhood in America. She is smart and incisive, and her essay about Sylvia Plath and the teenage-girl-Tumblr obsession with her is especially moving and relevant. Also look at that beautiful cover!


Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay — Look, Roxane Gay has the range. If you’re not reading her, I don’t know what you’re doing. But in case you live under a rock where you haven’t heard of Gay: her prose is incandescent. Gay was gang-raped at twelve and turned to food as a means of control and comfort. Her memoir of moving through the world in what she terms an ‘unruly’ body— a body that takes up too much space— is heartbreaking and enraging and everything I needed.


Abandon Me by Melissa Febos — This is a chronicle of Febos’s relationship with a woman that she thought was the love of her life. The first six essays were written while she was still in that relationship, and the last and longest was written after the relationship fell apart. That last essay explores her relationship with her absent father, her identity as a Native American, and her family dynamics while parsing all of the stages of a horrific break-up. The prose is beautiful and kept me entranced all the way through.

What I’m Reading Around the Web

A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof | REQUIRED READING by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah for GQ

The Pernicious Junk Science Stalking Trans Kids | Zack Ford for Think Progress 

Having A Coke With You | poem by Frank O’Hara

Our Resistance Is Repentance (On the Nashville Statement, and Most Everything Else) | Jonathan Martin

The Nashville Statement Is an Attack on LGBT Christians | Eliel Cruz in the New York Times

Did This Book Buy It’s Way Onto the New York Times Bestseller List? | A SUPER interesting saga about a literary scam

The Seattle Statement: A Litany For Anxious Lesbians

Just this week, a hurricane has hit my home state, a virulent racist who committed terrible crimes was pardoned from receiving any consequences, transgender people were banned from the military, and North Korea launched a missile. Then, in the face of this, a huge (if unsurprising) list of evangelical leaders released the Nashville Statement, a horrific, homophobic statement that is the antithesis of the gospel of Jesus.

It’s been a year since I got home from the Race, moved across the country, and thought my life might get a little more normal. I thought this would be the year of staying still. The year of doing dishes.

But there’s too much to hold in my arms.

Instead I have been wandering through the borderlands between doubt and faith, wondering if the space in my chest I call Christianity can be reconciled with justice, truth, love. Gospel.


The last time I went to the dentist, he asked if I bite my cheek. On the inside of my lip there is a calloused place, a worry stone where I clamp my teeth when I get nervous, which is often. If I don’t stop biting there, it will harden and never heal.


This is not the blog I should be writing today. I should have something intelligent to say about the Nashville Statement. I should write about the very real consequences of homophobic theology on the lives of queer people.

But it feels like there is nothing else I can say that will change anyone’s mind.

If you can’t affirm the humanity of LGBT people, you can’t see how homophobia and racism go hand in hand, and you can’t see how white supremacy leads to neglect of the poor, and the orphan, and the widow, and the refugee, and you can’t see how theology kills in myriad ways but from the same demonic root. Start from anywhere you want: a labyrinth always leads to the same place.

Instead, I can only talk about what I learned. This year I learned just how fragile my arms are, how a still body doesn’t make a wandering heart any better.


I worry about a lot of things.

I worry about whether any of The Youths hear me. I worry about being a lesbian in leadership at a church I don’t know very well, in a place I don’t very well. I worry about my car flying off the I-90 bridge into Lake Washington.

I worry about my appearance, especially in the South, especially that I look too gay. I worry about what I’m going to do, after this new year is over. I worry that I’m called to ministry and I’m doing the wrong thing by getting an MFA instead of an MDiv right now. I worry that I’ll never change the mind of a single person I love, someone who might love me but not what they think is my sin.


Texas is a place that fits so strangely now: when I’m home a strip of me feels exposed, a tender place I’m used to keeping covered.

In August I drove up and down the highway with the people who know me best, the bright gold sunset streaking orange across the sky, my body rolling over the blacktop somewhere between our Texas towns, somewhere between who I used to be and who I am still becoming. My friends’ cars smell like plants, like leather, like motor oil, like the decade’s worth of memories we have between us. Like home.

This is what I miss, in Seattle where the air never smells like mesquite smoke.

What did I learn this year, that I never did in Texas? How to dress in what I like. How to drive a car while crying. How to make good coffee. How to kiss. How to cook for sixteen. How to talk to one very specific group of teenagers, maybe, on a good day.

In this year, I lived with three other people and left our town only a handful of times. From the bed I slept in almost every night, I memorized the sound of Jon and Timothy’s doors closing, and how Hilary breathes when she sleeps. I drove to the same place every Sunday with two dozen donuts, rain or shine, and tried to listen as much as I talked.

What else did I learn? The tender place that feels so vulnerable in Texas is who I am when I feel comfortable in my own soul.


Here’s the good news of the gospel: Jesus has still died and been resurrected, for me and for many. God is still God, not John Piper. And God is love. God’s very essence is love.

This is a lesson all the travel in the world has taught me, from sunrise over Victoria Falls, to Peruvian mountain tops, to cold, salty seawater in the Pacific off the Olympic Peninsula, to the night sky over Texas after a storm clears, when it feels like the whole universe is close enough to touch.

So my queer body, my anxious mind, my wandering soul: I am holding on to that one bright hope.

God is a seed, I wrote around this time last year. I still believe that. I learned how to nurture the soil this year. I learned how to let my heart be a garden in which God can grow.

I will water my garden with the tears I shed for my LGBTQ siblings, and I will wait for the Spirit to move. This year I will reap what I sow.


Wheat and Weeds (Sermon from Sunday, 7/23)

Hey, if you’re new here, a heads-up: I’m a youth director at an Episcopal church, and sometimes they let me preach. Here’s a sermon I got to preach on July 23rd. You can find the lectionary texts for the week here (we used Track A). 


When I first read this week’s collection of lectionary texts, it was a bit of a rollercoaster of emotion. On the one hand, I love Psalm 139 and Romans 8- they have comforted me in times of anxiety and grief, and in many ways are foundational to my theology. But on the other hand, the story of Jacob’s dream is a little boring and confusing, and Jesus’s parable of the wheat and the weeds is downright terrifying to me. These texts bring up questions about theodicy and eschatology and ethics, and as a 23-year-old with an English degree, I’m an expert in exactly none of these things. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say or what direction this sermon was going to take. When I’m overwhelmed like this, I usually start looking for the most basic connections between the Scriptures.

So let me start here: on a dark night, in a desert, with one man alone until suddenly he finds that he is on holy ground. Jacob, like his father and grandfather before him, is promised by God that he will have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky. God says that They will never leave Jacob until this promise is fulfilled, and all of the families of the earth will be blessed by Jacob’s offspring. Now, in Romans, Paul says that Christians are the children of God, receiving the spirit of adoption that makes us Abraham’s children, and thus fulfilling God’s promise to Jacob. This is a Christian re-writing of a Hebraic story, of course, but Paul was writing to Gentiles who had until then been on the outside of the ancient rituals that marked them as children of God. To be claimed as children of the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph, was to be adopted into a story and family much larger than themselves. It was saying that what mattered wasn’t our pedigree, but our faith.

I find it easier to jump into the gospel reading this week if we start with Paul’s writing in our mind. As I said, my first reaction to Jesus’s parable was “WHOA, calm down there, edge-Lord.” It is one of the Bible stories I struggle with, because of how often this parable and others like it have been used as a bludgeon. It would be easy to use the story of the wheat and the weeds as a way to create in-groups and out-groups: we are the grain, and “those people” are the weeds. The problem is that for me, “those people” start to look like anyone who disagrees with me, anyone who doesn’t follow my exact version of faith.

The idea of orthodoxy has been heavy on my mind this week. If any of you are my friend on Facebook or read my blog, you may have noticed that I accidentally went viral. The contents of my blog aren’t important to this sermon, but the reactions are: my family and I were accused of not having a true faith in Jesus, not adhering to the correct set of beliefs that will get us into heaven, or as one commenter so eloquently put it, “off the road that leads to perdition.” In this scenario, I was one of the weeds to be tossed into the fire at the end of the age.

My immediate reaction to these comments, of course, was to call my mom and rant about why exactly I was a shaft of wheat and not a weed. I wanted to make sure that I was part of the in-group and that they were the out-group. I wanted Jesus to tell me that I was right in holding a grudge against homophobic strangers on the Internet. Needless to say, I felt convicted as I started writing this sermon.

In Jesus’s parable, the master does not tell the servants to uproot the weeds; in fact, to ensure as much wheat as possible is saved, the master nurtures both weed and wheat. In this metaphor, humans are the plants growing up towards the sun, our root systems all entangled. In this metaphor, we the plants do not know who is wheat and who is weed.

I think the pairing of this parable with the passage from Romans 8 is intentional. Romans 8 tells us that as children of God, we are co-heirs with Christ. If this is true (and I believe it is), then our identity as children of God is the core part of ourselves, the power from which everything else flows. If we are co-heirs with Christ, waiting in anticipation with the rest of creation for the adoption and redemption of our bodies, then the parable of the wheat and the weeds is a call to love our neighbors as radically as if we are siblings. We have no way of knowing who, in the end, will be the children of God, because all who are led by the Spirit of God are His children, and therefore our family.

Lest you think I’ve gone all New-Age-y on you, a disclaimer: I’m not sure what heaven looks like, or who will end up there. I was raised too evangelical for any definite answer to sit peacefully in my mind. As best I can picture it, heaven looks like the line from the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’: “when we’ve been there ten thousands years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.” I am learning to sit in the tension that comes with hope in things that are not seen.

My study Bible notes that, “the inner testimony of the Spirit is experienced as intense yearning and hope.” This yearning and hope, this testimony to the Spirit of God, is manifested in as many different ways as there are different people in the world. And the power of the Spirit is that it transforms weeds into grain- poisonous, thorny leaves into nourishment. All of creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God– and if, by radically loving my neighbor, by being kind when I could have been sharp, by seeing everyone as a wheat instead of a weed, even one more person is adopted to the kingdom of God, then I think the Spirit has worked through me to ease the labor pains of creation.

This year, one of my roommates introduced me to a poem by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher and Jesuit priest. When I think of the slow, nurturing work of the Spirit in our lives, the effort to grow upwards towards the sun with our neighbors, this is the poem I think of:


Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.


I am learning to sit in the anxiety of incomplete belief. Learning to strive upwards and extend my roots to grow with everyone around me. I don’t know what happens at the end of the age, but I am convinced that none of us are right. And I am equally assured that we are adopted: we are children of God, and our frail bodies of belief will be redeemed.

An Open Letter to My Parents’ Pastor

You don’t know me, and I’m not usually in the habit of writing open letters, but this is a special occasion.

You’ve been the pastor of AUMC for two Sundays now. Last Sunday you gave a sermon about the authority of Scripture. About halfway through the sermon, you said some things that hurt a lot of people very deeply. Towards the end, you mentioned that you don’t care about hurting people’s feelings (which doesn’t strike me as very pastoral, but that’s another letter).

Long story short, my parents are leaving AUMC.

Here are some things you should know: we’ve been members for 13 years, since I was ten years old. My brother and I were confirmed there; I preached for the first time there; until recently, I thought I would get married there.

Another thing you should know: I am a lesbian. I came out this year, after many years of trying to deny who I was. My parents love me unconditionally. My mom cried through your sermon last Sunday. My dad calmly collected his things and told the choir director we wouldn’t be back.


I’m writing to you because I love my parents. In many ways, I feel guilty for the choices my sexuality created for them: choices between me and the rest our family, between me and decade-long friendships, between me and our church. I haven’t asked them to make these choices, but I never had to. When I called my mom on Sunday, after hearing about your sermon, she told me that she cancelled helping with VBS, couldn’t even go back in the building after that.

I’m writing to you because I want you to know who you are losing in my parents.

My dad, Greg, recently re-joined the board of trustees. He plays guitar in the praise band and leads an adult Sunday school class. He was the construction coordinator on the youth mission trip this year and has been since I was in high school. In a couple of weeks, he’s going back to Kenya with another Methodist church, to work at a hospital AUMC supports. My mom, Kathy, founded the Stephen Ministry team at AUMC, and still has a full roster of people to whom she offers lay grief counseling. She was a cook on the youth mission trips when my brother and I went. She helps with the elementary after-school programs and Vacation Bible School and is the first to make a meal for anyone who needs one.

We are those church people. We weren’t always that family, but then AUMC let my dad play guitar, and showed up with fried chicken when my uncle died, and quite literally saved my life. The church grew up around us like ivy over a wall. Or maybe, streams of living water in a desert.

I’m not saying all this to brag, but to show you who we are: a family whose life has been shaped and guided by our membership at our church, who have found time and again that our church family is strong where we are weak.

Tell me who sinned, my church or my parents, that I grew up believing that I was loved beyond reason?


My parents will tell you that I’m really good at feelings. But here’s how your theology actually hurts LGBTQ+ people:

About 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

One-third of LGB youth will attempt suicide. This is four times higher than the average for heterosexual, cisgender teens, and when LGB youth attempt suicide, the attempts are 4 to 6 times more likely to end in injuries needing serious medical treatment.

In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.

On top of this, LGB youth who come from highly-rejecting families are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their LGB peers who come from affirming or low-rejecting families.

About one-fifth of reported single-bias hate crimes are committed against LGBT people.

Your theology literally kills people, and you wantonly condemned queer people because you felt safe in the authority of a pulpit and the assumption that everyone agreed with you.

That is not love. That is not Biblical.

That is not how I learned to live out my faith, in the very Sunday school rooms of the church you now pastor. My church raised me to fight for the least of these, to be the hands and feet of Christ, to pray and strive for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.


There’s an argument to be made for co-existing in difference of opinion, but I refuse to do that when your opinion is actively working to kill me and my siblings in Christ. Thanks be to God, my parents feel the same.

Ultimately, this is who you lose when you lose my parents: the best people in the world. The ones who will show up at your house in a crisis, who will drive for hours to fix your car, who will give money to your mission trip, who will love you and love you and love you until you can love yourself again.

When you lose queer people, you lose these same things. We are just church people, like my parents. We are those church people.


We can talk, if you want, but know that I am volunteering to have these conversations so my parents don’t have to. So the gay kids in the youth group, closeted or not, don’t have to.

I don’t want to have the Bible debates with you. I don’t want to hear you say you love me, but not my sin. I don’t want to have to sit and defend my humanity to you, but I will defend the humanity of others all day long. It’s how my church raised me.

I truly pray this isn’t the final goodbye to AUMC for my parents. But the family of Christ is big and the kingdom is wide, and they will find another place to call home.

How to Live In A Burning House: On the One-Year Anniversary of Pulse


There’s a vague entry in my journal on June 13th, 2016. “I haven’t cried since Colombia,” it starts, “and I’ve been holding on to numbness like a lifeline, but today everything broke through.”

I woke up to the news of the Pulse shooting in a small room in Peru, my teammates asleep next to me, and I cried like I hadn’t in months. My journal doesn’t mention Pulse or that 49 (mostly Latinx) LGBTQ people lost their lives. Just a dam bursting inside me, something radically different than the day before.


On June 12th, 2016, 49 people were murdered because they were gay. It was the largest act of terrorism on American soil since 9/11 and it was perpetrated against LGBTQ people who dared to unapologetically dance and laugh and love.

I wanted Christians to lament. I wanted my friends at home to name this act for what it was: homophobia, and hatred. Somehow, the prayers I saw on Facebook ended up blaming gay people for being in a gay bar in the first place, praying for our deliverance from sin just as much as our deliverance from violence.

Before Pulse, I could argue the academics of human sexuality, and affirm my gay friends, and pretend I had crushes on attractive men all day. But after Pulse, crying in a sleeping bag in a cold room in Peru, a part of me knew that I could not pretend for much longer, and that there would be a cost, and I was so afraid that I couldn’t even write the words down.


On June 13th, I tweeted a Tennessee Williams quote: “We live in a perpetually burning building and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.”

This year I was reminded of the flames of Pentecost, only a week before the anniversary of the Pulse shooting. The flames of Pentecost are different: they are not violent; they do not burn your flesh like the hot iron of a machine gun fired into a dancing crowd. These flames heal where a violent world has broken us. They bring a common language where before there was none.

I am privileged by my skin color, my geographic location, and my upper-middle-class upbringing, and yet the common language I share with the victims of the Pulse massacre is our queerness.

Pentecost came almost a year after Pulse and promised the Spirit was with us, is with us, will always be with us; even in the deepest of griefs, even in the threat of death, even in the burning building where we are desperately trying to save love.


I don’t know where I’m going this with post. I wanted to say that Pentecost gives common language to people who are willing to hear. I wanted to say I’m a lesbian, and a Christian, and I was torn in two after the Orlando massacre. I want to say that sometimes the church feels like a burning building.

I wanted to say that Pulse changed me profoundly. I wanted to say that homophobia kills people, and it doesn’t just do it with guns at nightclubs, but with depression, and suicide, and families kicking their LGBTQ children out of the house. I wanted to say that I have hope even in the face of an act of terror which was meant to instill fear. I wanted to say that LGBT people will thrive no matter how many times we are forced to rebuild our safe spaces.

I came out six months after Pulse. The first time I went dancing at a gay bar, a man patted me down before I could go in, his hands moving over my tight jeans and crop-top-clad torso, and I felt a shiver of fear. But then I went inside and danced with my friends, and I was not afraid.


These were the victims of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Please take a moment to say their names, pray for their families, and remember.

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Kimberly Morris, 37
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Amanda Alvear, 25
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Cory James Connell, 21
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Luis Daniel Conde, 39
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Frank Hernandez, 27
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25