Walking Together

I want to tell you a true story. Johnny was my cousin and my favorite person to hang out with as a kid. He was four years older than me, but never excluded me from what he was doing. We played in my grandmother’s attic for hours in the winter and on top of her flat-roofed garage every summer. During his teen years he turned to music. He could play anything. I loved to hear him on the piano. Once, when I was a teen, I told him that more than anything I wanted to play a song on the piano (I couldn’t read music). He numbered the keys in the order I would hit them, and I played The Entertainer!

He died when he was 30–January 1993. I lost someone very special. He died of AIDS. Yes, he was gay, but to me he was almost a big brother, a musician, an artist–he could turn any fabric into bedspreads, comforters, curtains…he died in Key West surrounded by friends and his parents. I flew down and conducted his funeral because, despite the fact that he had been a church musician before he contracted AIDS, no preacher would visit him. The church as a whole…all churches I knew of…turned away. It was that same year I met a woman in Georgia as she wept. When I asked her what was wrong, she answered, “I can’t tell my church that my son is dying of AIDS. They won’t let me return, or they won’t conduct his funeral.”

When I flew into Key West, a very kind gay young man picked me and fed me lunch. That night two gay men fed me dinner and invited me into their home as a friend. They rented a boat and a group of gay men went out onto the ocean (along with his parents) to scatter his ashes. They packed a lunch for us all. They never asked me to pay for my own meal.

The year before, I had been struggling with serious family issues. The only professor at Emory to reach out to me was a professor who also happened to be a lesbian. She helped me find a Christian counseling group that basically saved my life for the next two years.

During my lifetime, I have been friends with several people in the LGBTQ community. I haven’t thought of it much until lately, because I just thought of them as friends. I didn’t worry about their sexuality. But with all of the news about their rights being taken back away, I can’t help but want to speak up. No one in that community has ever harmed me, tried to have sexual relations with me, tried to “recruit” me, judged me for my faith or my struggles. They have just been friends.

As both a married and now a single woman, plenty of straight white Christian men have invited me to “sleep around,” let them “comfort” me, have a little fun that I didn’t ask for. Some of them were married and asked me to be discreet if I accepted their offer. I turned them down. That’s not who I am.

I get it that for some of you this is an issue of faith–you see a gay person as a sinner based on your theology. Please live out your faith! If that’s what you believe, never engage in a same-sex marriage. I live in a democracy that supports religious freedom. Many of my friends live out their faith differently. Many of my friends identify as Christians also and worship, serve on mission teams, teach, etc. I support their rights in this democracy also.

I will be hurt if my friends lose the right to love whom they choose to love after they fought for that right. They have stood by me when the church didn’t. I will stand by them out of the same friendship and love that they showed me. I am not going to try to define anyone’s theology. But I am going to speak up for someone who wants to grow old with a person they love. That’s beautiful, and it hurts no one!

This is not a theological debate on what defines sin. None of us would ever agree on that. When I was going through my divorce, I had plenty of people quoting Scripture to me and telling me how sinful I was. And for friends remarried, many Christians believe a second marriage is a sin. Divorce and remarriage are legal in this country (even though I wish divorce never had to happen–it hurts many people). I would not have survived my marriage if it had not ended.

But nowhere does Jesus tell me to legislate what I define as sin. And if I could, I would legislate most of his words that people forget to live by. Feed my sheep. And what if we legislate his words to the rich young ruler when he said the man had to give everything away? And what if we legislate turn the other cheek? Luke 14 telling us to bring in the poor? Matthew 20, lead by being a servant.

We can’t legislate our beliefs. We can only live them and in this nation we are blessed that we can share them. But this is about the secular world and democracy. I will not legislate away the rights of people I care about.

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When I Say the Words

When I Say the Words

By Chris Pepple ©2017

 

When I say the words

“I love you” to my neighbors,

to my friends,

to those I’ve known for years,

and to those I met

on the journey today,

I’m telling you that I see you—

The whole you…all of you.

I am not afraid of

the sight of your scars

or the sounds of your crying

or the knowledge of weaknesses…

I love the darkness of your

chocolate-colored skin

and the depth of brownness

in your soul-revealing eyes…

And I also love

the desert-kissed skin of

you, my friend, with

your deep black hair and

your chestnut-colored lips

that highlight the smile

that draws us all

into your joy…

And you with the

terra-cotta blush and

the laughter in your eyes…

And you with the

sand-colored hands

and green eyes

that disguise your mischief…

And you with the

ivory unblemished skin and blue eyes…

Or you—the one who wears your age

and shows your leathery arms

as you toil again through the day…

And you as you paint with the sunrise

or sing well past the sunset

or dance with the wind

or hum quietly as you write

or cook like your grandmother

the buttery-rich comfort food

or you—the one who adds

the spice that kicks in with each bite.

I love you

because you are like me—

You seek joy,

follow hopes,

love deeply,

daydream,

toil,

fear…

I love you

because you are different—

You sing a different song,

dance to a different beat,

create with a different style,

love in a different way,

toil using your unique gifts,

fear a different enemy…

I see you—the whole you…

And celebrate us all today…

 

By Chris Pepple ©2017

 

What this is about…

What this is about…

By Chris Pepple ©2017

 

This is not about politics,

not parties, not platforms…

This is about people…

And possibilities…

Promises to keep…

Hope to hang on to…

This is about being loved…

And being love…

About the love that can’t

be defined or controlled

by one group alone…

This is about the justice

longed for since

the most ancient of days…

About peace dreamed of…

About faith that goes beyond

human logic and beyond

my own desires and wishes—

A faith that sees humanity as a whole…

A faith the tells me to open doors

and share hope

and build homes

and shatter abuse

and feed the hungry

and drive out hate

and speak truth

and take chances

and walk on water

and break bread

and shine light

and walk away from my comfort

in order to bring about

a safe place where

all can seek faith and hope

and love and light and joy and peace

and justice and mercy

Together…

For God so loved the world…

— Chris Pepple ©2017

Together…Not Against

Together…Not Against

By Chris Pepple – 2017

 

When did it become

if…then?

When did it become

forcing me to choose

between

you

them or

me?

When did we divide

our allegiances into terms

that say if you love them,

you can’t love me…

or if I speak for them

then I must not be able

to speak also for you?

Where’s the us

in it together?

Where’s the global humanity

that’s biblical and moral and just?

Where’s the understanding

that I can love them

and love you and

call people back

together as us?

Races…

Religions…

Professions…

Callings…

Identities…

By raising my voice for one,

I am not raising my voice

against another…

Hear the call that

all can be healed

all can be whole

all can have justice

all can be loved

…it’s not about choosing

which people to stand with…

I’m just standing and helping all

rise up and stand…

It’s together…not against

©2017 Chris Pepple

The Sounds

candle

The Sounds

by Chris Pepple – 2017

The sounds of the words of hate

came first—

the name calling

the threats both aloud and

whispered to a passerby…

Then it was the fighting

in the streets—

the fist fights among

different groups

then knives

then guns…

Then it became real,

turning hate into a war—

winner keeps all…

The shelling came next…

the bombs rocked our houses

and our schools and places of worship…

No place was safe…

Then came the cries of children

and mothers calling out the names

of children who would

never answer again…

and husbands and brothers and

and wives and sisters

and best friends and lovers…

Then the weeping before

the enormity of our pain

devoured our ability

to feel much less grieve…

So there was silence

as if we were already dead—

dead to those who claimed victory,

worthless to those who didn’t want

to touch our wounds or

caress our shoulders weighted

with unimaginable memories

of the sounds of the places we left—

the places we once called home…

©2017 Chris Pepple