The Rising

The Rising

I remember the

falling and

the feeling of

failing—the

flight down

took one word

to begin and

years to finish.

Tethered by shame

and pain, I stayed

down until that

one breath—the sigh

that turned into

a whisper …

a small call to

an identity free

from the chains in

the depths of defeat—

and I listened and

I whispered more truths

before finally speaking

my own hope aloud.

And I felt myself

rise first to my knees;

then in prayerful

belief that life awaited,

I felt the pain

of muscles straining

to stand and felt the

flesh tearing as

the chains fell.

But this pain was

affirming my hopes,

and I rose to my feet

and pulled myself

from the pits of your hell,

and as the air reached

my wings, I knew

I had survived.

I rose. I flew.

I began to thrive. 

                                     –Chris Pepple ©2017

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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.

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

To the daughter of Mary (a blogger)

To the daughter of Mary (a blogger whose post is being passed around):
Your mother wrote that when you grow up, she has a lot to teach you. I’m glad that she cares about you and wants the best for you. I have two daughters, and I love them very much, too.

Your mother wrote that she didn’t march for you because there was no need to–that everything is fine for women in the United States. Her quote was, “I’m writing this letter to tell you that what some people are yelling very loudly today (and will continue to yell very loudly for years to come) are lies.”

Oh, Sweet Girl, I wish that was true. I wish you and my daughters both lived in a wonderful world with no pain, no abuse, no harassment, no rapes. She is right about some things in her post–men can be abused, too, especially young boys. But the march was about stopping all abuse and bringing abuse into the light so we can work to end it together. None of us want anyone to be abused, but if we don’t talk about it, how will we end it?

But here’s what someone besides your mother will have to teach you. If you or your friends are ever raped on a college campus, you as a woman will find justice hard to come by if things stay as they are right now, Your mother would know that if she friended young rape victims or just listened to their stories that have been proven true.

Here are some stats:
11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).
Among graduate and professional students, 8.8% of females and 2.2% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
4.2% of students have experienced stalking since entering college.

Here are some links to articles that show that women on campuses struggle to find justice:

http://www.latimes.com/…/la-me-ln-berkeley-students-complai…

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26263171

There are many others sources you can find. Until both men and women can be safe on our campuses, all of us must speak out. It’s the just, loving thing to do.

Also, let’s talk about domestic abuse against both men and women. It’s time we bring reality into the light. I can tell you my story if you want to know it, but let me just say that I fought the legal system for 11 years. As a woman, I was told over and over again that his wishes mattered more than my rights. I raised my daughters to understand that the Circuit Court system needed to be revised to hear the voices of all people, (A male judge asked me once when my abuser was $96,000 behind on child support: “His lawyer is a nice guy. Why don’y you just make a deal with them and let’s end this?” It’s all in the court record–very provable.)

Maybe your mother will take the time to volunteer at a rape crisis center or get to know women struggling to leave domestic abuse. Maybe she will get to know impoverished children whose mother struggles to get them fed and cared for. Maybe your mother will have lunch with a survivor of traumatic abuse and hear her story.

It’s easy to say, “My life is good so people are crazy if their life isn’t good.” It’s harder to see that Jesus understood. He walked with the outcasts, not with the privileged. Jesus believed and cared about and healed the bleeding woman, the woman at the well, the blind beggar, the lepers…God put their stories in Holy Scripture.

Read the Bible yourself and see that God tells us to feed the hungry, be a voice to the hurting, love the outcasts. To one wealthy questioner, He answered: Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21).

Please honor your mother. She is your mother. But hear the voices of those she is calling a liar. Get to know people and you will see what God sees–the tears of His people, the scared rape victims, to beaten wives and children (and beaten men).

You blog, too, one day, but use your voice to end suffering. When we listen, we grow in our understanding of the lives of others and the realities in this world that we may have never experienced. When I read social media posts, I see the pain that so many people experience when their stories aren’t heard. People try to tell their stories so we can try to understand what it’s like for them as cancer patients, as people with special needs, as people who grieve over a loss, as people who face hate or violence of all types, as people who struggle with depression or addictions or pain of so many types.