Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Getting up and Getting on w/ a new life

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3: 1-10)

I attended Vanderbilt Divinity School from Sept. of 1999 - May of 2000. It wasn't the easiest year of my life. I had problems with roommates. I barely worked because I was focusing on my theological education and a romantic relationship. I was in the beginning stages of figuring out my call. Thankfully, there were three influential and religious women that were especially helpful to me while I was there.

The first woman was A.J. Levine. She gave me the courage to believe in myself as an openly gay man. Her wisdom, sense of humor, and advocacy for people inspired me since the first time that I talked with her on the telephone more than a decade ago. She taught me about the sensibilities of holiness and respect through the story of her son's bar mitzvah and a deeper understanding of Luke's Gospel.

The second woman was Lisa Hunt+. She was then the rector of St. Ann's in East Nashville. The parish was worshiping in the parish hall of a nearby Roman Catholic church when I was there. Their parochial and personal lives had physically been blown apart by a tornado in 1998. Lisa+ was the loving and caring bond that held that community together. She was a fabulous preacher, pastor, and leader for those people. And yet, she always took time out of her crazy schedule to counsel and pray with me while I was struggling and wrestling with my life.

Lastly, there was Becca Stevens+. Becca was (is) the chaplain @
St. Augustine's on the campus of Vanderbilt. I knew that she was a sort of free spirit when I first met her. I wonder if she still preaches and presides at the Eucharist in her bare feet. I don't think that I sensed just how much the Holy Spirit was moving her in her life. Becca+ was about two years into her Magdalene program when I was at Vandy. She had (has) a practical passion for people. She knew that I wanted to go on the chaplaincy's mission trip to Ecuador but didn't have the money for the airplane fare or expenses while I was there. So, she made it happen! I'm not sure where the $$$ came from. I now know just how entrepreneurial Becca+ is when she sets her mind to something. I also recall how great a sense of humor she had (has). A group of us went out for ice cream one time. I was trying to be conscientious about counting calories; so, I was puzzled about whether or not to order frozen yogurt or the butter pecan and chocolate chip ice cream that I truly wanted. Becca+ said: "If you're going to have ice cream; have the d%^n ice cream." I did.

Each of these women have gone on to greater and perhaps more meaningful things for the benefit of God's realm and God's people. Each of them are like Peter and John on the temple steps. They observe the people around them and take action to make those people's lives better, healthier, holier. They taught me to look beyond myself through Jesus' and the disciples' eyes. They taught me to share a good laugh with others, especially when times are hard. They taught me that The Bible isn't an easy set of books to understand or a morally rigid set of commandments to impart upon people. They taught me to Love God, my neighbors, and myself just a little bit better than before I went to VDS.

Becca's work is especially noteworthy this week as NPR documents the stories, struggles, and celebrations of the women who live in the Magdalene Community and work at Thistle Farms I really encourage everyone to view this video if you desire to truly observe a contemporary miraculous story.

This blog entry is just one small way of saying thank you to these three women who shared Jesus Christ's resurrection to me when I was away from home and wandering around with a lack of hope during my pilgrimage. They helped me find The Way. I pray that I am helping others in this Gospel work.

Blessings Along The Way,

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