The “De-churched” – How to Talk to Us

Some people have found progressive communities of faith in which they feel comfortable, connected and cared for, while some of us have been so wounded by the leaders of organized Christianity, that we simply cannot and do not attend.

I’m a Bible College graduate. I was a youth minister for years and a pastor as well.

I know what they label us.

They call us the “de-churched.”

It’s always a hot topic really and the more a person surrenders their autonomy on their spiritual path, the more intense the discussion becomes! Those who have found comfort in remaining a part of Christianity or progressive faith communities celebrate that they feel comfortable in their congregations and they act as though they have stumbled upon a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

church_FireBut some of us have found that each effort to engage in Christianity ends with a slammed door, a crossed boundary or a judgmental word. I have found this each time I have attempted to rejoin Christianity and either I have really bad luck finding socially and emotionally intelligent Christian groups (or leaders) or I am just not destined to be a part of any organized Christian-based community. (Or a 3rd option I have yet to discover).

I share this not only because I think it’s hard for some of us to leave… but because what complicates our recovery is how some of those who “stay” treat those of us who left.

Sometimes they talk to us like we gave up.

Sometimes they try to recruit us to reform. (Does the analogy of a bad marriage help? Not everyone is called to stay with an abusive spouse and help them heal after every beating.)

Some of us leave because we don’t want to suffer anymore.

Some of us leave because it is well with our souls to do so.

Some of us have turned the cheek too many times and now have endless scars and can’t proceed with this form of faith.

Some of us still really dig Jesus, but have been shown over and over, that Christian does not = Christ-like.

It’s a sad reality, but it is our reality.

So, let us be.

Don’t tell us how awesome your church is – that’s your story.

Don’t tell us how to forgive – that’s your process.

Don’t tell us why it’s important to be in community – that’s your value.

Don’t tell us the church needs our unique voice – that’s your cause.

Tell us it doesn’t matter where we go Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights… because we are loved, just as we are and nothing about church membership or group-based spirituality will change that.

Tell us we matter.

And then walk with us…

walk_with_me_lhi_poster_1Like Jesus would.

And maybe that will lead some of us back to your churches…

Or maybe we will find that nature, the coffee shop, the movie theater and the community food bank feel more like church anyway…

So, in short, don’t talk to the de-churched…

Walk with the non-church goer.

Our stories are legitimate.

Our faith is real.

Our lives are whole.

We aren’t broken just because it doesn’t work for us to be in church.

And you aren’t whole because it works for you…

We become whole when we allow for differences, celebrate individuality and find cooperative ways to love mercy, do justly and walk… humbly.

Understanding the “Other”

Much of my professional and personal life revolves around supporting others (and myself) different_1through a discussion of social/emotional intelligence and spiritual awakening. The convergence of these topics has quickly become one of my greatest joys because it requires me to look at the “other” as a part of me. Rather than assuming someone else is less than or even better than, I consider that I am both autonomous and somehow an integration of all things…

Why yes, this does sound like a hippie way to live. (And no, I’m not old enough to receive official hippie status. Darn 😉 ).

However, it is more than hippie talk. I call it “homospirituality” (same-spirit attraction) and truly believe that there is a way for us to engage in community and conflict without infringing upon an individual’s personal journey. (For recent footage of my vulnerable and somewhat “revealing” ownership of this process, see this post. Man, that heart of mine belly-flopped, didn’t it? Doh). My utopia is a bit frustrating, since most of the time I feel like an alien. But, I recognize that this incessant and quite adolescent need to be “different” has drawn us to degrees of separation that burn away the ability to connect deeply, meaningfully and with a level of passion and commitment that inspires.

So today, I pose the following list of “others” that we think exist in our world… consider this list while embracing your individuality while seeking to understand the “other:”

The fatherless child doesn’t understand the other child whose Dad is always there.

The Dad who is always there doesn’t understand the other child who feels suffocated by his father’s constant presence.

The childless woman doesn’t understand the other woman who grieves the birth of a sick baby.

The mother of a sick baby doesn’t understand the other woman who grieves the inability to adopt.

The infertile man doesn’t understand the other dad who yells at his son on a camping trip.

The angry father doesn’t understand the other man because he personally never wanted a family.

The working family doesn’t understand the other family who spends more on vacations than it can afford because that is the only time they see one another.

The single income family who doesn’t understand the other family who spends more on childcare than it can afford because they trust the village to raise the child.

The married couple doesn’t understand the other person whose singleness leaves them lonely.

The single person doesn’t understand the other person whose marriage leaves them lonely.

The believer doesn’t understand the other believer who doesn’t seek a savior to feel whole.

The other believer doesn’t understand… the other believer… who doesn’t believe that there is the other…

Confused yet?

Good… because the other… understands what it feels like to be outsider.

The other… understands what it feels like to be misunderstood.

And that, is what we have in common.

We. Are. The other.

And thus… understanding the other begins, when we realize, there is no other.

Separation is illusion, yet the magic is in our unique story.

Go figure. 😉

Namaste.

different_2

4 Reasons to Write your Epitaph Today… Yes, Really

It’s pretty clear that none of us are getting out of here alive, so while we have this limited amount of time to consider what kind of impressions we hope to leave in this world, perhaps a little dose of silly with our sacred will light the path this week.

Four Reasons to Write your Epitaph Today

Epitaph_Funny1. Life, as we know it, will end in death. – Yes, it’s true for every one of us, that we all die in the end and staying connected to that grave reality (of course pun intended) is one of the reasons I was able to produce and publish Enlightened-ish this year. In 2011, I saw firsthand how death affects the living, first in March when I witnessed a suicide and the second time, in September, when my father passed away. I’ll tell ya, nothing makes traffic jams, gossip, relationship trauma, church hypocrisies, and self-imposed drama look more like a waste of time than having the crushing reality of one’s mortality thrown in your face. In the end, there is an end. So why not give some thought now, to how it’s going to sound to those who are still here after you’re gone? Legacy. Think about it.

2. Life, as we know it, is sometimes very dark. – Yes, it’s true that we are all building great castles in the sky, with our dreams, books, blogs and highest intentions, but we also are equally aware of the “darker” side of the human experience. Writing your own epitaph gives you that moment to consider the “ick” and perhaps even the “negative” parts of the human condition. Indulge in it just a little bit… it won’t kill you, will it? (Damn the puns are too easy.)Epitaph_Poignant

3. Life, as we know it, requires insights. – Good heavens, we are missing the mark when we fail to reflect on our own lives. Of course, there is a balance to this and we need not become narcissistic in our self-evolution, but imagine how much easier your life would be if you could access your internal hindsight wisdom before it becomes hindsight! Reflection is good for the soul… it may not be like this “on the other side,” but as far as being human goes, the more aware we are of our own motives and obstacles to peace and self-accountability, the better!

epitaph_mg4. Life, as we know it, is meant to be lived. – Epitaphs represent the silly, the complicated, the direct and the meaningful experiences in the human condition. Ultimately, they represent that a person’s life was in fact, lived, and hopefully, with abundance and with every ounce of passion, determination and vulnerability that we can muster. So… writing your epitaph is a way of creating a mantra that can anchor you personally, in all that is going on around you so you remember what you’re all about when it’s all said and done.

Having said that… I took a stab at writing my own epitaph… and here’s what I came up with:

Gail Dickert: 1978 – ?: “She loved like her life depended on it… until it killed her.”

Namaste, lovelies 😉

P.S. (If you’re a Bible-friendly person, you will recognize my epitaph as it relates to I Peter 4:8. It’s been a personal mantra since I first read it, at age 12. I expect to go out making sure people wonder how this Bible College Grad became a hippie, lesbian Turtle Whisperin’ homospiritual 😉 )

By the way, speaking of legacies, I have the honor of sharing a review of my first book Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams, here. It’s really powerful for me, to know that my coming out memoir would make my tombstone proud 😉

~~

Gail Author PhotoGail is the author of Enlightened-ish and Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams. She is a hippie pre-school director and advocate, as well as spoken word artist and general badass. She also co-facilitates an online community for survivors of fundamentalist perspectives on homosexuality.

Homospiritual Meditation for the Week: Nature’s Mirror

I’m sharing the weekly meditation early. Also I have an announcement about a local book signing appearance at the bottom of the post. Good times, yo 🙂

“What if I told you that you are perfect, like the sunrise?
What if I told you that you are stable, like the oak tree?
What if I told you that you are angry, like lightning?
What if I told you that you are powerful, like thunder?
What if I told you that you are nourishing, like rain?
What if I told you that you are… able to know these things without my telling you?
That is the self-guided journey.

That is the call of our souls.

Nature mirrors for us what to accept about ourselves.

Look around.

You. Are. Creation.

Beautiful.”

~ Gail Dickert, author, activist and reluctant musician

For more about my recent release, Enlightened-ish, please follow the links to read reviews and leave your own comment if you’ve read it and are ready to share your experience.

Namaste, my friends.

~~

Are you in the DC Area? Gail will host her release party/book signing at Grounded Coffee on June 1st, starting at 2 pm. Meet Gail, purchase signed copies, enjoy a fabulous local coffee shop. (Note: This is my only local appearance until the Fall.) Facebook event here. Also, stay tuned to Our America with Lisa Ling in June, for more about Gail’s journey and the journey of others surviving fundamentalist religion.

Gail Author Photo

An Easter Meditation from Turtle Whisperer

“I will rise, like Jesus did, when he rose above the status quo and challenged the religious leaders of his day.

I will rise, like Jesus did, when he rose above the temptations to compromise his integrity.

I will rise, like Jesus did, when he rose above the fears his own followers projected upon him.

I will rise, like Jesus did, when he rose above the betrayal of a friend.

I will rise, like Jesus did, when he rose above his grief and faced his calling.

To the Christian who rises like this, I believe you follow your Christ.

To the Christian who expects death to be the highest form of resurrection, I beg you to consider rising like him in your life, rather than dying like him in your death.

This master teacher deserves our attention and emulation in creativity, civility, courage and leadership. 

Rise, today… in deed. 

Indeed, the rest is entirely out of our hands and surpasses our understanding.

Aho!”

~

snapping turtle in color

A word from the Turtle Whisperer, Gail Dickert. These are my words.

To learn more about Gail’s upcoming book, “Enlightened-ish,” follow her on YouTube and Facebook

Homospiritual Meditation of the Week – Week of March 24, 2013

A Meditation for your week…

“How we balance our ability to create with our ability to surrender is the direct manifestation of being like a Creator. The existence of one cannot be proven without a doubt or denied entirely so either way, it is up to us to live out what we would believe a Creator would do, if one exists. I say, if I were a Creator, I would have a rush of power, knowing that I can control so much within me and yet a resolve of surrender, knowing that, as a fair Creator, I ought not control all that is around me. In our efforts to know this balance, our inner goddess and god comes to life. That is Divine and that, my friends, is where the bad-assery truly begins. These are my words.”

~ Gail Dickert, author of Enlightened-ish, a Grief Memoir about Spiritual Awakening, release date pending

Namaste, yo.

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A Key to Happiness

My morning meditation has been very “active” today, meaning that rather than sitting in stillness or contemplating my cup of tea as if it were a wildly vibrant abstract painting, I’m moving about my room, thumbing through books, reading other meditations online and watching all of the energies overlap. This is sometimes called “synchronicity” or “coincidence” and others refer to it as the Law of Attraction. Like-attracts like, perhaps?

Whatever it is, everything I’m reading this morning leads me to this simple post that holds the potential for an incredible impact on the way we think about our decisions and our emotions.

Simply put, what I recognize today is this:

Release that which you are chasing… it is a gift to you that it runs away. It’s a disappointment, but it is not a loss. Be mindful of the difference.

That job you seek, the career you think you need, the house that you must have, the relationship that you “need” to work out, the friendship that functions with so much friction: All of these things do not stand between you and your happiness.

It’s chasing  that which has gracefully not been given to us which causes our unhappiness.

And so, the only option, after that reality check… is to look around and be thankful.

Cherish that which has been given to you.

This is a key to happiness. (Yes, you notice a said a key, not the key)

All is where it should be. Chase nothing. Can we do that in a world that “strives” and people who “need” successful experiences? Can we arrive on our own and say, “I have everything I need right now, in this moment?”

Does that mean we lack vision or calling? On the contrary, we have much more opportunity to hone in on what matters, when we aren’t running after everything that blew through like a temporary circus of ideas or relationships.

I could write about this all day, but the movement calls me to connect and get out in the world to join those who are living life… hope to see you there ;0)

Namaste!

 

Looking for Love…

I do not claim to have relationships figured out but I have recognized the simple fact that many people, myself included, have been looking for love in all the wrong places. (Insert SNL skit with Eddie Murphy if you like. “Wookin’ pa nub?” Anyone? Anyone?)

This Valentine’s Day, it’s been important for me to identify the “wrong places” that I have been looking for love. I don’t have to take you through the inner monologue I have with myself about the relationships, church leaders, friendships, online communities and meet-up groups where I’ve looked for love. All of these characters, that may or may not been aware of their roles, make up a series of failed adventures in Love. The details are different for each of us but we all play out the same predictable plot. We go looking for love in all the wrong places because we avoid that one, lonely, quiet and somewhat frightful place where true love can be found:

Within ourselves.

Personally, I acknowledge how my first serious relationship wounded me to the point that I allowed that wound to shape my responses in my second relationship. Now that I’m years removed from both “failed” attempts at a long-term commitment, I’m stunned sometimes by how those two overlapped in my third serious relationship.

It’s important to identify the patterns, if we truly hope not to repeat them…

What I see as a reoccurring theme is that conflict comes when I fail to recognize that only I hold the power to love me unconditionally.

I’ll write it again: Only I hold the power to love me unconditionally.

Unconditional love. I look for it in others but is that realistic? Do they have the capacity to bear witness to my body, thoughts, feelings and beliefs and UNconditionally accept me, just as I am?

I argue that it is not within anyone’s capacity to offer that kind of love.

It is a role for the Divine… and maybe for our parents. But beyond the parents who celebrate me and the Creator who guides and comforts me, this role cannot exist in my partner. It is internal. Forever and ever, inside of me.

Truly, if the woman I’m with really loves me, she will love herself, her thoughts, feelings, body and beliefs unconditionally. She will hold herself accountable to the life she wants and the love she chooses. Alas, then, we come to one another out of CHOICE and not out of need.

And truly, if I love my thoughts, feelings, body and beliefs unconditionally, that is the platform from which I will choose her.

And that, my friends… is where the trust begins. My wife will love herself enough to tend to her identity, desires, integrity and dreams. I will love myself enough to tend to my identity, desires, integrity and dreams.

And that is how the sacred marriage will occur. When two people with very different identities commit to companionship while maintaining a balance of healthy self-love.

Can it be done? I still don’t know if it will happen for me this time but what I know now that I didn’t know before is that I don’t NEED a relationship. I want one. And there’s a big difference.

I’m no longer looking for love in all the wrong places. I’m going inward… and I’m learning more about Love than I’ve ever known before. In fact, today, I learned that the Path to Love has many more thorns than it does roses… so whether we are single, married or somewhere in between, let us walk slowly on the Path of Love, acknowledging the prickling sensations when they come out of nowhere and celebrating the sweet smells and sights of Love when it blooms.

Today and every day, when we look for love, may we first start by looking within because only you can meet your needs to be loved unconditionally. You… and maybe a lil’ Buckwheat Sings clip just for fun: http://georgespeedys.weebly.com/buckwheat-aka-eddie-murphy.html

Namaste.

~~ This post is dedicated to the online community Homospirituality 101, where we are all teachers and we are all students. Unconditional love may be impossible in love relationships, but somehow, we are creating it within community. When the people reflect the heart of the Divine… it may be possible. For more information about this online community, email or message me: http://www.facebook.com/groups/gail316

 

 

The Church as Oppressor

Let’s tap into the wisdom of this online community of which we are all becoming a part. Since I started opening up more about what the Fundamentalists did to my sense of identity/community, specifically through the soul-raping techniques of those who believe in “reparative” therapy, I’ve received dozens of emails and read heart-wrenching stories from others who were also in the same sinking boat that we now call “Christianity.”

That is one conclusion…

Christianity is a sinking ship, full of cargo that represents cancerous lies about grace and hell. A ship without a captain and with a crew that is drunk on “righteousness” and “holiness” as it heads for the inevitable iceberg of Humility where its Titanic “We’re Bigger than God and We are the Only Ship in this Ocean” philosophies will come to a tragic but perhaps necessary end.

Whoa!

Is that where I see Christianity’s story going?

Well, probably not, but after having read and responded to some of your emails, I thought I would call upon the church-goers of our community and ask you explain why you attend church. For those of us who still struggle to engage in the Christian community, inquiring minds want to know…

How has being a part of church set you free?

And this can go for any religion, Christian or otherwise because at this point in my journey, and after drinking Bill Maher’s Kool-Aid by watching “Religulous,” I’m thirsty for some words of freedom from anyone who is going to church.

The floor is yours… tell us…

Is it just us or is “Church” destined to lead to social, emotional, spiritual or even financial oppression?

Note: I will approve all comments on this post so you guys see exactly what I see. Let’s be kind and honest and allow Love and Light to draw us closer. Namaste!

Also, for those writing in, please continue to do so! You are soul food. gail_dickert@yahoo.com.

 

Human Beings, Not Human Doings

Process, process, process. I get a little exhausted with my own process but as my baby blog coos at 5,000 hits after only 4 months of being in this world, I am humbled by the undeniable truth that people dig process. I ask myself “Why are people so drawn to this? What is it that I’m offering? For Gail So Loved the World… so what?

Well, your emails tell me all.

The reason that this blog has become such an inspiration and the Facebook page has become a safe space for conceiving questions that give birth to life-giving wisdom is simple.

We are all open to it.

Openness is a special kind of gift that we are giving one another when we share our stories and when we answer each question with a well-thought out, open-minded answer.

This is not what we learned from the Christian Fundamentalists.

This is not what we learned from “church,” but this is what we are learning from one another and I’m a happy homospiritual hippie right now, knowing that my risks, as great as they seem are well worth it.

Early this week, part of my process was to cut a large piece of canvas from a roll that was tucked away in my closet, grab a hammer and nails and display this “open space” on my living room wall. As you can see, I’ve unleashed the acrylics on it and it is telling me more about what is on my mind and clearly, on my heart.

Incomplete but "whole" painting process

This is especially enjoyable because I don’t want to “do” anything with this type of art. It’s just me being with a canvas, being with the paint and being with the music that I play while I paint.

Me.

Being.

Not doing.

And aren’t we our happiest when we are human beings, not human doings?

Not cliché at all, is it? It’s that centering point that we need to remember when there are too many emails to respond to, petitions to sign, blogs to read, Facebook pages to follow, and injustices to make right.

Human beings.

Open to one another.

Wow.

Who knew it would be so magical?

~

This post is dedicated to the administrators of the FB page “Helping Other People Evolve.” With every post I feel like I’m standing a little more upright in my soul, my thinking becomes clearer and my decisions aren’t based on self-survival but on serving others. Well done over there: www.facebook.com/pages/HOPE-Helping-Other-People-Evolve/179353108783929

“By keeping your heart tender, your soul soft, you are remaining malleable – receptive to the wonder of nature.”

PS. Please keep the emails coming. They are all very dear to me and I welcome the opportunity to be the person who allows you to give voice to your story, if only in an email. Very powerful! (gail_dickert@yahoo.com)