Be Beautiful, Be Yourself

If you can accept your body, then you have a chance to see your body as your home. You can rest in your body, settle in, relax, and feel joy and ease. If you don’t accept your body and your mind, you can’t be at home with yourself. You have to accept yourself as you are. This is a very important practice. As you practice building a home in yourself, you become more and more beautiful.

— Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Love, p. 23

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 8, 2019

Fully Authentic

Many people think that having someone close to you come out clouds your vision, but in reality it clarifies it. It redefines words for you. It rewrites false stories. It renovates your religion. It forces you to understand sexuality not as some detached issue but as what it is — human beings; in this case, those you know and love dearly. This is the gift relationship gives you. That proximity we get to people will always show us what we couldn’t see any other way. When you are faced with the reality of having an LGBTQ family member or close friend, it forces you to hold up your theology to see what it’s really made of. And when this happens, some of it gets confirmed, some of it gets shifted, and some of it gets blown up. I’d already done my homework. I’d studied. I’d prayed through it. I’d already reconciled so many of my feelings on gender identity and sexual orientation before this moment, so I knew without blinking that I didn’t have to choose between loving God and loving my brother — and he didn’t have to choose between being gay and being adored by God.

One of the things you learn when you walk down the path of being an ally is that people aren’t LGBTQ based on the consent you give or don’t give to them, the approval you provide or withhold. That’s not how gender identity and sexual orientation work. Your acceptance doesn’t give people permission to be anything. It simply allows them to be fully authentic in your presence and to feel loved as they are. It secures people in those places where they should feel fully secured: in their families and friendships and workplaces and churches. If you don’t think you have LGBTQ family members, coworkers, classmates, and friends right now, you may want to ask yourself if that’s because you’ve created an environment in which they would be afraid to share it even if they were. It might be that your words and manner have already told people that they’re not safe to be honest with you. As our society thankfully becomes less and less hostile to the LGBTQ community and as people begin to gradually feel safer in authenticity, more children will come out and more families will have a new reality to reckon with. Those families will continue to seek spiritually and they will continue to need and deserve to be in faith communities where they are fully welcomed. It is one of the reasons the table needs to be made bigger.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 17-18

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 8, 2019

Not Orphans

Like most utterances of Jesus in the Gospel, “I will not leave you as orphans” is not just supposed to fill us with consolation but to be received as an invitation. It seems to say, As I won’t leave you an orphan, don’t you leave anyone behind. We are meant to hear in these words a call to seek out the isolated, the rejected, the abandoned. Then we are meant to walk toward them, with open arms, and bring them in to the place of belonging. This is the essential task of the Choir.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 162

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 30, 2019

Moving Forward with Playfulness

As you are willing to move forward, your playfulness is a way of moving beyond any kind of contraction. Play creates flow. Be willing to share anything that needs to be shared, but be playful about that sharing. See how much you can play today, and how much you can get yourself into the flow. Play is the little sister of creativity, so treat it well. It will release old feelings of hurt and revenge if you allow it to do so.

— Chuck Spezzano, If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love, p. 393-394

Photo: Lake Ontario, July 1990

Saying Yes to Life

Saying yes to life is enlivening and invigorating.

Saying yes to life frees up our energy to be present with whatever is happening.

Saying yes to life is the gateway to unimagined adventures and possibilities – as readily available to us in our living room as on a trek across India. It’s a matter of how we relate to our unfolding experiences.

— Sharon Salzberg, Real Love, p. 280

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 25, 2016.

No Time for Disappointment

“Behold the One beholding you and smiling.” It is precisely because we have such an overactive disapproval gland ourselves that we tend to create God in our own image. It is truly hard for us to see the truth that disapproval does not seem to be part of God’s DNA. God is just too busy loving us to have any time left for disappointment.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 28

Photo: Notre Dame, Paris, April 2001

Each Experience of Love Illuminates Love

You don’t have to love yourself unconditionally before you can give or receive love. This turns the quest for self-love into yet another self-improvement project — an additional barrier to feeling whole and deserving of love.

The good news is that opportunities for love enter our lives unpredictably, whether or not we’ve perfected self-compassion or befriended our inner critic. When we develop our ability to love in one realm, we simultaneously nourish our ability in others, as long as we remain open to the flow of insight and compassion.

Just as a prism refracts light differently when you change its angle, each experience of love illuminates love in new ways, drawing from an infinite palette of patterns and hues. We gaze at an infant and feel our hearts swell, and when we notice it’s not the result of anything the baby has done, we can begin to imagine regarding ourselves the same way. We learn from any relationship in which we’ve made a heartfelt connection.

— Sharon Salzberg, Real Love, p. 112-113

[Photo: Sunset from Waterside Inn, Chincoteague, Virginia, October 22, 2016.]

Pleased with Us

God would seem to be too occupied in being unable to take Her eyes off of us to spend any time raising an eyebrow in disapproval. What’s true of Jesus is true for us, and so this voice breaks through the clouds and comes straight at us. “You are my Beloved, in whom I am wonderfully pleased.” There is not much “tiny” in that.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 20

[Photo: Meadowlark Gardens, Virginia, April 3, 2012]