You might find this a strange title to be associated with Nashville, but it's not the city so much that makes me feel at home (the city makes me feel rather oppressed... LifeWay bearing down over it and Billy Graham standing in stone at the foot of the cross, holding out his Bible to the cars that drive by, and Christian stations on every other scan of the radio.)
Rather it's the home on 7th street, north of downtown where I feel at home. Where I know where the pillows are kept and the pillowcases too, so i make my own bed as my hosts are busy making a bed for their baby. And i know where all Disney coffee mugs are kept and which one i will choose to use all week because it's my favorite (Tinkerbell). And I love stopping at least once a trip to this house in the long hallway to look at the large, framed, collage of pictures from Lynnette and Sam's wedding day. While I wasn't officially a bridesmaid, I was one of three who did the bridesmaid duties for Lynnette, and I was asked to speak about marriage at her wedding. While I relented to give up my best single friend to the man she would marry, I did so knowing that I was gaining another best friend. And now there is never just "Lynnette my friend from Seminary and her husband Sam." It's my friends, Sam and Lynnette, and together the three of us have become best friends in a new way. Or at least on my end, I know Sam has been added to my group of besties alongside his wife. They are people who don't just know me and love and tolerate me, but rather know and love and encourage me to live to my full potential.
And so I feel at home in their home. I feel safe.
It doesn't have to be clean, I'm not really a guest. Towels don't have to be laid out on my guest bed, folded and ready, I can get my own towel from the bathroom closet. And if the baby's clothes have been tossed in a laundry basket, I can fold them and put them away. The litter box can be full and stinky; I don't begrudge Missy (though I will be irritated if she begrudges me by my spraying my suitcase like she did last time). And if dirt and mud gets tracked in from the rain, I can sweep it up cause it's my home too... in a way. This is one of the places I call home.
I can always tell I'm happy if I'm snuggled in a bed with the computer on my lap and I'm typing, no, writing, telling a story. Then I'm happy, then I'm home.
Yesterday at the ordination service of Pastoral Resident, Joe Bumbulis I watched my own story be retold again. Dr. Stroope came down to offer the charge to the candidate as he comes pretty damn close to being Joe's father. Dr. Stroope kept me in seminary. When I'd had enough of crazy Christians, he walked around and around and around an airport terminal with me in China or Thailand or I don't know where the hell we were, and somehow, though I don't remember him saying any words, he convinced me to stay in school. In addition, there were people at Joe's ordination who were at mine. Tommy and Dana Chiodo, Suzy McLaughlin and her dad, Arleigh DeLeon, Stephen Reeves, Peyton Henderson, Suzii Paynter. Some of it I remember what they said, or what the rock that they slipped into my palm said. I still have it. Other words I have forgotten. But not the faces, not the lines, the solomness with which people laid hands on my head and ordained me into a ministry that Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie tonight at the Festival of Homiletics described as "more than a choice...a call... because if we had our choice, we wouldn't go." A Preacher's job is to speak the truth to the powers. Moses was asked to be offensive, not defensive. There is no syllabus for this practicum on liberation. So speak the truth no matter if you know if you have enough money or if you'll be heard or if you don't know how to do civil disobedience, or if you have someone to run the PowerPoint or not. Do it. Speak the truth.
In Roger's homily yesterday for the ordination he described ministers as sometimes laying plastic flowers at a grave, a trite gesture, not without meaning, but an adequate metaphor for how we have reduced our ministry. Plastic flowers. And I thought there for a minute, do I give my students plastic flowers? And tonight I wondered, or do I speak truth to the power they are already inheriting?
In my neighborhood do I give the already oppressed black people the right to keep on oppressing others who are different from them (homosexuals, "browns" and women) when I hear what they say in casual conversation and just ignore it, or do I speak boldly to what I believe is gospel truth about power verses liberation and risk having my voice shake and my faith shook as I may be called heretical and white and liberal and just a woman?
Cause that's my home too. And everybody wants to be loved in their home. At 4:45am I called my next door neighbor Clarence.
"Clarence, my ride didn't show up, can you take me to the airport?"
Of course he did. And he warned me not to find some man while I'm at this conference cause I've got a family (him) to come home to in Austin. But he also encouraged me to relax and have a good time learning and resting. Because he loves me and I love him. And his house is home too. I help myself to his cans of Pepsi and to his bug-killing powder and he helps himself to my extra long orange extension cord. And we bicker with each other over who isn't watering their plants adequately and we watch late nite TV and cry sometimes because we're sad about our losses. And Clarence always does the preaching, admonishing us to carry on, because Clarence has lived through a lot and found the faith to be his solid rock... and because Clarence likes to talk. I can hardly get an admonition in edgewise.
But it's all home, you know. And tonight I'm home in Nashville with people I love; with a baby who will someday call me Auntie Ann. And I'm nuzzled in their house and borrowing a room and a bed and a Tinkerbell coffee mug for a few days, and so i will call it my own home too.
They say home is where your heart is. I say it's where you love and feel loved, fully alive and fully safe to be yourself.
So, welcome Home to Nashville, Ann. Welcome Home.