Archive for ‘Love’

June 16, 2012

Lisa Larges: Final Letter

Dear Friends of That All May Freely Serve,

“Changing minds by changing hearts” has been the shorthand way of describing the mission of That All May Freely Serve. This is what we’ve done together as we worked, for instance, for the change in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church to allow for the ordination of all persons who are called to serve. This is what we’ve done as we’ve worked for marriage equality and the right of pastors to marry all couples seeking to make a covenant of love. We changed votes by changing minds. We changed minds by changing hearts.

For the sake of truth in advertising, we didn’t change any hearts at all, that’s God’s doing. We just tried to do our best to remain faithful to our assignment: to share our stories, even when doing so was risky; to come with open hearts, and a willingness to listen; to build relationships across lines of difference; to deepen the conversation; to remain patient when patience was generative; to challenge when doing so was healing; to seek the best in everyone; to remember, finally, that the Gospel message is that love always wins out over fear.

Hearts changed. Minds changed. Votes changed.

But what I want to tell you here, in the privilege I have of writing this one last letter to you as a part of my official work with TAMFS – what I want to tell you is how my own heart changed. This hasn’t so much been a job, or even a calling as it has been a journey of love.

When we’re engaged in the work of trying to change an institution like the Presbyterian Church, it can be easy to get mired down in an awareness of the many and sometimes tragic flaws of that institution: the mean-spiritedness, the indifference, the judgmentalism, the willful ignorance, the resistance to change of any sort, the failure to heed the prophets in our midst, the turning away from the Gospel message. All of that can be summed up in a word, and that word is fear.

But, what I’ve learned in these last ten years, and what I try to remember is how fleeting and inconsequential all of that is, compared to the slow, steady, and enduring power of love.

I have been mentored in love by those whose lives seem to glow with the Holy Spirit, “Saints on earth and saints above” alike. I have been sustained by love – by those who have opened their homes as we’ve traveled, by those who have quietly taken on the minutia of the behind the scenes tasks that are

necessary to build an organization, by those who have gone on the road with us and shared their own journey of faith with strangers, by those who have served on boards and committees, and so much else.

Time and again, thousands of people across this country have drawn from that deep well of generosity and given their time, their financial support, their talents, and their willingness to commit to believing in a better day, even when that day was slow in coming.

All of that is love, pure and simple. To each one of you who has given so generously from your heart, I am so deeply grateful. It’s love, in the end that changes us. I know, because it has changed me.

I am so grateful that Ray Bagnuolo will be our new Evangelist of love and hope as That All May Freely Serve begins a new chapter. Ray lives from the very center of his heart, and that’s how we knew it was right to call him to take on this ministry. Soon Ray will be telling you more about his plans and dreams, but for now, I want to say how glad I am that he has felt called to serve in this way.

You can watch our celebration service, marking this new day in the life of That All May Freely Serve by visiting us at www.tamfs.org. You can also read there more about Ray and about his dreams for the journey ahead.

It’s been an honor and a privilege to have worked with That All May Freely Serve for these last ten years. Thank you for sharing this journey of love with me. May you know all the blessings of love, the strength of hope, and the abundance of joy in all the days ahead.

With love and so much gratitude,
Lisa Larges

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May 25, 2011

Letter from Minnesota: Dear friends and family…

A friend of TAMFS, Heather Ferguson, wrote this letter to her friends and family. Deeply moved, we share it with you:
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Dear friends and family,

Since the late-night Saturday vote at the Minnesota Legislature that put a constitutional amendment banning legal recognition of same-sex marriage on the Minnesota ballot in 2012, I have had to call up courage just to breathe.

I have been confronted these past 3 weeks as deeply as I can ever remember.

I was raised with a powerful faith in the ideals of our United States of America: the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; of liberty and justice for all. Sitting through legislative proceedings was a gut-wrenching experience (as many know from seeing media coverage, including http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/05/18/same-sex-amendment/).

Today I am feeling a grave violation of those promises.

You all know of, and many of you were there to witness, Annika’s and my wedding 20 years ago this year. Because you have journeyed with us through our lives, you understand that Annika, Josiah and Gabe are the greatest gifts, the greatest blessings I have been given.

I want to introduce you to my new hero, because right now, he can say what needs to be said better than I can. His name is John Kriesel, and he is a Republican legislator in Minnesota, whose story goes like this:

If this was 5, 6 years ago, I probably would have voted ‘yes.’ (in favor of banning same-sex marriage) ‘Cause I didn’t think about it. I just thought about my family. I thought about what affects my wife and kids and nothing else.

“Everything changed. I went to Iraq. I was in an incident. I nearly died. I remember laying there, looking down and seeing my legs mangled, and pretty much guaranteeing that I was done. I was a done deal. I thought that was where my life was going to end.

“And I remember thinking of my wife. And my kids. That’s what crossed my mind. And that’s what kept me fighting; the love I have for them.

“It woke me up. It changed me. Because of that, it’s made me think about this issue. And say, ‘You know what, what would I do without my wife?’ She makes me happy. Life is hard. We’re in a really tough time in our history. Happiness is so, so hard to find for people. So they find it, they find someone that makes them happy, and we want to take that person away. We want to say, ‘Oh no, you can be together, you can love that person, but you can’t marry them.’ You can’t marry them. That’s wrong.”

Rep. Kriesel led 4 Republicans to vote No against the constitutional amendment. And the sad truth is, a couple Democrats voted Yes for this initiative that hurts families like mine, while helping no one.

So we can’t rest easy. This is not partisan politics. This is about the well being of all families, and I urge you to stay informed by signing up for http://www.minnesotansunitedforallfamilies.com

In closing, let me just say that I’m trying to understand this in the way I do a big blizzard, where what you thought you’d be doing (or would rather be doing) stops and instead you go out and get to work shoveling, helping others in the process and then at least being grateful that Minnesota’s harsh climate has brought people together. Here, the work is talking to people both who believe in fairness and who are unsure, so that together we can have a deeper understanding about why this constitutional amendment is wrong for Minnesota.

If you are in Minnesota, or have loved ones here, let’s stay in touch about how to work together to defeat this. And whether you live here or elsewhere, please give as generously as you can to an organization I know personally and hold in the highest esteem:  http://www.outfront.org/donate. The link is titled “membership” — this is their standard donation form.

love — really, really, so much love to you for all you mean to us — throughout our lifetime, as well as at this very difficult time,
Heather