If

chris bball

 

This is a photo of me in 1975 when I led my high school’s conference in points per game (18), assists per game (7), rebounds by a guard (10), free throw percentage (90%), and minutes played (38.5).

I also have the record for telling the biggest lie in 2016.

But for the record, if I had been four feet taller I would have been in the NBA. And I would not have been one of those non-athletic 9-footers. I would have been a 9-footer who could jump out of the gym. OK, maybe not.

If. If a pig had wings it could fly. If I had been four feet taller I could have been in the NBA. Maybe not.

Yesterday I went to my doctor’s office and when I got to the check in window I noticed the two ladies checking people in were laughing their heads off. Gradually, it came to me. They are laughing at me. Yes, they were laughing their silly heads off at me. I looked at one of them and told them my name. You know, that’s what you are supposed to do when you check in. “I’m Chris Ayers. I have an appointment with . . .” The laughing lady on the left said, “Pokey. You are Pokey.”

Ha, ha, ha, ha.

So here’s the short version of the story. My wife gets her allergy shots at this office. She’s struck up quite a relationship with the laughing ladies. A few years ago Victoria told them how slow, how pokey I am. Not long thereafter the laughing ladies noticed I had an appointment on a certain day and they decided to watch me to see if I was as pokey as had been reported. They agreed with my spousal unit. Evidently their husbands are pokey too, but not as pokey as me. Ha, ha, ha, ha. Funny, funny, funny.

As it turns out, my basketball coach in 1975 told me “Ayers, you have one speed and it’s slow.”

If.

If I had been four feet taller and fast.

What’s your biggest “if”?

May God help you and me to live with our “if’s,” our shortcomings. Get it, shortcomings. May God help us and others (including the laughing ladies and my wife) to appreciate all our fine qualities. And thank you to that person who wrote the story about the tortoise and the hare.

One More Hurt For My Trans Friend

trans

There they were, in a line, a long line, lined up waiting to be anointed with oil by the first Roman Catholic transgender priest (who wishes to remain anonymous/not named on Facebook/internet). A line of broken individuals, broken by life and health and circumstances and other people, seeking healing of mind, body and spirit. Nothing magical. Wedgewood is after all a liberal church which encourages a thinking/questioning faith. Nothing magical, but still the ritual of anointing with oil for at least enough healing of whatever to be empowered for that day and the days ahead.

anointing with oil oil

She looks into their eyes with a gleam in her eyes. She smiles. She says their name. She takes the oil, oil produced by women in a ministry in Tennessee for recovering prostitutes and addicts, and makes the sign of a cross on their forehead. First this person. Then that person. Than another and another and another and another until she gets to me. I’m last in line, the broken pastor.

Then I take the oil and make the sign of the cross on her forehead, and this time – it’s the first time I’ve said this – this time I say “for the healing of all those who have hurt you.” She blinks, and looks at me oddly.

Four days later we meet for our weekly fun Mexican lunch. After we order our usual orders she asks, “Why did you say what you said when you anointed me?”

“What did I say?”

I honestly can’t remember.  I can’t remember yesterday.

You said, “for the healing of all those who have hurt me.”

“I don’t know. Maybe God and the Spirit informed what I said.”

True story.

The previous Friday my friend was going to a Taize worship service at Wedgewood, a service that provides so much peace for a person who has experienced her car being bombed, being shot at, dead animals sent to her in the mail, along with a million insults. Before the service she stops at Dragon House Chinese Buffet near the intersection of Woodlawn and South Boulevard in Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte is the city that recently passed a law allowing transgender people to choose public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. North Carolina’s Governor, Pat McCroy, responded by signing HB2, a law, which among other harmful things, prevents transgender people from using bathrooms other than those which correspond to their gender on their birth certificate.

dragon house

Upon finishing her meal, my trans friend was greeted by the host of Dragon House Chinese Buffet, a young, white male in his 20s. “I know you are one of those people. You know if you use the bathroom you are going to have to use the men’s room.” And then he walked off.

Car bombed. Shot at. Dead animals sent in the mail. One more hurt added to the pile of all the other hurts.

“Why did you say what you said when you anointed me?”

“I don’t know. Maybe God and the Spirit informed what I said.”

“May God heal those who have hurt you.”

 

 

My First Experience With Weird

 

Weird Al Yankovic

Weird Al Yankovic

My parents fell in love with Daytona Beach, Florida and so our annual vacation was to Daytona Beach, the beach you could drive your car on. Every year for fifteen years – Daytona Beach. It was our home away from home. Same route, same stops (for the most part), same beach, same hotel. We were into sameness.

I was very provincial:   an unsophisticated, narrow-minded youngster from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. As far as I was concerned, Winston-Salem was the center of the universe. A lot of learning was in my future.

At Daytona Beach, when I wasn’t playing in the ocean or sand or swimming in the hotel’s pool or playing putt-putt golf, one of the things I liked to do was look at the license plates of the other people staying at the hotel. For some reason, there were always gobs of people from Ohio. I found them to be odd, weird, different. I wondered if being away from the ocean, being so centrally located, had something to do with their oddness. They were my first experience with weird.

Years later as a freshman at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, I experienced the really weird for the first time. In Chapel Hill, we had a little bit of everything. As the pastor at University Baptist Church put it, “If we don’t have it in Chapel Hill, it’s coming in on the next train.” At UNC, I received as much of an education outside the classroom as in it. It was a very good education.

It was in Chapel Hill that I discovered those weird people are just people. Some of the weird people became friends of mine. Diversity to me became a gift, and not something to be feared.

These days I am a pastor of a liberal church in Charlotte, North Carolina. And now I realize I am weird to a lot of people. The shoe is on the other foot. With some therapy under my belt, I don’t mind being weird. Self-differentiation has turned out to be quite fun, even though painful at first.

As a pastor of a very diverse group of people, part of my ministry is to teach the rest of the world about “my journey of weirdness.” The world and people are much more complex than most people are able to grasp. I try to be patient with the provincial because I once was quite provincial myself. And truth be known, there’s a part of me that still believes Ohioans are a tad odd even though I know stereotyping is very problematic.

One of the things I most like about Jesus is he hung out with the outcasts, the truly weird. To him, people were just people.

[Note:  As fate would have it, my wife’s maternal relatives are from Ohio :)]

I Love Vagina

penis in vagina

Tina and Sarah, two gay women, were on a trip to Texas with Tina’s elderly mother. As fate would have it, they pulled up behind a car with two lesbians in it. The bumper sticker on the car read “I Love Vagina,” which sent Tina and Sarah into non-stop laughter.

i love vagina bumper sticker

During the midst of the guffawing, Tina’s 88 year-old mother wanted to know what all the hooting and howling was about. Tina has never come out of the closet with her mother. Tina figures her mother is so old why bother saying anything this late in her mother’s life. Her mother, though, insists on knowing what all the commotion is about. Tina explains, “Well, Mom, there are two gay women in the car in front of us and what we are laughing about is they have a bumper sticker on their car that reads ‘I Love Vagina’.”

Tina’s mom leans forward, squints her elderly eyes, pauses, and then comments, “”I think it says Virginia. I think they must have printed it wrong. They probably meant to say “I Love Virginia!”

Tina and Sarah start laughing again.

“No mom, it’s definitely ‘I Love Vagina.’”

Here’s to loving Virginia and to loving vagina. And prayers for those who have never come out of the closet because their parents are just too old to deal with their sexual orientation.