Within the Lines

From what I understand, coloring is making a comeback for adults. Not the coloring app that you load on your phone and then touch your screen to fill in what color you want the flower petal. Actual real coloring with pages of outlined pictures that you choose a Crayola color to put in your hand and fill in the blank part of the page. I was a mad color-er as a child. I loved the smell of crayons, their names, how sharp they were when you first opened the box. I can remember my box of eight big-handled crayons for kindergarten and I’m not certain what year the number grew to 24 and the circumference was smaller, and then, I don’t think I’m dreaming, I think there was a year I had the box of 64 WITH the sharpener built into the middle of the box. If I am dreaming someone should have invented it. To push back that lid and see all 64 standing at attention and on leveled steps in subtle nuances of blues and oranges and yellows and greens and even the grays to blacks – could the world get any better?!? No wonder coloring books and colors have made a mad dash back to our reality, is there anything more relaxing? It’s like there’s enough freedom to be creative in choosing the hues but still the solid outlines that offer boundaries to a pre-planned picture. You instinctively knew what color was “supposed” to go where, but no one locked you in to making the sun yellow rather than burnt orange, the grass green rather than lima bean, and the roof brown rather than purple – just sayin’. (I think the game’s at 1:00 p.m. central on Friday). We weren’t locked into the color scheme, but those bold outlines made clear the limits of where the colors were supposed to end. Did you stay in’em? Even if your coloring grade took a hit for not, did you stay in’em? Even when the teacher came over and told you what was what and encouraged you gently to “mind the lines”, did you stay in’em? How about now???

This may surprise you, but I was a stay in’em kind a girl with my coloring. I might choose all kinda colors for all kinda objects that perhaps had no real rhyme or reason, but I stayed in’em when it came to the bold lines of limitation. I have a bit of a perfectionist streak in me, and somehow staying copiously within the bold lines made me feel better – truth be told, I think it still does. Part of what’s relaxing even now, is not deciding where the lines should stop to color the house, garden, flowers, chimney and happy little trees. I watched the paint guy on public television as well. The hard part is, right? The hard part is realizing that sometimes, if things are going to change for the common good, coloring outside the lines, even for perfectionists, is sorta and maybe even mostly, necessary.

I’ve been asked on a couple of occasions in the last few weeks if my stance around what happened at the specially called General Conference on the Way Forward for the United Methodist denomination in February is simply sour grapes. That don’t I realize that you win some and you lose some and learning how to accept a loss with dignity and respect is as important as winning well. Therefore choosing to continue this path of not respecting the vote to continue the language against the LGBTQ+ community is NOT helping us “move forward” as a people called United Methodist.

Yes, winning AND losing is a part of life. It’s a foundational learning that, when experienced and guided how to respond, helps us mature into civic-minded and invested citizens in our communities, educational systems and churches. We do well to learn to roll with the punches and find ways to accept that we aren’t always going to get our way, that there are “many right ways to do right things,” and that to offer our respect and support to those with whom we agree AND those with whom we disagree is the better part of humanity. Here it comes . . . HOWEVER . . .

When the winning comes at the expense of any of God’s beloved creation, I believe we are called to stand up, or “up-stand”, for those who are told by the “win” that they are less than worthy, less than other brothers and sisters, and less than acceptable to live their lives in faithful and monogamous relationships called marriage, and to follow a call that God places on their hearts to serve and be appointed as ordained leaders in God’s faithful communities, in this situation, the United Methodist Church.

So no, it’s not simply a matter of being poor losers. It’s a matter, for me, of following the Jesus whose life has invited, confronted, loved into, held accountable, called into confession and repentance, and colored outside the lines of this life of mine. I wanted to be a fan of Donny Osmond and the Osmond brothers when I was in the 7th grade, but it was a picture of Billy Graham from my Grandma’s Saturday Evening Post Magazine that I poster-pinned to my bedroom door. (yes, in fact, my parents did consider counseling at that point). Immediately after college I wanted to be an English and History teacher and coach volleyball, basketball especially, and track – “The White Shadow” was my FAVORITE television show in high school followed closely by “Eight is Enough” – but I came home for lunch one day my first year of teaching and saw the starving children in Ethiopia and wondered why I was born with enough and they weren’t and needing to try and do something somehow with somebody to make a difference. I wanted to be a missionary, I wanted to carry bags of grain for starving children out of the way where no one would see me or give a second thought about my life, but then Ken made step into the pulpit at North Cross and preach, and I felt in a way I never had before, that I had found my “home” and my truest self. I don’t know why I have this particular skill-set, I don’t know why it fits best in the United Methodist Church, I don’t know why I have this thing in me that wants to love and accept and respect every human being at an essential level and walk together from that place toward the best we can love each other into. I simply know those are my realities.

So no, it’s not poor sportsmanship, it’s not sour grapes, it’s not resentment for not being on the winning side this time. It’s about the prophetic nature of God through the living Word of Jesus that calls us to love without the arrogance of deciding for God that God simply made a mistake in the creation of some of God’s beloved children who are the LGBTQ+ community.

I will continue to color quite copiously within the lines of our doctrine and governance and theological perspectives until or unless it mandates that I treat ANYone as a less than valuable for ANY reason, child of God. At that moment my coloring will go intentionally outside the lines of what the winning side has legislated – and I will do so publicly, I pray with great respect and appropriate compassion for those who disagree, and with the spirit of deep joy and peace in my soul that I believe only God, who has abundant grace for all of us, can provide.

I think I’m onna head out to hunt for a box of 64 crayolas WITH a sharpener built into the box. I just know they had those in my elementary years, and a coloring book with all kind-a pictures that spur my imagination. And I may just color for 2 and ½ hours or so on Friday afternoon beginning at 1:00 p.m. and whatever the picture is, I imagine a lot of shades of purple will be used both inside and maybe a little outside the lines.