Monday, August 21, 2006

Now that I was back in the “Buckle on the Bible Belt,” I had figured that I would return to my old ways, showing up at church every chance I got. But I had changed, and times had changed, in the passage of only one year. Now I was a student at Vanderbilt Divinity School (which I’m sad to say I despised, judging it inferior in comparison with Yale), working and living at the Hospital Hospitality House, singing late nights in the studio, and somehow additionally carrying on a new friendship with Marty McCall. Not too much time left over for church. I didn’t know yet to be on the lookout for my extremist tendencies, so I overreacted to my immersion in the life of the mind the previous year and turned now to the life of the emotions, with a heavy emphasis on relationships.
I wrote an essay for a class at Vanderbilt. This isn’t the final version, which I can’t locate, but an initial draft. It’s definitely revealing of “where I was at” regarding my spiritual life. My brief time at Yale had left its mark on my language and my thinking, as is apparent.
“What is it about ‘low church’ worship that is so discordant and irritating, if not merely disappointing? Is it not the inappropriate moments of banality, the intrusion of commonplace concerns and emotions into the realm of what we sense as numinous, holy, awesome? I will never forget my first conscious response to the low church mentality, when at summer camp there was a night-time baptism, and almost before the hymn with words of rejoicing and praise had ceased, the camp director announced that the hot chocolate was ready. Not even a moment of silence marked a reverence for the new birth that had just been accomplished. An extended period of exultation would have been as foreign to that gathering as would a coped and mitered bishop and a marble baptismal font. I have since forgiven the camp director, but the impression made on my worshiping consciousness that night has been deepened by layers of repeatedly incongruous business-as-usual responses to the presence of the holy.
“As I continued along a semi-conscious path toward spiritual integrity, I found myself seeking the fellowship of people for whom worship was not only a vital experience, but for whom that experience was not embarrassing. I sought people who were capable of discussing their response to the Word of God, rather than the dynamism of the preacher or lack thereof; to the love of the Lord, rather than the beauty of the singing or the building or the day. People with whom, though it might be difficult, it was important and possible to communicate awe, and gratitude, and excitement, and acceptance, and — blessedness — in the presence of God. People who knew how to demonstrate their awareness of the shocking reality of worship, of exhortation from the Word of God, of being with one another before Him.
“I went to the ‘high’ churches and found: a respect for ritual and mystery, dignity, and infinite sensitivity to ‘taste’ and appropriateness. I found an awareness of the power of drama, music, visual arts and poetry, to communicate to more than the intellect, to involve the whole person. I found a sense of the weightiness, not only of standing in the presence of God, but of standing in the stream of the tradition of faith, the heaviness of the responsibility to think, to know, to understand, and to consider the meanings of words and actions.
“But I found, too, an uncomfortable, discordant separation between church and street, sanctuary and classroom, communion and meal, worship and party. The presence of God was too easily localized. The language was too easily set within tight boundaries and its use limited severely and strictly to ‘religious’ moments. The attitude of worship, like a pulpit gown or choir robe, or chasuble, or cassock and surplice, was shed at the appointed time and not taken up again outside the doors of the sanctuary. The addition of ritual, language, aesthetic sensitivity, and dignity to the secular mind was a temporary rather than a deeply transforming experience.
“From time to time along the path, I turned to the churches that are lower than ‘low’, that hearken back perhaps more sentimentally than accurately to the meetings of early disciples from house to house. And there I found them – people who could comfortably and often appropriately use their language, their awareness of His presence, their worshipful attitude, their consciousness of God’s particular, complex and all-encompassing claims on the details of their lives, to communicate and experience a fairly constant and consistent and livable, usable, integrated life of relationship with one another, as mediated by the Holy Spirit of God through His Son.
“They are those for whom awe in the presence of the holy is becoming a daily, hourly, expressible and exciting reality.”

All the instruments had been recorded, and it so happened that we were recording the vocals for our first Fireworks album on my birthday, August 5, 1977. We were in the Gold Mine, Chris Christian’s basement studio (he and wife Shanan lived in the house above it) and there was some kind of technical difficulty that caused us to be unable to use the vocal booth in the basement for awhile. So Brown set up a mic by the piano in the living room and we recorded my solo vocal, “Talks with My Father,” a beautiful song that Marty had written but generously allowed me to sing. It suddenly occurred to me that this was the birthday gift to surpass all birthday gifts – my first solo on record. It didn’t go as well as I had dreamed, but then reality never does if one tends toward perfectionism. The harmonies that Marty and Gary sang on the chorus are still some of my favorites. And Marty’s lyrics, as usual, were fantastic.

Holy blood of Jesus,
Spirit, gently seize us
Brightly light the paths of night
And guide our hearts to oneness.

A few months later, Fireworks went on the road without me. I began to learn the difference between soul and spirit, since my spirit was at peace with this decision, but my soul was suffering. I was giving up my dream! How could God ask that of me? Although it was a fiery trial, I knew even then that it wouldn’t have been good for my heart to be the only woman traveling with four men, especially because I loved them and I was so yearning for someone to love me. Along with Marty and Gary, we also had a drummer, Lanny Avery, who was also a philosopher and watercolor artist, and Chris Harris, a Texas bass player who later went on to work with me for six years at Bob Farnsworth’s jingle company, Hummingbird Productions, and then become a producer in his own right.
The night I told them all goodbye, I felt like Dorothy saying goodbye to the Tin Woodsman, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion and going back to Kansas. I thought I was “giving them up forever” in my dramatic way, but by grace I’ve been able to maintain some form of relationship with all of them except for Lanny. He married, became an insurance broker, had twins, and moved to Florida years ago. I still enjoy seeing some of his watercolors hanging on my walls, along with a painting by Vickie McCall, Marty’s wife, and three works by Danny Blair. What an abundance of artistic talent has surrounded my life. I’m deeply grateful to have such a rich atmosphere to enjoy. It speaks to me of the infinite creativity, abundance and life-giving generosity of our God.

When I moved back to Nashville to attend my second year of Divinity School at Vanderbilt, I fully intended to enjoy the Nashville fellowship, get my spiritual feet under me more firmly, and then return to Yale to finish the third year of my Master’s. But that fall of 1976, soon after I arrived in town, I got the promised call from Bob Farnsworth. Could I sing on a session, a commercial he and his best friend Mike Hudson were producing for Home Sweet Home, Chris Christian’s jingle company? That was the fateful night when I met Marty McCall. I had met Gary Pigg earlier, and the three of us were hired for that evening’s work. We had a blend, energy and creativity that was instantly recognized, and were hired for more jingles, then backgrounds on ten albums being produced that year by Chris for Word Records.
One of those albums was the freshman effort of a young girl named Amy Grant. Chris’s engineer was Brown Bannister, the guy Danny and I had sung with in Janice Hahn’s wedding. Brown was a youth leader at the Belmont Church where Amy’s family were members, and Amy was in his youth group. She made a recording of some songs she had written and sung for her classmates at Harpeth Hall prep school, and Brown played the tape for Chris, who played it for Word executives, who gave Chris the go-ahead to produce an album on her. The rest is certainly history. It was in this way that I found myself singing on Amy Grant’s first album. A couple of years later, I wrote a song called “Say Once More” with a friend (I hadn’t met him yet in this telling) and handed it to Brown who chose it for her third album, Never Alone. Marty McCall had encouraged me to write while we were in Fireworks together, and three of my songs appeared on their second album, after I had left the group.
Back in high school at the Dionne Warwick concert, the night I met Burt Bacharach and decided I wanted to grow up and be a background singer, I could have never dreamed or imagined that I could actually do such a thing, or by what a circuitous route it would happen. This opportunity availed itself and my Yale friends said, “Do it! School will always be here, an opportunity in the music business won’t wait.” And I took the advice of youth and left the Master of Divinity program, never to return.
I did work in the music business for ten years after this, singing in the studio and writing songs while office managing a jingle company that also produced records and theater on the side. At that point I determined I had my fill of the demands of being a studio singer. (The turning point came when I was standing for the third hour in the studio singing about “feminine protection” at 4:00 in the morning. That was my last jingle session.) Then followed the joy of producing my own music in three recordings over several years.
What an amazement and a blessing all this has been. I’ve had my regrets from time to time that I never finished that Divinity degree, but have still never determined that there was a career I was sure I wanted for which the degree would be needed. Meanwhile, I’ve been educated by a wide variety of “day jobs”: business-to-business ad agency; neighborhood newspaper; church; personal assistant to two musicians; assistant to the rabbis at a Reform Jewish temple; medical ethics office; and currently assistant to the Dean of Students of a medical school.
But this story must end somewhere, and so I determined to end it where my journaling began, in 1977-78. In the words of Neil Young, “Old man, look at my life: twenty-four and there’s so much more…”

7851 Budlong Avenue

Spring, 1971

And now the time has come
to remember so many things.
Tall Christmas trees and old gas heaters
(“Patty Play Pals” with singed hair)
bathing babies in the attic
and draining the water through the floorboards
so that cracks came in the dining room ceiling

Slumber parties
the guest rooms, always somehow eerie and forbidding
the strange old day bed with faded red tapestry and too many springs
musty attics and moldy damp basement rooms
mysteries and always a little fear
but also elegance and comfort
and the warm feeling of home

Sunday afternoon naps
and then someone in the hallway brushing their hair
the special dressing room, like something in a story
watching old movies or Saturday cartoons
piled up in bed with that amazingly heavy pillow at your back
or just taking refuge from the hordes at a reception or a dinner
hiding in the Bedroom

Shining dark wood and silver, and smiling faces
across the dining room table
running back and forth from the kitchen

Mud in the gardens
the avocado tree with terrific drooping branches
cherry trees in bloom
hundreds of tall daisies, pine cones
the peacocks once upon a time
and still the parrots
Stonewall Jackson and Kettle
some parakeets and once a turtle
numerous kittens
and Buckwheat

Plush wine carpet, old stained rugs
and one floor upstairs that wasn’t seen for year
because it was always covered with clothes

Rearranging rooms, repainting and antiquing
never being satisfied for long

Windows that always banged
windows that always stuck
the clatter of the screen door,
the screech of the backdoor springs
the unmistakable sound of the key in the lock
and the kitchen door swishing open

The impossibility of getting up the stairs
without squeaking (or at least ankles popping)

Sara’s hard bed and MariLynn’s cluttered one
the king-size in the master Bedroom that seemed enormous
(the bed in the wall of the study for when you were sick)

A strange parade of art work
the awful bust of Sara (with white bird strategically placed atop it)
the fiery inferno above Matt’s bed
the “real William Russell”
Eli and Samuel in the Bedroom
the Family in the breakfast room
and the Children lined up over the mantle

Watching Dickie Cavett late at night in the breakfast room
or William F. Buckley or whatever else was Worth Seeing

Classical music blaring from the bedroom
or, just as often, Youth-type noise
“listening to the stereo” at all hours of the day and night
(Sara stepping through the window instead of the door
to float around out on the front porch)

at luncheons and teas and receptions and dinners and breakfasts
and whatever other imaginable social occasions
feeling official and important, with inside information
privileges as well as responsibilities

Strange people wandering around in the guest rooms
sometimes invading the upstairs
demanding service, or being so invisible and
unobtrusive that they make you nervous anyway

Football long ago in the front yard
(later, with Boyfriends, eating pie in front of the T.V.)
family games of volleyball
and always tennis
(old balls lurking the corners and backs of closets)

Addressing hundreds of envelopes, sometimes in the Bedroom
at least once in the study while listening to “The Messiah”
the annual aroma of Dad Young’s cigars
and Grandmother Mattox’s face powder
typing papers and reports by the dozens
(an ancient scene – last minute homework being done in the family room
when we’re already late for school)

Instant Breakfasts
hot fudge sundaes
black licorice, pretzels and popcorn, pistachios
diet drinks
leftover Dining Hall everything

Dreams, ambition, Potential
traumas both imagined and real
cool gray winters (sometimes rain)
and damp sunny summers
school and vacations
Parties and Seminars
College Kids
(who sometimes lowered themselves and became
but were usually Sub-Ts and their girls
or Homecoming-court-people or cool freaks
or just Older aloof heroes)

Memories of people walking down the driveway
visions of those as yet unmet (and maybe an old one
or two) coming up

Our dreams will be refocused
the center of our lives is shifting
but memories are precious,
and our world remains firm.

Peter Pan Summer, 1972

At seven, with a
romantic and stage-struck little heart
I fell in love with Peter Pan
and when I had grown up a bit
(against my will) I told my
Momma one day that I really longed to
play Peter Pan. But not just him —
I wanted to be Wendy, and Tinkerbell,
and all the rest as well.
And she told me,
“Someday you’ll be all those things
to somebody.”
She knew that from experience.
She had played each role
in her lifetime:
the maker of magic and romance;
the mother and the comforter;
the bringer of joy and lightness.
With a tenderness that soothes.
and a strength that upholds, and
challenges, she’d served as a
leader, and shown the humility
of a follower. She’s stood for
other’s rights, and submitted herself
to God.
She has a playful, sweet spirit
that’s too often misunderstood;
a wit and intelligence that’s
sometimes left untapped. So many fine and
useful qualities – but
as is sadly common, because they
are a mother’s, they go unappreciated.
Perhaps most importantly (though one
hesitates to make such a judgment)
my Momma is a lover
of all God’s good gifts.
In this she will always speak to me
of love, and of God. And this, surely, is
most important.

Coming to Heidelberg

Coming to Heidelberg—
it was like coming home.
Things had changed in L.A.
Though there were still
many who remembered my Daddy’s name
most had forgotten how it felt
when he was quietly
loving people
and making life prettier, in his special way.

That first Sunday morning
I walked into the room
where we Christians sometimes worship
and sat in the wooden pew
and felt the peace
in a place he helped to build.
The window overhead, round and violet
let in the morning-colored light
and recalled for me the stained glass he loved.
He’d even had stained glass for office windows
in the building that used to be
a broken-down, early California style
medieval market (that office, half-way
between the President and the People—
you knew that if you took your troubles there,
Things Got Done.)

They took those windows away when he was gone.
And the fairy-tale windows of the Frankfurt
building (he had a childlike Sense of Wonder
for all his practicality) and the rose-window
he rescued from a condemned old Spanish house
that set the mood of Friendship Hall.
(Did you know that used to be a parking lot?)

Downstairs Wednesday night.
Sitting in a circle and encouraging one
another with psalms and hymns and spiritual
songs. In an adobe church building on the
high desert he’d wanted to put the pews
in a circle. He’s noticed that there’s not
much love involved in staring at a brother’s

You three are living now
in an apartment he designed.
Despite the flaws, I think you love it.
At his strongest, that’s the way he loved
people – the jobs he worked at always seemed
to show him the seamy side of humanity.
He dealt with money, but also with dishonesty
and laziness and irresponsibility;
people who couldn’t, or wouldn’t pay their
bills, do their jobs, love their families,
remember their God
and he managed to love them
and help them when they failed.
He failed so often too
and he knew it.

I know he loved that staircase, because there
was one like it in the cabin we had in
Idyllwild. He knew the Christmas feeling
of seeing a little boy’s face peeking
between the banisters. And the picture
windows, especially the one of the kitchen
sink – (Did I tell you about the time he said,
“I like to do the dishes – all day I work
with unending problems, but when you finish
the dishes, they’re done.”) He wanted to see
the sky and the trees, didn’t want to forget
God’s first creations. I remember working
in the yard with him, like that day when Ted
and Danny and I raked the leaves, and
played with the Autumn.

He’d love to see you living here.
There are stories of all the apartments he
fixed up for newly married people.
He loved to help them get settled, to make
an apartment feel right away like Home.
I helped him do that for Chip and Sharyn.

And Todd. He loved little children;
whether it was the purity, or the promise,
or the warmth of the hugs, he loved them,
and most of the time they loved him back.

I’ve lived in Moore Haus since May, and I’ve
watched the seasons change outside my window.
(Now that it’s cold I appreciate the
American-style warmth of the rooms, though
I’m sure Daddy mourned the passing of the
fireplaces, when Central Heating arrived.
Our fireplace was always blazing at the
cabin called Träumende, and even in our
house in L.A. where a fire was just for
magic and not for warmth.)

I’ve come to love being at home in Heidelberg
as I imagine he did.
The sight of the plaque by the gate
at first impressed me with the finality of
death, which I sometimes forget
but life in Moore Haus only reminds me of
my Daddy in living ways.
The sparkly shadows on the Christmas-party
the atmosphere of learning and community
in the library
classical music and dark wood panels –
the basement on a Sunday morning.
Living together
a family of friends.

Coming to Heidelberg—
it was like coming home.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The times, they were a’changin’. I had worked before – for a brief time in my mother’s library, and in the cafeteria. Now I needed to make some serious money. Mom’s secretary was Dell Weldon, wife of Pete who had the accident with me on his tandem bicycle years before. Dell reported to me that Pete informed her, “I think it’s time we let the kids buy their own vitamins.” That sort of summed up the life-cycle changes for me. Here are Dell and Pete in later years with Helen Young.

I wrote a prayer: “I admit before You, Lord – You’ve made me precious to a lot of folks. One reason why I want to be precious to one person is so I can have him with me wherever I am. You’ve kept me moving so much! I have to keep loving and being loved by groups – and then I leave them. What is Your will here?”
We return to the narrative from my journal, written in 1979-80 and reflecting back on divinity school days. “I went home for the summer, and proceeded to hibernate emotionally for the next three months. I lived with Momma and worked in the Payson Library as a pretend professional. What a joke. (The only real professional thing was the bucks, which all went directly to Vanderbilt the next fall.) […and the one ‘faculty meeting’ I attended, feeling like an imposter about to be discovered and thrown out.]
“I don’t remember my relationship to the girls that summer. Marilyn and Sara were living in an apartment in Pasadena and going to Fuller Seminary for a counseling degree. Caren Houser I remember only once from that summer. She and Kenny Waters and I went to church once together and afterward, while we were eating, I complained in my new Yalie tone of voice about how June Nichols [a Bible teacher from Church on the Way who had come to Belmont the year before to teach about women’s submission] just didn’t speak to the questions I was facing – not that she was wrong, just that she was not helpful.” (I wish I had written down some of the things that came out of my mouth that year! It would be so wonderful to rethink those thoughts from this perspective.) Here are Caren, Sara and Kenny Waters in the yard at the beach house.

“That was the summer of my salvation by Kenny Waters. He would call on Wednesday afternoons and ask if I wanted to go to Church on the Way with him. He not only saved me from the Malibu Church of Christ, but also from a negation of my womanhood. With Danny’s rejection and Mike’s emotional blockade, I was really vulnerable to more radical self-doubt than I’d already experience in the waiting years. We had some good talks. I enjoyed his future orientation, planning books and trips and projects. It felt so lively after Danny’s denial of future and Mike’s submission to the academic system. But despite the sharing, old Kenny was reserved and defensive of his emotions, and again I was frustrated, trying not to receive his reservation as rejection of me, but having a hard time with it…
“It had been a long summer of being mostly alone. I wasn’t yet ready to really be at home with myself enough to feel and think and grow with the alone time. Yet I was past my romantic period of fantasy and cleverness, music and books. Overall, the summer was pretty dull. I was numb, and sort of holding my breath. I wasn’t relating to anyone on a deep level, and except for Kenny, nothing new was happening. Here’s a meditation or prayer I wrote after one visit to Church on the Way, the First Foursquare Church of Van Nuys, California (as they always announce at the start of every teaching tape I’ve ever listened to from there.)

23. August 1976
Whenever the Lord leads me to touch someone else’s hand, He’s there with His hand on mine…
If He puts someone on my heart, I can take it because the Lord is there covering both of us while I’m caring for that one…
Whenever I’m led to minister to someone, while I’m holding them, the Lord is ministering at the same time to both of us, holding us…

Holy Lord God
Cover me
Impart to me gentleness
that in holding I do not grasp
that in covering I do not smother
Impart to me confidence in Your holding me
so that I may battle from a firm position of strength
that in speaking I may not shout
that in hearing I may not misunderstand
that in standing I may not struggle and thereby
lose ground You have claimed in me
nor ground on which You would establish the other
Minister to me Your peace
Your hope
Your faith
Your love
Circumcise my ears that I may hear Your voice
Circumcise my mouth that I may speak Your words
Circumcise my heart that I may feel and receive
others and their hearts as Your heart feels and
receives the pain and the joy of Your children.
Glory to Your holy and matchless
Your high and perfect
Your rich and gracefull

The reader will kindly allow a brief departure from the 1980 journal entry for a report on what I actually did that summer. I spent eight hours a day doing boring, mostly cataloguing, work at Pepperdine’s Payson Library. I discovered at that early age that it literally hurt my hands to be in contact with paper and cardstock for that long a time. My muscles felt irritated by the repetitive motions, and I thought, “Uh-oh, not a good career choice, this library thing.” In my spare time, I forced myself to read the Tolkein trilogy, since it was on the Must Do list for my generation. I had loved The Hobbit, but it was hard getting through the final volume of the trilogy.

I set a goal for myself that summer. I had never achieved a real tan in the fifteen years I’d lived in California, and I had often felt like a misfit amidst all the gorgeous golden brown skin on display around me. I would burn, turn lobsterish, then I would peel, then I would be white again. I determined that this summer I would give it my best effort. I sat outside during my lunch hour. I lay out by the pool at my mom’s condo. I went to the beach. I finally turned a very light golden brown. At the end of the summer, I told myself, “You’ve given it your best shot and this is all the results you got. It’s just not worth it. Don’t ever worry about a tan again.” And I haven’t. Now, back to the Journal.
“Being withdrawn as I was, there was no way I could gear up enough to be with Danny and Doug, so I spent the whole summer not calling them. Probably expended a good deal of energy not doing that. I also, not so consciously, was not calling John Gottuso. Then, in God’s timing, I went to a strange Heidelberg Reunion party at Sandy Lemm’s house. I hadn’t been close to any of the people there – except, in that abrasive way, to Karen Davis, aka Kraze. So she was hiding out in the back bedroom, and I sought her out.
“Within moments, I was spilling my proverbial guts – how I introduced the topic I can’t imagine – but there I was telling her about Danny and then Patrick, and Larry at Church on the Way, and my responses to all that. [Note to reader: Larry was a man I happened to sit by at church one night, and when it came time to form the traditional small prayer circle, I turned to him and asked him, ‘Are you struggling with homosexuality?’ He wept and agreed he was, and we prayed together.]
“She couldn’t believe it. She said in her incredible way, ‘I swore to myself, there’s one thing I’m not gonna talk about – especially not to Moore.’ And that was it. Oddly enough, she’d had a parallel experience. About a year previously, within a week or two, four of her male friends had confessed their gayness to her, and it had flipped her directly into that head of, ‘What’s wrong with me??!’ So we, obviously, had a lot to talk about. (I’ve speculated about who the guys were – she never told me – I’m pretty sure I know who one of them was, because four months later I met him at the LAX airport bar to confer about it.)
“The rest of that night’s conversation runs into the other nights, so I can’t distinguish what was said first. But what a connection. Another stage of awakening – I felt vital and alive and dangerous and interested again and here was someone to talk to. We decided we needed to meet again and continue the process. I think for her too it was an important experience, to be able to reflect all those feelings and agonizing thoughts on someone who was equally moved by them. So we met at the Magic Pan in Hollywood and talked some more. I remember it was hard to confess my past without implicating others.
“The most wonderful moment of connection for me was when she was describing some lesbian friends at MCC
[i] and I ran her the rap about that kind of confrontation: ‘How can you deny one whole half of the human race your affection and love? How can you choose to give yourself only to men? How can you deny your feelings? Make up your mind! If you’re gay, why not act on it? You know heterosexuality is fucked up. There’s genuine concern and affection here for you, and great sex…” etc., etc.
“She screeched delightedly, ‘You’ve heard it too!’ and I said, ‘No, I just figured that’s what they’d say.’ It amazed me to hear all that coming out of my mouth. I hadn’t consciously thought it out, much less heard it from anyone, but I’d read enough MS. magazine to get the jargon down. [And Bev Nitschke and I had talked about the pressures certain people at Yale were putting on her to ‘admit she was gay.’ I was doing what I always had done, explaining that gayness is not a fate to which one must resign oneself. That God wouldn’t tell people not to do it if they had no choice in the matter.] In fact, that was the real amazement of talking to Karen – actually talking it out. I hadn’t talked to anyone, verbalized it, felt it, shared it with anyone ever before.
“That night we were walking to our respective cars and she said, almost as an aside, ‘You know, my two roommates are going to this incredible counselor; they think I should go talk to him.’ Out of a dark corner of my mind, I pulled out the question, ‘Is his name possibly John Gottuso?’ We both fell out. ‘WHAT?!’ ‘The same guy.’ ‘Incredible.’ ‘How did you guess?’
“Well, it was too obvious a set-up to ignore. We had to go see Gottuso together. It seems he specialized in counseling lesbians and gays. Lord Almighty. I called him and said, ‘Hi, remember me? I’ve got this friend, and we want to come see you.’ I was oblivious to the fact that he would doubtless assume that we were lovers. He must have been somewhat confused by our denial of that – trying to figure out why we were both so defensive if we weren’t involved, or why we would come to see him together if we weren’t. We showed up at his house in Arcadia and finally started talking at ten p.m. He and his wife had a new baby, and I felt jealous in the old Matt way, watching his wife and thinking, ‘What has she got that he married her? That she’s got him?’
“My memories of that talk are real specific – three of my most intense hours. The first confrontive technique he used was the same as before – the sexual shock test of sitting there with bare chest, just out of the shower with a terrycloth wrap on, which might or might not conceal nakedness down below. Where I only nervously looked occasionally, Karen was crassly verbal. So Gottuso said, ‘Do you want a look? If you do, I’ll give you one – don’t try to steal it.’ He said to Karen, ‘I did this on purpose to see what you two would do with it.’ It was the old, ‘Men’s bodies aren’t mysterious and scary, and the penis is not the focus of my maleness. I am not my penis.’ (I had said something about ‘seeing you’ and that had brought up the issue of ‘who you are’ – ‘You are not your genitals.’ Okay, but really. It was an in-your-face assault on my modesty.)
“He asked us to describe ourselves, and demanded that the healthy person is not defined by her roles. That left me up in the air – roles are all I’d ever thought in terms of. Left me feeling really unfinished on that one.
“The Moment for me was when he was talking to Kare about something and he said, ‘Look, Moore knows I accept her completely.’ I DID NOT KNOW THAT. But when he said it, it touched a deep hurt in my heart, and I began to want to believe that and take courage and comfort from it. The experience that most stands out from that night was the feeling of being confronted by someone so violently. Whenever Gottuso turned to Karen and questioned her, I could think clearly. I could hear him, and I could see her confused and flustered, unable to be straight with him. She could not focus and say what she was feeling, without defense. But the minute he turned to me, it went all foggy for me and I couldn’t cope any better than she had.
“I didn’t understand it until I realized it was an incredibly complex series of defenses that sent up that smokescreen. And there was more vulnerability rather than less for the person under fire – because it was so obvious that one was hiding and defending rather than being okay and present. That was my first taste of my own defensiveness and the dissatisfied, frustrating, intolerable sense of not being able to get out from behind that wall and make contact.
“I got a great behavioral revelation from Gottuso. Never before had I heard myself constantly saying, ‘My mother would say…’ I did it constantly until I met him. Noticing it helped me quit. I was taking her with me everywhere.
“I had always feared psychology people, and yet been ferociously attracted to them, because I felt they could see me, they could get behind my cloud and know how I really was inside. And I was afraid, but desperately wanted that too. To be known. Yet, before, I hadn’t trusted that someone could see me – they’d only be seeing a classic case of this or that neurosis.
My parents had always said disparaging things about the psychology people at Pepperdine, and indeed they were a squirrelly bunch. In my freshman year at Pepperdine, I had take an Introduction to Psychology class and found myself feeling resistant to some of it. I chiefly recall the last day of class, when the teacher asked us to line up in order of how open and vulnerable we had been in class. I was infuriated by how unfair that exercise was. Somebody was going to have to be at the end of the line, whether they deserved it or not, taking the least respectable position in terms of the desired qualities of openness and vulnerability. So I marched directly to that place as a silent protest against the injustice. I also knew that I really belonged toward the back of the line, and that made me mad too. I hated being classified and evaluated.
“Well, Gottuso cared about me. So I wanted him to figure me out, and I wanted him to be right. Oh, how I wanted to stay in that house indefinitely. It felt like finally being in good hands. Here was someone who could let me be screwed up, and out in the open, and maybe HELP me too. It was really painful to leave there that night. I felt a little desperate to be heading for Nashville the next week and maybe re-entering my numbness. I knew I was waking up to something, and if I didn’t have help, I was afraid I’d go back to sleep.
“Kare and I talked some more on the way home, coming down somewhat from the intensity, but not enough not to stay awake the rest of the night. We ever dared to talk in the same bed, but it was too dangerous to hold each other, both of us fearing the affection we wanted to have and give as being gay emotion. It was hard to think about not growing together, now that a level of compassion and companionship had been established.
“Incredibly odd experience the next night. It was my last week at home, so Momma had a right to be mystified about my behavior, spending two evenings of it with this strange woman I had never mentioned to her before. But the gutsiness of that lady! I was in bed and she came in and with very little preface simply asked, ‘Are you a lesbian?’ Geez. What a moment. I said, ‘No, Momma, I can assure you that I’m not a lesbian.’ Okay. How I wanted to tell her about Danny, but that was not going to happen for another year.
“How exactly did Gottuso prepare the way for what was to come?…I began to distance myself from [Momma] when I heard myself quoting her, and slowly quit doing that. The focus with Gottuso, though, was my father relationship – yet it was an unfulfilling direction, because everything I was in touch with while talking to him (which wasn’t much) pointed to the classic Electra complex, and neither one of us was satisfied that sex with my father had ever really meant anything to me. It was more a discomfort, an inability, in relating to myself as a woman (like Momma) and therefore an unhealthy identification with male roles, wanting to be like Daddy, to be accepted by him and by other men, but not as a woman. So there was lots of role confusion coupled with a real fear/attraction to the totally mysterious, frightening world of sexuality. That sent me along the paths of sexual roles, and insight into my selfhood – but no, before I could go there, I needed a real close first-time look at how I was, what I sounded like, what my needs and games and relationships were really like. The proverbial Awakening.

My journal account continues, “Then there were two lonely, fearful, anticipating weeks in Nashville, getting settled at Hospital Hospitality House and into classes at Vanderbilt, and then I met Marty…His friendship served me in so many ways…Here was someone who liked me, liked who I was on all levels, who could befriend me in the new places I hadn’t dared to look before. He was that gentle mirror without which I couldn’t begin to see my outward behavioral bondages[ii]. He was a companion who held my hand as I walked down those dark halls in my past. He was the encourager, who said, ‘You can write. You can think. You can create. You can feel. You can hurt. You can grow. You can dare, and fail, and dare again. It’s okay. You’re going to be okay.’
“He encouraged me in my attempt to relate to my own painful identity as a misfit in standard American roles. He encouraged me not to run from my pain, but to use the pain, be with the pain, feel it and move past it. To be in a hurting place and be willing to stay there until somehow God could work His changes. Not to deny reality. Not to cover and hide and pretend. Gosh. To feel was an amazing new thing. I never knew I didn’t allow myself to feel. The whole rationalistic, legalistic view that feelings were bad, wrong, dangerous – because we believed they couldn’t be changed, dealt with, we had denied them, yet continually suffered because our actions were based on them, and not on rational truth, rightness, like we tried to claim. Marty referred to me as a woman, and every time I heard the word it shocked me into an awareness that I didn’t see myself that way.”

A note of explanation: Marty had come to Nashville to be a solo artist, but instead Word Records’ Myrrh label offered us a deal as a group – Marty (above middle), Gary Pigg (above right) and me. We became one of the first contemporary Christian rock bands, Fireworks, and then with an album under our belts, it was time to sign with a booking agent. I decided it was God’s will that I leave the group, one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. But it would have been even more painful if I had stayed in the group. Marty’s and my friendship shifted dramatically when Vickie [his high school girlfriend] moved to Nashville. I hadn’t processed anything of Daddy’s abandoning in his death, and the confusion and death I experienced when Marty turned away from our friendship was painful on that kind of level. So a door to my heart slammed shut again, and stayed shut for almost two more years – until the conviction of the Holy Spirit in regard to Jerry Gaston, the September that A Severe Mercy[iii] opened it again.
“Seems like it would be good to reiterate what came up about Daddy when I was with Gottuso. I had realized years before that I ‘needed a strong man’ because I would dominate a weak-willed, insecure or indecisive, accommodating personality. But then the Lord revealed that’s a desire to be dominated, to be irresponsible, and no more truly submissive than if I were controlling. Still, I knew I needed headship
[iv], and the way Gottuso seemed to offer himself was permissive and scary.
“The following spring, I was sitting in Introduction to Counseling [at Vanderbilt Divinity School] and a revelation came regarding my fear of intimacy with men. Not only had I received Momma’s already well-developed defense structure, but I had constructed my own to deal with the imbalance at home. The professor was telling a story about his own family, and a light went on for me.
“He said, ‘You know, the other day my little girl came to me and said, “Daddy, will you marry me?” and I gently told her, “No, honey, I love Mommy and she has me – I’m already taken.”’ He said that every child comes to the point of identifying the same-sex parent as a rival for the love of the other parent, and needs to be firmly assured that the love of that parent is theirs, but not like that – they’ll have to find their own mate.
“As he told his story, I realized that I had never felt that gentle but strong assurance as to what our proper relationships were at home. These were the messages I received from Daddy: ‘You are a treasure, you are extremely intelligent and talented, to be admired, even worshiped. I tell everyone else how wonderful you are, but I can’t tell you. (Why not?) Your mother is our mutual enemy – I don’t understand her, I fear her emotions, especially her anger. I don’t know how to deal with her much of the time. I resent her for hurting you.
“‘I’m angry that you can’t achieve a truce with her, but – I can understand why. I like to be alone with you, but don’t know what to say to you when we are alone together. You are not attractive physically, so you must become remarkably intelligent and informed to compensate. And you are that, so emphasize it in your goals. You will achieve much – I won’t be able to comprehend your thoughts or apprehend your world, but I will honor you as having surpassed me in the fields I respect.’
“Mostly the message was, ‘I don’t have a healthy relationship with your mother – I wish I could be affectionate with you – but since it’s taboo, we’ll have an agreement that you won’t grow up as a woman at all, and that way neither of us will have to deal with the dark sexual issues.’ And then, when I was newly discovering womanhood, groping for identity and definition and acceptance on a person level, and losing in the sexual contest, he left me. Strange that the night of his death I went to a wedding and realized he wouldn’t be there to walk me down the aisle, to give me away. I felt on some deep level then a hidden message, ‘I don’t want to give you away. I don’t want you to relate healthily as a woman to another man. So I’ll leave and you’ll always feel unreleased.’
Lord! How amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever realized that one before. Only You can provide the release I need. I hardly need to mention that this very lack of permission (to seek a healthy relationship with another man) seems to be the very thing that turned me to unavailable men – they could be trusted to tell me ‘No!’ when I tried to relate intimately to them – and that’s what I was seeking from Daddy, a solid ‘No.’ Then, in his death, he seemed to be saying, ‘That’s right, have relationships with men like me – afraid of intimacy, not able to talk to you as an equal, but appreciative of your talents and tastes, while angered (passively) at the strength of your personality.’ Unavailable men. Of course.” And that's as much as I understood as I looked back a few years, journaling at the age of 27.

[i] Metropolitan Community Church, a church established exclusively for the benefit of homosexual and lesbian people.
[ii] “Bondage” was a word used in Christian Charismatic circles to indicate spiritual oppression, habits of thought that led to sin, personality or character deficits that evidenced a spiritual problem. It had no connection to the sexual connotation that is common outside Christian circles.
[iii] A memoir by Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy included letters from C.S. Lewis and described a romance so intimate, so vulnerable, that I was confronted by my many defenses. Reading it, I realized I had been keeping my friend Jerry Gaston at such a distance that it was actually abusive to him. When I confessed, and promised to change, I discovered that Jerry was more comfortable with the relationship as it had been, and did not want to be closer.
[iv] “Headship” = a reference to the concept that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is head of the Church, this idea has been misinterpreted as license for men to abuse and dominate their wives. See Ephesians 5:21-33.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Since I had developed quite a taste for cleverness during my college years, I appreciated the witty bonnes mots being constantly dropped all around me. Other times, I enjoyed comments that seemed to crystallize a certain New England attitude, an upper crust mentality. Then there were those remarks that could be heard in any liberal theological institution – but only there. I captured a few of them for my later enjoyment.
Donald Moteka: “Ned celebrates the dull in life…the routine, the usual…”
Ed Boucher: “You know, there’s going to be a total eclipse of the moon tonight, and you can see it over Porter Hall, there in the east sky…” to which Michael Haggin replied, “Is this something you and Moteka whipped up?”
Carol Seifrit: “We got yelled at by the Rector for laughing at the bingo announcer – it was the Turkey Raffle –“ to which Michael retorted, “Don’t you know that’s the Eighth Sacrament?”
Carol, a Roman Catholic, liked to poke at my low-church Protestant leanings. She was dictating a quote to fill in a hole in my notes, “Among the marks of the True Church, the Petrine office…” and, noting my unconscious hesitation, exhorted, “Go ahead and write it, the paper won’t burn!”
Prof. Rowan Greer: “Oh dear, I’m sorry – I’ve confused Gregory the Wonder Worker with Gregory the Illuminator; the Armenians had nothing to do with this. Though they were next-door neighbors…”
Jill Bigwood, Registrar: (After punching in a remarkably long string of numbers on her office phone) “You dial this many numbers, you get God. Hello, God?”
Prof. Aidan Kavanagh: “…when we assemble to be most ourselves, in the act of Christian worship…”
Prof. Biddle: “I am offering this term ‘From Puritanism to Enlightenment’ – not an autobiographical course, by the way.”
One of my classmates signed her library card “Seven Promises.” We could hardly believe her parents had been hip enough to name her that. In actual fact, they were not. He knew I would love the irony, so Michael Haggin shared it with me, much to my delight. “You know, the one who taught meditation…She told us her real name. It’s Margaret Alice Wilcox.”
John Ferrie was horsing around: “I’m sure that in a former life, I was a scribe, and before that, J.” “Jay?” someone questioned. “J – as in J, E, P, D
[i] – that’s me!”
Two guys who lived below me in Seabury were lunching one Saturday in the Refectory and I sat down with them. They were discussing a Christmas shopping expedition to the City. “You should have seen this sale…I was able to get two Persian rugs, since they were only $600 each. And a really nice diamond for my sister, not too large…” It was not that they were financially out of my league. I felt like they were from another universe entirely. So it was fun, listening in on their world.
Mike Johnston…the initiator of this adventure, and its primary focus… had gone missing. He was afraid, I guess, or I wasn’t who he thought I was, or he didn’t know what to do with me once he had me. Something caused him to choose the life of a hermit, just for that particular year. He claimed to have little or no time to hang out with me. It was my turn to learn to depend on God for my affirmation, to turn to God for any affection or understanding or compassion I might need. The words of a Lazarus song became even more precious to me, and I copied them into my journal, with no explanation, on January 19, 1976. I heard this Bill Hughes song now as coming from the Lord to me.

Memories can’t bring you home
Childish dreams make you roam
And there’s no time for guarantees
Of everything you are to Me
Let your eyes let you see
Let your ears let you hear harmony
Let your days let you be
Everything you are to Me

But there were moments of sweetness that the Lord provided, all surprises:
• Lanny Vincent and I walking arm in arm downtown
• Ed Boucher, entranced by Mahler and soprano Phylis Curtin
• Duncan Hanson taking me to see The Hiding Place and All the President’s Men
• Michael Haggin, affectionately holding my foot (!) one night as we talked
• Bailey from Georgia telling me, “Those were the best dances of my life!” after I dared a few rounds with him at a weekend dance in someone’s off-campus apartment.
• Phil McBrien and that great talk and walk after the B minor Mass performance, and a beer at Harry’s Bar
• Clifford Wünderlich, the Ugaritic scholar, with his “Yes, Ma’m”s and his always laughing at me, and his understanding, listening heart, and his confession to me, “I really liked Bernstein’s Mass – but I’m not sure whether it’s the Christian in me responding, or the pagan. I mean, I felt the same was at Carmina Burana – and that’s secular.” Mr. Wünderlich was also my informant regarding the arrival of Welch’s grape juice at the Eucharistic Table. “You know, Methodists used wine in the communion until Mr. Welch joined the church in the 1890s.”
I became friends with a young woman, Gretchen Law, who delighted and challenged me. She was an earnest person, very warm and bright, who confessed to me that she had never actually read the Bible. She explained that the reason she came to divinity school was that her adoptive dad had been healed of cancer, and she wanted to thank God with her life. I found this touching but also unbelievably foreign, being as I was a person raised on scripture practically from birth.
Gretchen was a feminist who was very comfortable with her body, and her unfettered freedom in that area sometimes made me nervous. She and a friend of hers, Linda Petrocelli, came to dinner one night while I was house sitting at the Worleys’. Linda shocked me by saying, “Gwen, you’re so much more comfortable with your faults that we are with ours. We find it difficult to talk about them.” She provided me with my first realization that everyone who loved God wasn’t necessarily prepared for my accustomed level of self-revelation.
Speaking of the Worleys, they were the couple whose apartment Mike and I had stayed in on my first visit to New Haven, Christmas, 1973. David and Melinda had since bought a house and had a baby girl. His family owned radio stations in Texas, and I believe they returned there after they both had finished their degrees. They were a very loving, welcoming, generous couple who loved to have people over for dinner, for Bible studies, to hang out.
The other married couple that was a huge blessing to me was Steve and Barbara Hays. They had migrated to Yale from Washington state carting loads of canned goods which had a prominent place on shelves in their living room. I felt like I was eating gold when they shared some of it with me. When I got sick at one point, they brought me food and Steve gave me a warm, padded winter jacket, which I lacked. They were most kind and hospitable to me, and together the two couples created a safe haven of family in my world of single oddness. Both couples were unreconstructed members of the Churches of Christ, though, so I was a bit of a misfit with them spiritually, having already partaken of so many non-C. of C. adventures.
Sue Wendorf was one of the handful of folks with whom I eventually had a few encouraging heart to hearts in those late evening dorm room visits. She shared with me a quote from her grandfather, a venerable old German Lutheran: “Was du nicht verstehen kann, mußt du glauben.” “What you cannot understand, you must believe.” This was the kind of thing one could say only late at night, in a whisper, to avoid being mocked by the less than pietistic.
I had a great time getting to know a friend of Mike Johnston’s, Dick Kantzer. Dick was the first true believer in biblical inerrancy I had ever met…at least the first intellectual one. I told him that I didn’t feel the need to claim for the Bible something that I don’t think it claims for itself. Dick was the most earnest, dedicated, kind hearted person, most intentional in the way he related to people. Sometime after we met, his father, Kenneth, became the editor of Christianity Today, and this was somewhat awesome to me as a longtime reader of the magazine. My parents had been subscribers.
Once Dick was house-sitting in the most marvelous old house in another town nearby, and Mike and I drove over to have dinner with him. I brought all the groceries and made my favorite, Senegalese Soup. I cooked a whole chicken to get the stock for the soup, and added peanut butter, applesauce, curry, sour cream. (See the Appendix for the recipe.) The main dish I had learned from Patrick’s mother the summer before, when we had spent so much time together at the Masons’ house in Nashville. She called it “What I Had in the House Chicken.” She said she invented it once for company on an instant’s notice: chicken breasts baked with mozzarella cheese slices, avocado slices and Liebfraumilch poured over it all.
I went with someone to see the movie Clockwork Orange that spring. I don’t think I knew what to expect or I might have thought better of it. My confidence and security were already a bit precarious, and the weirdness of this movie threatened to push me too close to the edge. I ran into Dick the next day in the library and told him how freaked out I felt, and he was so helpful. He simply said, “Those kinds of movies can really change your consciousness temporarily,” and was so kind and tenderhearted about it that I felt drawn back to reality. One guy I became fascinated with but never engaged in a single conversation was from Iowa. He had graduated from St. Olaf, was studying to be a Lutheran pastor, and was looking like a combination of mountain man and angel. He had the Sam Jackson ruddy complexion and blond hair, a thick beard and a glow about him. When I read the definition of the Hebrew word “chen” I felt it was embodied in Thomas Schattauer: “pleasantness that radiates from the Giver, through the gifted, to a third person.” I knew where he habitually studied, in the Missions Reading Room (my favorite room too), and occasionally he was the last one I had to kick out as I locked up the library in my part-time job. By never speaking to him, I maintained the happy illusion that he was the dedicated, upright, morally true and brilliant fellow I hoped him to be.

And yes, there were a few moments with Mr. Johnston as well. As I recorded in a journal written about six years afterward, “Our last visit that year was the night before my last final in the spring. ‘You see what a terrible friend I am – I’m here tonight because it’s convenient for me, not for you,’ he said. He asked me what I had learned that year and together we made a six-point outline of issues (which I now long to remember, they were so perfectly clear) which YDS had raised for me and which I’d resolved in a Barthian dialectic. I told him how I’d failed him as a faithful friend (by desiring him as a romantic figure) and he told me about how he needed to study. I wrote a prayer about my relationship with Mike sometime that spring.
“Father, I want to talk to you about Mike. Here in the middle of my thoughts, in the middle of my life, I find myself, my heart, my days bound up mysteriously with his. I trust You that that’s because of Your plan for me, the ways You’ve arranged all the past, all the dreams, all the prayers. And he says to me, ‘It makes me wonder where we’ll be this time next year.’ And he says to me, ‘I need somebody who speaks my language; and you need somebody who speaks yours.’ ‘I’m sorry,’ he says. And for a moment my heart feels terror, fear at the prospect of not being really bound, bound and intertwined in time and space, with him here. But, Lord Jesus, when I sense myself asking to go on with him, I realize that more than that, I want him to go on with You. I rejoice and glory in the deeps, the purposes, the great still awe before You that I share with him. Tonight in this room there were moments when I felt him saying, ‘No. No, I won’t go with you, no, I’m not with you here.’ But there were moments when I sensed in deed we were here before You together. Even in writing, because of writing, and trying to capture, to keep, those moments, they lessen a little, they slip away. But the trust You create and sustain in my heart looks to You and not to him, and tonight it says, ‘Yes, You will go with him on that road, to a city far beyond the skies.’ That’s the glory and that’s the promise. I accept it as from Your hand. And if it means we’ll share all along the way . . . or if it means I’ll be watching and praying and believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things, and not being able to see as I go — if it means I won’t live with him but only die to him, I give that to You back again — as praise.”
I wrote in a journal some years later, “Typical of the ambivalence of our relationship was my trip to Bev Nitscke’s ordination the next spring, when we discussed Biblical inerrancy and the critical method and he apologized that ‘You’ve come all the way up here to visit and we talk theology.’ At that point, that’s what I wanted.”


I didn’t start to journal my personal life until the fall of 1976, so I didn’t write anything about this experience at the time it happened. But I did write about it reflectively in a journal during the winter of 1979-80. “I hardly introduced this section adequately, given its length. I didn’t warn the reader, or myself, what I was up to. I’m doing my usual trick of the eternal preface. [It’s] a little jaunt down memory lane, an attempt to recreate for myself the images and memories which shaped who I have been and what the Lord is dealing with now. So now, if anyone besides myself ever shares this history, they’ll be prepared for a possibly lengthy continuation of this study. Let’s not hold our breath waiting for this part to end…”
Reid Rutherford, a friend I had made during my senior year at Malibu, was now living at home with his dad in Mendham, New Jersey, a place made famous in my life by its association with Camp Shiloh. I wrote, “My dear Reid had come once to New Haven for supper, to be a friend and also possibly to check out his heart toward me, as he was now a college graduate and still unmarried and here I was in the east…Well, it was reading week at YDS, the week before finals, and Reid was coming again to visit. Such a relief I was looking for –
“It had been four months since Nashville, since I had truly relaxed with anyone. The atmosphere at YDS was one of questioning rather than trusting, but I don’t believe I would have trusted anyone even if that had not been so. I was too careful to preserve my difference from that world, and too unsure of all that I was and wanted and could be. So many people there were types to me, proffering worlds which they represented and which I was invited to enter through them: Linda Mary and her Anglican milieu of a decadent tradition; Gretchen and her feminist/earth mother romantic/sensualist experience; Ed Boucher and his classicist apprehension of life; the preppy, intelligent-woman world of Carolyn Lyday; Bev Nitschke’s bracing, monastic, liturgical approach to faith.
“So I was looking forward to an easy, comfortable relief in the middle of reading week, with finals ahead and papers not yet begun. And Reid appeared – with two strange men in tow. It felt like an invasion, like betrayal. What did he think he was doing? I felt a great sense of violation. And it must have been a prescience of what was to come, because it was disproportionate. The last thing I thought I wanted that night was adventure or confrontation. I never would have guessed what was coming.
“I had been playing the guitar, so when they were sitting around my room, one of the strangers said, ‘Play for us.’ Well, I was being my hesitant, withdrawn Yalie self (which Lanny and others found so charming) and that was probably the seal on the direction of the evening. I asked innocently enough, ‘Who are you guys?’ and the older guy said, ‘Why do you ask that? Can’t you just be here with us and experience us without trying to box us into categories?’ Oh, please. I didn’t recognize the Zeitgeisty
[ii] psychobabble and it was not a flow experience for me. So I got mad. I pressed the issue for quite awhile until finally one guy said, ‘I went to Pepperdine and I knew your dad.’ At that point, I had already left trust behind and I didn’t believe him.
“We went on like that most of the evening – the four of us went to a Chinese restaurant and John, the guy who swore he was friends with Daddy, ordered loudly and obnoxiously, and continued to bait my anger most of the night. We went for ice cream, and back to YDS, around the school and especially in the prayer chapel (where we sang in the dark). By midnight, something had happened – I couldn’t bear the idea of them leaving and me going back to my room and my books. There was something in me they were waking up and it didn’t want to go back to sleep. Yet it was scary. I knew I was on foreign soil, I didn’t speak the language and I was already meeting things in myself I didn’t know were there.
“So I asked if I could go back to New Jersey with them, to Mendham and Reid’s house. No definite plans, just ‘Take me with you.’ So we got in the car and started to drive. At that point I’d regained my distance and drawn back from the immediacy of these men enough to realize that the verbal confrontation guy, John Gottuso, had to be a shrink or related to Psych in some way. So the burden of my heart surfaced. I turned to him in the back seat, and said, ‘Can I ask you a question?’”
“I don’t know if I’ll have any answer, but you can ask.”
“What would you do if…if…you were dating a guy and…he decided to be…gay?”
“I had never experienced that being so hard to say before, and something broke in me – I started sobbing. Only once before had I let my heart feel Danny and the hurt and confusion of his gayness, and still it wasn’t in direct relation to me. Tom, a wonderfully ugly man who came to YDS by way of Shiloh and Nashville, was in love with a girl named Sam (who played Victory at Sea for me in her Wellesley apartment in Middletown). He and she were sitting in my room at Yale and he was talking about a part of his past when in Brooklyn and the ages of ten to twelve, he was a male prostitute. This conversation was only months after my two weeks with Patrick, and I wept in anger at Satan’s cruel destruction of sexuality.
“This time, for the first time, I was crying for me. Gottuso held my hand.
“Go ahead and talk about it,” he said, and I said, “No, I need to cry a minute, this is wonderful.”
So he got out his cotton handkerchief and handed it to me. (I hadn’t seen a man’s cotton handkerchief since I ironed my Daddy’s every summer growing up.) I don’t remember his saying anything really insightful or helpful (maybe I couldn’t hear it) but it was the first time I had trusted enough to unload my pain.
“When we got into Reid’s house, what seemed like mere moments later, Gottuso said, ‘Are you going to kiss me goodnight?’ So I did, on the cheek, and he said, ‘Why are you afraid of me? Why don’t you kiss me on the mouth? We do that in my family.’ I still don’t feel perfectly trusting of his motivations when he chooses to confront sexually. But that night I really didn’t trust – and it was myself I didn’t trust. Though I hadn’t awakened physically yet, I had confronted the reality of desire for the first time at YDS. One night I fantasized going downstairs and knocking on Phil McBrien’s door and saying, ‘Would you please just sleep with me? Just be with my body?’ So I was more aware than ever of my physical vulnerability, and it felt like it wouldn’t matter who or why.
“I stayed on through the next day and night and rode into the city Monday morning on the train with Reid. No other confrontation took place during the weekend. Reid may have felt some confusion or jealousy – we had a couple of talks, took a walk the second night out in the fields, but I wasn’t interested in him, I wanted Gottuso’s attention. I see it so clearly as a daddy transference now – that’s why it felt so wrong to kiss his mouth, and yet I did it the second night, on his prior dare.
“It felt very sensual to be in that house, partly because it held so many possibilities that YDS seemed to negate. That second night, Reid’s dad and Gottuso were conferring and I hung around to say goodnight and ask if I could come to see him in California that summer. He gave me his answering service, his unlisted number and his 24-hour emergency number, and now I knew he was somebody that did this for a living. He said he had been interested in seeing where I was, as a favor to my father.
“On the train riding into the city, Reid told me Gottuso had pastored the church he’d attended in L.A. and had helped him to change and discover a lot about himself. So then I figured maybe he was evaluating me as a favor to Reid. Whatever the reason, I’m convinced that I failed the mentally-healthy test as an entirely unawakened personality.
“But I’m also convinced it was the mercy of God coming to rescue me. I’d spent all my life not looking inside my own heart and for over a year I’d been trying to deal with another human being’s heart in a totally external way: seeing Danny as an innocent in the evil, cruel, deceptive clutches of gayness, rather than perceiving him as a whole person, sinning and responsible, yet growing, learning, possibly on the way to a real walk with the Lord rather than the false one he’d attempted. I still feel a lot of ambivalence about my view of him and what he’s in, but it’s so much broader and realer a view of life than the perception of externals only, where I was walking before. And I thought I understood, that I was so insightful regarding gayness before. I praise You, Lord, for Your faithfulness as a Teacher in this regard.
“Reid took me for a quick walk down the diamond brokerage block where he worked, and I saw my first Hasids in their black coats and side curls. Then he took me to Grand Central and stayed on the train until it was ready to go. I could sense, I thought, a certain hope, an attempt to test our possibilities and the accompanying disappointment when the magic didn’t happen.
“Back at YDS a few hours later (as always, it felt like pulling into the Heidelberg Bahnhof), the first person I saw was Michael Haggin. Already I was perceiving what had happened as transformative, because I told him, ‘Michael, you should be happy to hear this – I really want to go to a counselor now; I’ve started to wake up to some things.’ He, brave boy, was doing the quintessentially Right Thing by seeing a lady shrink, since he feels his problem is with women.”
Before I left New Haven for the summer, I had a little experience that more than made up for my initial harsh reception. I was walking, merely walking into a simple little corner market, mind you, and a white-haired man looked up at me from across some loaves of bread, and smiled and said, “You must have just about the nicest personality I’ve ever seen.” I said, “But wait, I just walked in, you never saw me before…” and he said, “I know, but I can tell. Where d’you live? I hope you stay here.”

I need to take a break from my journal and tell about an incredibly significant week that I didn’t cover therein. Toward the end of my year at Yale, the spring of 1976, I was becoming more comfortable with the idea of staying there for the three-year degree program. I had become so acclimated that I even toyed with idea of running for a student government office. But earlier, when I was still excruciatingly homesick for Nashville and the Christians there, I had prayed, “Lord, if You want me back in Nashville, here’s what I need. I need to be accepted as a transfer student at Vanderbilt Divinity School. I need a job where I can live, so that I can make money and not have to pay rent. I need that to be in walking distance of Vanderbilt and Belmont Church. If You do all that for me, I’ll know You want me to return to Nashville.”
Well. Behind the scenes, events began to conspire to make all of that happen. It seemed Naomi Frances Harper had found her a man. Greg Brooks, a gentle, quiet pre-med student, had asked her to marry him, and would I please come to Nashville and sing in their wedding? Of course I would. I arranged to spend a week in Nashville on my way back from New Haven to Malibu. I contacted Steve and Annie Chapman from Dogwood to see if they would play and sing with me, because at that point I had never accompanied myself in a solo performance and was too scared to do it. They agreed they would be glad to help me out.
When I arrived in Nashville, I discovered to my great anxiety that they couldn’t do it after all, and I really couldn’t see myself playing all alone. They suggested, “Call Bob Farnsworth.” “But I don’t even know him!” I countered. “That won’t matter to him, he’ll be glad to help.” They were right – this guy jumped like an eager puppy at the chance to accompany me, and we got together to rehearse. He played rambunctious piano, and we did songs by Annie Herring from the Second Chapter of Acts like “Bridegroom” and “I Fall in Love.”

“I fall in love so easy with everything that I see
that comes through the light of His love…
Sets my soul to flight, as He woos me and makes me new.
I hope you’re falling in love too,
‘cause Jesus loves you too…”

Bob was enthusiastic about my voice. He explained that he and his best friend, Mike Hudson, and Brown Bannister (I knew Brown from Janice’s wedding) were working in a jingle company with Chris Christian. I had heard about Chris from Janice as well. She had been amazed at his chutzpah when he arrived on a visit to California from Texas, expecting her to introduce him to various prominent people in L.A. But that was Chris… Bob explained that their jingle company wrote and recorded music for radio and TV commercials, and would I like to sing for them in the studio when I returned to Nashville in the fall?
Would I??! I would gladly pay them for the privilege. I could hardly believe such a thing was actually happening. At that moment I could never have imagined the musical experiences that lay ahead of me. I had come to Nashville originally to go to library school, not to pursue the music business. I didn’t even respect the music business in Nashville. I thought it was all country, and I hated country music, the sequin-spangled people like Porter Waggoner and Ray Stevens and such. I thought of it like John Sebastian’s song, “Nashville Cats”. (I won’t quote it – you can reference it elsewhere if you so choose. Certain readers will be grateful for this mercy, I’m sure.)
While I was there for the wedding, I thought I would pay a visit to Beckie King, one of Naomi’s roommates. She was the Director of a place called Hospital Hospitality House, and I went there to visit her. I let her know that I was thinking about coming back to Nashville in the fall, and she looked at me in amazement. “Would you be interested in a job?” she says, and my amazement matched hers. She offered me a position as a live-in staff member at the House, where I would be on duty some weekends and some week nights, in return for my room and board, whatever might be available through donations and their charge account at a nearby H.G. Hills Grocery.
Hospital Hospitality House was located at that time a mere one block over from the street Belmont Church was on, and about four blocks over from the street that ran through the Vanderbilt and Peabody campuses. I would be able to walk to church and school. I would have a job that paid my rent – and food, which I had not even prayed about. And I would be working in an environment where I would be of direct service to people in need, which appealed to me greatly. Just a stunning answer to prayer, and the opportunity to sing in the studio as well…now that was over the top. Needless to say, I accepted the job, and went directly over to the Divinity School to see what transfer arrangements could be made. They had no problem accepting a transfer from Yale.

[i] The school known as “German higher criticism” used textual critical tools originally intended for the study of secular literature in an attempt to determine the sources of the Pentateuch in Old Testament scripture. “J” stood for “Yahwist” or those who called God by the name Yahweh; “P” stood for the school of priests, those concerned with ritual and practice in the Temple at Jerusalem; “D” was the Deuteronomists, or those concerned with the law; “E” I had forgotten and had to look up on the internet. It’s Elohist, or those who referred to God as Elohim rather than Yahweh. Then the theory goes that an editor, the Redactor, pulled these four sets of texts together into the five books of Moses, Genesis-Deuteronomy.
[ii] Zeitgeist = again, the spirit of the time; the spirit of the age. I made up the adjectival usage, “Zeitgeisty”.