Where are we going in such a hurry?

I thought of this on my drive home Friday.  Those of you who ever tried to find a new place while driving, without the aid of GPS, or even in the BC years (before cellphones), can relate to this.  Actually, maybe it holds true even with GPS, or anytime you’re passing through an intersection with multiple turn lanes, or other tricky situations.

When you’re nearing a destination, you slow down, right? At least most of us do.

You may also turn the radio down. I remember a comedy routine about that, as though the sound affects your vision.  It may have been George Carlin. I’m not sure.

The point is, when we’re not sure where we are or where we’re going, we tend to slow down and try to focus more. It just makes sense.

Now, let’s look at humanity as a whole. Everyone says that it seems like time flies by faster and faster. The pace of everyday life has picked up considerably. Like Brooks in the movie Shawshank Redemption observed, “.. I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside….. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.” Having been in prison most of his life, he didn’t get acclimated gradually like everyone else.

Yet, no one is putting the world’s brake on, even though we have no idea where we’re going or what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone 50 or 500 years from now.

I know my Christian friends’ immediate thought: God is in control. Yes, he is. I firmly believe that.

The follow-up thought to that is that the second coming of Christ will bring a new beginning, a new Heaven and Earth.  One thing about that is that we don’t know when that will be. A day is but a thousand years to God.

I’m going to go way out on a limb here with my next thought. What if the second coming is an individual, spiritual event when we die?  “Every eye shall see…” Jesus’ return. Well, we all die. I’m no theologian or Biblical scholar. I have read the Bible in its entirety, but that was years ago, so maybe I’m forgetting something that would blow my theory. In any case, we don’t know how long we must maintain God’s creation to sustain us.

I guess as we collectively face long term challenges, we can only individually act to contribute what we have the ability to do. And we can pray, meditate, study, and reflect. We can invent, adapt and expand.

Finally, we need a safety line for this bumpy, chaotic, joyful ride through the torrent of time and space.  I hope you have found yours. Could be religion, a relationship, a strategy or belief system.

In the meantime, turn off the technology every so often and see where the spirit takes you. It’s okay. Take your time.

 

A Closer Walk, Part III

A brief intro for those who didn’t see Part I and II, in case you don’t have time to go back and catch up on them. As a gay Christian, I’ve had a hard time reconciling what I was taught with the reality of who I am and knowing that this is the way God created me. After a long gap from church attendance, I started going to a gay friendly church a year and a few months ago. I never got around to telling my parents that it was a “gay church”. Couldn’t seem to find the right time, or didn’t feel like “getting into it”.

Back in November, the pastor of my church had an article published in the local paper, which she does from time to time.  The article mentions her female spouse. My mom saw this article, so the cat was out of the bag. She wrote me a note, speaking for herself and my dad. She also included some scripture references which I’ll include at the end of this post.

First, I’d like to point out the irony that the article is entitled “Desperately seeking unconditional love”. My pastor cites a line from the writings of Parker Palmer in “A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward the Undivided Life”. The excerpt in part: “the people who help us grow toward true self offer unconditional love, neither judging us to be deficient nor trying to force us to change but accepting us exactly as we are.” You see the irony, right? Funny thing is, I missed it at first because I was so focused on the scripture references from Mom and eager to find my own to refute them.

Perhaps I am desperately seeking the unconditional love of my mother. She says in her note that “nothing could ever dampen our love for you, nor could we remove ourselves from your life” but that they were responsible as parents to “speak the truth” to me.

I mentioned in Part II that I wanted to write a letter in response. A friend of mine commented that we should just agree to disagree. That is likely to be the outcome, but I think I need to have the conversation.

One reaction to the note from Mom was, unexpectedly, anger. I feel insulted that she (they) think I’m somehow being sinful or disobedient, or that my soul is in danger. I am saved. I don’t need to be “snatched from the fire”. Jesus already did that. How dare she condemn me? I needed to get that out.

Now to the details. As I expected, the first scripture cited was Leviticus 18:22: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman. That is detestable.” Leviticus also forbids tattoos among many other things and says women should separate themselves from the community when they have their period. Those are the old laws of the Old Covenant (another word for Old Testament). Jesus died and rose again to set us free from all that. He is the New Covenant.

I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I’m pretty sure Jesus never mentioned homosexuality or being gay. The scriptures Mom cited from the New Testament are all about general morality. Some kind of disprove her own point, like Romans 8:38-39. ” For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Being gay, then, does not separate one from God.

The good thing in all this is that I still see my parents often. They and my sister visit at my brother’s and my house often. We’ve always been a close family, and a matriarchal family. I still enjoy talking on the phone with my mom and I know if I write her a response, she will read it. I just hope she reads it to absorb what I’m saying and not just to find points to contradict. We’ll see.

I’ve already received suggested readings from friends. Your comments are welcome as I ready my response to “the note”.

Below are the scripture references:

Ephesians 5: 3-7 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

Colossians 3: 5-6 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

I Timothy 2:19   Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

II Timothy 3: 16-17   16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a]may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

John 17:12   While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by[c] that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

Romans 8:31b, 37   31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us,who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns?No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

II Timothy 2:25-26   25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Jude 20, 22:   20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

 

International Women’s Day: Honoring Mom

I didn’t even know it was International Women’s Day until I sat down with the laptop after work.  It was the perfect subject for a post. The thought quickly followed as to a more specific focus. Since I mentioned my mother in yesterday’s post and her concerns about her gay son’s salvation, it seems only fair to extol her virtues today. Well, maybe it won’t be all glowing praise, but I love her and respect her immensely. I’ve always had a close relationship with my mom and the differences of late have not changed that.

In case you missed it, I reported previously that my mom saw an article in a local paper written by my pastor and it mentioned that she has a same-sex spouse. I neglected to mention that, or even that it’s a gay-friendly church, when I told my family that I had started attending.  Not sure why, but we’ll get back to that. Mom gave me some scripture references on the topic. No, I’m afraid I still didn’t get time to read them. But that’s coming soon.

Mom once wrote me a nice letter of encouragement telling me that I was a happy, content, and well-behaved baby and had grown to be a great young man.  I saved the letter.  It was written when I was not working for a while due to physical and emotional health issues and had tried to start a t-shirt business that wasn’t going well. (It never did take off.) But she cited my determination and talents, as only a mother can do. I was reminded of a picture my aunt showed me once of me as a baby being held by my mom. I was wearing a bright yellow “onesie”. I had never seen the picture before, but it explained why my favorite color was always, passionately, yellow.  You’ll have to excuse all the cuteness.

Briefly, another time she wrote me a note with a passage from a poem she found called Wit’s End Corner, by Antoinette Wilson. I had described how I felt shortly before that as being at my wit’s end. How perfect. There have been other notes and words of encouragement.

She was also very stern when I, or my two siblings, got out of line. In my twenties, that period when you begin to see your parents as just people, and before you turn into them, I sometimes thought the sternness was too much. Some might call it conditional love, but I know that isn’t so. Maybe the strict discipline and disapproval made me inhibited, or maybe that’s just an inborn trait. In any case, I found the bold spirit God gave me when I needed to. I’m thankful that both my parents cared enough to bring me up right. Being told no, and facing consequences, and even feeling guilt are good lessons to prepare one for adulthood. God knows, you can’t always get what you want. (Sorry if I put that song in your head.) You win some, you lose some. When you’re made to apologize to a sibling right then and there, while you’re still hopping mad, it helps with conflict resolution later in life.

I get my strong sense of justice and fairness from my mom, along with empathy and sticking up for the underdog, whether it’s someone else or myself. I once showed her my favorite Christmas video clip, from South Park, where Kyle gets to poke Cartman with an electric cattle prod every time he screws up the words to O Holy Night. I always thought it was hilarious and thought she’d love it, but she wanted to throttle Kyle.  I explained that Cartman is the obnoxious one and was getting his comeuppance. She responded, “Well, that makes it a little better.” That’s a strong sense of justice. I still think it’s hilarious, but really, it’s not right, is it?

During the aforementioned twenty-something years, I resented both parents for a time, feeling that they gave no support or guidance. I realized that they had an awful lot to deal with and did the best they could. We struggled mightily in the financial area when I was in grade school. I found out years later that we were in danger of losing the house because they couldn’t pay the taxes. God saw us through it, though. Then there’s my sister who had her first hospitalization when she was in ninth grade, for mental health issues. She had shown signs of it much earlier and demanded a lot of attention. My brother struggled in school. (Not because he couldn’t handle it. His IQ is in the gifted range.) We’ve all had problems with depression and anxiety. We were definitely a matriarchal family, my dad being more passive, so Mom had to be strong, and she was. She is. (Don’t get me wrong. I love my Dad too, and I get my tenacity and quiet resolve from him.)

I enjoyed hearing my Mom teach Sunday School, and her reading touching novels to us in the living room. She’s artistic and I gett my writing ability from her. I sometimes wish she would have had more opportunity to fulfill her potential, but I’m determined to do just that with my life. Her strength has helped me so far. It’s a generational effort.

I could go on and on, but I’m sure your time is as limited as mine, so I’ll wrap up.

Bottom line is that we’re all just people. We muddle through as best we can. It’s a lot easier when you have God or at least some kind of support system, if you’re not religious, to help you . So, don’t resent or condemn others for their shortcomings and wrongs against you. After all, we’re all in this together.

 

 

A Closer Walk, Part II

Well, it’s almost a year since I joined my new church as a member, and over a year that I’ve been attending.  I still enjoy it, and I’m very glad I went back.

Progress report: I’ve gotten more involved with the church by making Facebook posts on behalf of the church on our page, ushering,  participating in a video interview, and I’m about to join the A/V team.  I’ve gone to a few game nights, Lenten soup suppers, and we even have a sci-fi lovers social group, which I’m in.  I think it’s so cool for a church to have that.  I’ve also met several other members interested in writing.  One of them even published a book.  So, I guess it’s fair to say that the social aspect is still a big part of why I go.

How am I doing in my “walk”?  For one, I pray more often, though not everyday.  When I do pray, I try to really focus on what I’m communicating to God.  I don’t just say the words in my head.  For instance, if I’m praying for someone’s surgical procedure to be successful, or for an illness, or physical and emotional pains to pass, I put myself in that person’s place.  I think about how I would feel as I talk to God about them.  I think that’s important so that you connect with the Holy Spirit rather than just rattling off a half-hearted request to a far-off God.  It goes back to my doubts about God hearing prayers that I mentioned in Part I.  I think that we’re connected to God and to one another through the spiritual plane.  The words are just the way we form our thoughts and feelings. They’re important, but not necessarily the part to which God responds. I believe He responds to our souls’ stirrings.

I won’t tell you that I don’t still have doubts about prayer and God’s involvement in our lives.  I do. But I feel a connection, nonetheless.  I think, sometimes, it’s hard to feel it with so many distractions and demands on our time. I push through it though as an exercise of faith.  Isn’t that what faith means after all? To accept what we can’t see, hear, touch, or even feel emotionally or spiritually, at times. It’s a process, and an enriching one.

One of the doubts that gets in the way of my personal connection with God is the conflict between my traditional upbringing, with its strict adherence to the letter of the law of scriptures, and my changing beliefs. Specifically, being gay and knowing that the Bible says things against homosexuality.  Sometimes I think that maybe the early church leaders “edited” the scriptures that had been passed down to fit their own beliefs and to keep control of the masses.  I watch the skies for the expected lightning bolt when I even think that. I’m still working through all that.

A recent development in that department came a couple of months ago.  My pastor writes occasional articles for the local paper, and who do you think saw one of them? My mother.  The pastor mentioned her same-sex spouse in the article. I never got around to telling my mom that the church I’d chosen was a gay church. The cat was out of the bag.  She wrote a bunch of scriptures down for me to look at and gave them to me when she was here visiting.  She mentioned the article and said “you know it’s not the Lord’s will”, regarding same-sex marriages. We briefly debated the issue and I promised I’d look at the scriptures.  I have yet to do that.

I will have to read them and prepare a response.  That will be Part III of this post, and hopefully an open discussion with Mom.

A closer walk

First post in a long time.  I’m going to make them regularly again.  And this time I mean it.  Ahem.

I recently started going to church again.  Don’t worry if you’re not religious.  Neither am I.  This is far from an evangelical endeavor.  I merely want to share some of my thoughts and feelings about God and spirituality.

A little background to start: As I used to tell people, I’m not a “born again” Christian.  I’m a born and raised Christian.  Been in church as long as I can remember, and before that.  I remember accepting Jesus when I was about 7 or 8 along with my brother and a friend in our living room at my mother’s guidance.  No bells or whistles went off, and I honestly didn’t feel any big weight lifted off my shoulders or even a warm fuzzy feeling.  I was pretty young after all, and pretty well behaved.  Not that much to confess.  I did feel like I’d just done something important, though, and that it was a commitment.

I stayed true to that commitment for most of my life, with a period of deistic distance. More on that later. I did the Sunday School and church thing with my family as a child and young adult.  I don’t regret or resent it like many people do.  At least, not the church-going itself.  More on that later, too.  I actually enjoyed Sunday School and youth group as a teen, and I even liked the monthly mission nights when we had guests tell of their experiences on their mission trips for the church all over the country and the world.  I always wanted to travel, (Still do.) and this was a chance to hear about how people lived in other parts of our nation and around the globe.

I was a little “luke-warm” toward God the last couple years of high school and through the college years, just due to scholastic distractions.  But I still attended church regularly.  It was during a year and a half break between colleges, while still living at home, that I had a faith renewal.  One of those guest speakers in the missions department, was giving the main message one Sunday.  He spoke of several times in his life when, what could be described as miraculous events, occurred, like a very large man (angel) appearing behind him and a companion when facing several menacing would-be attackers.  I don’t clearly remember the other incidences. I didn’t think much of it at first, but then I thought about it.  I reasoned that if I really believed in this whole God thing, then couldn’t the missionary man’s tales be true?  I opened my mind to the possibilities.  I went to nearby Minsi Lake after church and looked to the seagull-filled mostly sunny sky and I felt liberated – from doubt.  It would return.

In the meantime, though, I delved into scriptures and prayer, and self discovery like never before.  It really helped me to grow as a person.  I would pray the whole way on my half hour commute and found that I repeated the same things everyday, so I started to try and rephrase things from day to day.  Much to my surprise, doing so often made me realize the answer to my prayer, whether it was what I was looking for or not.

The down side was that I started to get a self-righteous, pious attitude.  I only listened to Christian music, and at work, Focus on the Family started the daily line-up of biblical sound bites pumping through my headphones.  The Christian Right movement was steadily increasing its entanglement of The Church at that time.  I was nearly sucked in before seeing the light.  To think, I almost voted for Bob Dole.  Thank God, I departed from the political invasion of Christianity.

Between national politics, church politics and moving out, my church going days were soon to see a hiatus.  My home church had gone through a split a few years earlier, after which we got a very warm, loving, and bright younger pastor.  My family and I loved him.  But the old people who sit in the back with their old money, saw fit to send him packing.  Even my parents emigrated to another church then, and I had moved 45 minutes away to Allentown.  I tried a few different churches, but the disillusionment was too great to overcome my fatigue of working two jobs, so Sundays became just a chance to sleep in.

I didn’t throw out the baby Jesus with the bath water.  I maintained a belief in God.  I just wasn’t really “feeling” it.  At times I was borderline agnostic, but the doubts never totally took over.  I guess you could say I was a Deist, believing that God exists, but feeling like his major work was done and he didn’t get too involved in things down here.

It was during this time of reduced influence of Christianity in my life, that I first dared to think what I always knew.  What if I was just gay?  No psychological or moral solutions.  It just is.  Now was the time for resentment to set in, but not against my own church or any pastors, or even my parents, too much.  It was just the teachings of Christianity that have been held for centuries.  Being gay is a sin, and any kind of pre-marital sex is immoral.  I could’ve had so much fun.

For years, I just attended my parents’ new church on holidays and once in a while got out my Bible and read a chapter a day, for two or three days.  So when I returned to church, I’ll admit, it was largely to seek social connections.  I’d found a gay friendly church.  In fact, straight people are scarce in those attending.

I joined as a member on Easter Sunday with 6 other sinners.  Lightning did not strike a single one of us.  I’m glad I joined and I want to stay involved, but it would be dishonest to say all doubt is completely and irrevocably dispelled.

Sometimes, I still wonder if God hears my prayers word for word.  How can he hear billions of thoughts and words at once?  I can believe that we are connected through the Holy Spirit, though.  Maybe it’s the actual words, or maybe it’s more of a spiritual stream of emotion and energy.  Either one is pretty miraculous.  I can even believe in something more abstract, but I believe in God and I believe we all have eternal souls.

Another challenge is a feeling of resistance, even rebellion, when I hear that we’re supposed to put God first in our lives, in everything.  Am I not honoring God by working on things that will help me be complete and reach my potential?  Like writing.  Should I go to a Wednesday night Bible study, or write another blog post about all this?

Tomorrow will tell.  I have much more to say on the whole subject.  Comments are welcome.