Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Things We Do For Love

My friends, Dustin and Raymond, are in New York for a few days. They got their marriage license today and will be legally married (in the state of New York) tomorrow.  I am vicariously celebrating them and remembering my own wedding in July 2004.  This post is dedicated to them.

In 2004, Massachusetts was the only state where a gay couple could legally wed, and the "rules" had changed saying you had to be a resident of the state in order to be married there.  Oregon had briefly legalized it, and California had not yet come and gone.  Certainly, I celebrate the progress that has been made since 2004, and the number of states that now allow same sex couples to share in both the commitment and the legal benefits of being a married couple in the US.  In 2004, though, Canada seemed to be the most stable option, and I even opined that foreign marriages might be recognized in the states sooner, and more broadly, than those of other states.  So, we went that route.

Plans were soon underway to travel to Vancouver, BC, which is a beautiful and welcoming city, with absolutely lovely weather in the month of July (farewell midwest heat!).  Because of the distance, we didn't presume that any of our friends or family would be able to attend.  While we would have much preferred a small, local church affair, attended and witnessed by our friends and family, we resigned ourselves to a civil ceremony in a country where we are not citizens.

I alerted our hotel to our plans, asking if there was a small courtyard or public area where we could have our ceremony without being disruptive to other guests.  I also offered to provide a gratuity to any two of the hotel staff who might be willing to serve as witnesses.

The hotel was more than gracious, providing an upgraded room for "honeymooners" with a view of the harbor, leaving champagne and chocolate covered strawberries with a congratulatory note in our room, and reserving a courtyard balcony for our ceremony that also overlooked the harbor, in addition to two staff to witness the ceremony.

Our only on-site task still to be accomplished was to obtain our marriage license.  In Canada, these are typically procured at insurance agencies, and the one agency open on Saturday was in Chinatown - the Jack Chow Insurance Agency (across the street from the Sing Along Salon).  We managed to locate Jack Chow, secure the license, and return to the hotel in time to change clothes and meet the Marriage Commissioner who would perform the wedding and our new hotel staff friends.  The weather was beautiful, and the ceremony itself was meaningful, but would have been more so if we could have shared it with those in our close circle of family and friends.

Friends, marriage is a commitment.  And it is a public statement of a commitment two people have already made in their hearts to one another.  I don't think the ceremony "makes you married" any more than I think baptism "makes you a Christian." These are outward signs of a wonderful change that has already taken place in your heart. And the PUBLIC part of that is sharing the joy of it, putting it "out there" so that you will be accountable for that commitment.  It is the "Amen" stamped on the act.  An "Amen" that says between two people who love one another - "and I mean it!"  And the "Amen" by those who witness it to say "and we will support you!"  For my friends Dustin and Raymond, it also an "Amen" for the love they have for their son, Emmaus.  An "Amen" that says to him, you are loved and part of a secure and stable family - and we mean it!  Is there some reason why God would be against that?  Why only "one man and one woman" can enjoy this kind of commitment and support?

I am so happy for Dustin and Raymond - they will be celebrating with some friends and family, even if it isn't locally; they will be able to have their wedding in a church, which reinforces their commitment to God as an important part of their family and bond with one another. How nice it would have been, though, if all of this could have happened in their home town, in their home church, with all of their friends and family.

Following are some of the lines from my and the Frau's wedding ceremony.  Think how much more meaningful some of these words would have been for us if our witnesses had been our family and friends instead of hotel staff, and if our vows had been said before a minister in a church that reflected our faith and commitment to God. Our country is making progress, but we aren't there, yet.  Until then, same sex couples will have to do all kinds of crazy things to celebrate and confirm their love.

We are gathered here today to witness and to celebrate the coming together of two separate lives; to celebrate the joining of Gayle Reece and Cynthia Sheppard in marriage, to be alongside them, and to rejoice with them, as they make this important commitment to one another. . . .

The marriage commitment is one of faith.  Faith in one another is based on our commitment of loyalty and trust.  In marriage, mutual faith requires of both partners openness of expression and thought, freedom from doubt and suspicion and a commitment to speak the truth in love.

The marriage commitment is one of hope.  You must interpret each other's actions and words with understanding and compassion.  You have a vision of what you can become together.  Pursue that vision. Never let it die.

Finally, the marriage commitment is one of love in which both partners empty themselves of their own concerns and take upon themselves the concerns of each other.

It is into this high and serious estate that Gayle and Cindy desire to enter and be joined.

Cindy/Gayle, do you promise to unite your life with Gayle's/Cindy's life, to live together in the commitment of faith, hope and love; and do you promise to listen to her innermost thoughts, to be considerate and tender in your care of her, and stand by her faithfully, in sickness and in health, and leaving all others, to accept full responsibility for her every necessity until you are parted by death?

Gayle and Cindy, the vows through which you accept each other in marriage have no hidden power within themselves.  Only to the extent that they express in words your continuing intention and commitment do they have meaning.  In a world where the forces pushing people apart may often seem stronger than the forces drawing people together, your commitment to each other will need to be expressed and reconfirmed in many different ways in the coming days and years. The expression in today's vows is simply a visible milestone in your journey together.  

Thanks, Dustin and Rayms, for prompting me to revisit my own commitment and vows.  And I wish for you two, with Emmaus, a very happy journey to come.  Love wins!

Friday, December 21, 2012

When the World Does End - Making Sense of the Senseless

Well, here I am.  The world didn't end today.  Perhaps, if the Mayans were so smart, they might still be around to see the fallacy of their prediction . . .

Nevertheless, as I listened to 26 bells chime this morning in memory of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, it occurs to me that a bit of the world did end a week ago for the families and friends of these children and teachers.  And not just for those who knew them. We have been a nation obsessed with this tragedy for the past seven days. While we have experienced and mourned other equally senseless mass shootings over the past few years, I don't think we have reacted with this intensity to anything since the Oklahoma City bombing where, again, the senseless loss of lives was compounded because the innocent victims were children.

Then comes the onslaught of folks trying to make sense of the senseless.  

  • Where was God?
  • Why did we push God out of our schools?
  • Too many guns
  • Not enough guns
  • Disarm the people
  • Arm the teachers
  • Help the mentally ill
  • Lock up the mentally ill
Sorry, my friends.  You can't make sense of the senseless.  You can't force God onto people and into schools. You can't create non-violence through violence. As for the mentally ill, we can't sweep them under the rug, or force them to take their meds.

God has never left us, and no one has ever taken away my freedom, or yours, to pray in or out of school.  I'm just old enough (and started school in the Bible-belt South) to remember my teacher reading a short Bible story (with no commentary) at the start of the school day, and students taking turns saying a prayer for our food before we went to lunch.  I didn't find it particularly meaningful then, and I doubt that God was particularly "honored" by our efforts.  When it disappeared, I hardly noticed, yet I continued to communicate with God throughout my school day, shared my faith experiences, and felt God's presence with me.  By the time I was in high school, we had moved out of the Bible-belt, and some of my most significant spiritual experiences involved being able to have an open an honest discourse with my favorite teacher on matters of faith.  Because I took several English classes with this woman, some of my writing for her involved personal position papers and analysis of writing in which I was never forced to separate my faith from my intellectual inquiry.  Yep, God was in my school.  And I'm sure in many others.  And hanging copies of the Ten Commandments up in the school, or starting each day with a knee-jerk prayer, would have enhanced none of those experiences.

And while we are considering God's presence or lack thereof in our midst, let's recall Jesus - often referred to as one of the greatest teachers.  Imagine with me for a moment that Jesus was teaching at Sandy Hook.  Now, imagine Jesus being trained to carry an assault rifle or even smaller firearm to "protect" the children in his class in the event of a similar tragedy.  Can't quite picture it, can you? What I can picture is Jesus hiding those children in a bathroom and telling them to wait for "the good guys."  And I can picture Jesus throwing himself in front of a group of children to take the bullets intended for them.  And I can picture Jesus telling his students that he loved them. Hmm.  Guess Jesus was at Sandy Hook, after all.  But he sure wasn't protecting with a firearm.  Please don't ask me to do that, either.  

We assume that the killer was mentally ill, because we simply can't make sense of anyone in their right mind doing what he did.  It may be that he was just evil, impulsive, or otherwise damaged. Regardless, there will always be evil in the world.  There will always be impulsive and damaged individuals who hurt innocent people.  We can't "fix" that.  As fallible humans, all we can do is our best to protect our families, the innocent, the elderly, the physically and mentally ill, and then, do our best to pick up the pieces and comfort those who are hurting when evil momentarily wins.  If we do this, then evil may win a battle, but Love will win the war.  Love must always win.  Just ask the Mayans.

Sunday, December 09, 2012


Ask me to identify my favorite season of the spiritual year, and I will answer Advent - that period of four Sundays prior to Christmas where we anticipate the coming of God in human form.  I have always found meaningful the symbolism of getting my spiritual house decorated and ready by representing that symbol through the decorating of my home for the holiday season.  

For the first time in my life, the first Sunday of Advent came and went.  My house and my heart were both unprepared for guests of any sort - holy or otherwise.  Chalk it up to unseasonably warm weather, an early Thanksgiving, wondering and wandering of late in a spiritual desert of my own making, or what have you.  My anticipation factor was not registering on anyone’s scale.

This past Wednesday, though, we took our freshmen choirs to Crown Center to sing, and the response of our largely senior citizen audience gave me a low grade buzz.  Friday brought a double whammy - first, my chamber choir dressed like characters from the Polar Express, rode a real train for 90 minutes with a 150 or so second graders, singing and entertaining them with the magic of the season, followed that evening with my upperclass advanced choirs singing for the Mayor’s Christmas Tree lighting.  Music has always been a crucial part of my Advent preparation. It was beginning to feel a little like Christmas.  

On Saturday, taking a few baby steps, we bought a tree and brought the decorations down from the attic.  No decorating, but a step in the right direction.  I began to think about gift giving, and that evening, thanks to a friend in the cast, we went to see “Christmas at Resurrection” at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.  I’m not usually one for church Christmas “pageants” or what I sometimes find as manipulative “productions,” but this was neither.  It was a production, but it was entertaining and tastefully done, and even the live burro behaved onstage.  More than a production, it was reminder of why I love Advent, and why my personal faith is expressed through the Christian spiritual tradition.  In spite of spiritual and theological questions with which I continue to wrestle, I was reminded why I anticipate God’s coming again in human form each year in the person of Jesus.  As Adam Hamilton, the COR pastor briefly “unpacked” the experience last night -  God gave us Jesus - God in human form - so that we might have an example of how to live in order to be fully human.

I don’t think I have anything wise to say that can top that.  

For the record, on this second Sunday of Advent, my home is decorated, and my spirit is anticipating. 

O come, o come, Emmanuel . . . 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankfulness, Traditions, & Transitions

I have been reading with interest the vast number of Facebook posts expressing gratitude for any number of people, places and things over the past month. I haven't participated in the daily postings, but I have been doing a lot of pondering about thankfulness, traditions and transitions that occur - especially at holidays - as one's life progresses.

My own Thanksgiving "tradition" has been evolving and changing over the past few years.  What once was a gathering at my parents' home with my sisters, grandparents, aunt and uncle, brother-in-law, niece and nephew, and eventually my wife, with obnoxious amounts of food, followed by Black Friday shopping marathons and visits to Santa, and a return to my own home to decorate and usher in the Christmas season, has undergone dramatic reduction over the years.  We lost members of the gathering - first my youngest sister, an infant niece, then my grandfather, my father, and most recently my grandmother.  We don't "do" the Black Friday shopping anymore, my aunt and her husband are celebrating in their own way, my sister is single again, and my niece and nephew are grown up teenagers with busy lives and work schedules, and shared time with their dad.  So this year, we celebrated - the food and family part - on Wednesday.  We've done that for a few years so that the kids can be with their dad on Thursday.  Instead of my mom's house being the gathering point, "everyone" came to our house.  "Everyone," in addition to us, has become my mother, my sister, and the kids, and since my nephew had to work, it was just "us girls."  It was pleasant, the food was good (if I do say so myself), as well as the company.  But it was different. No family gathered around the table looking at sale ads in the paper, no big card or board games.  And that's ok.  It's just another transition.  I've been learning to live in the now and not in the past. But it hasn't stopped me of thinking of, and being thankful for, people from the past that I still miss now.  And I know a lot of my friends and students are experiencing similar transitions that are resulting in changed traditions.

Not to be maudlin, but having a day of Thanksgiving which is more of a quiet day with the Frau rather than a full day of family festivities is giving me some quality time to be thankful for the people who are no longer with me, but have been an important part of my life.

I'm grateful to have known my sister, Sharon, who was hit by a car and killed just a couple of months shy of her 18th birthday on October 29, 1986.  She would be almost 44 if she had lived, but she is frozen in time at the age of almost 18, and in addition to her great, bright, and giving personality, she reminds me every day as I deal with high school students of the unpredictability of life, and that there are no guarantees for a long future.  Her loss impacts the kind of teacher I have become.  I'm thankful she remains a part of my life, if only in the shadows of memory.

I miss my dad, Carl, every day.  I quote him a lot in class, since our life's work is similar.  And I'm thankful for his gift of laughter, and playfulness, and love of music, games, and gardening that he passed on to me.  He never really understood my love of reading, and especially at the holidays seemed to get mildly irritated that I'd rather read a book than entertain him. He usually managed to pout or badger until he won that little battle of wills. But he was always ready to take some time off from work when I arrived home on a holiday break to go see a movie - especially if it was one we knew my mother wouldn't enjoy, and eat a Double Steakburger and a Very Strawberry Shake at Steak 'n Shake. Sometimes we would go to the local Denny's together for breakfast, and I would always order the breakfast sandwich there called "Moons Over My Hammy" - I liked it, but I would never (and still don't ever) order anything else, because it caused him to cackle with such laughter when I ordered it. I don't go to Denny's often these days, but when I do, I always order the same thing, just to hear that laughter in the shadows of my memory.

My grandfather taught me to love golf and a good cigar, and my grandmother and I developed a bond in my adulthood that I never had with her as a child. I think I miss her at Thanksgiving more than any other time. She was always hell-bent on getting everyone's "Christmas squared away" before the weekend ended.  That little 4'10" and 80 pound bundle of energy could outlast us all, and set the pace for the mad-house of post-Thanksgiving shopping. And she could eat us under the table when it came to left-overs, especially the pies. I think she fueled that little body on sugar.  When I was teaching in Texas, and after my grandfather had died, she and I would usually fly to my parents' home together for Thanksgiving. While we waited to board, she would invariably spot some family or group of travelers that she found intriguing, and she would excuse herself to go to the restroom.  On the way back, she would walk slowly behind the object of her attention, and sometimes just stop and stand for awhile and listen.  When she had enough, she would make her way back to me, and I would ask for a report from the Nosy Rosy Detective Agency. She would laugh like a giddy schoolgirl and tell me everything she learned. I miss those days.

I'm missing my mom a bit these days, as well.  She is still with us, and still acting stubbornly independent.  But she is aging, and it is starting to show in her health, in her memory, and in her social encounters with the world in general. This is a transition that I'm finding harder to handle. But I'm learning.  Some of my closest friends are in similar situations. We commiserate with one another, are thankful for our aging parents, understand that the transition is just as difficult for our parents, and try not to long too much for the days when we didn't have to juggle finding a way to be respectful of, and responsible for, our parents.

I've always been a traditional person and for many years have fiercely tried to cling to those sacred family icons. Finding the person with whom I now share my life has helped me to realize that people are more important than tradition, and losing people has taught me thankfulness and the necessity for transition and new traditions. 

In spite, and because, of the circumstances, gifts, gains and losses, traditions and transitions of my life, I truly am thankful and blessed.   And I wish the same for you. 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Welcome to My World

I'm another year older, and as is my custom, I like to celebrate that aging is a daily process by celebrating for several days. Today's celebratory activities began with a great breakfast and conversation with good friends at a local eatery. After the usual preliminary discussion of what is new in each of our lives, the conversation turned, not unexpectedly, to politics, gay "rights" versus privileges, and a brief summary of my last blog post where I suggest that we have to be willing to share our stories in order to understand one another's realities.

Two committed lesbian couples, one preparing to begin their 20th year together, and the Frau and I anticipating our 10th year, ranging in age from our late 40's to 60 - realized we are growing weary, and older, waiting for "change." As we discussed the realities of our world, we realized that most heterosexual couples in equally longstanding and committed relationships don't give a second thought to the fact that should their spouse die, they would be entitled to collect the social security benefits of their deceased other. We would not. 

After 10 and 20 years together, respectively, we are families. We have grown so accustomed to thinking of ourselves in that way that it is a nasty jolt into reality when we find ourselves in a situation where others do not recognize us as such. That recognition may be as subtle as being invited as individuals - not as a couple - to events at your own church, or as blatant as being denied the opportunity to adopt or have your marriage recognized.

I am really sorry that in the 21st century, that gay "rights" is an issue at all.  As Rachel Maddow points out, we shouldn't have to be granted rights - that's why they call them "rights." Nevertheless, it appears that we do. I feel like a broken record, but I don't think we can "argue" people into seeing things "our" way. Attitudes and perceptions change when abstract issues become humanized through getting to know real live people. If we are going to be known, then we are going to have to tell our stories. We are going to have to be willing to say, if you make that decision/vote that way/ignore that attitude, then I and my family will be impacted in this way.  A friend of mine posted the following quote on his Facebook page recently:

"I wish my moderate Republican friends would simply be honest. They all say they’re voting for Romney because of his economic policies...and that they disagree with him on gay rights. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say 'My taxes and take-home pay mean more than 

-your fundamental civil rights, 
-the sanctity of your marriage, 
-your right to visit an ailing spo
use in the hospital,
-your dignity as a citizen of this country,
-your healthcare,
-your right to inherit,
-the mental welfare and emotional well-being of your youth, and
-your very personhood.'

You’re still complicit. You’re still perpetuating anti-gay legislation and cultural homophobia. You don’t get to walk away clean, because you say you 'disagree' with your candidate on these issues." -Doug Wright

What is your story? What subtle or not so subtle actions have made you (or a loved one) feel diminished as a human being? Would you be willing to share them with me? If you would be willing to contribute to this effort, leave a comment here, or message me privately on Facebook. I promise to respect any requests for anonymity; although, I think our most powerful stories will bear the stamp of our identity. I would like to find a way to tell our stories, humanize our lives, share our reality, so that those who really seek to know us can understand when we say "Welcome to My World." 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Taking a Stand ... with Time in the Gray Space

With election day only days away, the unresolved issues with which I continue to wrestle have very little to do with for whom I shall cast my vote for President.  On that point I am firmly resolved.  I don’t think my candidate is perfect, but I think he seeks the best for our country. I’m quite sure my friends on the other side of the aisle have similar feelings about the candidate they support.

My struggle is in wondering where we draw the line, impose or don’t impose, take a stand or avoid the subject entirely.  Like many, I have grown increasingly frustrated with some of the highly negative talk generated by both sides on Facebook and other social media. There have been moments I have jumped up with the crowd to yell, “this is not the place!”  I know folks who manage to gracefully change the subject when political talk is introduced. But I have also read posts from friends trying to explain, in as rational a way as they can, their very heartfelt feelings about why a particular candidate should be supported.

As a teacher, I am discouraged from discussing my political beliefs with my students. And I am beginning to wonder if this is wise or healthy. Part of the rationale, I think, is the circle of influence we have with our students and the fact that we might exercise undue persuasive tactics that might result in our students being confused or manipulated. I don’t condone manipulation and intimidation in the classroom on Facebook or with my friends. Ministers are also discouraged from using the power of the pulpit to sway the political views of their parishoners. I fear, however, that in the effort to protect, we once again throw out the baby with the bath water.  Whatever happened to honest, intellectual discourse? Must we now boycott the topic entirely and leave the mouthpiece of information in the hands of groups paying for political ads?

I, for one, have always appreciated hearing thoughtful opinions from those in my circle of influence.  They influence me for a reason.  That doesn’t mean that I agree with them on every point, but they make me think in the gray spaces. They help me to look at different sides of issues, or issues about which I haven’t thought at all. The final episode of Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing series concludes with Jimmy Smits having won the Presidential election, and talking his opponent, Alan Alda, into accepting the position of Secretary of State. Alda comments something to the effect, “But we don’t agree on hardly anything!”  To which Smits replies, “I’m surrounded by people who agree with me - I need you to help me see the whole picture.” (loosely remembered and quoted - but this is the gist).  And the episode ends with them having an animated, but healthy and engaging conversation - but not necessarily an agreeable one. 

I am voting for Obama. I place a high priority on my civil rights as a gay American, and I would like to see them acknowledged as rights, so that we can move on to the important economic and educational issues that so desperately need our attention. But my rights to be legally joined to my spouse, visit her in the hospital, make medical decisions for her, inheritance issues, the right of gay couples to adopt and raise families together, etc. are very important to me, and I would like to see the government acknowledge them as "rights" and not a behavior to be condoned or regulated. I don’t think the Republican platform will support me in this. But I have also really wanted to hear from some of my friends who are considered “small business” owners about which platform they genuinely feel will support them.  I suspect I would hear advocates for both sides, but I want to hear from them, not political candidates far removed from this reality. I want to be able to discuss this - without fear of becoming a political pariah - so that I can become more informed about the whole picture, and so friends and acquaintances who do not walk in my shoes can become more informed about my reality. Until we are willing to take a stand, how can any of this discussion take place? As long as we avoid all political talk, how will we ever understand the needs faced by our neighbor? 

I think we need to rethink taking a stand with each other, and spending a little more time in the gray spaces - together. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Introverts in the Church, Part 1

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. 
"Pooh," he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet."
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand.
"I just wanted to be sure of you."
My friend Greta posted this Winnie the Pooh photo and caption as her Facebook status this morning, and I brazenly stole it and shared it as mine. I had  taken a brief coffee respite from reading Introverts in the Church by Adam S. McHugh, and this little excerpt from one of my favorite childhood series of books was like a timely visit from a dear and trusted friend. I had this little epiphany that these characters were always so near and dear to me precisely because so many of them were introverts. Tigger and Roo were extroverted exceptions, and Eeyore - well, Eeyore was just cranky. But then again, he may have had to spend too much time around Tigger and Roo . . .

So . . . before going back to my book (Tiddlee-pom, tiddlee-pom), I reflected just a bit longer about why I found Piglet's words so moving. It seemed to me that Piglet expressed in just a few words what my introverted self has been trying to discern about my relationship with God in a number of wordy blogs. "I just wanted to be sure of you."

I suppose it would be nice if I would just let Piglet have the last word on this one, but as I am reading in McHugh's book, introverts often have a need to write things down while they find "further clarity and coherence." The subtitle of the book is "Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture," and while I am only half-way through the book, not only have I learned and affirmed much about myself, but I feel certain that if you are an extrovert living with an introvert you would find many, many mysteries revealed about the introvert in your life. And introverts, there are helps aplenty about surviving life with your extroverted other with your sanity and your relationship intact. What follows are a few excerpts to encourage you to read this excellent book.

I began this blog again recently precisely because I felt a desperate need to process my thoughts about life, teaching, relationship and especially my relationship to the organized church. It was affirming to me to read McHugh state: "Introverts benefit from regularly setting apart longer periods to gather up the fragments of their lives and thoughts, and to present them to God through prayer or journaling. To rest and reflect are countercultural activities in our world, and they enable us to step out of the hurried, relentless activity of our culture and to observe the larger direction of and patterns in our lives."

Even as I read Introverts in the Church, my life continues to play out more like an Introvert-OUT-of-the-Church-Trying-to-Figure-Out-the-Church. This morning as I read I began to understand myself as I relate to the church, shed a bit of guilt for myself and withdrew a bit of blame from the church.  If I didn't understand this about myself, how can I expect the largely extroverted church at large to recognize it? McHugh says, "The journey of introverts into a community, however, is better conceptualized as a spiral. They take steps into a community, but then spiral out of it in order to regain energy, to reflect on their experiences and to determine if they are comfortable in that community. They move between entry, retreat and reentry, gradually moving deeper into the community on each loop. . . . Sometimes introverts need to step outside of a community for a period of time, even after years of faithful participation. . . . These outward movements are often not an indication of spiritual atrophy or waning enthusiasm, but they are simply part of normal introverted patterns. . . . They can lose themselves in community and need to retreat to solitude in order to be restored into shape and to find the power to give themselves fully to others when they reengage."

I need more reflection on this, and am eager to get back to the book, so with that, I will give McHugh the last word.  For now.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jolly? Fat People . . .

I'm not an unhappy fat person.  Just an uncomfortable one.  I'd like to be able to bend over without my stomach getting in the way, cross my legs comfortably, not have to work up a sweat to buckle my seat belt on the airplane - you know, simple pleasures.

Like many overweight people, I have struggled with the scale most of my life, tried and been successful with almost every diet known to humankind, and then cosmically gained every pound back - plus a few bonus "ounces."  I've walked, run, cycled, gone to therapy, worked out, "trained," toned up, firmed up, and flabbed right back out.  I would simply like to find a normal, healthy eating plan that I can stick with for life, incorporate some regular physical activity, and let my body find the weight it wants to be, and start enjoying the aforementioned simple pleasures. Is this asking too much?

I've sworn off "diets," because I spend too much time looking forward to "the end" of said program. Danger Will Robinson.  So, I decided that perhaps it was time to try a completely different approach.  All week long I have girded myself up to attend a local meeting of Overaters Anonymous.  Saturday, LMH, 10:00 a.m.  I went to bed last night saying - "I will not wake up and find an excuse not to go."  I woke up this morning, with my will to go still intact.  And a strong craving for a Munchers cream cheese donut.  Then it started to pour down rain, lots of thunder and lightening, Frau is out of town, perfect kind of day to curl up in the recliner with the dog and a good book or computer and not leave the house.  I almost caved - but no, I held firm.  And figured I could get what might become "the last donut" on the way to the meeting.

Proud of myself for heading out in a downpour, and anticipating being motivated to radically change my eating lifestyle after the meeting, I stopped and got not one, but two donuts, made an extra trip around the hospital to finish them, parked, checked my face and shirt for tell tale sugar crumbs, went inside and unashamedly asked the nice volunteer at the help desk where the Overaters Anonymous meeting met.  Didn't even whisper or call it OA.

Guess who wasn't on the schedule to meet today?

Now I'm a disappointed, uncomfortable fat person - just weighting around . . .

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Must Read Memoir by Kelly Barth

I went to church yesterday.  Not in the literal, time honored sense, but I finished a book I've been reading and felt as if I had been to church.  The book is ironically named My Almost Certainly Real Imaginary Jesus by Kelly Barth.  Told with sincerity, honesty, and humor, this memoir could have been my life on so many levels - not so much in specific details, but in many of the passages Barth traveled on her journey as a gay woman of faith.  I like that better than describing her as a woman of faith coming to grips with her gayness. For while she hesitated to publicly acknowledge it, she always knew she was gay.  Her journey was in discovering how to reconcile that fact with a faith that went through so many permutations, only she and "Imaginary Jesus" could really discover the truth and substance of that faith. 

As I've been reflecting on the book last night and this morning, I've chuckled again at Kelly's ability to describe her experiences with a humor that avoids insipid superficiality.  And admirably, for this reader, she is able to reconcile both her sexuality and her spirituality with a depth that defies many of the more shallow memoirs I have read of late.

Perhaps the most touching moment in the book for me was after she "came out" to her parents, and met with them for the first time after that revelation in her childhood home.  The image of her parents with their "powerful" clipboards of questions, Kelly sitting as a dutiful child in a chair where they "both could see her," and the clinical, yet far more tender way these two parents attempted to both understand and respectfully protect their child after having received news that no doubt turned their world upside down is one of the most moving moments of the entire memoir.  For these parents, nothing changed the fact that they loved their child, and no matter how their previous acts or words may have indicated otherwise and how unsettling the news may have been for them, they ultimately wanted only that their daughter know that she was loved and accepted.  "'You're ours and we love you. Nothing wrong. We just go on from here.' . . . Daddy picked up his clipboard, found a clear sheet of paper, and started a letter to Lisa, welcoming her to the family."

Acceptance by my own family and close friends - many of whom I feared simply wouldn't be able to make the leap - was very similar. As was my partner's.  I had worried overmuch about their reactions and potential rejections. My therapist even suggested that perhaps I didn't give my parents enough credit.  I'm not naive enough to believe all people are so lucky in their coming out experiences.  I know they aren't and that lack of family acceptance is one of the key causes of suicide among LGBT teens.  Perhaps we "late bloomers" have a greater capacity for dealing with the ramifications, or maybe we are just fortunate to have the families we have.  

I'll not say more on the book because I could not possibly do it justice. But this I will say, this book isn't just for gay people of faith - although, it will speak deeply to them.  It is not just for families of gay people of faith.  This is a book that anyone on a faith journey should read.  It is a book about a person. Someone with an aspect of their personhood that isn't readily accepted by everyone else - yes.  But isn't that true of us all?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Saving Face

I listened to two great sermons today - one was live and at my own church - addressing culture's current fascination with the "undead" and using the book, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, as the springboard for the discussion. The Frau thinks our fascination with vampires and zombies and such is just because they are weird and different, but my pastor, Matt Sturtevant caused me to think about the possibility that our interest in these subjects emerges from a need to wrestle with the unknown of eternity.  I'm still mulling that over, and will likely revisit the idea in a future post.

The second sermon I watched online - an archived message by Adam Hamilton (Church of the Resurrection) which I highly recommend entitled "The Bible and Sexuality" from his series on Wrestling with the Bible.  He addresses a topic I've been "mulling over" for a good many years and has some intriguing insights that are beautifully stated and illustrated. The details he addresses and questions he raises are best for you to view directly as spoken by him - the link is provided above.

I appreciated his acknowledgement from the outset that the issue of homosexuality is one that divides us - as a nation, as communities, churches, and friends and families. He also confessed that it is an issue with which he continues to wrestle. But as a church, they will accept and love everyone, and agree to live "in tension" with one another about their individual interpretation of Scripture. 

That Adam continues to "wrestle" with the issue, and that his personal feelings have evolved about interpreting the Bible in the few verses that address homosexual behavior, appears to be directly related to his actually getting to know gay and lesbian individuals. When "homosexuals" become a face and a family, rather than an abstraction and an arbitrary group, I think we all begin to wrestle with our understanding of how Jesus would interact with, and love, this person. We all have to come to a decision about whether these verses should be interpreted in light of the cultural context, or if they are God's overarching literal intent for all eternity.

My own church is extremely welcoming and loving, too.  And it is such a great start. But there are a lot of those faces out there who want to be fully affirmed by the congregations where they worship and serve.  They feel called as ministers and teachers, they want to stand up with their children when they are baptized in front of the whole church, and they want to be able to make a public and faith based commitment to their spouse before their God and their family of faith. To love us and welcome us but be unable to affirm us at this level is somewhat akin to asking us to sit in the back of the bus, or the church. 

I don't mean to sound harsh. It took me a long time to accept and affirm myself, and it started with my accepting and affirming my gay friends. I first had to personify the abstraction. That was my pilgrimage. When I was able to completely and fully love them and believe that God did the same, then I was finally able to love myself enough to admit, not only how God had created me, but how much God continues to love me.

So I say to my friends who just aren't "there," yet.  I love you; I know you love me; and I know God loves us both. I want to be that face, that personification for you. And I can live "in tension" with you on the subject for as long as it takes. But do know that sometimes it gets lonely in the back of the bus.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Common Core or Uncommonly Curious?

It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. ~ Einstein

As any of my cohorts in education are aware, the new buzzword/best practice/bandwagon du jour is Common Core Standards. After an initial superficial glance, I was thrilled that it seemed so much more realistic than No Child Left Behind. Ask any educator in the trenches, and they can tell you that they knew NCLB was doomed from the start.  

Ask any educator . . .  there's the rub. I am starting to question that actual educators working with actual students are ever involved in these conversations. And I worry that Common Core is sliding down that same slippery slope. I spent a good part of our Performing Arts PLC (Professional Learning Community) collaboration time this week in highly engaged dialogue with my colleagues about the value - or lack thereof - of the Common Core Standards and our place in the teaching of same. I played devil's advocate on behalf of Common Core, but I heard the dissenting voice of one of my colleagues, and it gave me pause. This same colleague then forwarded a link to an article in the Washington Post on the topic, and I am engaged in a grand pause, if you will, where Common Core is concerned. It is a good article - you should read it (Eight Problems with Common Core Standards). Bear in mind, I haven't yet taken the time to fact check the claim that "the Common Core was written with insufficient public dialogue or feedback from experienced educators." But if true, I'm ready to raise the red flag of concern.

I won't list all eight of the problems offered by the author of the article - please be curious enough to read the whole thing - but I will share a few that raised my eyebrows and my interest.

#3 - The Common Core Standards assume that what kids need to know is covered by one or another of the traditional core subjects. In fact the unexplored intellectual terrain lying between and beyond those familiar fields of study is vast, expands by the hour, and will go in directions no one can predict.

#4 - . . . the main reason for poor student performance is being ignored - a level of childhood poverty the consequences of which no amount of schooling can effectively counter.

#8 - . . . The young should be exploring the potentials of humanness.

I have a lot of friends who are teachers - really, really good teachers. Not a one of us minds being accountable for what we teach. None of us minds hearing about a new "best practice" that might meet the needs of our students. But we see these varying assessment programs come and go all the time, and many of them are the same program with a new name, rolling around again. They roll in, turning all of our professional growth and preparation time upside down in an effort to educate us as to how we may conform to the new program and have that conformity affirmed by our assessment scores. It doesn't leave kids much time to be curious. Did I miss something? Isn't learning about first being curious?

I was ready to jump on the bandwagon, but I'm going to have to think about this some more. I know how to "play the assessment game," and I will do it to the best of my ability if given no choice. But what I really love to do . . . is teach. Wish someone would create a bandwagon for that.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Taking Sides

A non-partisan political post? Well, one can hope.  

After watching the RNC and DNC meet over the past couple of weeks, I can't shake my disbelief that, as a nation, we seem to have moved to a place where to take one side is to alienate oneself from everyone taking the opposing position.  Facebook is rife with posts of derision for those of opposing views, demonizing and questioning the morality and spirituality of those who disagree with our opinion du jour, and these attitudes extend beyond Facebook and other social media into our real life social interactions.

I know some who resolve this by avoiding all political discourse of any kind - the old Hogan's Heroes Sergeant Schultz approach, "I hear NOTHing, I know NOTHing, I do NOTHing." Perhaps, that is a better course of wisdom.  As most of us can acknowledge, I have rarely met anyone whose opinion was changed by the most heartfelt (or vitriolic) Facebook post.  BUT, perhaps if we could discuss the issues that concern us all, and really listen to opposing perspectives, isn't it possible that while our political allegiance might not be changed, our willingness and ability to find some sort of common ground might be?

Perhaps the most disturbing words I have heard from friends of both political parties are, "I am truly fearful for what is going to happen to our country if Candidate X is elected." It seems to me we are bestowing a bit more power onto one candidate than our founding fathers intended when they aimed to protect us with a political system of checks and balances. And since so much of this concern comes from people of faith (on both sides), I question why we don't trust God more to guide whoever is elected, just like God guided Saul when Israel insisted on a king God didn't think they needed.  I don't question the faith of either of the candidates, and I think it is possible for them to make divergent decisions with which I may or may not agree. God didn't agree with Israel's need for a king, but continued to work through them in spite of their decision. Big God always trumps Small People. Sure, I have a preference, but I also know "All things work together for good to those who love God . . ." (Romans 8:28).

And speaking of working together . . . I just wish we would - both parties, all opinions.  And certainly all people of faith.  Not all of my friends agree with my political leanings.  I even have a college friend whose husband is a Senator of the party with which I am not affiliated. I don't always agree with how her husband votes. He has been gracious enough to let me express my views as one of his constituents, and she has never treated me with anything less than acceptance and friendship. They are people of faith, I am a person of faith, and we don't agree on everything and we still like each other. And talk. And listen. And sometimes have to agree to disagree. I have a colleague who usually votes differently than do I. We laugh and tease each other. And listen to each other. And find that there are issues upon which we can agree. And others where we agree to disagree. There are some issues upon which I most strongly believe. In a world full of flawed human beings with varying priorities and beliefs, I think my response needs to be to be a willingness to share my thoughts fervently, live my life with integrity, and listen to the thoughts of others, seeking some sort of common ground. I simply will not get on the merry-go-round of alienation and demonizing.  

I saw a Facebook post this morning posted by the "friend of a friend," that I think beautifully captures this issue. I hope she doesn't mind my sharing it here with due credit to Becky Zahller McNeil:

I am deeply saddened, nearly to despair, not that people whom I love have a different vision of the best path to healing the brokeness in our nation, but that people whom I love would deride and dismiss the faith of others based on their political party. People of good conscience, people of deep faith, people of broad compassion are Independent, Republican, Democrat...It does the Gospel of Jesus Christ nothing but dis-service when prideful, awful, sweeping judgements are made, villifying those whose views differ from one's own. Our nation would be better served by far less ugliness, and far more openness to listening, really listening and caring about each other.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Audacity of Pride - Purveyor of Hope

I had the good fortune several months ago of meeting Dr. Ron Holt and hearing him speak on the biology of gay sexuality, bullying and suicide prevention. Dr. Holt is a clinical psychiatrist who is committed to sharing scientific facts about human sexuality, LGBT health issues, and bullying, and he backs up that commitment by donating his time, speaking primarily to medical and collegiate audiences around the country. You will find a link to his website - Audacity of Pride - on this blog, and I also encourage you to follow him on Twitter (LGBT Shrink - @Dr.RonHolt).

In a day and time when so many young people are striving to become more open about their sexual orientation, I find Dr. Holt a purveyor of hope and vital source of information for anyone struggling with acceptance, health related issues, and non-acceptance or bullying from others. I refer to young people because I work with them everyday, but adults are certainly not immune. As Ron said in a recent Tweet, "Research shows that LGBT youth who are closeted are at greater risk for depression, substance abuse, and suicide." He also points out that LGBT youth are 2-4 times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their straight peers. Did you know that 40% of homeless youth are LGBT and the number one reason is family rejection? As a gay, Christ following teacher, how can I not keep myself aware of such important issues impacting the lives of my students? 

I offer this post primarily as a challenge to all who read it.  Check out Dr. Holt's website, follow him on Twitter, and be sensitive and aware of those around you who may be struggling with issues related to their sexuality, be it acceptance, health, bullying or suicide. You don't have to be an expert on the topic.  In fact, if you do nothing but make the following information available to those with whom you come in contact, you may save a life or become a purveyor of hope yourself.

The Trevor Lifeline:  866-488-7386
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  800-273-TALK

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Road to Emmaus

For as long as I can remember, Robert Zünd's painting of a resurrected Christ on the road to the town of Emmaus with two unsuspecting followers hung in my dad's church office. These disciples thought Jesus had died, and didn't recognize him when he joined them on the road and shared dinner with them later. My dad passed away 10 years ago this month, and I'm not sure what my mother did with that painting.  

I have my eyes on a new work of art these days, though - also a "road to Emmaus." You see, I have a new little friend named Emmaus. He just celebrated his first birthday this past weekend, and I wonder if the many people there to help him celebrate were aware of the presence of Christ in his life.  I've been captivated by him for the past year, and the journey he is on with his adoptive parents. I don't know when I have seen a happier and more loved little boy. Every time I see a new picture of him, I smile and my spirits are lifted. I have seen an amazing transformation in his parents as they now see their world through the lens of the love they have for this precious boy.  

Although I have spent the last couple of posts confessing some doubts and dissonance in my own faith journey, I find that witnessing the simple and sincere love that is expressed in Emmaus' family is one of the greatest reminders of why I cling to my faith in spite of doubt. When I'm feeling a bit like I'm wandering in a desert (perhaps of my own making), God brings a work of art, like Emmaus and his family, into my view and reminds me that the God of Love is still with me.  And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then I can't believe you won't see God's all encompassing and non-judgmental Love in the images of Emmaus -  and his dads.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Paradigm, Part 2

Grab your torches, friends.  Heresy ensues.

I recall a professor at sometime in my past who used the analogy of the circle to illustrate that the more we know, the more we know that we don't know.  The circle represents our body of knowledge and understanding.  The surface area of the circumference of the circle is representative of that body of information that we don't know or understand.  If we have little knowledge, the circle is small, and thus the circumference representing what we don't know is also small.  As our understanding increases (and, thus, the circle size), so does the outer area of the circle reflect the increasing vastness (and awareness) of all that we do not know.

My "circle of knowledge" (as well as my waistline) have both grown over the years, and the once certain know-it-all of my youth is left to wonder if I really know anything at all.

I used to be certain of so many things, and I now find myself questioning faith issues as elemental as Heaven, the Divinity of Christ, Christianity as the "only" way to God, Prayer, just to name a few. I don't want to frighten or deter anyone on their own spiritual journey, just because I am wrestling with doubts. There was a time I might have judged myself as having a very weak faith as a result of these doubts. I won't pretend I don't find doubting disturbing at times, but I do believe wrestling, and even accepting, doubt is part of the journey. At least it is part of MY journey.

I recently joined the "early fifty" crowd, and there is something about that passage of time that causes one to realize you may be closer to death than you really want to admit. It's a little scary. So I think about the "after-life" a bit more.  I ceased to think of Hell as a literal place some years back, but rather as the hell of unhappiness and discontent that we create for ourselves on this earth when we find ourselves at cross purposes with our Higher Power. I now find myself pondering whether or not Heaven is a literal place, and all the inherent questions that follow such an initial thought. It makes me want to hang out around here awhile longer. I can't quite put my finger on how that whole heavenly "family reunion" piece is going to work out. And what would be the point of suddenly ending everything on this world to have ONLY heaven?

The other big issue I've hit the mat with for the past few years is the purpose of prayer. I am of the belief that God gave us free will when we were created; therefore, the Heavenly Genie isn't going to reach down in a cloud of smoke to pluck us out of harm's way when we make a poor choice. Yet we all turn to prayer in matters of great crisis.  I wish I could recall the source of this statement, but it is the best response I've heard to my struggle with this issue - "prayer doesn't change God so much as it changes us."  That's a rationale I can buy into. A reminder that God is there to share my pain, and perhaps, make it easier to bear.  And lest I assume prayer is only for a foxhole faith, God also shares and enhances my joy and happiness.

I could go on with some of the other items mentioned, but I won't.  My modus operandi at this point is to acknowledge my doubt, have faith that God accepts me anyway, and that the only thing I really must understand is that God is love. 
Love my neighbor. 
Love wins. 
The rest is gravy. 
If Heaven is a real place, it is clearly beyond my ability to comprehend it, and my faith isn't dependent upon having all the answers about it. My needy neighbor, struggling student, or failing friend, however, may depend on me for the Love that brings a bit of heaven into their lives.

I am making no attempt with this entry offer easy answers or solutions. But I do think it helps to know that just as we are not alone in our believing, neither are we alone in our doubting. And there is no heavenly host standing in corner ready to snatch our "membership card" away for not believing blindly. Perhaps that is what "grace" is all about - knowing that God loves both our belief and our doubt. And I have noticed that God has often used doubting and troubled humans to accomplish great things in history. Sometimes the last thing a person in need wants is help from a perfect person with all the answers figured out. I want to read Mother Teresa's book. I suspect that if she could have doubts, I am in pretty good company.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

New Paradigm, Part 1

I said I was going to start writing again, and I said I had lots of thoughts about church. I suppose Sunday morning is as good a time as any to get started. Let me start with a disclaimer - I don't purport to be offering definitive answers on this topic. Not at all. I probably have many more questions than answers. And in fact, I'd welcome some hearty dialogue on the topic. I just find myself wrestling with many of my long held beliefs about church - not my faith, mind you - but the formal, time-bound, brick and mortar church building, meeting, and gathering place.

I became a Christian when I was 6 - in my church we called it a "profession of faith." I still cling to, and believe in, that faith. I have not abandoned God or my faith. My faith has continued to grow and broaden with me as I have grown. But some days I feel like abandoning the church.  Now, depending on your perspective, don't let that statement cause you to gnash your teeth in despair or conversely, to jump for joy. I haven't abandoned the church, and I don't really want to.  But I am taking a step back and becoming at times a conscientious objector, and at others a conscientious observer. The world has changed, and I have changed - dramatically - since I was 6. And as more and more questions are raised in the mind that God gave me, I become more and more convinced that "the church" needs to reassess and explore whether or not it isn't time for a new paradigm.

Here is what I do know. Jesus went TO people. He didn't gather his disciples together and say, "Guys, we need a building so people can come and hear the message God has given to me to share with them."  He didn't turn to them after he fed 5000 people on the hills of Galilee and say, "Let's just build a big multi-purpose room right here to commemorate this event, attach a nice worship center, and we'll have a big fish fry this time every year to kick off our stewardship campaign." No, he headed out in a boat to recharge, saw a man with inner demons in need, and took the time to help him get rid of those demons and regain his true self. Jesus went TO people. He showed interest in them, and in their specific needs.  He loved them just as they were, and continues to love all of us just as we are. 

With that said, when did we lose that organic and simple approach to helping people discover that there is something greater than ourselves who loves us? When did "the church" move out of small groups that met in people's homes and tried to make a difference in their community, into large buildings that are becoming more like clubs, offering activities to meet the needs of all its members and designed to entice prospective members?  Rubel Shelley in his book, I Knew Jesus Before He Was a Christian . . . and I Liked Him Better Then, would opine that we can blame the Emperor Constantine. He believes that after Constantine became a Christian, he decided to exert his royal influence on the "church," and the result was the transformation of this organism to an organization, this community to a corporation. Organizations and Corporations require governing bodies, organizational charts, maintenance, money.  I don't recall Jesus and his followers worrying about any of these things in his organic community.  

I am a "member" of a local church. I love my pastor and the congregation, some of whom I consider dear friends and spiritual mentors. But I haven't been attending church much, lately. My spouse and I do still meet regularly with the church book group that we started, and that group meets in our home. I treasure those meetings, not just because I love to read, but because I value the "organic community" I have with this group of people. I have a group of other friends, all of whom have a deep faith in God but are struggling with the whole issue of "church," and we are "community" to one another in times of need and questioning.  I see - directly - almost 200 students every day in the school where I teach, a number of whom have serious financial, emotional, and familial needs.  They don't need me to invite them to church.  They need me to BE "church" to them.  

I'm raising more questions than I am answering.  But this is where I begin. What if "church" operated more like a 12-step program (no overhead, no single set meeting, just diverse people coming together to share and meet one another's needs - credit to R. Shelley here)? Isn't God big enough, and smart enough to speak to diverse people through diverse ways? I found my way to God through Christianity, but does that rule out other spiritual paths for other people? Is it more important for people to discover that the way to God is Love, or to discover MY God's love, MY way?  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back in the Saddle . . . Again

I'm back.  I've been feeling a need to write, and I'm tired of the voice nagging me to start blogging again.  Alright, already.  (Truly, I had no idea I had been away for so long.)  And I'm also going to try to follow more carefully the blogs you see to the right - some old favorites, and some new friends - all of which I recommend.  So, a few varied thoughts follow - just to get me back in the saddle . . . again.


For me, this time of year is New Year's.  I have and always will, I suppose, operate on an academic calendar.  It is just the way I'm wired.   Every school year begins with me wanting to try something new - some new "hook" that will motivate students to take an active part in their learning and not just sit back waiting to "receive."  A former student and Facebook friend posted the following this morning, and I think the fourth statement nicely verbalizes my focus/obsession for this new year:

Give me a sticker and I will do my very best for a few minutes.
Give me a warm smile and I will do my very best for a little while.
Give me encouragement and I will do my very best for a long while.
Give me the experiences that help me believe in myself and I will do my very best forever.

Let's see if it works.


I have found myself doing a lot of leisure reading on the boat this summer, and almost all of it has revolved around strong female law enforcement mysteries.  If the genre appeals to you at all, I recommend Linda Rodriguez' Every Last Secret, Sally Shield's blog, and a series of novels that take place in an Amish community by Linda Castillo (Sworn to Silence, Pray for Silence, and Breaking Silence).  Links to Linda's and Sally's blogs are on my list to the right.


In the last few months I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Ron Holt, a psychiatrist who volunteers much of his life to the cause of educating about human sexuality, teen suicide prevention (particularly as it relates to the LGBT community), and bullying.   If you ever have the opportunity to hear him speak, I can't recommend him highly enough.  A link to his website is in my list to the right, and I'll be talking more about his message in a future post.  I have also posted several of his resources on my Pinterest Board entitled "Love Your Neighbor."


Church.   Lots of thoughts about church of late.  None of them definitive.   Look for posts on this topic, and while you wait, read I Knew Jesus Before He Was a Christian . . . and I Liked Him Better Then by Rubel Shelly.


Horse is saddled up.  I plan to take some trips on these and other topics very soon.  Pass the word.