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Archive for June, 2008

Facts of life

At least two people in this world love you so much they would die for you.

At least fifteen people in this world love you in some way.

The only reason anyone would ever hate you is because they want to be just like you.

A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don’t like you.

Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.

You mean the world to someone.

If not for you, someone may not be living.

You are special and unique.

There is someone that you don’t even know exists, who loves you.

When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good comes from it.

When you think the world has turned its back on you, take a look: you most likely

turned your back on the world.

When you think you have no chance of getting what you want, you probably won’t get it, but if you believe in yourself, probably, sooner or later, you will get it.

Always remember the compliments you received. Forget about the rude remarks.

Always tell someone how you feel about them; you will feel much better when they know.

If you have a great friend, take the time to let them know that they are great.


On Being Canadian…

“This year we mark and celebrate the founding of the Canadian state 400 years ago; from Champlain to today.”

From Celebrate Canada Day

It has been over six years since I moved to Montreal, and Canada the larger nation. And I thought that I would write a post about being a Canadian and why that is so important to me. Living in Canada as a gay, hiv positive man has done wonders for my life. I have achieved heights here I would never have been able to in the United States as the situation was in the past. Living hand to mouth, having to choose between bills and food, over medications was a real downer.

Moving from one BIG city to a truly Cosmopolitan BIG Candian city was remarkable. Montreal had a mystique all its own. There was so much to see and there still is so much to see here that I would never think of leaving this great city. I have grown up in this city in ways I never thought possible.

Living in Canada brought with it radical changes in the way I see the world from above the Northern Border. Learning where my loyalties lain was very important seeing that I was here as the Iraq war had begun, taking part in demonstrations against the war was life changing. Not knowing where to stand at one point of this journey, I had to take the time to learn about what I was feeling and where those loyalties laid. That took a while to figure out but when the map finally appeared before me, I was good to go.

Coming from the United States, knowing what I knew changed when the run up to the war took place. Everything I knew came into question. Everything I had grown up to believe was challenged. The very way I lived my  life was on the line. I had one foot in the U.S. and one foot in Canada. And I was at odds with my self because I did not know where I stood on many issues. I had to find my way. That took some time. I eventually chose to place both feet firmly on Canadian soil and make my stand here. And that decision changed my life. I may hold dual citizenship but my soul is firmly a Canadian soul. I sewed Canadian flags on my backpack and I became one of many. My collective here in Canada.

Canada has grown as a country. Montreal has grown as a city. I have grown into the man I am. I have learned about the myriad of religious beliefs that reside here. I have met, studied and befriended many different people from all walks of life. Returning to University was the biggest decision I had made at one point in my journey. And now I hold a B.A. in Religious Studies which has changed the way I see religion today.

When Canada passed legislation on Same Sex marriage, Hubby and I were amongst the first ten couples in Montreal to get a marriage license. We eventually married in November of 2004, with friends and family in attendance. That was a big change in our lives to be recognized as a couple legally. Gay rights IS a big deal no matter where you live. And we have seen what kind of divisivness can come about from the discussion of Gay Marriage in the United States.

Being gay in Canada has changed the way we see the world around us. Because here in Canada we are afforded right according to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We have an entire neighborhood devoted to all things gay. We have a vibrant multicultural gay community, and a vibrant multicultural city, a mosaic of people, ethnicity and faith. Gay Pride is a daily way of life. We don’t have to hide in closets and in dark corners of neighborhoods. With the passage of gay rights and marriage rights here we move more fully into community and that is lacking in the United States. When will the United States realize that there are bigger fish to fry like impeaching the President and taking him the the Hague for War Crimes! When will gay move main stream and the people of an entire nation rise up and do the right thing for a change, instead of being led to slaughter like mindless sheep?

I tell you truly, that if you really want to see the world (The U.S. ) for what it is, then uproot your family, leave your sofas and beer cans and football games and move abroad for One Calendar year. See the United States from someplace else, like Canada, and I assure you that you will never see the U.S. the way you did before and forever after.

I became part of a church, I found my religious roots so to speak. With my religious studies my faith has changed. Everything I knew and loved about Catholicism was changed. Being gay and informed has truly changed the way I see Christianity and the way I practice my faith. I moved away from Holy Mother Church and into the Anglican communion and as a communion community here in Canada we came to agreement on the blessing of same sex couples in the last year. A change that has challenged the greater Anglican and Episcopal community at large.

As we see today that the Anglican community is more fractured than ever just because a Gay, now married man, The V. Rev. Gene Robinson is Bishop in New Hampshire. My views and practice of Christian faith has been tempered by the way other Christians live their lives. It is my belief that I practice an active true faith in Christ. I love my god with all my heart, soul and strength and I love my neighbor as myself. How much easier can Christianity be? My faith is so much richer for the opportunity to study religion in University. That has also changed my life for the better.

Over the years we have seen many things change in Canada. The recognition of the past and apologies made to certain communities of people have changed Canada for the better. The head tax apology to the Chinese community was a big step in Asia Pacific understanding. And more recently the Truth and Reconciliation commission undertaking the huge step in repairing the sins of a Nation against the Native Peoples of Canada. The great apology from the Prime Minister to the native community just a little while ago was a big step in helping Canada and a peoples move forward from one of the darkest periods in Canadian history.

Canada is a great country to live in – Montreal is a wonderful city to be a part of. There is so much more freedom here than in the United States. My life is so much richer for being here. And I am more the man I was meant to be here. I work with my kids, I have great friends, and I have a great life. And I live. I have medical treatment here that is unheard of in the United States. I am in trials for new medications for people with Aids. I work every day to try to help find solutions for the sick and dying. That is my full time job here, to live and to make sure that as these meds come off the production line that they work so that you, out there can use them with the assurance that they really do work.

I am sober now seven years going on eight this Winter. I am committed to my home group and the ministry of AA in my community. I help others get sober and we teach them how to live in the moment and to stay in their days. So much has changed in sobriety. My life is so different from what it had been and I have everything to be grateful for in coming to Canada.

If you can dream it you can live it. Always fight for what you believe in, and if you can’t find it where you are, then come and find it elsewhere. There are always possibilities.

**Edit**

September 25th, 2010

It seems this post has been accessed by someone and I am reading this again tonight, having traveled farther down the journey here in Canada. Since that post was written, I have graduated from University with my BA in Religious studies, I have completed a Certificate in Pastoral Ministry in 2010. I am now studying languages and history at Dawson College here in Montreal. It truly has been a journey of a thousand steps all one day at a time.

I spent a year working on my M.A. in Theology and I found myself wanting more, I was not enjoying myself, and my papers were not what was necessary to keep up a GPA. I left the university with no way to continue my studies there, which sent me to Dawson, because unlike the U.S. you can get financial aide from the government to go to school at all levels of the educational ladder. And since I did not attend CeGep on the way up, I was able to continue my studies at that level. It’s all good.

Hubby has since completed a BA in English lit and a second BA in Sociology. And today he is working on his M.A. in Sociology at Concordia University. We are all so very proud of him, he has come a LONG way from the point that I wrote this first entry some years ago. We have been married now almost 6 years come November. He will have been sober almost eight years as well. We have traveled a thousand miles in our marriage. Life could not be better for either one of us today.

I am still alive, I have been testing HIV medications for the entire time that I have been here in Montreal, having a doctor who has treated patient zero, as my doctor has changed my life. Pills that were never available to the general public were made available because we tested them here in Montreal first. I tested them just for you, because you matter to the rest of us, every one of you. This year I crossed the 16 year mark living with aids. And I am doing very well, with the treatment that I have been on for more than three years now.

This calendar year, 2010 I will celebrate 9 years of sobriety on December the 9th. Sobriety has changed my life. Being in Canada has changed my life in ways I could never have imagined even when I wrote this original entry, I was no so far up the road, but far enough to root myself in Montreal.

I still maintain that if you want to see the world and the place you come from in a different light, you have to leave the comfort of home and move someplace else for at least a calendar year.

That is all for this update on Being Canadian…


The Atheist Theology Student Who Was Found by God

John Powell a professor at Loyola University in Chicago writes about a student in his Theology of Faith class named Tommy:Some twelve years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith. That was the first day I first saw Tommy. My eyes and my mind both blinked. He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders.

It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long. I guess it was just coming into fashion then. I know in my mind that it isn’t what’s on your head but what’s in it that counts; but on that day I was unprepared and my emotions flipped.

I immediately filed Tommy under “S” for strange … very strange. Tommy turned out to be the “atheist in residence” in my Theology of Faith course. He constantly objected to, smirked at, or whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father-God. We lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although I admit he was for me at times a serious pain in the back pew.

When he came up at the end of the course to turn in his final exam, he asked in a slightly cynical tone: “Do you think I’ll ever find God?”

I decided instantly on a little shock therapy. “No!” I said very emphatically.

“Oh,” he responded, “I thought that was the product you were pushing.”

I let him get five steps from the classroom door and then called out: “Tommy! I don’t think you’ll ever find him, but I am absolutely certain that He will find you!” He shrugged a little and left my class and my life.

I felt slightly disappointed at the thought that he had missed my clever line: “He will find you!” At least I thought it was clever. Later I heard that Tommy had graduated and I was duly grateful.

Then a sad report, I heard that Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to see me. When he walked into my office, his body was very badly wasted, and the long hair had all fallen out as a result of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice was firm, for the first time, I believe. “Tommy, I’ve thought about you so often. I hear you are sick!” I blurted out.

“Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It’s a matter of weeks.”

“Can you talk about it, Tom?”

“Sure, what would you like to know?”

“What’s it like to be only twenty-four and dying?”

“Well, it could be worse.”

“Like what?”

“Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals, like being fifty and thinking that booze, seducing women, and making money are the real ‘biggies’ in life.”

I began to look through my mental file cabinet under “S” where I had filed Tommy as strange. (It seems as though everybody I try to reject by classification God sends back into my life to educate me.)

But what I really came to see you about,” Tom said, ” is something you said to me on the last day of class.” (He remembered!) He continued, “I asked you if you thought I would ever find God and you said, ‘No!’ which surprised me. Then you said, ‘But he will find you.’ I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time. (My “clever” line. He thought about that a lot!) But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, then I got serious about locating God. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists against the bronze doors of heaven.

But God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened. Did you ever try anything for a long time with great effort and with no success? You get psychologically glutted, fed up with trying. And then you quit.

Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may be or may not be there, I just quit. I decided that I didn’t really care … about God, about an afterlife, or anything like that. “I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more profitable. I thought about you and your class and I remembered something else you had said: ‘The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them.’ “So I began with the hardest one: my Dad. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him.”

“Dad”. . .

“Yes, what?” he asked without lowering the newspaper.

“Dad, I would like to talk with you.”

“Well, talk.”

“I mean. .. It’s really important.”

The newspaper came down three slow inches. “What is it?”

“Dad, I love you. I just wanted you to know that.” Tom smiled at me and said with obvious satisfaction, as though he felt a warm and secret joy flowing inside of him: “The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I could never remember him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me.

And we talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning. It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me. “It was easier with my mother and little brother. They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other, and started saying real nice things to each other. We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years. I was only sorry about one thing: that I had waited so long. Here I was just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to.

“Then, one day I turned around and God was there. He didn’t come to me when I pleaded with him. I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop, ‘C’mon, jump through.’ ‘C’mon, I’ll give you three days .. .three weeks.’ Apparently God does things in his own way and at his own hour. “But the important thing is that he was there. He found me.

You were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for him.”

“Tommy,” I practically gasped, “I think you are saying something very important and much more universal than you realize. To me, at least, you are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love. You know, the Apostle John said that. He said God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him.’ Tom, could I ask you a favor? You know, when I had you in class you were a real pain. But (laughingly) you can make it all up to me now. Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what you have just told me? If I told them the same thing it wouldn’t be half as effective as if you were to tell them.”

“Oooh . . . I was ready for you, but I don’t know if I’m ready for your class.”

“Tom, think about it. If and when you are ready, give me a call.” In a few days Tommy called, said he was ready for the class, that he wanted to do that for God and for me. So we scheduled a date. However, he never made it.

He had another appointment, far more important than the one with me and my class. Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed.

He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of man has ever seen or the ear of man has ever heard or the mind of man has ever imagined.

Before he died, we talked one last time. “I’m not going to make it to your class,” he said.

“I know, Tom.”

“Will you tell them for me? Will you . . . tell the whole world for me?”

“I will, Tom. I’ll tell them. I’ll do my best.”

So, to all of you who have been kind enough to hear this simple statement about love, thank you for listening. And to you, Tommy, somewhere in the sunlit, verdant hills of heaven: “

I told them, Tommy . … …as best I could.”


Fall Down and Go Boom…

Attempting to get from our balcony into the bedroom on Friday, I took a dive and fell down, and I hurt my left foot. Now I have been hoping that there isn’t terrible damage to my foot as I am not going to sit in Emergency for 13 hours waiting for radiology to take me. Hoping that I can make it till the 3rd, when I have to see my doctor and he can get me in to be checked then.


Presbyterian assembly votes to drop gay clergy ban

By ERIC GORSKI, AP Religion Writer

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), bitterly divided over sexuality and the Bible, set up another confrontation Friday over its ban on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians.

The denomination’s General Assembly, meeting in San Jose, Calif., voted 54 percent to 46 percent Friday to drop the requirement that would-be ministers, deacons and elders live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.”

The proposed change to the church constitution requires approval from a majority the nation’s 173 presbyteries, or regional church bodies — a yearlong process that has proven to be a barrier to similar efforts in the past.

Of equal importance to advocates on both side of the debate, the assembly also voted to allow gay and lesbian candidates for ordination to conscientiously object to the existing standard. Local presbyteries and church councils that approve ordinations would consider such requests on a case-by-case basis.

That vote was an “an authoritative interpretation” of the church constitution rather than a change to it, so it goes into effect immediately. The interpretation supersedes a ruling from the church’s high court, issued in February, that said there were no exceptions to the so-called “fidelity and chastity” requirement.

Both votes could put further strain on the 2.2-million member church, which like other mainline Protestant denominations has seen some conservative churches leave after losing battles over the place of gays and lesbians in the church and what the Bible says about gay relationships.

“My biggest concern is, ‘How does the church move forward?'” said the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the General Assembly. “There’s great disappointment in some folks and great joy in others, but it really does go back to how do we as a church model for the world a way to live together amid great diversity of opinion?”

Jon Walton, co-moderator of the San Francisco-based Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which advocates a broader role for gays and lesbians, hailed both votes Friday, calling it “a day we’ve been waiting almost 30 years to see happen.” He also expressed hope church members can move forward together.

The denomination adopted the “chastity and fidelity” clause in 1996, replacing language that had the same effect: prohibiting non-celibate gays and lesbians from ministry.

The proposed new language would demand candidates “pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions.”

By agreeing to that, “they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church.” A presbytery or church council could decide that a gay or lesbian person does not meet that standard.

“This week the General Assembly voted from faith rather than fear,” Lisa Larges, minister coordinator of the advocacy group That All May Freely Serve, said in a statement. “They voted for a vibrant future of our church … .”

More conservative Presbyterians can take comfort in the fact that twice before — in 1997 and 2001 — the nation’s presbyteries overwhelmingly rejected efforts to rescind the gay ordination ban.

Ministers and elders who vote at the church’s General Assembly meetings generally are more liberal, and in the next step small conservative presbyteries have an equal vote as those of larger liberal ones.

Paul Detterman, executive director of Louisville, Ky.-based Presbyterians for Renewal, which opposes changing the ordination standards, said the debate is not about homosexuality but following the Bible.

For much of Christian history, denominations have interpreted Scripture as prohibiting gay sex.

“From the evangelical perspective this is a lovers’ quarrel,” Detterman said. “We are so passionate about people understanding and knowing the love of God for them. If there’s a situation where we were simply against gays, there are a lot of easier places to be than the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)”

Later Friday, the General Assembly is scheduled to vote on a proposal to change the denomination’s definition of marriage from between “a man and a woman” to “two people.”

___

On the Net:

http://www.pcusa.org

(This version CORRECTS wording in the 14th paragraph, which begins “Ministers and …” to elders, instead of lay people.)

From Fr. Jake Stops the World – More in depth coverage:

From SFGate:

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), bitterly divided over sexuality and the Bible, set up another confrontation Friday over its ban on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians.

The denomination’s General Assembly, meeting in San Jose, Calif., voted 54 percent to 46 percent Friday to drop the requirement that would-be ministers, deacons and elders live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.”

The proposed change to the church constitution requires approval from a majority the nation’s 173 presbyteries, or regional church bodies — a yearlong process that has proven to be a barrier to similar efforts in the past.

Of equal importance to advocates on both side of the debate, the assembly also voted to allow gay and lesbian candidates for ordination to conscientiously object to the existing standard. Local presbyteries and church councils that approve ordinations would consider such requests on a case-by-case basis.

That vote was an “an authoritative interpretation” of the church constitution rather than a change to it, so it goes into effect immediately. The interpretation supersedes a ruling from the church’s high court, issued in February, that said there were no exceptions to the so-called “fidelity and chastity” requirement…

The Lead points us to a press release from More Light Presbyterians:

More Light Presbyterians said a decision today by the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to lift its ban on ordination for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons is good news for Presbyterians and Christians across the country and world.

“This is a great moment affirming God’s love for all people. We are thankful to the Commissioners at this Assembly who upheld standards for leadership and service in our Church, and at the same time eliminated categorical discrimination that has denied ordination to LGBT persons based simply on who they are and who they fall in love with,” said Michael J. Adee, Executive Director and Field Organizer for the organization.

The action by the General Assembly removes G.60106b from its Book of Order, the Constitution which governs the Church and replaces it with new language. Formerly, it required fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness to be eligible for ordination as deacons, elders or ministers.

“The intent of this standard, passed over a decade ago, was to bar LGBT persons from full membership and service in our Church since marriage equality is not yet available to most in our country,” Adee said.

New language passed by the General Assembly reaffirms historic standards of the Church that focus on faith and character which has withstood the test of time, and did not exclude anyone based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status…

Yesterday, General Assembly voted to restore the Heidelberg Catechism to its original language:

…After rejection of the minority report and extended debate, the Assembly voted with a strong 60% majority to restore the Heidelberg Catechism to its historic accuracy which did not include a reference to “homosexual perversion”…

These changes will still have to be approved by a vote of the presbyteries, so it’s not over yet. But this good beginning is certainly reason for rejoicing.

J.


Scholars make finds in Nazi archive

By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press Writer

BAD AROLSEN, Germany – From prison brothels to slave labor camps, 15 scholars concluded a two-week probe Thursday of an untapped repository of millions of Nazi records, and hailed it as a rich vein of raw material that will deepen the study of the Holocaust.

It was the first concentrated academic sweep of the long-private archive administered by the International Tracing Service since it opened its doors last November to Holocaust survivors, victims relatives and historical researchers.

German historian Christel Trouve said the nameless millions of forced laborers began to take shape as individual people as she studied small labor camps — which existed in astonishing numbers.

Among the striking revelations was the identification of the man who rescued an 8-year-old boy in Buchenwald, Israel Meir Lau, who later became Israel’s chief rabbi.

Lau had said his rescuer was a person called Fyodor from Rostow. Kenneth Waltzer of Michigan State University found it was Fyodor Michajlitschenko, 18, arrested by the Gestapo in 1943, who gave the small boy ear warmers and treated him like a father in Block 8 until the camp’s liberation.

“A lot of us found the collections here, approached in the appropriate way, really opened up new significant scholarly lines of inquiry,” said Waltzer, who is director of his university’s Jewish Studies department.

Jessica Anderson Hughes of Rutgers University discovered that prostitutes servicing other prisoners in concentration camp brothels often came from ordinary backgrounds — exploding the myth that most had been prostitutes before their arrest.

Hughes said the lists in Bad Arolsen allowed her to attach names to the prisoner-prostitutes at Buchenwald, one of the largest concentration camps which had one of eight known brothels for prisoners.

With the names she could look up incarceration records — and she found some women were married, some single, some were mothers. The records said many were arrested for petty theft or other minor crime.

“We always portrayed them as volunteers, but I wanted to know why they volunteered,” she said. She believed the prostitutes faced “a choiceless choice.”

The opening of the files to scholars followed pressure from survivors and from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The importance of the archive was highlighted in a series of stories by The Associated Press, which was the first news organization to be granted extensive access to the long-restricted papers.

The research project was organized jointly by the tracing service and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, which brought scholars from six countries to begin assessing the significance of the archive, the largest collection of Nazi documents.

The 50 million pages stored in this central German spa town since the mid-1950s previously had been used by Red Cross staff to respond to inquiries about missing persons or the fate of family members, and later to document compensation claims.

With the population of survivors quickly shrinking, the 11 countries that govern the archive agreed in 2006 to widen access to the files. It took another 18 months for all 11 to ratify the required treaty amendments before the archive could open.

Reto Meister, the archive’s director, said he still gets 1,000 inquires a month asking for personal information. Now, the archive is also getting dozens of academic inquiries or visitors every month, he said.

The gray metal shelves and cabinets contain 16 miles (25 kilometers) of transport lists, camp registries, medical records, forced labor files and death certificates of some 17.5 million people subjected to Nazi persecutions.

Taken together with written and oral testimonies and the transcripts of war crimes trials, the dry data at Bad Arolsen add texture to the known picture of the Holocaust, from the first concentration camps created within weeks of Hitler’s rise to power in January 1933 to the defeat of Nazism in May 1945.

“It was much more than I expected,” said Trouve.

“I’ve been working on concentration camps for 15 years. We know there was forced laborers in Germany — millions of them,” she said. “But then you go through these lists. You see the farmer employing so many people. You see the factory employing hundreds of people. Everything was blurred, but suddenly you have a clear image.”

Jean-Marc Dreyfus, of Manchester University in Britain, said the archive “won’t utterly change our view of the Holocaust, but it will be very precious for researchers to complement and pursue new research.”

___

Associated Press investigative researcher Randy Herschaft contributed to this article from Bad Arolsen


Oh So Thursday…

Photo Credit: Stumble Images

I really like this photo, I found it the other night during one of my Stumble forays. I try to take some time each night to take a stumble through the web collecting useful web pages, and images, commenting here and there.

I’m not really prepared to write, because I really don’t have anything on my mind. When you look at this phots are you transported up through the spiral to something higher in the image? When you see stained glass does it remind you of hallowed places and spaces? Does it remind you of the divine?

I have a story for you from the archives of my memory. I don’t think I’ve ever told this one. For the whole of my life I have always identified with the maternal side of the many couples in my life, my grandmothers and my aunts. Men never really played a part in my upbringing. Besides my mother, you could say that the men in our lives were for all practical reasons, absent, distant and not participatory.

So this story is about my father’s father, Al. Now Al was the quinticential alcoholic. He was a drinkers drinker. He was what the Big Book calls, not your garden variety drinker, he was one hard core alcoholic. But amid the alcohol and the abuse he heaped on his family he did have a soft side. There were those days when he would be sober – not many days – but some. My grandparents had a car. And on certain weekends my grandfather would warm up the car and we would go for a drive to get ice cream. There was one ice cream parlor that was located next to a huge lake.

We used to drive up to the shop and it was a huge ice cream factory that was probably the grandmother of the 51 flavors shoppes. We would pile into the car and drive just up the road to the lake where we would skip stones on the water. (We are watching that new show on Tv called Swingtown) …Grandpa has his good days and his bad days. This was a good day…

It was just one of those memories that came to mind tonight.


SYTYCD: Gotta Vote Tonight

Let’s keep Chelsea and Thayne in the competition. VOTE, VOTE, VOTE !!!


Tell me a Story …

I am all out of fresh stories. I think I’ve written them all out in the pages. So I sent a note to my FaceBook friends and I am asking all of you to sit down and write me a story. A story about a place, a person, us, an event or a period of time in our lives. Email it to me, my email is located in my Bio.

Last night at 2 a.m. I sat down and began to write my final exam for Wisdom and Tradition, I finished it up today and I turned it in the the religion department a few days early. The weather is muggy and miserable as rain is in the forecast.

I’ve updated my FaceBook page, in fact last night I spent more time on FaceBook than I have since I opened the account some time ago.

So I have tossed you, my readers a ball, what will you do with it? Email me with your stories and I will post them here on the Blog. Put on a piece of music from that time period, clear your mind and write whatever comes to mind. That’s how I write stories.

I can’t get over the fact that some people thought that I got AIDS and that I was dead. I wonder who started that rumor? Please share with me who told you that piece of information and when you received it. The rumor of my ultimate demise are highly exaggerated.

I am very much alive and well.

Cheerio


Experience, Strength and Hope…

What a day it has been! It has been a quiet weekend, I had not heard from my son all weekend, until the middle of this afternoon. He has been seeing a young man who has a problem. With the drink. His opening salvo was “I’m gonna kill him!” Junior drank an entire bottle of scotch last night and 3/4 of a bottle of vodka and he passed out from his exploration.It’s not my place to call someone an alcoholic but this binge drinking has been a common habit of his.

We are powerless over people, places and things. You cannot help someone who does not want help, or does not realize that their drinking is a problem, even if we see it, until he owns his problem, all we can do is point the way and be there when he hits his bottom. So what did I do with this information, I took myself to a meeting.

Sunday niters meets in the same hall as my Home Group, Tuesday Beginners. I went to the Big Book Meeting, and we read from the stories in the back of the book, “Listening to the Wind!” It is a story about a Native American woman who gets sober, against all odds. Page 458 in the Fourth Edition. It was a lively discussion. I stayed for the second meeting which is a speaker meeting. And low and behold the chair had asked for someone to speak. I asked him how much time was necessary for a speaker, and he said that any length of sobriety would be fine.

I have been in a very nostalgic mood for the past few days, coming up on my anniversary on July 8th. He asked me if I would speak for him, and I said yes. If you follow this link to [Sunday Niters. Org] They tape the speakers, so after midnight tonight, if you go to the webpage and click Archives, you can hear my share on the world wide web.

There is hope, There is Light, There is Alcoholics Anonymous. If you think you have a problem with alcohol and you need help, you can visit [AA.org] and get help.

There are no coincidences…


The Teachings of Proverbs…

Proverbs 6:16-23

There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,

a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,

a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

My son, keep your father’s commands
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

Bind them upon your heart forever;
fasten them around your neck.

When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.

For these commands are a lamp,
this teaching is a light,
and the corrections of discipline
are the way to life.

These passages lept off the page of my bible as I read from the Book of Proverbs tonight, I thought that I would share them with you. Part of my nightly meditation on scripture before bed. I should really be in bed at this hour as it is closing in on 4:30 in the morning here.

More tomorrow…


How an Underwear Malfunction Helped me Understand Christian Fundamentalists

Originally found on: Lay Scientist via Stumble…

Walking along Cambridge’s famous Mill Road after work yesterday, something happened that caused me to have a revelation over religious righteousness, and begin to truly understand the mind of the fundamentalist. Let me share my parable with you.

I don’t know how it happened. Maybe I had been careless after my last trip to the loo; maybe it was, as Jeremy Paxman recently observed, the lack of support in modern underwear; or maybe I had been a little too enthusiastic bounding off the bus at the Drummer Street bus station. Whatever it was, I rapidly realized that something was not in its proper place. One of my secondary sexual organs had slipped from its safety harness and was now uncomfortably trapped in the middle of a sawing motion between denim and cotton, the skin rubbing raw in its lethal fabric embrace.

This was unbelievably painful, something like I’d imagine giving birth to be, except that unlike a woman in labour I couldn’t scream, or ask for an epidural. I desperately wanted to slip a hand down there, rummage around and free my tortured testicle, but I was in the middle of a crowded street, and had nearly a mile to walk until I would be in the privacy required to achieve release without ending up on Cambridgeshire’s Register of Sex Offenders. And so I was forced to walk on, in agony, looking like John Wayne with a broken ankle.

My first thought was one of anger at society. Why shouldn’t I be able to just reach down, do what I need to do, and walk on? No, instead, I had to suffer for another fifteen minutes, fearing every step that I would feel a small, bloody mass slide down my right trouser leg. I had to conform to society’s expectations of good behaviour – “don’t touch your genitals in public” as my Nan always used to say – but this was completely irrational, why should I have to suffer just to do what someone else has arbitrarily decided is the “Right Thing”? Why would it be so bad to ease the pain? Who would it offend?

I began to think about my plight. What if I saw another man coming towards me, releasing his own trapped testicle? How would I feel? I’d be furious. My venom towards him would know no bounds. I would howl in protest, demand that society exact appropriate retribution on him. In short, I would be a total hypocrite.

And then it hit me. This might be exactly how religious zealots think.

I wouldn’t be pissed off because he was breaking the rules, I would be pissed off because he was breaking the rules and I wasn’t, and there are only a few ways to rationalize that, if you think about it: either (a) I’m stupid or cowardly for following rules that are wrong; or (b) the rules are right, and he is an ignorant pervert deviant who should be punished by society.

Following on from that, I have three choices:
1) Accept that we’re different, life isn’t fair and I’ve chosen to live in pain for some intangible sense of righteousness.
2) Accept I’ve been stupid, thank him, and switch sides.
3) Decide that he is a Bad Man and be angry.

We’d all like to pretend we’d go with 1 or 2, but that’s just not true. In reality, loads of us would go with 3, but there’s a hidden trap – this behaviour is self-reinforcing. The longer I continue to get angry, the more I’m investing in these rules, and the harder it will be to ever accept that I was wrong. Worse, if I’m going to make sacrifices by following these rules, then I want to see a pay-off – I want to see that I’m winning out in life over people who don’t follow them. I want these people to be punished so that I know that my suffering will be for a reason.

Fast forward 30 years, and I’ll be putting up posters, running RummageWatch.com, and holding angry meetings in City Hall. I may even be reading the Daily Mail. It’s a slippery slope of irrationality.

And so I think that’s why some of these fundamentalists are so angry. That’s why they’re so upset with anyone else breaking their irrational rules on homosexuality and internet porn, even though logically it has precisely zero effect on them. Every atheist out there is flying in the face of their system, and it kills them that they make sacrifices to follow their rules, while there are no apparent consequences in the lives of those who break them.

Or maybe I’m just projecting.

Anyway, thank you for reading. I hope my parable in some small way helps bring atheists and Christians together…


Living by Grace …

Always we are walking in the way of freedom, not coercion. The Bible does not in itself produce any magical effect. It reveals God’s story that we might hear from the living God that this story is not only for a nomadic tribe thousands of years ago. It is not only for bands of persecuted followers of the Jesus way under threat from the Roman Empire. God’s story is for all of us.

This is why Jesus took the Pharisees to task for studying the Scriptures without allowing God’s life to penetrate their own: “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These scriptures are all about me! Here I am standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.” (John 5:39-40, The Message)

AS Eugene Peterson comments, “To put it bluntly, not everyone who gets interested in the Bible and even gets excited about the Bible wants to get involved with God.” Reading the Bible to encounter the living God requires us to open our hearts as well as our mind — to come to it with what Karl Barth calls “an honest, a fierce, seeking, asking, and knocking.”

Jesus assures us that our response to God’s initiative will be answered by God’s response. This is the assurance of grace: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matt. 7:7 & 8.)

Love is the Character of God, the eternal reality into which we are transformed, the great gift that our transformation enables us to give and receive in increasingly deeper measure. No human accomplishment, no spiritual practice, no divine utterance, no life of toil for God — nothing we can possibly do matters unless we do it with God, and there with love. (1Cor. 13:1-3)

Grace is the activity of God in our lives, the reality of God pouring into us more than we could ever do on our own, the love of God pursuing us, supporting us, changing us, upholding us, uniting us, sending us. “Changed from glory, ’til in heaven we take our place, ’til we cast our crowns before Thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.

Because of God’s great love, grace creates a thin space in which the visible realities of this world are charged with the invisible reality of love. Doubt is overcome by faith; despair is overcome by hope, brutality and loneliness are conquered by love. The poor in spirit receive the kingdom of heaven. Those who mourn are comforted. The meek inherit the earth. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are filled. The merciful receive mercy. The pure in heart see God. The peacemakers are called the children of God.

Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake receive the kingdom of heaven, a realm of gladness and rejoicing.

A Great Crowd Assembled

One day there will be a great crowd assembled on “the mountain of the Lord” (Mic 4:2). Gathered there to learn God’s ways and walk in God’s paths will be People from every tongue and nation of the earth, from every tribe and tradition. Each of us will be a distinct note of grace as together we form the melodies and chords swirling throughout the assembled throng. Only together will we hear the mighty song that the Spirit of God is singing through the people of God.

Life with God, Foster, Richard J. Pgs. 185-186, 193, 194-5, 199


Relaxing and Rejoicing

When we focus on God instead of self, we find we can let go of the anxiety that had us in its grip: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6) As we simply and straightforwardly tell God our needs, we release the weight from our shoulders. It is God’s now. God will guide us in what to do next, but the outcome rests in God’s hands. Our spirit sighsin relief and gratitude. “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Ps. 100:5)

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
John 1:16

Christians need grace far more than “sinners.” In the terrain of life with God, grace is not a ticket to heaven, but the earth under our feet on the road with Christ. It grounds us in reality and guides us along the path of discipleship. Grace saves us from life without God — even more, it empowers us for life with God.

Life with God, Foster, pgs. 172, 179


EU Pressures USA On HIV Travel Ban

Originally found on: Joe My God

The European Union is pressuring the United States to end its ban on HIV positive travelers. Under US law, HIV+ people are restricted from entering the United States.

The European Commissioner for Justice has raised the issue of issue of people with HIV being banned from entry into the US visa waiver programme with Michael Chertoff, US Secretary of Homeland Security.

Jacques Barrot has asked for “information on the reasons why individuals carrying HIV are excluded from using the US Visa Waiver Programme.” MEPs have kept pressure on the Commission over the issue as the EU is in negotiations with the US authorities to secure visa-free travel (a visa waiver) for EU citizens from all 27 member states.

The United States is one of 13 countries in the world, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan, that bans visitors who are HIV-positive. London Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford has been at the forefront of a campaign to overturn the ban on HIV positive people travelling to America.

A repeal of the ban has been before Congress since March, but has been stalled and may not be voted on during the current session despite widespread bipartisan support. The repeal is attached to a controversial global AIDS relief bill, hence the roadblock.

In the U.S., a broad coalition of groups calling for repeal of the HIV visitors and immigration ban, including civil liberties and human rights advocates, were hopeful that attaching the repeal measure to the highly popular PEPFAR bill would greatly increase its chances of passing.

Their expectations were dampened, however, when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and at least six other conservative GOP senators placed a hold on the PEPFAR bill, preventing it from coming up for a vote unless at least 60 senators vote to break the hold.

Coburn said his main concern was the decision by PEPFAR backers to drop from the existing 1993 PEPFAR law a requirement that at least 55 percent of AIDS relief funds be used for AIDS treatment, including the use of life-saving anti-retroviral drugs. The 1993 law expires in September.

The Bush administration, at the recommendation of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Mark Dybul, a gay official appointed by Bush, supports the decision to drop the 55 percent treatment floor. A number of prominent Republican senators and nearly all Senate Democrats also support dropping the 55 percent floor for treatment.