Monthly Archives: April 2014

Happy Easter!

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Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”-and that he had said these things to her.

John 20:1-18

Easter, which celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, is Christianity’s most important holiday. It has been called a moveable feast because it doesn’t fall on a set date every year, as most holidays do. Instead, Christian churches in the West celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox on March 21. Therefore, Easter is observed anywhere between March 22 and April 25 every year. Orthodox Christians use the Julian calendar to calculate when Easter will occur and typically celebrate the holiday a week or two after the Western churches, which follow the Gregorian calendar.

For Jesus’ mother, his disciples and his followers, Jesus’ death was a tragedy. You can imagine that all hope was naturally gone. We today can face the same feeling. Many times in life, with homophobic politicians, the increasing rise of anti-gay homophobic groups, and everything that is going on in the world — war, famine, disease, natural disasters, discrimination, and hate — there can be a loss of hope and faith. Yet the resurrection gives us hope that no matter what has happened in our lives, no matter how much faith and hope we have lost, we can experience hope, we can overcome and regain whatever we have lost in our lives.

Our hope includes the knowledge that evil does not win. – Sometimes today, it seems that the bad guy often wins. Sometimes it seems that the one who cheats, the one who lies, the one who steps on others to get ahead, is the one who prospers. Far too often, I read of this person cheating or that one (or catching a student cheating) or another kid, gay or otherwise, who has been bullied, lost hope, and committed suicide. How often do we read of politicians cheating, or working to make sure their businesses get the good contract? It seems that there is no hope for the little guy, the one who lives right, to ever get ahead.

With a positive attitude that through God we can accomplish anything, we truly can make the world a better place. With hope that springs eternal, just as the flowers in spring show the rebirth of the earth, we can be assured that God’s promises will deliver a better day, a rebirth our faith. The promise that Jesus would rise from the grave on the third day is remembered every Easter Sunday, it is the greatest sacrifice God could give for our sins. When we are baptized, it is done in symbolic reverence as our old body dies in its watery grave to be reborn and rise from the dead as Christ did for our sins.

I realize that some Churches of Christ may not celebrate Easter, but it has always been the major religious holiday at my church. It is a day which has a date for us to celebrate, and it has the most meaning for Christians. It is the day when the Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah were ultimately fulfilled. It is he day that Christ rose from the dead. The resurrection is the most important of the miracles. When I was a child, our church had dinner on the grounds, and everyone brought a dish and the kids had an Easter egg hunt. It was always a wonderful day of fellowship. We no longer have dinner on the grounds because we once had a preacher (he didn’t last long with us) who was extremely hardcore and did not believe in having dinner on the grounds. I think he believed the only meal that should be taken at church was communion. Though he is long gone, we never revived the tradition of dinner on the grounds. I find it quite sad, since early Christian services were often centered around the dinner table where fellowship, worship, and food were part of the gathering. Our church did have a gathering and Easter egg hunt last Sunday at the home of one of our members.

My family and I will have a big Easter dinner (or lunch as the Yankees say) today. It will be a big meal with a ham, a roast chicken, dumplings (with no chicken, just the flavor because my niece requested them that way), green beans, butter beans, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, potato salad, congealed salad, a cake and a pie. All of that should be enough food. I’m sure it will be more than enough, but some of the people from church may come too, so we want to have plenty, and I love to cook.

I hope that all of you have a wonderful Easter. Does your family have any traditions for Easter? I, also, hope that each of you feels the hope of the rebirth that Easter brings to us today. May God’s love eternally bless you.


Moment of Zen: Spring

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Frat House Troopers by Xavier Mayne

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I just finished Frat House Troopers by Xavier Mayne, which might sound like a silly name for a book, but considering that State trooper Ethan Brandt’s new assignment is to infiltrate a sex-cam operation that puts him in a very uncomfortable position, especially since he’ll have to perform naked on camera for his audition. Fortunately his partner and best friend, Donnelly, has his back—whether that means helping Brandt shop gay boutiques for sexy underwear or offering Jäger and encouragement while he researches porn.

Despite his mortification, Brandt gives the audition his best “shot”—and becomes an overnight sensation. But to meet the man behind the operation, he’ll have to give a repeat performance, this time live on webcam opposite the highest bidder. Donnelly makes sure to win that auction for his partner’s sake, but their plan has a flaw: faking it is not an option.

In the aftermath, Brandt is a humiliated mess trying desperately to come to terms with what he’s had to do for the job and his own mixed feelings. But Donnelly has been on a journey of discovery of his own. Suddenly everything the two men thought they knew about themselves and each other gets turned inside out. Meanwhile, they still have a case to solve… but it may not be the case they thought it was.

The “frat house” mentioned in the books title, seems to be based on fratmen.com’s web-cam house Fratpad. As Fratpad describes itself on its website, “There’s nothing quite like the FRATPAD. It’s the liveliest, sexiest, frattiest cam house in Cyberspace. No fake frat rituals here. Just a house full of college age guys walking around, working out and chatting on webcams, mostly naked, all day long. They create 24 hours of new content every day and there are 36 stationary cams all around the house so you can spy on them when they think you’re not looking.” This seems to be a pretty good description of the “frat house” in the book, as well.

But that’s not all the book is about. Officers Brandt and Donnelly are on a journey of discovery about themselves. Are they the firmly heterosexual men they’ve always believed themselves to be, or is there more to it? Can a man be straight one day and gay the next? Or do some gay men grow up like I did believing that there was no other choice until that day when our sexual awakening begins? In today’s day and age, young men have seen homosexuality more and more in the mainstream. The Internet is a great way to research things and feeling you don’t understand. I think for many young gay men, the option of following your desires are more acceptable. I think this book has a fresh perspective to show on this subject of sexuality. Though you might not be able to tell it from the title, there is something deeper than the superficiality of a very sexy story.

Furthermore, the descriptions of sex are quite fantastic. Mayne certainly has a way with words and knows how to describe sexual tension in a masterful and thoughtful way. Mayne is also able to write sex scenes in a way that doesn’t come across as pornographic, but the scenes are not chaste either. There is some incredibly hot sex scenes in this book, but this book by no means would be one that I would classify as gay erotica. They story and the emotional tensions contained within, far outweighs the amount of eroticism. It’s an almost perfect balance for a book that is just plain fun to read.

Xavier Mayne is the pen name of a professor of English who works at a university in the Midwest United States. Versed in academic theories of sexual identity, he is passionate about writing stories in which men experience a love that pushes them beyond the boundaries they thought defined their sexuality. He believes that romance can be hot, funny, and sweet in equal measure. The name Xavier Mayne is a tribute to the pioneering gay author Edward Prime-Stevenson, who also used it as a pen name. He wrote the first openly gay novel by an American, 1906’s Imre: A Memorandum, which depicts two masculine men falling in love despite social pressures that attempt to keep them apart.

I hope that you will read Frat House Troopers and hopefully you will become so hooked that you will do as I am currently doing, and read the sequel Wrestling Demons.


I Was Torn

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I was torn on what to write about today, but not as bad as these guy’s pants. Honestly, I had no idea what to write about today, so I decided on a pun instead. I love puns. By the way, the picture below is of actor Matt Lanter, who it appears does not wear underwear. I find that pretty sexy.

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Lament on Shaving

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First of all, I love a man who keeps his body hair natural, or at least trimmed. A hairless man can be very sexy, but I prefer a little fur. I can handle, and actually quite prefer, a shaved scrotum, but please leave the bush alone, except maybe for a minor trim if it looks like a jungle down there. The only men who look remotely okay like that are muscular men without any body fat at all. The truth is though I find pubic hair very sexy. I find chest hair very sexy. I even find a furry butt to be sexy. My thought is that manscaping can be okay in moderation, but too much can just end up looking silly.

With that being said, I despise shaving my face every morning. I don’t look good with scruff and it feels so weird to me. Now I will admit there are a lot of men that look very good with a beard or scruff. I know one friend of mine who looks pretty damn sexy with some scruff. Since I don’t, I shave everyday, unless I am not planning to go anywhere or do anything. Very rarely do I leave the house without shaving. I’ve also never liked using an electric razor, so I shave the old fashioned way like in the picture above. And as much as I hate shaving, I shave every day. Sometimes I’m in the shower and think, “Do I have to?” The answer is always yes. I could never go to school without shaving. It would be unthinkable to me. So as much as I hate it, I still shave every day.


Hope Springs Eternal

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III.
Heav’n from all creatures hides the book of fate,
All but the page prescrib’d, their present state:
From brutes what men, from men what spirits know:
Or who could suffer being here below?
The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed today,
Had he thy reason, would he skip and play?
Pleas’d to the last, he crops the flow’ry food,
And licks the hand just rais’d to shed his blood.
Oh blindness to the future! kindly giv’n,
That each may fill the circle mark’d by Heav’n:
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl’d,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.

Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;
Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore!
What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutor’d mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind;
His soul, proud science never taught to stray
Far as the solar walk, or milky way;
Yet simple nature to his hope has giv’n,
Behind the cloud-topt hill, an humbler heav’n;
Some safer world in depth of woods embrac’d,
Some happier island in the wat’ry waste,
Where slaves once more their native land behold,
No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold.
To be, contents his natural desire,
He asks no angel’s wing, no seraph’s fire;
But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
His faithful dog shall bear him company.

The above poem is merely a section of a much longer poem, “An Essay on Man” by Alexander Pope. Line 19 is probably the most famous and oft quoted piece of Pope’s writing, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

The phrase “Hope springs eternal” is what drew me to this poem. I think it is a great illustration of the sheer tenacity of the human spirit. It tells us that it is human nature to always find fresh cause for optimism. Yes, there are those who are always pessimistic, or often pessimistic, but for those who choose optimism there are many more opportunities. As long as you have faith that you will persevere and and hope for a better tomorrow, hope will spring eternal. Pope’s “Hope springs eternal in the human breast” does not just encompass one single individual but instead is a concise treatise on the human condition.

The essence of hope itself is that wonderful blessing/curse that truly makes human beings the most intelligent and emotional creature that we are. Its existence provides us with the very basis of living. What does our existence amount to without the hope for a better tomorrow or expectation of things to come?

Hope is a wonderful thing. Each morning we are filled with hope for the day. But then also at the end of the day, hope can be a devastating thing. For example, you spent all day hoping that your beloved would phone as he promised you but as you lay your head on your pillow, you are left with the emptiness of an unrealized hope. However, we merely need to renew our hope for the next day and the day after. We should never lose hope.

I was speaking to a friend last night of the hope of finding a man in my life. I refuse to give up on that hope. I believe that someday it will happen. It is that hope/expectations that truly differentiates humans from the animal world around us. For what is a life without hope?

About the Poem
The Essay on Man is a philosophical poem, written, characteristically, in heroic couplets, and published between 1732 and 1734. Pope intended it as the centerpiece of a proposed system of ethics to be put forth in poetic form: it is in fact a fragment of a larger work which Pope planned but did not live to complete. It is an attempt to justify, as Milton had attempted to vindicate, the ways of God to Man, and a warning that man himself is not, as, in his pride, he seems to believe, the center of all things. Though not explicitly Christian, the Essay makes the implicit assumption that man is fallen and unregenerate, and that he must seek his own salvation.

The “Essay” consists of four epistles, addressed to Lord Bolingbroke, and derived, to some extent, from some of Bolingbroke’s own fragmentary philosophical writings, as well as from ideas expressed by the deistic third Earl of Shaftsbury. Pope sets out to demonstrate that no matter how imperfect, complex, inscrutable, and disturbingly full of evil the Universe may appear to be, it does function in a rational fashion, according to natural laws; and is, in fact, considered as a whole, a perfect work of God. It appears imperfect to us only because our perceptions are limited by our feeble moral and intellectual capacity.

Epistle I, which the above poem is from, concerns itself with the nature of man and with his place in the universe; Epistle II, with man as an individual; Epistle III, with man in relation to human society, to the political and social hierarchies; and Epistle IV, with man’s pursuit of happiness in this world. Considered as a whole, the Essay on Man is an affirmative poem of faith: life seems chaotic and patternless to man when he is in the midst of it, but is in fact a coherent portion of a divinely ordered plan. In Pope’s world God exists, and he is beneficent: his universe is an ordered place. The limited intellect of man can perceive only a tiny portion of this order, and can experience only partial truths, and hence must rely on hope, which leads to faith. Man must be cognizant of his rather insignificant position in the grand scheme of things: those things which he covets most — riches, power, fame — prove to be worthless in the greater context of which he is only dimly aware. In his place, it is man’s duty to strive to be good, even if he is doomed, because of his inherent frailty, to fail in his attempt.


Artists

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I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.
John Steinbeck

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Do Not Be Anxious

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“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6:25-34

Sadly, life is filled with anxiousness. No matter how much we try to avoid it, there is always something to worry about. For me the week before last, it was our drama club production and would everything go well. This last week brought a whole new set of worries. Would I ever figure out how to make this DVD of the play? Would my friend forgive me for the miscommunication we had? But those were trivial worries. I had a bad week, but it turned out well in the end. My friend forgave me; I figured out how to make he DVD; and the play was a success. I had faith that all would be okay and things would work out, but yet I was still anxious over these things.

Truthfully, my worries are trivial in comparison to many of the issues that friends of mine face. I have a friend that was laid off from his job unexpectedly. I also have a friend who’s boyfriend suddenly wanted a break, but won’t explain why. I have another friend who began dialysis a few weeks ago and is expecting to go back to work tomorrow, and I hope he has recovered from his surgery and is doing well with his dialysis treatments. I have another who recently lost her best friend. I am anxious about them and want to do all that I can to help, but there is not much I can do right now but lend my support and prayers.

I have another friend who has pancreatic cancer and is going through another round of chemotherapy. She has survived longer than anyone had ever expected her to, and yet she still comes to work and teaches each day. She is the most inspirational person I have ever known. She never complains, and most people don’t know just how sick she really is. Some don’t know she is sick at all. She takes life in stride, and she has put her faith in God and carries on. Through her, God rewards all who know her, because to know her is to be inspired by her.

When I think of all these worries and all the problems my friends have, and I could name a myriad of other problems, I realize that those who are truly good people, even those who are either not devout Christians or are not Christians at all, will have their reward and be taken care of. I believe in a universal good, for me that is God, for others it is something else, and for others it does not have a name, but it’s that force of universal good that provides for us. There is the saying that good guys come in last, but truthfully, though the good guys may have hard times, they always come in first, because it is the reward in the hereafter that is the true reward.

My mother is often a miserable person. (I love her dearly so let me explain what I mean by that.). She suffers from depression and fibromyalgia. She’s in constant pain and she worries about everything, including the state of her gay son’s soul. It weighs heavily on her mind, and she can’t let it go. She’s known for ten years now but cannot reconcile the thought. I’m not sure she ever will. We keep our “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t bring it up” policy and it works as a weary peace, yet it still bothers her on a daily basis. With her problems and worries, and like I said, she’s always worried about something, she would be so much better off of she just put her faith in God and let him sort out the mess.

For most of my life, I have been a worrier like she is, but I made a change in my life. I realized that some things you just can’t prevent happening. They are going to happen, and there is nothing you can do about it. Some of those things will be wonderful, some won’t be. However, I put my faith in God that things would work out for the best, that it would work out the way God intended. As long as I had faith that God had a plan for me, and that sometimes that plan included bumps along the way, I would not worry so much. I simply put my faith in God. The same thing happened when I came out to myself as a gay man. I prayed and I meditated on the issue, and I firmly believe that God let me know that it was okay, that he loves me no matter what, and that it was all part of his plan. I firmly believe that being a gay man is part of God’s plan for me. Though it may sound cliche in the gay community now, it does get better. If God had wanted to give up on me, he would have when I attempted suicide at age 16, but he had greater plans. I do my best to live up to His expectations.

So whatever your worries may be, whatever bumps in the road of life you may be facing, please remember that God has a plan for each of us. We need to pray that we follow his plan, and have faith that all will work out the way that God intended. I have had hard times in my life, but God has never failed to get me through them. He won’t fail to get you through the tough times either.


Moment of Zen: Forgiveness

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My friend did find it in his heart to forgive me. All of the things I was stressing about on Thursday turned out pretty well Friday. So, even though it’s been a rather crappy week, the weekend is shaping up to be much better.


I’d Rather…

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I’d rather just stay in bed and not have to face the world today, but hopefully, it will be a better day today. I have some hope that I may be forgiven. That’s what great friends do, they support each other and forgive one another when one messes up.