Monthly Archives: April 2015

Grading 

 

 I was up late grading papers and doing paperwork.  I got a late start because I have had a headache this weekend.  The headache do seem to be coming once a week, and lasting about 48 hours, and not once a day and never really stopping, so I guess that is an improvement.  Anyway, tomorrow will be a busy day of grading more papers because I didn’t get finished.  Honestly, the one thing I truly hate about teaching is the grading.  It either gets terribly monotonous, or I get frustrated with student’s lack of ambition.  Yes, the students themselves can sometimes be a handful and dealing with them can be stressful but like all teachers, I live for those moments when you see the lightbulb appear above their heads when they understand something for the first time.


Heavenly Sunlight

IMG_8236

 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12

Jesus also used “the light of the world” to refer to his disciples in Matthew 5:14:

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

This application of “light compared with darkness” also appears in 1 John 1:5 which applies it to God and states: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”  The thought of Jesus as “the light of the world” and the disciples as “a city on a hill” reminds me of one of my favorite songs to sing in church, “Heavenly Sunlight.”

Heavenly Sunlight
By Henry J. Zelley

Walking in sunlight all of my journey;
Over the mountains, through the deep vale;
Jesus has said, “I’ll never forsake thee,”
Promise divine that never can fail.

Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight,
Flooding my soul with glory divine:
Hallelujah, I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine.

Shadows around me, shadows above me,
Never conceal my Savior and Guide;
He is the Light, in Him is no darkness;
Ever I’m walking close to His side.

Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight,
Flooding my soul with glory divine:
Hallelujah, I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine.

In the bright sunlight, ever rejoicing,
Pressing my way to mansions above;
Singing His praises gladly I’m walking,
Walking in sunlight, sunlight of love.

Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight,
Flooding my soul with glory divine:
Hallelujah, I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine.

If you live in the Southeastern United States, you are probably wondering if I have lost my mind because I am thinking of this song this week. We have barely seen the sun all week, and it seems like the rain will never stop. Constant rain. Flooded creeks and streams. Everything seems to be drenched and, if the weatherman is right, we might see sunlight again on Monday, but this last week sunlight has been few and far between. This time of the year is probably my favorite time of the year. Spring is beginning, flowers are blooming, and it is still a little cool and not yet too hot.

Even with little sunlight this week, the words of this song, written in 1899, remind me that there is a Heavenly Sunlight. A constant light. A light that illuminates my heart and my walk with the Lord. I can have, as another old song says, sunshine in my soul today, because I know Jesus is the light. He said “I am the light of the world.” The Bible says that His Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. His Heavenly sunlight can shine bright in our lives, even in the midst of dark clouds and constant rain.

I believe that the line “Walking in sunlight all of my journey” shows a clear distinction between truth and feeling. Between faith and doubt. Jesus has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He promised to be with us always, even until the end of the age. We know His words are true. Yet, even though we know theologically that we can walk in the light all of our journey, I will be the first to admit, it doesn’t always feel sunny. In the Christian life, there are times of doubt, times of confusion, and even times of despair. As a gay Christian, these feelings are often magnified, but I love the faith that the author displays when he writes that he can walk in sunlight over the mountains and through the deep vale. Jesus is with us. He is the friend that sticketh closer than a brother. He is with us in the good times, and yes, He is with us in the dark, rainy, dreary times.

Have you ever been around someone that sang all the time yet was down in the dumps? In some strange way, singing seems to be God’s cure for depression, and in the line “Singing His praises, gladly I’m walking” we see that we can walk gladly with God and he can alleviate our pain. Songs that remind us of His goodness can lift our spirits.  “When nothing else could help, Love lifted me!”  Songs that help us to reflect on His grace “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me!”  Old hymns whose words remind us of God’s faithfulness to the generations. God can bring a song to your mind that will encourage you as you praise Him through words offered through singing. Struggling with doubt today? “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine.” Having trouble knowing what the next step is for you in your walk? “In shady green pastures so rich and so sweet, God leads His dear children along.” Can I encourage you today to “put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness and to lift up your voice to God?” He can turn your weeping into rejoicing.

I am praying today that God’s Heavenly Sunlight will flood your soul. That He would so shine upon you that you have an overwhelming sense of His closeness and warmth in your heart. That He would shine upon every area of your life with sunlight of love, and that we could see the power of the Holy Spirit flood our souls with glory divine..


Moment of Zen: Coffee…

IMG_1139
…and that ass, it looks even yummier than the coffee.
Welł, I slept in a little this morning, which is why my post is a little late.  Currently, I’m laying in bed, with morning wood, trying to decide if I want to fall back asleep, jack off, or go get a cup of coffee.  Decisions, decisions.

TGIF

  

Last night, I was looking for something to blog about today and I fell asleep right in the middle of doing so.  So when I woke up this morning, I realized, I needed to do a short post.


TGIF! I still have to go teach today, but thank goodness I get to see my boyfriend tonight.




Come Out to the National Parks 

The National Park Service is encouraging LGBT Americans to come out and visit the more than 400 parks overseen by the federal agency.  The latest move by the park service to engage the LGBT community is part of the new Find Your Park initiative, launched recently in conjunction with the National Park Foundation.

Gay and lesbian park service employees and lesbian singer Mary Lambert, one of several celebrity centennial ambassadors for the initiative, are helping to spread the inclusive invite as part of the new public awareness and education campaign celebrating the milestone centennial anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.

I’ve always loved the National Parks, and once considered joining. The National Parks Service as a historian.  When I was a kid, my family would go camping at least once a year at the Gulf Islands National Seashore at Ft. Pickens near Pensacola.  We would also often go in the summers to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park and stay in either Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, or Cherokee, North Carolina.  I learned so much at these National Parks and Ft. Pickens was one of the major reasons for my love of history.  The beauty of the National Parks is unmatched anywhere, and they deserve to be celebrated.

A video featuring gay park ranger Michael Liang, a visual information specialist at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Southern California shows him jogging through Cheeseboro Canyon off the 101 where he runs prior to heading to work.  Liang noted that parks allow visitors to “slow down” their minds and “notice” the beauty of the outdoors.  “All you have to do is get up, get out there, and find your park,” said Liang.

Liang, 29, explained that the park service is looking to create the next generation of park supporters and advocates with the campaign.  “If you look at who we traditionally attracted, it was upper middle-class families,” noted Liang, who grew up in Michigan and started with the park service as an intern in 2004. “The parks are funded by the taxpayers, so it is really important we represent the diversity of the country and the population.”

Through the Find Your Park’s website, http://www.findyourpark.com/, any visitor can upload their own video talking about their love for America’s protected spaces or an individual park site that is of particular interest to them.  “It is a digital platform to share your stories. We invite the public to share their favorite national park stories or how they want to envision what the park service looks like,” said Liang. “It is a great way for LGBT people to share why it is important to them or what we can do to make them more relevant to our community.”

Responsible for the marketing materials of the park where he works, Liang said he is mindful of using photos that show a diverse array of visitors. He is working on a series of posters aimed at inspiring Los Angeles residents to visit the Santa Monica Mountains west of the city.  “I take personal responsibility to ensure the people depicted in those photos reflect the diversity of L.A., for example, having two men holding hands watching the sunset in the Santa Monica Mountains,” said Liang, who came to the park last June from Philadelphia where he worked in the park service’s regional office for the Northeast. “I am still discovering our park. By June my challenge is to identify LGBT historical figures with our park. It will be perfect timing to start digging into those stories.”

One way the parks can attract LGBT visitors, said Liang, is through the programming sites offer guests. He pointed to the Bay Area’s Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park on the waterfront in Richmond, which has sought to capture the stories of LGBT people who either worked in the East Bay shipyards during the war or were service members who embarked from Bay Area military bases for combat in the Pacific Rim.

“How we can attract LGBT visitors is through creating national park sites that tell the story of our community,” said Liang, who is hopeful that one day there will be an LGBT-specific national park site. “While there currently isn’t one yet in the system, there is the theme study looking at LGBT sites.”

In January 2014 the B.A.R. broke the news that the park service had teamed with Megan E. Springate, who identifies as queer and is seeking a Ph.D. in archaeology at the University of Maryland, to oversee a National Historic Landmark LGBTQ Theme Study and proposed framework.  As part of the project, the park service is seeking nominations of places important to the country’s LGBT community for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places or to be designated as a National Historic Landmark. Both are considered important first steps that could lead to the properties one day becoming national park sites.

According to park service officials, only five properties in the country have been granted some form of federal historic preservation recognition specifically due to their relationship to LGBT history. There are four sites presently included in the National Register of Historic Places and one – New York City gay bar the Stonewall Inn – listed as a National Historic Landmark. The second landmark, the Chicago home of gay rights pioneer Henry Gerber, should be finalized later this year.

Last month the National Park Service released a seven-page document listing various ways members of the public can assist with its LGBTQ Heritage Initiative. Steps people can take run the gamut from proposing landmark-worthy sites to creating LGBT-themed tours of historic districts.

“The National Park Service has just released a document that brings together the many ways that people across America, regardless of identity, location, or how much time they have, can participate and engage with the initiative,” Springate wrote in an email to members of the Rainbow Heritage Network, a group for LGBT history advocates. “These include sharing information about places important to your community, spreading the word, visiting historic places, and writing nominations or nomination amendments for the National Register of Historic Places or National Historic Landmarks programs.”

The document can be downloaded online at http://www.nps.gov/history/heritageinitiatives/LGBThistory/GetInvolved.pdf


A Break

 

am taking a break from blogging today.  Well, I guess it’s not really a break since I am posting something, but this post isn’t much of anything.  I was busy last night with a few projects that I’ve been working on that had to be done last night, and I didn’t have much time for a substantive post.  My headaches also returned for the past two days, so I could really on concentrate on those tasks that had to be done.  The headache was better by the time I went to bed last night, so I’m hoping it will be gone all together today.


If—

      

        

          If—

By Rudyard Kipling


If you can keep your head when all about you
  Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
  But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
  Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
  And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
  If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
  And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
  Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
  And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
  And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
  And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
  To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
  Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
  Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
  If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
  With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

  And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.

Rudyard Kipling may be best known for The Jungle Book, but I have always enjoyed his poetry. Kipling’s ‘If’ is a discourse on the virtues of model leadership and exemplary manhood. The poem celebrates stoicism, fortitude and righteousness as the hallmark of manliness. Through a series of paradoxes, Kipling tells his son how the middle path – a golden mean in everything will serve as the secret key to this world and everything in it.

The poem exhorts the reader to be patient, honest, and forthright, especially when faced with opposition and temptation to act in a less virtuous manner. He may have to face criticism, opposition, lies, and hatred. When others blame him, he must neither lose heart nor retaliate the same way. He must remain confident and believe in himself; yet he must do his best to see the grounds for others doubting him. In all things he must hold on to his strength of character, morals, and to his values, yet he must not look too good or wise.

Stoic detachment to success and failure alike is the keynote of the poem. An ideal man cannot be deceived into thinking either triumph or disaster final. Sometimes he may even have to risk the fruits of a lifetime’s toil, lose everything and start anew when nothing but sheer will power remains. Still he must hold on.

When it comes to people, he must be able to walk with kings and talk with crowds and not “lose the common touch” even when remaining noble of character. All men should be given their due; yet none too much. He should remain upright so that he won’t be swayed or hurt by friends or foes.

Praise of a strong work ethic is echoed throughout the poem, as is a warning against idleness. The poem also places higher value on the ability to act than on the ability to dream and philosophize.

Throughout the poem, Kipling illustrates ideal behaviour and virtue through the use of paradox: righteousness without smugness; detachment while practicing determination; and noble life blended with commonality. The employment of these contradictory extremes throughout the poem serves to illustrate a central theme of striving for an idealized “golden mean” in all facets of life.


First Gay Club

On Saturday, Wicked Gay Blog posted the following post which went viral, “Question of the Day: What was the name of the very first gay bar you ever walked into?”  The post itself has gotten over 200 comments.  David at WGB has one of the best blogs on the net.  He’s been around for years, but sadly, he will be ending WGB at the end of the year.

Besides asking what was the name of the very first gay bar you ever walked into, David also asked a few other questions.   Were you nervous? Where was it located? Do you remember any song that may have been playing? What year was it?

I’m going to go first and answer the questions, and I hope that you will follow suit in the comments below.  The first gay club I ever went to was Oz in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I was a little nervous, but I had two female friends with me.  This was in 2001 (I think) when I was in graduate school and attending the Southern Historical Association’s annual meeting.  I don’t remeber the music that was playing (I’m terrible with music), but my guess is that it was something by Brittany Spears.  I remeber dancing with one friend while the other sat at the bar watching the go-go dancers.  This of course was pre-Hurricane Katrina and the bar was jam packed and back then it was also about twice as large as it is now.  I vividly remeber going out on the dance floor and being surrounded by all these beautiful gay men and smelling the musk and manliness of the sweaty dancing men.  It was intoxicating and I was so aroused.  I still find myself aroused by that particular smell of a group of gay men.

The other thing I remeber, and is always my favorite thing about Oz, were the go-go dancers on the bar.  When we sat at the bar with our other friend, I will never forget her comment, “I’d give him [the go-go dancer] a tip, but that is the ugliest colored thong I’ve ever seen.”  And though the thong showed off the dancer’s assets very nicely, I will admit that the orange/peach color of is was not very flattering.  I also remeber that the other dancer on that section of the bar was not wearing anything but socks and tennis shoes and merely had a hand towel over his crotch, which occasionally he would move out of the way.

Oz is still my all time favorite gay bar/dance club.  I’ve been in gay bars in Europe and across the United States, but Oz has always had the nicest bartenders and the hottest, sexiest, and sweetest go-go dancers.  I’ve had a lot of fun flirting with the dancers at Oz, and when it’s slow, they usually love to squat down and have a chat with the patrons.  By the way, I’m almost certain the picture above is either from Oz or the Bourbon Pub across the street.

 


Jesus Wept

  

Jesus wept.
John 11:35

“Jesus wept.”  If you want to memorize a verse of scripture, you can pick this one, the shortest verse in the Bible.  In fact, you’ve got your scripture verse for the day memorized already, and it’s not even 9:30 yet.  Well done!  But it’s actually a wonderful verse to remember, because it shows us that when we feel grief or pain, we have a God who weeps with us.  Not a god of stoicism, not a god of cold remoteness, not even a god of perky smiley-face cheer-up positive attitude-ism.  When we face loss or pain or struggle, we know that we have a God who weeps with us.  Jesus wept.

Not only that, but Jesus is not afraid to show his emotions in public.  He is not afraid of that deep vulnerability that comes with showing you are hurt, when the tears make your face blotchy and your nose runs and you lose your composure and you can’t talk anymore.  Jesus wept.

To put this verse into context, you can read John 11:1-44, which is such a beautiful story, however here is a quick synopsis.  This verse occurs in John’s narrative of the death of Lazarus, a follower of Jesus. Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus of their brother’s illness and impending death, but Jesus arrived four days after Lazarus died. Jesus, after talking to the grieving sisters and seeing Lazarus’ friends weeping, was deeply troubled and moved. After asking where Lazarus had been laid, and being invited to come see, Jesus wept. He went to the tomb and told the people to remove the stone covering it, prayed aloud to his Father, and ordered Lazarus to come out, resurrected.

So much of our lives is spent avoiding pain.  The fight or flight reflex is one of our most basic impulses left over from the days when humans faced predators in the wild.   And even in 21st century American society we still seek to avoid pain.  We procrastinate on difficult conversations, even with people we love, maybe especially with people we love, for fear of getting hurt.  Our attempts to control other people, whether those attempts at control are overt or subtle, are attempts to keep them from hurting or rejecting us.  Even our anger is a hard shell we develop around the wounds in our heart, to protect our hearts from getting hurt again.

And we try hard not to notice that the longer the shell of our anger remains, the less able our heart is to heal, and the less able our heart is to love.  We try hard not to notice that even when we succeed at making other people do what we want, we have not found intimacy or even friendship.  We try hard not to notice that the longer we avoid the hard work of relationship, the less able our heart is to love, and to be loved.

But, as John specifically tells us, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”  And so, when Martha and Mary feel pain, Jesus is not afraid to feel pain too.  When Martha and Mary weep, Jesus is not afraid to weep too.  Hearts are made to be broken, as Hemingway said.  I expect that only a heart that is able to be broken is a heart capable of genuine love.

The personal sadness of two obscure women in a little village who are dealing with something as common as death is so important that it justifies reducing the king of the universe to tears.  Why?  Because Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

When Jesus tells Martha “your brother will rise again,” she of course assumes that he is talking about heavenly things, and so she replies, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  It is a logical response and a faithful response.

But what happens next is that Jesus tells her, in effect, no, resurrection isn’t just something that’s going to happen in heaven or in the distant future on the last day.  Jesus tells her, resurrection is going to happen here and now.

In some ways that may be the hardest part of Christianity to take in, the idea that God is not safely distant and remote, a benign presence that we will meet only after we die.  And yet the gospels keep insisting that the most transcendent holiness does enter our world of dirt and tears and flesh and pain and grief in full humanity.  This weeping Jesus with the women in Bethany, next to the stench of the corpse, is the scandal of particularity, and it is easy to reject it, as either blasphemy or a myth that’s too good to be true.  If this messy scene is what intimacy with God looks like we’re not quite comfortable with it.

Rather than a remote spiritual concept of resurrection, we have a human being saying, “I am the resurrection and the life” And not only that, this Jesus goes further, to ask for a response: “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  And, by the grace of God, Martha responds, “Yes, Lord.”

Because Jesus is not afraid to come into the pain, he is able to say to Lazarus, “come out.”  And the dead man came out.  Since he has strips of cloth around his hands and feet, and his face wrapped in a cloth, Jesus says simply, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

We may think of miracles as happening with radiant light or chiming bells, as if the world Jesus lived in looked like a stained glass window.  The gospels present miracles that come out of mess and pain and bad smells and tears.  I expect that once you finally stop trying to flee from pain or fight against pain, and simply enter the pain with love, it loses its power over you.  And those are the places where miracles happen.  Because Jesus is not afraid to feel the depths of human pain, his love can go into the grave and call to Lazarus, “Come out!”  He can call forth life in Lazarus, set Lazarus in motion, and then free him in those simple words, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

I think this message of coming out can resonate with many LGBT Christians.  Many of us may not be totally out, but most of us have a friend or friends who we have come out to and accept us for who we are and still love us.  In a way, I think Jesus tells us to “come out.”  When we are hiding in the closet, a part of us is dead, and each day we hide a little more of us dies.  However, if you’ve ever come out to a friend and were met with love and acceptance, than you feel alive.  You have been risen from the dead.  My best friend was here to visit this weekend.  Since I have known her, I have always been out, and one of the wonderful things about being with her is that I can be my true self.  This is especially true when I visit her in Louisiana.  There I am an out and proud gay man. I feel free; I feel alive; and I feel love.

The same is true of baptism.  We were are baptized we are buried in the waters of baptism, and we emerge in the newness of life.  We are literally born again in the eyes of God, and symbolically we are risen from the dead and our sins have been washed away. I was thinking the other day, that in my earthly life, I am 37 years old, but on April 2, 2015, I reached my 25th as a Christian.  Twenty-five years ago, I was cleansed of my sins and arose with a new life.  Ten years later, I came out to myself as a gay man and for the first time told someone else.  For me, that was the point when I can truly say I was reborn, because until that time, even though God already knew, I became honest with myself and I could love myself for who I was as God loves me.  It took a lot of soul searching to come to terms with my sexuality and what it meant to be a Christian, but prayer and meditation led me to the truth. As John 8:31-32 says, “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  And so, as Jesus told Lazarus to “Come out” after much prayer and meditation, he told me to “Come out” and “the truth will set you free.”  For me, coming to terms with my acceptance was a miracle because of the way I had been reared to think about sexuality as a major taboo.

It may be that what makes us think that miracles can’t happen is our fear that they are too good to be true.  We think it is our limitations that are absolute.  Still, there may be a deeper voice inside each of us that says the existence of miracles is too good to be false.  It is the voice that tells us the most powerful force in the universe is not the force of our limitations.  The ultimate force in the universe is the power of God.

Yes, pain and grief are some of the parts of human life, and so it is good to remember:

“Jesus wept.”  But that’s not the end of the story.

We can also remember the words of Martha: “I believe.”  Faith.

We can remember the words of Jesus: “Come out.”  Resurrection.

We can remember the words of Jesus: “Unbind him.”  Freedom.


Moment of Zen: Boyfriend and Girlfriend 

 

 Last night, I went out with my best girl friend and my boyfriend.  We had such a great time, and she hit it off with my boyfriend, which made me so happy, but then again I don’t know how she couldn’t, he’s such a wonderful man.  We had dinner at an Irish pub and then went to a few bars in Montgomery’s entertainment district.  We just talked and had a lot of fun.  It was a nice relaxing and fun evening.

FYI: If you ever find yourself in Downtown Montgomery for any reason, such as a convention, check out Aviator Bar.  It’s such a cool bar with a lot of Air Force and aviation memorabilia.