Monthly Archives: June 2015

Riding in the “Sidecar”

The year is 1987. The boys wear pink Izod shirts, the girls wear big hair, everyone has a stash box, and AIDS is just an ugly rumor rumbling like a thunderstorm from the cities. A teenage runaway wanders the side of the road, a heartbeat away from despair, and is rescued by a long-haired angel on a Harley.

But that’s just the beginning of their story.

Josiah Daniels wanted peace and quiet and a simple life, and he had it until he rescued Casey from hunger, cold, and exhaustion. Then Joe’s life is anything but simple as he and his new charge navigate a world that is changing more rapidly than the people in it. Joe wants to raise Casey to a happy and productive adulthood, and he does. But even as an adult, Casey can’t conceive of a happy life without Joe. The trouble is getting Joe to accept that the boy he nurtured is suddenly the man who wants him.

Their relationship can either die or change with the world around them. As they make a home, negotiate the new rules of growing up, and swerve around the pitfalls of modern life, Casey learns that adulthood is more than sex, Joe learns that there is no compromise in happy ever after, and they’re both forced to realize that the one thing a man shouldn’t be is alone.

I was looking for a good image of the book, Sidecar, to use today, and of course, I should have known to look at Amy Lane’s blog, Yarning to Write. The hi-def version of the picture was posted on the day the book was released in 2012. I’m always at least a year or two behind in reviewing Amy’s books but I always love them. The reason I mention finding the book image on her blog is because it was interesting to see what Amy said about the book on the day it was release. She was worried about how the book would be received and wrote:

I’m still going to be… well, fidgety, until I see how this one [Sidecar] is received. I just am…. I worry, I guess. I always will. It ALWAYS feels like a profound act of hubris to share that weirdness that goes on in my oversized noggin with the whole rest of the world. I can’t explain it, I only
know it to be true. I’m just really excited when other people seem to think that what I’ve got in my head is worthwhile.

I don’t think Amy should ever worry about how her books will be perceived because she is a great writer. I know she does a lot of research for her books, and I personally love that. Also, she creates characters that you really wish you knew in life. Amy is a master at creating a level of intimacy among friends, which occurs long before any romantic interest pops up. By the time things get heated in Amy’s work you’re so invested in the characters you can’t stop reading because of the need to know what might happen next.

I know Amy Lane isn’t for everyone because she puts a lot a angst and hardships as obstacles for the characters in her novels. Occasionally though, she writes a book that is not as angsty and occasionally one that has no angst at all. Sidecar falls into the latter category, while there is some angst, it’s not nearly what some of her books have.

What I loved about Sidecar was the attention to detail Amy spent on her main characters, Josiah and Casey and how she weaves their story through a 25 year span. The story begins and ends with the he present day, but after the first chapter, it takes you back to 1987 and then progresses with snippets of different significant moments through the years. Each title is a song from the top 100 songs of 1987 (the first and last chapter are from 2011). Amy did a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of the different times. Each time she went forward in time, it was very clear where we were and the differentiation between the two periods showed how much effort she put into perfecting the feel of each of them.

In Sidecar deals with the very real issues of homelessness, friendship, loyalty and love set against a harsh backdrop of a remote California town where it’s hard to buy a decent meal, let alone wind up homeless. In Casey, Amy creates an energetic and loving young man with many redeeming qualities and dreams for his future regardless of the fact he’s found himself in what most would consider a very negative situation. In Josiah (Joe) we meet a man on a mission.  Joe is one of the, if not the, most caring and giving of the men Amy has created for us.  Joe may look like a regular biker dude, but he has a heart that more people in this world need (Joe says that it’s because he was raised as a Quaker).  While his life didn’t quite turn out like he thought it would, he’s found a way to add value and help his fellow man in a way he finds noble nonetheless. When you put the two together, the magic, along with some tears, a few fights and a few sleepless nights, can’t help but happen.


Bringing in the Sheaves

  

Those who sow in tears
     shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
     bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
     bringing his sheaves with him.

                            – Psalm 126:5-6

Bringing in the Sheaves

By Knowles Shaw

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

     Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
     We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
     Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
     We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

     Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
     We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
     Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
     We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

     Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, 
     We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
     Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
     We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Knowles Shaw (1834-1878) was a preacher, singer, and songwriter (of both words and music). In his day he was one of the best known figures in the American Restoration Movement. He was a member of the churches of Christ, which many of you know is a non-instrumental church. Perhaps Shaw’s best known work is the popular gospel song “Bringing in the Sheaves.”  Shaw was an exceptional singer by all accounts, and integrated hymns into his sermons as a natural extension of his message.

“Bringing in the Sheaves” was written in 1874, and was dedicated to the memory of Augustus Damon Fillmore (1823-1870), a fellow preacher and songwriter. For some reason this hymn has taken hold of the popular imagination as the go-to cultural reference for American “old-time religion.” It has appeared in a lengthy list of movies and television episodes. It is often associated with the Salvation Army because it is played by the Salvation Army band in the musical Guys and Dolls.

Ancient Israel was an agrarian society, and Jesus himself grew up in the farming country of Galilee, so the Bible naturally is full of references to the commonplace sights of planting and harvesting. It was difficult work to get a crop out of the dry, drought-prone land of Palestine, and then as now the farmers relied on their store of practical knowledge to get the most from their land. Jesus referred to this common knowledge in John 4:35, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’?”

The harvest was a joyous time, especially if there was an assurance of a good yield after the uncertainties of the planting and growing season. Reapers would cut off the stalks close to the ground with a scythe, tying up convenient arm-loads and stacking them in groups for loading onto carts. The book of Ruth gives a detailed description of the ancient harvest practices, including the harvest feast when the crops were taken in and the work was over.

The Bible makes at least two spiritual applications of this earthly process. On a personal level, our actions and course of life, good or bad, are often compared to planting seed that grows to a harvest–good or bad, which I wrote about last week in the “Parable of the Soils.” And in a more outward-looking sense, our efforts toward spreading the gospel and leading others to Christ are frequently compared to sowing seed that will bring about a harvest in the lives of others.

Also, in the parable of the tares (or “weeds”) in Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus taught:

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Jesus concludes with the warning, that although the wheat and the tares were growing side by side, and impossible to separate, the final reckoning would sort each out. God will not be mocked; His just judgment will return a harvest fitting to the seed that is sown.

The Old Testament spoke this truth in proverb and prophecy, and often with great poetic beauty. Proverbs 22:8 says, “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,” returning on himself the misfortunes he causes to others. Hosea 8:7 goes a step further, famously warning, “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” The result of continued sowing of wicked deeds is presented in terrifying language in Joel 3:13–“Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great.” When God “tramples out the vintage” of His “grapes of wrath,” it is not a sight any wise person wants to witness. But even in the absence of great wickedness, the lack of good deeds has its consequences: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”(Jeremiah 8:20)

On the positive side, the Bible also presents the harvest as a long-awaited recompense for the righteous person’s struggles. Hosea, though so much of his prophecy was of punishment, also exhorted the people with this beautiful picture of a better harvest to come: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.”(Hosea 10:12) James seems almost to echo these words in this passage: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”(James 3:17-18)

In this sense we are all farmers, planting seed every day in the words we say and the things we do, for either good or bad; our harvest is being determined now, both in quality and proportion. “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”(2 Corinthians 9:6)

As I said last week, we all will reap what we sow. God tells us that in numerous passages of the Bible. Many who call themselves Christians will tell us that as LGBT individuals, that we will reap Hell because we have sown a life of sin with our homosexuality. Even if I didn’t think they were wrong about this, their hatred is sowing not seeds of kindness but seeds of hatred and ungodly behavior. However, we cannot allow people like that to sow seeds of discord, nor can we allow them to push us away from God. Instead, we must continue to sow seeds of kindness so that we can nourish and grow in great faith within the Christian community.

We are already sowing the seeds of this with the faith initiatives of the Human Rights Campaign and within congregations who are LGBT friendly, such as the United Church of Christ and the Metropolitan Community Church. Some congregations are merely non-discriminatory and LGBT-affirming while others are specifically oriented toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons. Some local congregations, especially those designated as “Welcoming churches” in the Disciples of Christ, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Methodist, Episcopal, and Brethren/Mennonite denominations, may consist of a majority of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members.

We cannot let the weeds of discord choke our growing faith communities and we should continue to celebrate the harvest of churches who are welcoming to all. The welcoming churches show the true spirit of the message of Jesus, and I believe as the LGBT community continues to gain acceptance and equal rights, we will see more churches opening their doors to the LGBT community.


Moment of Zen: Sexy Tweets


I have a confession that I’ve never really made a secret of on his blog, but I really enjoy porn, not to the point of addiction, but I do enjoy it.  It can be a great stress reliever, or at least it leads to a great stress release, if you get my drift.  There are always some porn stars that I really like, and follow on Twitter.  Troy Ryan, who is above and below (back and front), is one of those.  Troy reminds me of a guy I knew back when I was in graduate school, except that Troy is gay, and the guy I knew wasn’t.  I swear though that they could be twins.

Besides following Troy and some others and getting sexy tweets like these pictures, I also sometimes get notifications of when a lot of people I follow have favorited a tweet.  Sometimes those tweets are sexy selfies, sometimes similar to Troy’s and sometimes not as explicit.  However, when one of these comes up, it always brightens my day a little.  I hope these pictures of the sexy Troy Ryan brighten yours like they did mine.

P.S. Doesn’t he have the most perfect little butt?  I think so. The rest ain’t bad either.


Where They Stand

  

A recent poll released indicated 61% of Americans support marriage equality—but where does our next president stand? Sure, President Obama says the freedom to marry is a constitutional right, but he has less than two years left in office.

It’d be nice to think the matter will be settled once and for all after the soon-to-be-announced Supreme Court rules marriage equality, but whatever they decide will be considered, reconsidered and assailed in the coming years. (You only need to look to Roe v. Wade for proof.) 

In anticipation of the potentially historic news, we’re taking a look at where the major presidential candidates—both declared and just likely—stand on marriage equality.

Hilary Clinton

The Democratic frontrunner for the 2016 presidential election, Clinton says that she, much like President Obama and many others, has evolved on the issue of marriage equality. “I think that we have all evolved, and it’s been one of the fastest, most sweeping transformations that I’m aware of.”

Whether that evolution was heartfelt, a political strategy or the revelation of her true feelings all along, only she can say. As a presidential hopeful in 2008, she favored civil unions over same-sex marriage, and in 2014, told NPR host Terry Gross that marriage should be “a matter left to the states.”

But shortly after declaring her candidacy—in a video featuring two gay couples—the former senator and Secretary of State averred her unwavering support for same-sex marriage.

“Hillary Clinton supports marriage equality and hopes the Supreme Court will come down on the side of same-sex couples being guaranteed that constitutional right,” her campaign said in a statement this month.

Martin O’Malley

You’d be hard pressed to find a stronger ally for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights that this former governor of Maryland. O’Malley enthusiastically signed marriage equality into law in 2013.

“I get choked up just thinking about that evening,” he says of the passage of Maryland’s marriage equality referendum.

“I looked out over and saw my friends with their children, households headed by LGBT parents and all these people who had come together for a greater good. It was so real to me and so moving. This evening was not abstract it was about real people with real lives.”

Lincoln Chafee

You may not have heard of the Democratic former Governor of Rhode Island, but Chafee declared he was running for president back in April.

Back in 2004, he stated that each state “should be free to make its own decision on this issue,” but by 2013 he announced his full support for the freedom to marry, signing Rhode Island’s marriage equality bill into law.

“Rhode Island is upholding its legacy as a place founded on the principles of tolerance and diversity,” he said at the time. “I hope that leaders in capitals across the country—including Washington—will soon realize that marriage equality is an issue where doing the right thing and the smart thing are one and the same.”

Carly Fiorina

Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard CEO, announced her presidential campaign by May. She’s a tough one to figure out—while she supports Indiana’s “religious freedom” law, she also supports the right of same-sex couples to receive the legal benefits of marriage.

“What’s really at stake here for gay couples is how government bestows benefits,” she told USA Today. “What’s really at stake here for people of religious conviction is their conviction that marriage is a religious institution because only a man and a woman can create life, which is a gift that comes from God. And I think both of those points of view are valid.”

Though a longshot candidate, Fiorina is the only Republican contender (presumed or actual) to acknowledge the legitimacy of marriage equality and not just declare “let the states decide.”

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio says he believes sexual orientation is innate and not a choice, but he still opposes same-sex marriage and thinks homosexuality is a sin, which might make him the worst kind of enemy of equality.

When his home state of Florida began allowing gay couples to wed, Rubio told Politico , “if they wanted to change that law, they should have gone to the legislature or back to the Constitution and try to change it…I don’t agree the courts have the power to do this.”

In a recent interview, Rubio declared “there is no federal constitutional right to same sex-marriage.”

“You would have to really have a ridiculous and absurd reading of the U.S. Constitution to reach the conclusion that people have a right to marry someone of the same sex,” he continued.

“Can a state decide to change their laws?” he asked. “Yes, but only through the political process, not through the court system. And that’s what is happening now. The advocates of same-sex marriage refuse to go to the legislatures because they can’t win that debate. They want to stigmatize, they want to ostracize anyone who disagrees with them as haters. It’s very simple. This is not a policy against anyone.”

Rubio added, “I believe, as do a significant percentage of Americans, that the institution of marriage… should remain in our laws recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”

Ted Cruz

The Republican senator from Texas declared his candidacy in March, and is one of the party’s most outspoken opponents of marriage equality.

Cruz is critical of judicial recourse and recently introduced an amendment that would protect state bans against same-sex marriage. “We have seen judges, and especially the Supreme Court, ignoring the law,” Cruz said.

“If the courts were following the Constitution, we shouldn’t need a new amendment,” he added. “But they are, as you put it quite rightly, ‘making it up’ right now and it’s a real danger to our liberty.”

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush announced his candidacy last week to much fanfare (and by fanfare we mean Twitter blowing up with hilarious memes about his exclamatory campaign logo).

Sensing the national sea change on marriage equality, Bush has punted the issue, saying “it out to be a local decision—I mean a state decision.”

But we can take solace in the fact that he has little interest in a constitutional amendment repealing marriage equality.

“We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law,” Bush said in January.

Dr. Ben Carson

Ben Carson announced his candidacy back in May, boldly telling his hometown crowd “I’m not a politician.”

Carson made his opinion on the LGBT community known when he opined that “a lot of people who go into prison straight, and when they come out they’re gay.”

He’s also said that while gay people “should have the same rights as everyone else,” we don’t deserve “extra rights” like the freedom to marry. 

“They don’t get to redefine marriage,” he said.

Rand Paul

He’s got about as much chance of being president as his dad, Ron Paul, but the Kentucky senator did officially throw his hat in the ring.

In 2014, Paul said that he was “in favor of the concept” of a Federal Marriage Amendment—he later stated that same-sex marriage “offends [him] and a lot of other people.”

Rand’s also blamed the very idea of marriage equality on an ethical epidemic in America. “[T]here’s a moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some sort of other marriage,” he told conservative Christians earlier this year.

Lindsey Graham

The South Carolina senator—and confirmed bachelor—is “testing the waters” for a potential presidential run, but we can only assume it’d be to get a better salary when he inevitably becomes a Fox News pundit.

In his time, Sen. Graham has opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and extending immigration benefits to same-sex partners. He’s on the record as saying he hopes the Supreme Court “will allow each state to define marriage within its borders,” but you can bet he hopes they define it as strictly between a man and a woman.

Mike Huckabee

The former Governor of Arkansas is among the most rabid opponents of marriage equality in the Republican party, and that’s saying something.

He’s even encouraged governors and state legislators to “consider ways to resist a Supreme Court decision that recognized same-sex marriage as a constitutional right.”

Who wouldn’t want to vote for a guy who tells two branches of the government to ignore the third?

Rick Perry

If you remember this former governor from Texas from the 2012 election cycle, you remember his comparing homosexuality to alcoholism—explaining that gays and lesbians should simply choose to abstain.

When a district court judge deemed Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, Perry voiced his outrage, saying, “Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our Constitution, and it is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens.” 

He wants states to have the right to define marriage for themselves, saying “the idea that one size fits all coming out of Washington, D.C., is not going to work.”

Like a number of his anti-gay peers, though, Perry said he would “probably” attend gay or lesbian friend’s wedding. 

Rick Santorum

The candidate so anti-gay they turned his name into a dirty word is currently weighing a presidential bid.

When a judge he appointed struck down the same-sex marriage ban in his home state of Pennsylvania, Santorum called the judge’s appointment a “mistake.”

“The court has to stop being the judge and jury for the consciousness of America,” the former senator said. “That’s not what the court’s supposed to be. The court’s supposed to uphold the Constitution, not change the Constitution based on what they think is the current mood of the day.”

Talking to the Pew Forum in 2008, Santorum said allowing same-sex couples to marry “is completely deconstructing marriage and taking away a privilege that is given to two people, a man and a woman who are married, who have a child or adopt a child.”

In the same interview, Santorum blamed marriage equality for everything from the divorce rate to unplanned pregnancies.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President on Tuesday, with The Washington Post declaring, “Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy is great entertainment. It’s terrible for politics.” 

Trump has been outspoken (ya think?) about his views opposing gay marriage, telling Howard Stern in 2013, “It’s never been an argument that’s been discussed with me very much. People know that it’s not my thing one way or the other.”

Ten months later, in November 2013, Trump attempted to paint an “evolved” view–one, however, that still opposed marriage equality. “I think really what you have is a very changing stance, and you see it changing very rapidly. If you go back 10 years ago it’s very different… I think I’m evolving, and I think I’m a very fair person, but I have been for traditional marriage. I am for traditional marriage, I am for a marriage between a man and a woman.”

Bernie Sanders

Socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy in April declaring that “People should not underestimate me.”

Sanders has a pretty sparkling record when it comes to marriage equality, dating back as early as 1996, when the then-Representative voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.

His home state of Vermont was the first to legalize same-sex unions in 2000 and the first state to pass legislation legalizing gay marriage in 2009.

He remains and unwavering ally to the cause.

George Pataki

The former Governor of New York made his long-shot Presidential bid back in May.

As a moderate Republican, Pataki is the only major Republican presidential hopeful who supports marriage equality.

In a recent political ad Pataki declared, “Defeating Islamic terrorists, shrinking government, growing the economy — these are the issues that matter most,” he said. “Instead we’re debating social issues like abortion and gay rights.” He called that a “distraction.”
Source:  http://www.newnownext.com/where-the-major-presidential-candidates-stand-on-marriage-equality/06/2015/


It Could Be Today

  
The countdown is on for the Supreme Court to render its verdict in watershed cases that could bring marriage equality to all 50 states. But an update to the high court’s calendar suggests we could get a ruling as early as this Thursday.

According to the Supreme Court website, the Court has added a non-argument session “for the announcement of opinions on Thursday, June 18, 2015, at 10 am.”  Insiders believe that’s when they’ll break the news of their decision in Obergefell v Hodges, which involves existing bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

It is possible, of course, that the justices will announce a verdict in some other case, and hold off on marriage equality until as late as June 30, when the current session ends.

  

What Are The Possible Verdicts In The Supreme Court Marriage Equality Cases?

Experts on both sides of the issue believe SCOTUS will issue a broad ruling granting federal marriage equality. But what does that actually mean? And what if the justices don’t? 

Below, I’ll review three possible verdicts the Supreme Court could issue in Obergefell v Hodges and spell out what they mean in practical terms.
Of course SCOTUS can be unpredictable at times, so it is still a situation we wait for with bated breath.

If SCOTUS Rules Marriage-Equality Bans Are Unconstitutional…

Any remaining barriers to gay marriage are also unconstitutional, meaning same-sex couples will be able to marry anywhere in the country.
 This is the best possible outcome, but if Ginsberg writes the opinion, then it could possibly be an even wider ruling.

If SCOTUS Limits Its Ruling To Require States To Recognize Marriage Equality…

Couples in states without same-sex marriage would actually have marry elsewhere, but must be afforded all the rights of the institution at home.
 This may be the case of Roberts writes the opinion.  If this is the case, then SCOTUS is keeping the status quo and issuing a half-hearted ruling such as we saw in Windsor, which struck down significant parts of DOMA.

If SCOTUS Rules In Favor of Bans On Marriage Equality…

In the immediate, bans in 14 states—including the ones in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee that are at stake in Obergefell v Hodges—would remain intact.
 This would be the most disastrous of rulings, and means that Kennedy, who wrote the opinion in Windsor sided against equality in Obergefell.

Tragically, though, states that had their marriage bans thrown out by federal courts in the past could attempt to reinstate such barriers. Existing same-sex marriages could come into question, as well. Experts agree such a ruling would have wide-ranging effects that could throw our hard-earned victories into chaos.

However SCOTUS rules, it’s guaranteed to be a major issue of the 2016 presidential race, and the religious right will go nuts, either with joy or with the belief that the world is ending.  
UPDATE: SCOTUS issued First Amendment and criminal law rulings, but nothing on Obergefell. The Court had seventeen opinions left to issue going into today. They issued six today. With eleven opinions left, SCOTUSblog believes that there is a possibility that they may extend the session into July. It happens on occasion, but because the justices have teaching and speaking obligations in July, they often attempt to finish by the end of June.


Ever Wonder What Cats Think

  

I rarely do extra posts in a day, but this is an exception. One of my cats (Edith) has gotten to where she likes to sleep on the shelf in the bathroom with the towels. It always wakes her up when I go in there to pee, and she always looks at me strangely. I saw this the other day on Yummy of the Day Blog, and as she looked at me, I thought of this picture. The thing is, Edith is a bobtail, and she always seemed jealous of the other cats’ tails, so I’m think she’s jealous of my “tail,” you know, the one that’s on backwards. Let’s just hope she never decides to attack my “tail” like she does the other cats. So I often wonder what goes through a cat’s mind. Edith usually lets you know, because she is the most vocal of my cats and when she wants something she is very persistent and always gets what she wants.


Promises, Promises, Forever Promised

Back in 2010, Amy Lane wrote Keeping Promise Rock and began a beautiful series of books: the Promises series. Only in the last year have I read all four books, of which I’ve reviewed the first three on this blog, but I finally got the chance to read the final book in the series, Forever Promised. I am not going to give a synopsis of Forever Promised because if you have not read the other three book, it would give too much away. However, here’s a quick recap of the previous books, without giving too much away.

In Keeping Promise Rock, you can’t help but fall in love with the characters of Crick and Deacon, little Benny and Parry Angel. Lane writes in a way that connects you with them deeply and with a heartfelt passion. After reading the first in the series, I wanted more stories about them and The Pulpit, the horse farm where they lived in Levee Oaks, California, and Amy Lane gave that to me, along with all of her readers. Next, she gave us Making Promises (Promises #2) which introduced us to Shane and the feisty little Mikhail, causing us to fall in love with a new set of characters while keeping our adoration for all things Crick and Deacon intact and up to date. Big dorky Shane is still on of my all time favorite Amy Lane creations. The third book, Living Promises, reintroduced us to Jeff Beachum, who we’d met before in Keeping Promise Rock, and Collin Waters. In Living Promises we get the chance to see Lane take on the narrative of characters with HIV. And as in all the Promises books, our beloved characters were all there from the previous books, continuing on with their lives and loves. Each book gave a further glimpse at the characters I’d come to love. Lane knows how to make you laugh and she sure as hell knows how to make you cry, but she always touches my heart. With Forever Promised, Lane brought the series to an end.

Forever Promised brings a wonderful closure to the series. Not everything is neatly wrapped up in a bow, but we can see what the future may hold for the people of Levee Oaks, who we grew to love and with any good book, they became our friends. Lane writes stories about real people who live through real things that happen in everyday life. We recognize the important moments in the characters lives because they are ones that happen to us. Her characters bleed and cry and laugh as we do. Lane writes good people trying to be the best they can be in situations both normal and stressful, so how could we not love them? We would in our real lives and the author understands the importance of that connection.

This book is about absolution and reflection. It’s about moving on soberly, being able to let go of the past with a clear understanding of just what a miracle it is that even after all their noble efforts at self-destruction they all made, they got their bright future anyway. Many are not so lucky, so many people never get a second chance (this goes for some of Lane’s characters as well, but even those who don’t allow others to Beth their second chance), but those who do need to look at that miracle in the face and be thankful.

It was hard to say goodbye to Promise Rock, the Pulpit, and the family that Deacon Winters made for himself out of the people he loved. Forever Promised is not your typical end to a series. It really didn’t try to come up with implausible and fantastical storylines to wrap up the previous three books, but it was a natural progression of things to come in the series. At the center of the story is the heartbreak and sacrifice that comes with loving someone so much it hurts, but that sacrifice is made out of love and it brings everyone together and takes everyone to make it happen, just as the wedding dress in the story did. I didn’t want the Promises series to end, but Lane knew how to end it perfectly.


Deep Lane [June 23rd, evening of the first fireflies]

  

Deep Lane [June 23rd, evening of the first fireflies]
By Mark Doty

June 23rd, evening of the first fireflies,
we’re walking in the cemetery down the road,
and I look up from my distracted study of whatever,

an unfocused gaze somewhere a few feet in front of my shoes,

and see that Ned has run on ahead
with the champagne plume of his tail held especially high,
his head erect,

which is often a sign that he has something he believes he is not allowed to have,

and in the gathering twilight (what is it that is gathered,
who is doing the harvesting?) I can make out that the long horizontal
between his lovely jaws is one of the four stakes planted on the slope

to indicate where the backhoe will dig a new grave.

Of course my impulse is to run after him, to replace the marker,
out of respect for the rule that we won’t desecrate the tombs,
or at least for those who knew the woman
whose name inks a placard in the rectangle claimed by the four poles

of vanishing—three poles now—and how it’s within their recollection,
their gathering, she’ll live. Evening of memory. Sparklamps in the grass.
I stand and watch him go in his wild figure eights,
I say, You run, darling, you tear up that hill.

Mark Doty’s Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008. His eight books of poems include School of the Arts, Source, and My Alexandria. He has also published four volumes of nonfiction prose: Still Life with Oysters and Lemon, Heaven’s Coast, Firebird and Dog Years, which was a New York Times bestseller in 2007. The Art of Description, a handbook for writers, appeared in 2011.

Doty’s poems have appeared in many magazines including The Atlantic Monthly, The London Review of Books, Ploughshares, Poetry, and The New Yorker. Widely anthologized, his poems appear in The Norton Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry and many other collections. 

Doty’s work has been honored by the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, two Lambda Literary Awards and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction. He is the only American poet to have received the T.S. Eliot Prize in the U.K., and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim, Ingram Merrill and Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Foundations, and from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Doty lives in New York City and on the east end of Long Island. He is Professor/Writer in Residence at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Two new books are forthcoming, both from W.W. Norton: What Is the Grass, a prose meditation on Walt Whitman and the ecstatic, and Deep Lane, a new volume of poems. 

Doty is one of the foremost LGBT poets alive today.
  


Man Candy Monday: Chris Pratt

Jurassic World marks yet another massive hit starring Chris Pratt. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy turned Pratt into a star, but Jurassic World  should comment him the title.  Jurassic World raked in a record $511.8 million globally, making it the first to ever break half a billion dollars over its opening weekend. That number comes from $204.6 million domestically, just shy of The Avengers‘ record $207.4 million weekend haul in 202 (as I was writing this the weekend wasn’t over and Jurassic World could have overtaken The Avengers’ before the weekend was over). The film earned $307.2 million abroad, just a bit short of the international weekend record held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($314 million). The international figure for Jurassic World includes $100.8 million from China alone.

Everyone seems to love Jurassic Park (I was always a fan of the original), so it’s not a huge surprise that Jurassic World did so well, but I tend to think that Chris Pratt and all his sexiness was a major reason for the movie’s success. I didn’t get to see it this weekend, but maybe I’ll get a chance in the next weeks or so.


The Parable of the Soils

  

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.
And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

          – Matthew 13:1-9

In this short parable, there are four lessons that we can learn from studying the story of the farmer planting seed, known as the Parable of the Soils or the Parable of the Sower. With the first seeds, they are lost to the wayside, or the path. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so just as the birds ate the seeds, so does the devil influence our understanding. He comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road. If you walk through a field, you know where the path is, nothing grows. It is the same as when you walk through a pasture and there is a well worn path where the cows have walked. In those paths, the dirt is packed and the seeds cannot get into the soil and therefore are subject to being eaten and/or are unable to take root. The soil must be prepared and tilled in order to be loosened and be fertile. The same is true of our hearts; we must soften our hearts and minds in order to allow the Truth into our lives.

The seed that was cast in the rocky ground did not have enough soil for the seeds to take root. It grew quickly but was killed by the scorching sun because it did not have the security that the tilled soil gives a seed. In this instance, Jesus is speaking of the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it. Without deep roots and a good foundation, we cannot survive the scorching sun, which symbolizes the trials of life. With deep roots, we can persevere with God through a devastating trial, and we can prosper from the lessons of that trial. However, shallow roots will continue to be devastated because there is nothing that grounds us, causing our faith to wither and die. Hebrew 6:1, says “Let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.” If we only have the basics and have not become spiritually mature, then we will be like the seeds on the rocky soil and will not be able to weather the rough times ahead.

The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it. In the thorns and weeds, we get bogged down in the cares of the world and it chokes us. In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us, “”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) God’s will within our heart is not mere observance of the law (Matthew 5:20), but rather an expression of brotherly love (I John 3:10). A continuous desire for justice and perfection will lead us to a fulfillment of that desire, but if we are strangled by the cares of the world then we will be pulled further away from righteousness and from God.

The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the Word of God, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams. Galatians 6:6-10 says:

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

The Parable of the Soils can be applied to LGBT Christians. I think LGBT Christians can be put into four categories: the hardened hearts, those of little faith, the worldly, and the faithful. Those with the hardened hearts have had their hearts trampled on by others who call themselves Christians and more importantly are the seeds left in that trampled path and have been plucked out of Christianity by those hateful and intolerant people who call themselves Christians but instead are like the birds (or Satan) who have hardened their hearts to LGBT Christians and turned them away from Christianity and destroying their faith.

Those of little faith may have been drawn to Christianity but never had a strong foundation and thus with all the hatemongering that the religious right heaps on the LGBT community, there seems to be no room for spiritual growth. The scorched earth policy of the religious right toward LGBT issues and rights turns many in the LGBT community away from Christianity, especially those who never had a strong foundation in faith. The soil was rocky and therefore it cannot take root and can easily become discouraged.

Others in the LGBT community are too bogged down in other worries to nurture their faith. Often this is not their fault. Issues with family or depression or health or life issues causes people to question the idea of faith. We get bogged down in worldly issues that have no bearing on our eternal lives. When we let these worldly problems strangle us, it is because we do not have full faith in God. These last few weeks since I lost my job have been very difficult, but it is only one of many struggles in my life. My own struggle with the acceptance of my sexuality was a weed choking my life. My family’s rejection of my sexuality has been an issue that has tried to draw me away from my faith. Even my depression and issues with headaches have tried to strangle me. At one time, I let these problems bring me down, and I largely turned away from my faith, but several years ago, through much prayer and meditation, I decided to put my faith in God and let him lead me on the path he has chosen for me.

It was at that point when I put my full faith in God, and I have never been happier. Yes, there have been ups and downs, but I have found that as long as I remain faithful to God, He will help me through any situation. That does not mean that I can sit back and wait for life to happen, but I must be proactive. Just as the soil needs to be prepared and the seed nurtured, so does our soul. We must prepare our hearts to receive God, and we must nurture God’s plan, but we also cannot do it alone. We need to ask for His help, and we will reap what we sow.


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