Monthly Archives: February 2021
Salute one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.
— Romans 16:16
By now, those who read my Sunday religious posts probably know that I grew up and am a member of the Church of Christ. It is a faith that I adhere to, and I hope that it will someday follow the teachings of the Bible fully and openly accept LGBTQ+ Christians as members. Most Churches of Christ do not at this time, and I believe it is one of their greatest faults along with their prohibition on women in leadership roles. However, this is not the point of this post today. I wanted to talk about growing up in the Church of Christ in rural Alabama. I grew up in a small country church with around a dozen members, half of which were my family.
The Church of Christ is a simple church with a simple set of beliefs based on the New Testament of the Bible. The church teaches that the process of salvation is achieved through the following actions:
- One must be taught appropriately and hear the Word of God.
- How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So, then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:14-17)
- One must believe or have faith.
- But without faith, it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
- He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)
- One must repent, which means turning from one’s former lifestyle and choosing God’s ways.
- And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commanded all men everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30)
- One must confess the belief that Jesus is the son of God.
- And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” And Philip said, “If thou believe with all thine heart, thou mayest.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:36–37)
- One must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
- Then Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)
- One must live faithfully as a Christian.
- But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
I do my best to follow each of these daily. I also try to follow the Golden Rule: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) Likewise, Luke 6:32 says, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” I also follow the Greatest Commandment as given to us by Jesus in Matthew 22:37–40: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” I believe in the simplicity of love and faith to guide my Christian life.
I learned this in my little country church from the various preachers we had while growing up. In the earliest years of my life, we had two preachers that alternated every other week and preached at a second church. We had one preacher who was not kind to people who were not church members, like my mother, who was a Baptist. This preacher nearly tore the church apart before he was asked to leave. After that, I remember we got a young seminary student from Faulkner University (a Church of Christ university in Montgomery). I thought he was one of the most gorgeous men I have ever seen. He was so handsome and charismatic. I hung on his every word. It didn’t help that I was going through puberty at the time and had an erection at the drop of a hat. I always dreaded him finishing his sermons because it meant that I’d have to stand up and sing the song of invitation. I was always so embarrassed that I had an erection every time I had to stand up. Come to think of it today, while puberty may be to blame for part of that, carnal thoughts about the attractive young man who was our preacher probably had something to do with it as well, but I digress.
There were rarely any surprises at our church. Things ran relatively smoothly every Sunday to a particular routine. We all had our regular places to sit in church. My family sat on the left side of the church behind the song leader and his family. The song leader sat in the front pew, and his wife sat in the second. Behind his wife sat my parents and my sister. I usually sat in the fourth pew next to my grandmama and, before he died, my granddaddy. My aunt sat in the pew behind us. On the church’s right side, the preacher sat on the first pew, and his family sat on the second. Behind them was the lady for whom the church was built. Various neighbors of hers either filled the pew beside her or behind her. Her husband, who had donated the land and built the church, sat two rows behind her.
I mention the couple who was instrumental in building the church because when they got married and moved into the house, they would spend the rest of their lives in, the wife said, “Everything would be perfect if I had a church close by.” Even though her husband was a Methodist, he knew his wife valued her denomination and set out to find a church that needed a new home. He found one a few miles away and offered to donate land a build them a new church. The church accepted, and his wife had a church within walking distance to her house. It was a simple white church, initially just one room with outhouses behind the church and a fellowship table on the grounds surrounded by pine trees. As I got older, they expanded the church to include a Sunday school room and bathrooms, though the Sunday school room never saw any use as a classroom. That was my small church.
At age 13, I was baptized into the church along with my sister one Sunday night. At first, my duties at church became reading the lesson’s texts (sermon) that Sunday, much like I post a Bible verse at the beginning of each Sunday post. Soon, our song leader’s emphysema made it increasingly more challenging to lead the song worship, so I was asked to take over. I was maybe 14 or 15 when this happened. I remained the song leader until I graduated college and moved to Mississippi for graduate school. I was a terrible song leader. I could barely carry a tune, and I only knew about a dozen or so songs well enough to lead the song worship. Usually, I would start the song, and the lady the church had been built for would really lead the song worship. I always thought they should have just let her lead the singing instead of me. She was much better. She was also the de facto church leader, though no one would admit it. The men of the church would meet to make any decisions, but nothing would actually be done without her informal approval. She also prepared the Lord’s Supper (Communion) every week. I truly loved that woman; she was so sweet and so kind and loving. As she got older, she declared that it was too much for her to wear a dress every Sunday when she felt more comfortable in pants, and she never wore a skirt or dress again to church. She always wore pants.
As the church grew larger, we eventually doubled in size. After I left for graduate school, we had a new church member take over as song leader. I had other duties in the weekly service, which I continued to do when I came home from Mississippi. I served communion alongside my father. Originally, my granddaddy and father served communion, but after my grandfather had a heart attack walking into church one Sunday morning, he rarely returned to church after that, claiming that he had bladder issues and did not want to disturb the service by getting up to use the bathroom. So, I took his place serving communion.
Our services were simple. Before the service started, we would usually catch up with each other, i.e., gossip, but it was never malicious gossip that I remember. At precisely 8:45 am each Sunday morning, the song leader would call our service to order, and we would sing two songs, usually the first and last verses of the song. We always remained seated for these first two songs. Then the service would be turned over to the preacher for the main prayer, although sometimes that honor would be offered to a special guest if we had one. After the prayer, the song leader would instruct us to stand. We would sing another song before the preacher would stand and make his way to the pulpit and give a sermon, usually lasting around 30-40 minutes. As he finished his sermon, he would call us to stand for the song of invitation as he stood at the front of the church to welcome anyone who wanted to join the church and be baptized. After the song of invitation, my father and I would stand and go to the communion table where my father would say a prayer before I would pass around the unleavened bread, which was the representation of the Body of Christ. After I had passed around the bread, I would return to the communion table and offer my father the bread, and we would eat the bread together. Then he said a prayer for the “fruit of the vine,” which represented Christ’s Blood, and I would pass it around just as I did for the bread. When I returned to the table, we also drank from the small communion cups that usually grape juice. (Occasionally, the woman who prepared the communion would run out of grape juice and substitute her homemade muscadine wine, much to everyone’s surprise. She never warned anyone ahead of time.) Then my father would hand me a wicker basket that had been with the church since its beginnings. (It was still stamped on the bottom with 5¢.) My father would return to his seat (I returned to my seat too before I became song leader), and I would call for any announcements. Then, we would stand again and sing the first verse of the closing song before my father gave the closing prayer.
After the service concluded, we would usually gather outside the church and socialize for a bit before we all headed home. Usually, my Sundays after that consisted of my mother cooking a large lunch, which she sometimes started before leaving for church. On special occasions, we would go out for lunch. Because we often got out of church by 10 am, we were fortunate to be able to eat lunch out at 11 am when the restaurants opened and before the “church crowds” arrived. We did have Sunday night services for a short time, but with such a small congregation, it was not worth it if only a few people attended. Eventually, we discontinued Sunday evening services. We never had Wednesday night services as many southern churches did because my family went to my grandparents’ house for supper on Wednesday nights. We also rarely had Sunday school, even though we eventually added a classroom to the building. We tried a few times, but it was never very successful.
It was a simple church with simple people who cared a great deal about one another. Most of the church members from my formative years have now passed on: the song leader, the couple who established the church, and my grandparents. My parents have moved away, as have my sister and I, so my aunt is the only family member to still attend the church. My sister even became a Baptist, much to my father’s horror. I think he took the fact that I was gay better than he took my sister becoming a Baptist. Ironically, my parents now attend a Baptist church. However, my mother claims that it’s Baptist in name only as it’s made up of community members where they currently live and comprised of people from many different Protestant denominations.
I don’t know if this description of my church upbringing is interesting to anyone, but because of the love amongst my church’s members, my primary philosophy of love and acceptance was formed, despite some of my parents’ more discriminatory beliefs. Except for the preacher who nearly broke up our church with his insistence that anyone who was not a member of the Church of Christ was going to hell, very little judgment was ever practiced within the church. I mentioned the incident a few weeks ago about the current preacher’s sermon on the evils of homosexuality and another sermon on gambling. Our preachers have always focused on being a better, more loving Christian, which was always most important to me.
I am very fortunate to have a primary care physician who is such a wonderful and caring person. He is very good at listening to me and discussing every aspect of my health with me. While these are characteristics of any good doctor, I have had doctors who did not care as much for their patients. For those doctors, a patient was just a job. However, my current healthcare team is very different. They seem to genuinely care about what is best for my health.
I am also exceedingly happy that my doctor referred me to the Headache Clinic at Dartmouth, and that I have received such wonderful care there. It has been a journey to get the right medicine to deal with my migraines, but Botox seems to be working well. The indomethacin prescribed for my hemicrania continua seems to also be working very well. While the first two doses provided some relief, with the exception of when I first woke up yesterday morning, I was headache-free throughout the day. This is basically the first time in about four months that I have been without head pain. I pray that this improvement will continue, and the indomethacin and Botox will continue to be effective.
So, my moment of Zen today is having caring and competent doctors who know the correct medicine to prescribe to allow me to feel normal again. I am very happy to have a great relationship with my doctor. Even when I have had to see another provider at his clinic, he has the other providers consult with him about my care. I am also very appreciative of his nurse, who I find to be very sweet, and I have often talked to her on the phone to provide updates on my health. I feel that I have a great healthcare team.
P.S. My physical therapist is also fantastic and deserves a mention. The things she can do with her hands to relieve one of my headaches is enough to make me want to marry her. I wish I could see her every time I have a headache because she knows how to manipulate my head in a way to relieve the pain like no medicine has ever been able to do. Sadly, I can’t just go see her every time I have a headache, so I am glad that I have found medications that seem to work.
I have said this numerous times, but Republican politicians are some of the most repugnant Americans. As the Biden administration continues to support LGBTQ+ rights, Republican homophobia and transphobia are becoming very apparent. Republicans have been using transgender women as the scapegoat for their opposition to LGBTQ+ rights. They have repeatedly denigrated trans kids and student-athletes and accused the parents of trans people of being neglectful or abusive. First, thirteen Republican Senators voted against Pete Buttigieg’s confirmation as Secretary of Transportation. None, as far as I know, gave a reason, and when I wrote to my former senator Richard Shelby, who I have always been told has a gay son, to ask why he voted against Pete, I was given a non-answer about how he carefully considers all nominees he votes on. I believe that most of these thirteen senators, including Shelby, voted against Pete because of his sexuality. While silent homophobia is bad enough, the outspoken homophobia and transphobia of some Republicans in Congress are beyond abhorrent.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a joint hearing to confirm Surgeon General Nominee Dr. Vivek Murphy and Dr. Rachel Levine, who is transgender and is the current surgeon general for Pennsylvania. Most questions focused on the government’s response to COVID-19. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) decided to go on an anti-transgender tirade when questioning Dr. Levine, ranting about how Congress should ban gender-affirming health care for transgender kids instead of left up to families and doctors. Paul started by saying, “Genital mutilation has been nearly universally condemned. Genital mutilation has been condemned by the WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Population Fund.” He went on to say that genital mutilation is egregious because “it is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children.” If he wanted to compare bottom surgery to genital mutilation, he was badly mistaken. It’s almost unheard of for minors to get bottom surgery.
In fact, everyone talks about puberty blockers being used so that trans youth can have more time to understand themselves before puberty permanently affects their bodies. Paul then turned to the subject of puberty blockers and cited the American College of Pediatricians, an SPLC designated hate group that promotes anti-LGBTQ+ bias. It is often confused with the American Pediatric Association, the real professional association for pediatricians that urges parents of trans kids to “listen, respect and support their child’s self-expressed identity.” Paul remarked that “80 to 90 percent” of children with gender dysphoria “will experience resolution,” a euphemism for stopping being transgender. This statistic is fake, but Paul said it anyway at a Senate hearing. Paul continually attacked Dr. Levine in the hearing.
If Paul wants to rant about genital mutilation in children, he should support the campaign against infant circumcision. I will not say that circumcision should be prohibitive for those of the Jewish faith; after all, Republicans are always claiming to believe in religious freedom. Circumcision took hold in the United States in the late 19th century, spread through the “modernization” of medicine. A few prominent doctors, including John Harvey Kellogg, advocated the surgery as a cure for paralysis, epilepsy, venereal disease, even mental illness. Throughout the Victorian era, it was extolled for its virtue of cleanliness and as a cure for masturbation. Circumcision is the only common genital mutilation in the United States. Most of the rest of the world has quit following the practice or never advocated it in the first place. If circumcision should continue, it should be reserved for cases of medical necessity.
Then there is the always “pleasant” Marjorie Taylor Greene, who held up all of Congress’s business in a destined-to-fail attempt to stop the LGBTQ+ Equality Act from passing the House. Greene called the Equality Act “DISGUSTING, IMMORAL, AND EVIL.” One of her colleagues found an excellent way to show her contempt for Greene’s opposition to LGBTQ+ rights. Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) put up a transgender flag across the hall from Greene’s office so that she’d have to see it every day. Newman tweeted, “Thought we’d put up our Transgender flag so she can look at it every time she opens her door.”
Greene, who the House voted to strip her of her committee assignments due to her support of violence against other House members, put up a hateful sign in response that said: “There are TWO genders: MALE & FEMALE. ‘Trust The Science!’” In a tweet, Greene noted that the Equality Act would “destroy women’s rights and religious freedoms.” She posted a video of herself smirking at the camera while slapping it on the wall. Making Greene’s sign even more insensitive is the fact that Newman’s daughter is transgender. On the House floor, she called her daughter the “strongest, bravest person I know.”
The Biden administration stated support of the Equality Act, a landmark piece of legislation that would establish LGBTQ+ civil rights protections in federal law. The measure passed the House yesterday. However, the Equality Act faces an obstacle in the Senate as Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) refused to co-sponsor the bill and won’t say why. She has previously co-sponsored it but apparently is pouting because the Human Rights Campaign endorsed her Democratic challenger in the last election. Collins claims to be “a strong believer in LGBTQ rights,” yet, she doesn’t want to give us the federal protections we deserve.
Our community often continues to face discrimination, harassment, and violence at work, at school, and in public accommodations. H.R. 5 would amend existing federal civil rights laws to expressly include nondiscrimination protection based on sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), providing security and equality to LGBTQ+ Americans in accessing housing, employment, education, public accommodations, healthcare, and other federally funded services, credit, and more. The Supreme Court has already ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that employees are protected from discrimination based on sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Equality Act confirms the implications of Bostock for other discrimination laws, consistent with the President’s Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation, issued January 20, 2021, and further builds on Bostock, thereby securing such protections once and for all for LGBTQ+ Americans across Federal civil rights laws. Women also currently lack protection against sex discrimination in public accommodations and federally funded programs; the Equality Act would fill that gap in the law.
Finally, we have another reprehensible MAGAt in Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who recently used anti-gay stereotypes to explain her plan to vote against LGBTQ civil rights. Like Greene, Boebert is viciously – and proudly – anti-LGBTQ. During an unhinged rant full of fake claims about transgender pre-teens, Boebert managed to bring her transphobic comments around full circle to loop in an anti-gay stereotype that all gay men are feminine. She said she is raising her four sons “to be men,” and she is “proud of that.” The implication is that if you don’t meet her standard of masculinity, then you are not a man. I pity her sons to be raised in such a way. I was raised in much the same way and am still dealing with the psychological issues it caused.
It infuriates me that Paul, Greene, Boebert, or any other Congress member can make such hateful and discriminatory comments without any repercussions. Any member of Congress who uses such harmful language should be universally renounced and reprimanded for their derogatory and detrimental language concerning someone’s sexuality, race, or religion. We should hold our politicians to a higher standard. Minorities in this country have fought long and hard for equality and respect, yet lawmakers can make insensitive and disgusting comments like those mentioned above and face no consequences. Greene at least got removed from her committee assignments for previous conduct and remarks, but I doubt they will ever expel her for what she has done.
I had hoped to update everyone on my MRI results, but as I write this, I still do not have any definitive answers. The “After Visit Summary” for the MRI results gave a diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia (TN), but I have not heard from my neurologist yet. I will send a message this morning asking when I will hear something. My neurologist and my doctor had not believed it was TN, which is a rare neurological condition. I suspect that my neurologist will also look at the MRI scans before she makes a definitive diagnosis. I am not going to say that it is TN at this time, but it seems like it might be more of a possibility than my doctors initially thought.
One thing I do know for sure is that I hope I never have to have another MRI. They told me that the table was uncomfortable, but this was more than just a little discomfort. The table was hard and flat, which caused lower back pain throughout the procedure. Furthermore, the tube I was in was very tight, and the way they had my head strapped in caused severe pain in my neck and shoulders. It was also hot inside the machine. They turned on a fan, but it did not do much, and I was sweating profusely. It finally got to the point that I had to ask to be taken out. The tech told me that if she let me move, they would have to stop the procedure and reschedule when they could give me some Advil for the pain. Knowing that Advil does little to relieve pain for me, I just said to continue. Thankfully, she turned the fan on high, and once I cooled down, the pain at least became bearable.
When I was brought out to put in the contrast, I found out a new tech was there. She was much nicer and talked me through the procedure, and helped calm me down. Each time before the MRI started back up, she told me how long it would last, which the previous tech had not done. Knowing how much longer I would be in the machine helped. It just gave me a sense that it would eventually end sooner rather than later. I was so stiff when it was over from being in such an uncomfortable and painful position that the tech had to help lift me off the table so I could sit up. For me, this MRI was a nightmare and a bit torturous. It was not because I was claustrophobic; that did not bother me as much as the heat and painful position. I was so glad to get out of there and head back home.
If I hear more today, which I hope I will, I will give an update of the diagnosis as soon as I can. I appreciate all of the prayer and loving energy you have been sending my way. Thank you. It means so much to me.
Because I was so stiff and sore from being in the MRI machine, I spent most of yesterday like the guy in the above picture. I mostly just laid on the couch and watched TV. I’m glad I had already planned to take yesterday off before I had the MRI. I took the day off because I knew it would be late when I got in Tuesday night.
I received a message from my neurologist this morning, and my brain MRI results are “reassuring and normal.” She is prescribing indomethacin as it can be very effective for the type of head pain I am having. She wants to try me on this medicine to see if we can get the pain under control. I pray that this works. The good news is that it does not actually appear to be TN as the initial diagnosis from the radiologist reported, and since the results were “reassuring and normal,” there are no signs of a tumor or multiple sclerosis. My neurologist believes it is more likely hemicrania continue (HC), which responds well to indomethacin.
I usually write my posts the night before I post them in the morning. Sometimes, if I am not busy working from home, I write them during the day. Sometimes, I am inspired by the news or random thoughts. Other times, I am inspired for a picture that I see, and it evokes certain thoughts. This post was one of the latter. Since I was having my MRI last night and did not get home until late, I didn’t have much to say today. I hope I will get the results sometime today, but until then, here are some lovely pictures of men’s eyes. One of the advantages of everyone wearing masks is that we get to focus on a person’s eyes. Some men have beautiful eyes, and I am often attracted to the eyes of a man (okay, as is evident by a lot of the pictures I post, I also usually check out their butts as well, LOL).
This brings me to another interesting phenomenon of the pandemic. We have all heard of catfishing (if you haven’t, it is the process of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona). There is also another less devious term I heard the other day: Hatfishing, when a handsome man looks hot wearing a hat, then, when he takes it off he goes from “That man is gorgeous!” to “What was I thinking?” During the pandemic, I have noticed one more version of this: maskfishing, where a person appears to be more attractive because they are wearing a facemask. In both hatfishing and maskfishing, we often notice the eyes first (or his butt, according to which way he is facing).
Here are some wise quotes about eyes:
- “The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter —often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter —in the eye.” —Charlotte Bronte
- “Eyes so transparent that through them the soul is seen.” —Theophile Gautier
- “Where words are restrained, the eyes often talk a great deal.” —Samuel Richardson
- “The eyes only see what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” —Henri Bergson
- “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” —Henry David Thoreau
- “No one can lie, no one can hide anything, when he looks directly into someone’s eyes.” —Paulo Coelho
- “The face is a picture of the mind with the eyes as its interpreter.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero
- “The eyes shout what the lips fear to say.” —William Henry
- “The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “It’s true about the eyes being the window to the soul. Your face can be etched with worry, and twisted by ageing, but the eyes tell the true story of who you are.” —Naomie Harris
- “The real lover is the man who can thrill you just by touching your head or smiling into your eyes —or just by staring into space.” — Marilyn Monroe
- “The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.” —John Vance Cheney
- “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” —Audrey Hepburn
- “The world only exists in your eyes. You can make it as big or as small as you want.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald