Author Archives: Joe

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces.

Behave Like a Christian: Philia and Agape

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore

 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
 If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
 For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

—Romans 12:9-21

This is the second part of my continuing series about the message contained within Romans 12:9–21, often labeled “Behave Like a Christian.” Last week, we looked at how to love without hypocrisy. This week, we will be looking at brotherly love, or philia and unconditional love, or agape, two of the four ancient Greek words for love. The others are storge (familial love) and eros (sensual, passionate, romantic love).

The New Testament discusses the universal principle of philia in several of its books. One of those passages is Romans 12:10-13 (the underlined verses above). Philia, or brotherly love, conveys the kind of love expressed towards other people as a fellow-human, our neighbors. Brotherly affection can mean the cozy feeling of belongingness. As a gay man, I have often found this belongingness in LGBTQ+ gatherings. I can be very socially awkward around people I do not know, but even the social awkwardness cannot take away the feeling of being among people like me in these settings. I grew up knowing few, if any, LGBTQ+ individuals, so when we gather together, it presents a calm atmosphere of serenity like kinship or friendship.

In the Biblical context, philia is a love seeking the best interest of all men, women, and children and counting them as more significant than oneself. Philippians 2:3 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” God loves the flawed and sinful, which we all are. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We make sacrifices in our lives, ask for forgiveness, and do good deeds in an effort to atone for our sins and be of service to God. We know this because we know of the love God gave to us. In 1 John 4:19, John writes, “We love Him because He first loved us.” We can only love because we are loved. God shows us the way. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) Love is not about that we have loved God but that He loved us. Our ability to show love is due to the love He has shown us. 

When asked, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The parable tells of a traveler who is stripped, beaten, and left half dead alongside the road. First, a Jewish priest and then a Levite passed by, but both avoided the man. Finally, a Samaritan happened upon the traveler. Although Samaritans and Jews despised each other, the Samaritan helped the injured man. The conclusion is that the neighbor figure in the parable is the one who showed mercy to the injured fellow man—that is, the Samaritan. Jesus shows that brotherly love is to be shown to all men and women who need help. Everyone needs assistance from time to time, and we are commanded to help in anyway we can. Paul wrote in Hebrews 13:1, “Let brotherly love continue.” In Romans 12:10, we are commanded to  “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.”

Romans 12:11-13 describes who we should show brotherly love. We cannot take a pause or delay our diligence. This means we have to show love at all times. Hate is the enemy of God, and it is one of our greatest sins. We may not like someone, but we should never genuinely hate. This is one of the hardest things to do, but we must love with a fervent, zealous, and passionate spirit. This is the way we need to show we are serving the Lord. We have to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and continue steadfastly in prayer. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” If we rejoice in hope, then we are strengthening our faith. 

Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” A friend isn’t afraid to tell us the truth and doesn’t worry about offending us when we are wrong because Proverbs 27:6 tells us, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” The most brotherly thing we can do for a friend is to be honest and tell them the truth when they are wrong so we can all grow and learn something. Insincere flattery gets us nowhere, which is why Solomon wrote in Proverbs 28:23, “He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue” for it is far better to “Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.” (Psalm 141:5). 

In 1 John 4, John uses the Greek word “agape” (as a noun) or as a verb “agapaō,” and this is the highest level of all loves mentioned in the Bible. It is much higher than brotherly love. It is the same love that Jesus showed on the cross and spoke of that God loved the world so much that “He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) The word used for love is “agapaō,” and it is a love that someone has where they are willing to die not only for our loved ones but also for those who hate them and are unworthy. John understood this love because he was there with Jesus during His earthly ministry and observed Him dying on the cross. This must have been what John was thinking about when he wrote in 1 John 4:7-10:

Beloved, let us love (agapaō) one another, for love (agape) is of God; and everyone who loves (agapaō) is born of God and knows God. He who does not love (agapaō) does not know God, for God is love (agape). In this the love (agape) of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love (agape), not that we loved (agapaō) God, but that He loved (agapaō) us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Here we see that God loved us first. God made the first move, and so we should love our fellow humans in a self-sacrificing way, and even if it costs us, we must love.


Pic of the Day


Moment of Zen: Al Fresco Dining

It’s that season again, and I love eating outside, especially with friends.


Pic of the Day

My car needs washing.


Dreams

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.” – Ransom Riggs

I used to hate my life. I wanted to be anything but what I was. I’ve accepted who I am more in the last five years since moving to Vermont than any other time in my life. Yes, I came out of the closet to myself twenty years ago, but I had basically resigned myself to the fact that I am gay. I realized I’d never want to marry a woman or have a romantic relationship with a woman, and if I tried, I’d end up making us both miserable. So, I admitted to myself that I am gay. I’d fought it far too long, and it nearly killed me, literally. I’d always been attracted to men, but I tried to suppress it. I did my best to deny my true self. However, admitting that I am gay is not really the same as accepting myself for who I am. There was always a part of me that wished I was not gay. 

In the last five years, I quit wishing I wasn’t gay. I love being gay. I love accepting who I am and celebrating the fact that I am attracted to men. I want to find a man with whom I can spend the rest of my life. In many ways, I’m a different person than I was twenty years ago when I admitted to myself that I was gay. In fact, I’m a different person than I was five years ago. I am happy with who I have become, and it has made me a happier person. While I did once dream of escaping my ordinary life, I realized, my life, like that of all of our lives, is not ordinary. We are all extraordinary, and we need to celebrate who we are.


Pic of the Day


New Phone

I got a new phone yesterday. Mine was an iPhone 8 and has been running slowly for the past couple of months. The battery has also not been lasting as long as it should have. It was time to get a new one. Verizon sent me an offer that was too good to turn down, and so I bought an iPhone 12 mini. I didn’t want a phone larger than the one I already had, so I got the mini. I know there are other features on the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Max, but I really don’t need those things. So, I bought it online and decided to pick it up from the Verizon Store in Burlington. After I got off work, I headed up to Burlington to get my phone and run a few errands. 

One of the errands was to find some good English muffins. I ate an English muffin made by the Vermont Bread Company every morning. They really were the best. I’ve been trying to find English muffins to replace them because last week, the Vermont Bread Company abruptly closed along with its parent company Koffee Kup Bakery. The two bakeries had been bought out at the beginning of April by an acquisition company that claimed they were going to expand the bakeries. Then after owning the bakeries for a few weeks, they closed them and told the employees as they came to work last Monday that they were out of a job. So far, every Engish muffin I have tried is terribly inferior to the Vermont Bread Company English muffins. The search continues.


Pic of the Day


Bad Mood

I was not in a good mood yesterday. My day started with my boss calling me and telling me that he forgot that a film crew was supposed to be in the museum all day, but that he was home with a sick child and could I go open the museum and babysit them until my other coworker showed up to take over. My boss never cared to tell anybody else at the museum that this filming was taking place, so when my coworker showed up, she had no idea what was going on. She couldn’t do any work because she’s in the process of deinstalling an exhibit and getting ready for the next exhibit but could not do any of that because she couldn’t make any noise because they were filming. I have the disadvantage of being the person who lives closest to work. Whenever they need somebody at the museum quickly, I have to be the one to go. Granted, this was a workday, but it has, at times, been either after hours or on the weekend when they needed somebody to go to the museum for any reason. It always aggravates me because it is like I am on call at all times. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen. I feel like they take advantage of me, and at the same time, I am often left clueless until the last minute about things that are happening at the museum, if I am ever told at all.

Later yesterday, my boss emailed me about taking a work trip in June. A few months ago, he had mentioned me returning some artifacts that we had borrowed from another museum. Still, at the time, it was only going to be me because I’d be fully vaccinated at the time the objects were supposed to be returned. However, now it appears that my boss will be going with me. That part isn’t the worst. The worst is that he and another coworker have been planning this trip that I am supposed to take without consulting me in any way. A week or so ago, I had heard from the other coworker that my boss would be going with me, but he had neglected to tell me anything about it. Yesterday, he sprang it on me that he wants to go a particular week in June. I understand that we are scheduling with other people, and we have to go when they want us to go, but he could have been keeping me in the loop about things the whole time. Instead, I have been shut out of the conversation altogether.

He also informed me that he wants to go and come back on the same day. It’s over a four-hour drive one way, plus we have another side trip we have to take to get another artifact from a restoration place. I had understood that I’d be going, spending the night, and coming back the next day. He knows that I have bursitis in my hip and that I have back trouble, and both conditions cause issues with me sitting for long periods. The over four hours there is non-stop one way, I can’t sit for four hours straight. We will have to make stops so that I can get up and walk around, which will add even more time to the trip. I’d have rather been able to take my time getting there and not have to hurry back to the museum by the end of the day. I made a similar trip a few years ago when we had to go pick up some donations in Washington, DC. We flew down early one morning, picked up the donated artifacts, and then drove back. We ended up stopping and spending the night in Baltimore because it took so long to get out of the DC metro area. The next day we had to drive from Baltimore to Vermont. We had to drop the artifacts off at the museum then go to Burlington, where my car was at the airport. It was a trip from hell. If I were younger, I could make these trips a lot easier, but I am not young anymore. I’m not old, but dammit, I can’t just go like I used to be able to go.

By the way, the week we are supposed to go on this trip is the week of my next set of Botox injections for my migraines. My appointment is Thursday, and I have to drive down to New Hampshire to the Headache Clinic. It’s only an hour, but I refuse to spend all day in a car on Wednesday and then drive an hour to the Headache Clinic the next day. My boss also told me that he could not go on that Monday because it’s his daughter’s birthday. So, I told him we would have to go on Tuesday. I will not miss my appointment, and if something were to happen that delayed us, we could either spend the night or get back late.

I will probably be taking today as a sick day. I’d planned only to take the morning, but after yesterday, I need a mental health day too. I have to go to the dentist this morning to have a broken tooth filled. Hopefully, he will also look at the sore spot on the side of the tooth socket where they removed the tooth two weeks ago. I have been told I should not still be having pain, but this place is swollen to the size of a split pea and looks dark red, almost purple. I’m just prepared for the rest of today to have a sore mouth. It’s going to be hard to eat much besides soup or jello. Dental work: it may be painful, but it makes for an effective diet.

I hope today goes better than yesterday. I was in a foul mood yesterday, and I just couldn’t seem to pull myself out of that funk. I don’t like being bitchy. I prefer to be a pleasant person. Some days, it’s just hard to be pleasant.


Pic of the (Star Wars) Day

May The Fourth Be With You!

And one of my all-time favorite Star Wars themed images: