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.

Sick

I’ve been sick this weekend.


Testing Your Faith 

My preacher often tells the story that each time he asks his wife what he should preach on this week, she always answers, “The Book of James.”  I’ve yet to hear him preach on the book of James, but there are some wonderful passages in James that I would like to share with you over the next few weeks.  The first passage is known as “Testing Your Faith.”
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.  For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
James 1: 5-18
James regards trials of life as inevitable. He says when, not if you fall into various trials. At the same time, trials are occasions for joy, not discouraged resignation.  I know that sounds like a difficult task, but if we believe that God has a plan for each of us, then we know that the trials will lead to something greater.  We can have joy in the midst of trials, because trials are used to produce patience.
Patience is the ancient Greek word hupomone. This word does not describe a passive waiting, but an active endurance. It isn’t so much the quality that helps you sit quietly in the doctor’s waiting room as it is the quality that helps you finish a marathon.  The ancient Greek word hupomone comes from hupo (under) and meno (to stay, abide, remain). At its root, it means to remain under. It has the picture of someone under a heavy load and resolutely staying there instead of trying to escape. The philosopher Philo called hupomone “the queen of virtues.”
Faith is tested through trials, not produced by trials. Trials reveal what faith we do have, not because God doesn’t know how much faith we have, but to make our faith evident to ourselves and those around us.  If trials do not produce faith, what does? Romans 10:17 tells us: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Faith is built in us as we hear and understand and trust in God’s word.
Trials don’t produce faith, but when trials are received with faith, it produces patience. But patience is not inevitably produced in times of trial. If difficulties are received in unbelief and grumbling, trials can produce bitterness and discouragement.  The work of patient endurance comes slowly, and must be allowed to have full bloom. Patient endurance is a mark of the person who is perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
The act of faith and patience is given to us through God’s infinite wisdom.  If we have faith in God, then we can ask his for his guidance.  In my nightly prayers, I always begin with “Lord, please forgive me of my sins.  Help me to be a better person and to follow the path that you have chosen for me.”  God knows that path, and he calls us to follow it. Matthew 7:13-14 says:  “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Life is filled with trials and temptations but our faith can guide us through that narrow gate.  We must remain steadfast and patient, for God says we must stand the test to receive the crown of eternal life.  We will be tempted and lured and enticed to follow our own desires, but if that desire is given birth through sins, or if desire gives birth to sin, then we must have the patience to resist.  If we resist, the rewards will be great.
We must remember that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” which comes down to us from our God in Heaven.  So the next time that you are feeling like there is no hope, that the world is against you, or the trials seem too burdensome, rejoice in God and he will lead you through the troubled times.  Have faith and patience and you will receive joys and eternal rewards.


Moment of Zen: Snuggling 


Pump Jockey, Part II

On Saturday, I wrote about the short story “Pump Jockey.” While I enjoyed the short story, I’m afraid some may have thought that I was recommending the longer book The Winter of My Discotheque. The truth is, I wouldn’t particularly recommend the book that expanded on the short story. The book wasn’t terrible, but from what I remember of it, it’s not one I’d highly recommend either. However, Rebel Yell: Stories by Contemporary Southern Gay Authors from which the short story came, is highly recommended. I also recommend Rebel Yell 2: More Stories by Contemporary Southern Gay Authors. The two short story collections have everything from gay southern gothic to just good old storytelling.


Just a Matter of Time

Ending guidance from the Obama administration, Trump’s new policy aims to allow states to establish their own rules for transgender students in some settings — such as requiring transgender boys to use the girls restroom — without objection from the federal government.

The Trump administration on Wednesday issued new guidelines that roll back an Obama administration policy that had been designed to reduce anti-transgender discrimination in public schools.

In issuing new school guidance, the Department of Justice and Department of Education sent a letter to public schools that said the departments “have decided to withdraw and rescind the above-referenced guidance documents in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved. The Departments thus will not rely on the views expressed within them.”

“Please note that this withdrawal of these guidance documents does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying, or harassment.”

Originally issued last May, the Obama-era guidance told schools they “must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.” While that was not a new position for the government under Obama, it was the most explicit interpretation of existing law, concluding that transgender students must be allowed access to gender-appropriate restrooms and locker rooms.

The government said at the time that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans sex discrimination in public schools, also bans transgender discrimination as a form of sex discrimination, and warned that schools breaking the rules could lose federal funding.

Despite the federal government’s position, states and local school districts could adopt their own transgender-inclusive rules — and those with existing rules will remain in place. Trump’s latest guidance also does not block individuals or advocacy groups from raising their own complaints in federal court that a transgender student’s rights have been violated.

James Esseks, who oversees the ACLU’s litigation on behalf of a transgender student in Virginia, told reporters on a call Tuesday, “Courts enforce Title IX and courts at the end of the day decide what the scope of Title IX is.”

Withdrawing the guidelines was widely expected, given Trump’s nod to state’s rights on the campaign trail, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer announcing that a new policy was imminent. The new guidance also dovetails with the Justice Department’s decision this month to step away from defending the guidance in a federal appeals court.

Still, a fight broke out between factions of the Trump administration, when US Attorney Jeff Sessions pressed to reverse the guidance and ran up against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, according to a New York Times report on Wednesday.

Both of their agencies, the Justice Department and Education Department, which issued the guidance last year, had to concur on any new guidance. Citing three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions as sources, the Times said Trump sided with Sessions after a meeting in the Oval Office, leading DeVos to capitulate.

At a White House Press briefing, however, Spicer played down those fractures Wednesday afternoon, noting that “there’s no daylight between anybody between the president, between any of the secretaries” and said DeVos was on board “100%.” While officials considered legal and procedural issues, he said, “where you might be hearing something” relates to timing and wording of the new guidance.

Spokespeople for the agencies did not respond to inquires about the new policy on Wednesday.

Overriding the old guidelines will likely have little short-term impact on schools — the old guidelines were suspended by a federal court last summer. Most immediately, the move could neutralize lawsuits from more than a dozen states that had challenged the policy and could be a factor in a case scheduled before the Supreme Court next month.

The new guidance was submitted to the Supreme Court on Wednesday night as an attachment to a letter announcing the move in that case.


Nothing 

I have nothing for today. Come back tomorrow when I hope inspiration will strike.


Protest

Protest
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox

To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
No vested power in this great day and land
Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
Loud disapproval of existing ills;
May criticise oppression and condemn
The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
That let the children and childbearers toil
To purchase ease for idle millionaires.

Therefore I do protest against the boast
Of independence in this mighty land.
Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link.
Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave.
Until the manacled slim wrists of babes
Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,
Until the mother bears no burden, save
The precious one beneath her heart, until
God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed
And given back to labor, let no man
Call this the land of freedom.


Monday, Monday 

I have this morning off to go and get my car inspected. I dread sitting and waiting on my car, but what other choice do I have. I’ve always hated going to the mechanic. Now if my mechanic looked like the one above, I might not hate it so much, but alas, he doesn’t. In fact the mechanic that I go to is owned by a woman. They seem the most fair mechanics I’ve ever dealt with.


Temptation 

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But he answered, “It is written, 

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” 

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, 

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ 

and 

“‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” 

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, 

‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”. Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, 

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” 

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Matthew 4:1-11
As the passage above shows, Christ faced temptation, though because he was God in flesh, he only faced temptation by Satan, but was not tempted. Temptation is something we all face as Christians, no matter how long we have been following Christ.  There are a few practical things, however, that we can do to grow stronger and smarter in our struggle against sin. We can learn how to avoid temptation by practicing these five steps.

Recognize your tendency toward sin.
James 1:14 explains that we are tempted when we become enticed by our own natural desires. The first step toward avoiding temptation, is recognizing our human tendency to be tempted by our own fleshly desires. Temptation is a given, so don’t be surprised by it. Rather, expect to be tempted. Be prepared for it.

Run away from the temptation.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  When you are face to face with temptation, look for the way out that God has promised and then run as fast as you can.

Resist with the Word of truth.
Hebrews 4:12 says God’s Word is living and active. Did you know you can carry a weapon that will make your thoughts obey Jesus Christ? If you don’t believe me, read 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 One of these weapons is the Word of God.

Though it can be helpful to read God’s Word when you’re being tempted, sometimes that’s not practical. Even better is to practice reading the Word daily, so that eventually you have so much of it inside, you are ready whenever temptation comes. If you are reading through the Bible regularly, you will have the full counsel of God at your disposal.

Refocus with praise.
How often have you been tempted to sin when your heart and mind were fully concentrated on worship to the Lord? Praising God takes your focus off of yourself and puts it on God. You may not be strong enough to resist temptation on your own, but as you focus on God, he will inhabit your praise. He will give you the strength to resist and walk away from the temptation. May I suggest Psalm 147 as a good place to start.

Repent quickly when you fail.
In several places the Bible tells us the best way to resist temptation is to flee from it (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). Yet still we all fail from time to time. We fail to flee. Notice I didn’t say, repent quickly if you fail. Having a more realistic view—knowing that at times you will fail—should help you to repent quickly when you do. It is not the end of the world when you fail, but it is very dangerous to persist in your sin. Going back to James 1, verse 15 explains that sin “when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

The following prayer may also bring some solace when we face temptation:
Dear Lord, 
You know the temptations that I am facing today. But your Word promises that I will not be tempted beyond what I can bear. I ask for your strength to stand up under the temptation whenever I encounter it. Your Word also tells me you will provide a way out of the temptation. Please, Lord, give me the wisdom to walk away when I am tempted, and the clarity to see the way out that you will provide. Thank you, God, that you are a faithful deliverer and that I can count on your help in my time of need. 
Amen

Moment of Zen: Pump Jockey


This picture reminds me of the book The Winter of Our Discotheque by Andrew W.M. Beierle. It begins with the story of a surfer who is washing off the salt water behind a gas station when a customer pulls up. He quickly gets into his coveralls but doesn’t zip them up and leaves them undone, enough to see his wet pubic hair. The story then continues from there and I am doing it no justice because it is one of the single sexiest things I’ve ever read in literature. Before it became the beginnings of a novel, it was featured as a short story in Rebel Yell called “Pump Jockey.”


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