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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

Happy Easter

19 Apr

Happy Easter - He Is RisenI know that not all of my friends are particularly fond of religious holidays and I understand the bias. After all, those of us who have grown up as gay men and women, transgendered or pretty much anything that qualifies as “outside of the norm” have felt the judgment and scorn that is so often served at the hands of someone who identifies as a Christian.

That said, I would ask those same friends who feel less than amicable toward those who celebrate a religious holiday to remember, “Not every Christian (or person following any other faith for that matter) is out to judge and condemn that which [they] see as different.”

We have supporters in the Christian community, just as we have in pretty much every faith that still exists today. Do they outnumber the haters or are their voices as loud? Perhaps not (I don’t know) but it certainly isn’t fair to those who ARE on our side to criticize or diss a holiday that is important to them just because of the more boastful, prideful, self-interested hypocrites who “identify” with their same brand of faith.

I identify as a Christian though I profess there are many things I’ve been taught as a young child that I really don’t believe any longer. To some, that makes me more of a heretic but honestly, I’m not out to impress or seek the approval and favor of my family or my peers who might believe differently than I. My spiritual walk with a higher power is very personal and to put it bluntly, my purpose in this lifetime is for myself to figure out (with the help of my own personal brand of faith and the God that I serve).

Many of my more conservative friends or family probably believe that is a very dangerous bet to hedge. After all, most of those I’ve grown up with have attended the same kinds of churches as me, where the Sunday sermon was all about fire and brimstone. So, to them it may well seem like a huge risk to take, to set aside some of the lessens I was taught as a young child. It may seem to some that my “walk in Faith” is something akin to a fool’s journey, compared to their own beliefs — but it’s my journey alone.

Enough about that though..

Today’s blog entry is my way of reaching out to those who feel hurt, betrayed, scorned and judged by all persons of faith. It is specifically directed at those who identify as gay or lesbian, who have been the focus of MUCH judgment by those professing to be Christians, who now feel angry enough that they’re willing to push back at that same group by dissing that group’s religious holidays (such as Easter).

I get it; I’m gay. I’ve been pissed off in the past and I’m certain I’ll [often] give in to that same anger again and again as those hiding behind religion seemingly attack me or the community of which I’m a part.

But I want to acknowledge the disservice we do ourselves to let THEIR ignorance and hypocrisy turn us into something we are not. We don’t have to give in to the anger and hurt, choosing to respond similarly and attacking “all” persons of faith. That isn’t a very good approach if you stop and think about it because not ALL those who believe are in fact judging us. If you look around you will likely find that many of your own long, trusted friends have ties to one religion or another. We would do well to remember in this day and age that it is more often than not simply an outspoken, ignorant small-percentage who temporarily gain the spotlight, who give others of the faith a black eye in the process. The outspoken among them judge all of us, stereotyping our community and attaching behaviors and values which might seem befitting for some gays and lesbians. We become angry because “we don’t believe those stereotypes apply to us personally” (and odds are many do not).

We would do well to remember this and apply that same analogy as we approach those of faith, such as Christians. “Not every ‘Christian’ is the same.”

And besides, the truth is that we only hurt ourselves if we give the “hypocrites” the power to influence our own attitudes toward an entire group of people. You’re better than that; I’m better than that. There is a better way (and please DO feel free to remind my own sorry self of this when I go totally bonkers and lose my sh#t in the future – because I will – you can trust in that). LOL

In closing and in the spirit of my own faith, I want to wish every person reading, be he or she gay, straight, bisexual, white, black, Mexican or Spanish, Muslim or what-have-you… a very Happy Easter. This holiday is of special significance to many religious faiths; it is significant to my own beliefs as well and in that spirit I simply want to wish each of you peace and harmony.

Namaste,
Michael

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Faith’s foot in the door

13 Mar

This is in response to Davey Wavey’s blog entry of yesterday (2012-Mar-12). DW has always been rather … well, anti-religious and I can understand why he feels the way that he does.

As gay men, women and teens, most of us have experienced the kind of Bible-bashing that pretty much turns the majority of LGBT persons “off” to the slightest possibility of faith and especially, organized religion. You condemn a group of people for just being themselves long enough, you shouldn’t be surprised when they turn and say, “Screw you.” There have been times when I myself have felt this way and I’m a person who considers himself spiritual and faithful (but it does get old after a while, having to constantly endure the prejudice of others who use the Bible as their weapon of choice against you).

Think of it this way; an entire class of people (described by most fundamentalists as “sinners” just for being gay) are made to feel completely unwelcome in the very places of worship that could provide for their/our spiritual needs. Somehow, I don’t really think that was the message that Jesus Christ was attempting to convey all those years ago.

The real problem is that once the damage is done, it’s very difficult to undo. Why else do you think that LGBTQ persons are so quick to lump those who judge us, justifying their bias and prejudice (with religion), into the same category? What started out as prejudice continues to evolve and feed into further prejudice (directed toward the very people who seemingly began the judging). It really is a never-ending, vicious cycle and it doesn’t serve anybody’s best interests.


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A Resource for Labyrinths

10 Mar

A number of people reading my blog (and commenting over on Facebook) have been asking me about labyrinths; what the purpose of same is, as well as where they can find a labyrinth of their own to walk.

I can name a few in the Dallas area (see below) but if you live elsewhere, you’ll need to either do a Google search or ask around. A likely source that might know would be one of the Unity churches in your area.

List of labyrinths in the Dallas, TX area:

  • Unity Church of Dallas: The labyrinth is a painted circle (actually, I believe there are two labyrinths located here) on the back parking lot, furthest away from the church. Unity Church of Dallas is located at 6525 Forest Lane, Dallas, TX 75230. I walk this labyrinth regularly; it isn’t a “beautiful” labyrinth, necessarily, but it serves my purpose. The contact for the church is John Barnes at (972) 233-7106 or via email at jrbarnes@swbell.net
    Location: Outdoors
  • World-Wide Labyrinth Locator: I stumbled across this link while compiling this list tonight and hope to check out a number of the labyrinths that are listed on the page. Upon visiting, I’ll update my list here and make my comments about the experience. To use the locator, click on Home and complete the search criteria in the box on the right side of your screen.
    Located: N/A
  • TLC Labyrinth: Located on the northeast side of the lake near the Richland College Teaching-Learning-Community (TLC) Building, located 12800 Abrams Road, Dallas, Texas 75243. I haven’t visited this labyrinth yet but hope to soon.
    Located: Outdoors
  • Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration: Located at 14115 Hillcrest Road (NW corner of Spring Valley and Hillcrest Roads), this church has what appears to be a BEAUTIFUL labyrinth (located inside). I haven’t walked this labyrinth yet but have heard about it on a couple of different occasions now. I plan to visit and walk this labyrinth soon. The church may be contacted at (972) 233-1898.
    Location: Indoors
  • Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Oak Cliff: Another labyrinth I would like to visit soon (primarily because it is located outdoors and in a woodsy setting). The church is located at 3839 West Kiest Blvd. in Dallas, Texas; Reverend Mark Walz (waltzact2@aol.com) may be contacted at (214) 755-4315.
    Location: Outdoors
  • Cathedral of Hope: I’ve been a member of this church since 1986 (formerly known as Metropolitan Community Church of Dallas, affiliated with Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches). While the “Labryinth Locator” (above) indicates our labyrinth is made of canvas and that you need to call for availability, there IS a “small” outdoor labyrinth that is located off to the right of the church as you are facing it. The church is located at 5910 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas, Texas 75235 (behind the Taco Bell on Inwood Road) and may be accessed from both Inwood Rd. and as well, from Cedar Springs Road. The church may be reached at (214) 351-1901
    Located: Outdoors

I encourage all who are reading to try some form of meditation. We live in a busy and tension-filled world these days and quieting the mind is truly necessary for your own well-being. Walking a labyrinth “may” help you to accomplish this task to some extent. As my own faith is important to me, this is but one way I attempt to quell the everyday stresses and frustrations that find their way into my own life (labyrinths and meditation).

Perhaps the same will be of some use for you.

Namaste and peace be with you,
Michael

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Something to ponder..

04 Mar

“God is a much better idea than religion.”

— Courtesy of Clarke via a comment he made on Davey Wavey’s “Break the Illusion” blog:

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Christian, Religious, Spiritual (Which are you?)

29 Feb

Of course, you could be agnostic, meaning none of the above apply, but…

Another blogger asked his readers to differentiate, in their own words, between being religious and being spiritual earlier this week. I can only speak for myself so here is the comment that I left on his [blog] entry:

One who calls him- or herself “Religious” is, in my opinion, generally a person who narrowly fixates on (follows) one interpretation of faith. That individual believes that the rituals and teachings of his/her faith are the one and only way of meeting God’s expectations, in order to be worthy of His reward. Such persons usually insist that all other persons, regardless of their own personal beliefs, should conform to his/her religious beliefs; else wise, they are (1) “wrong” and their beliefs are dismissed, and (2) those who do not believe the same as the “religious person” will, in the end, be separated from God.

I describe myself as “faithful” and “Spiritual” (but identify as a Christian because of my primary influence and as well, because of my upbringing). However, I also believe that where Love is present, all paths lead to God.

Some make the mistaken assumption that I might believe there is more than one God (I do not). However, God is known by many different names and is worshipped under the influence of many different religions. God, Allah, Yeshua, Spirit or sometimes called The Great Spirit, Yahweh, Vasna, Jehovah, Parwara, Fashutana, Elohim, Eloah, Adonai, HaShem, Khudawand and many others. As regards the name, they are all the same to me. After all, what is in a name? Our own names, the color of our skin, the regions in which we grow up; none of these things are important. What is important is the substance of our being; our actions.

Inasmuch as religions are concerned, I believe there is “some truth to be found within the rituals and teachings of every religion that has, does or will exist at some future point in time. Faith, to me, is a matter of searching for a deeper truth; the truth to and purpose of our very existence. In the end, I believe we will all reunite (or reintegrate) within the body of Christ. We are a “part of” God; that is why we’re called “children of God” (and this is where my belief constructs differ from the traditional teachings of the protestant church).

Jesus Christ was, is and always will be “a” child of God; but God’s only son (or Son)? I disagree with that construct. Jesus is the epitome of what we should strive for (unconditional love, forgiveness, perseverance, etc.) — but to say He is God’s “only” son? Jesus is but one of God’s many sons and daughters; we are all God’s children thus we are all sons and daughters. Just as Jesus, we will, each one of us, return back to that whence we were born of.

Having said this, let there be NO mistake. I am thankful for the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on our behalf; His death and rebirth (for those of us who believe) gave us much to consider over the years that may not have been otherwise possible. I am grateful beyond compare for the sacrifice made on the cross that day.

Bottom line, being religious (in my opinion) represents a belief in “only one construct” whereas being spiritual simply means that while I certainly believe in and am thankful to God, I do not believe there is only one path back into His fold (even if Christianity is the primary influence upon my own faith).

That is how I approach the two and why I generally identify as a Christian who is “faithful and spiritual.”

If anybody else has something to add, I’d certainly be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Namaste and peace be with you,
Michael

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A word about Faith and Reparative Therapy

28 Feb

A friend on Facebook posted a link to an article on the Huffington Post about a UAE Gay “Cure” video that had appeared on Youtube (since removed). He is [rightfully] angry about the fact that in this day and age, such places still exist. I can’t blame him; I too am angry that such abuse still takes place in the name of God.

Having said that, I want to share with you the comment that I made on his post. Maybe it will help you to understand exactly why I feel as I do about these places. (It isn’t that I believe they’ve a chance in hell of “really” changing a person’s sexual orientation. The best that can be expected is that they’ll screw the person up, giving him a feeling of “guilt for ever having such natural (for him or her) feelings in the first place” and delaying their own search for love with a partner to whom they REALLY are attracted.)

No, my anger is actually ALL ABOUT FAITH and the fact that the actions of such institutions are actually causing spiritual injury to their human subjects in the process of carrying out their abuse.

Here is my response:

Yes, this is truly disturbing but please remember that for every nutjob conservative who justifies his or her prejudice behind misunderstood scripture … there are many more [faithful] who are realizing just how wrong such treatment really is. I know that it does not seem that way sometimes but as more and more LGBT persons come out to their families (and this is by no means me encouraging others to come out before they are ready, or to even feel guilty if they choose not to), those same families are starting to question what it was that they were so adverse to in the first place.

Change does not happen overnight, regardless of how badly we would like to see it come to pass.

I’m forty-eight; I’ll be forty-nine in a couple of weeks and I’ve been among those waging the war for LGBT acceptance, understanding, tolerance and equality since I was twenty-one. (Sometimes more actively than at other [times] as it is, quite honestly, exhausting and the setbacks can take a toll on oneself.)

I DO agree with you that we need to strengthen the separation of Church and State (I’ve always believed that); I even believe that religious organizations who are involved in ventures that are implicitly intended to “be profitable” should be taxed as any other business would be.

What saddens me, however, is that when the bigots hide behind their Bibles to project prejudice upon and discriminate against LGBT persons, our community suffers two-fold. I am speaking only for myself but I do find peace in my faith. Unfortunately, many others who “might” find a similar peace are made to feel that God does not love them or that faith is not possible, given that they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. The gift of hope that there could be something more, IN ADDITION to the great lives that are ours to enjoy, is made all the less likely because these same wonderful children of God do not feel welcome. THAT is what really makes my blood boil; that the nut-jobs who hide behind “their false understanding of God’s intent” use their faith AGAINST others and in the very process, diminish the likelihood that those upon whom they prey will find their own path to a faith that serves them well and might help them cope in an otherwise difficult and petty world.

I understand your anger, Robert. I even agree with you. Just please try to remember that those of whom you’re angry at represent the “extremists” among the religious right. They certainly do not speak for myself and they don’t speak for many of those I consider to be my true friends among the faithful.

Namaste and peace be with you (and have some hugs on me)

I hope that anyone reading this entry will have a better understanding of where I’m coming from, when I’m talking about matters related to LGBT equality and acceptance. If you don’t, it’s not for a lack of trying on my part.

Namaste and God bless,
Michael

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Mochas, Misfits and Mazes

20 Feb

The labyrinth at EdinburghEverybody has their own way of coping with the daily stress that seeps into their lives. For me, it is a combination of meditation, prayer and walking a labyrinth.

Labyrinths come in many different forms, from the very elaborate to the modern and ridiculously simple. Their purpose over the years is not exactly clear – or perhaps it would be fair to say that these mazes represent a variety of purposes for different communities and that their use has even evolved over the years.

For instance, it’s thought that in the earliest of times they were sought after as traps for malevolent spirits.

They represented a well-defined path to God, with “God” symbolically placed at their center, in medieval times. These mazes are also symbolic of the pilgrimage to the holy land, such that those who are unable to make the journey can walk along their path as a gesture of one’s reverence and commitment to his or her faith and to God. Ancestral Indians in the New World (the Americas) regard the labyrinth as a sacred symbol of the ultimate ancestor (Spirit/God).

Pretty much all of the above (with the exception of trapping malevolent spirits) illustrate why I myself walk the labyrinths. Doing so affords me time to quiet my mind and talk with God. As well, taking time out of my day to take these walks is a figurative gesture of my own faith and commitment to the One who is Father to all of us.

“The labyrinth is a path of spiritual discovery and awareness. It is a powerful tool of reflection, re- alignment and connecting to deeper knowledge.”

Walk the labyrinth for:

  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Inspiration
  • Clarity
  • Contemplation
  • Personal Growth
  • Peacefulness
  • Insight
  • Health

~ Starlight Ridge Retreat Center

During my walks, I will customarily give thanks for the many blessings I’ve received and pray for courage, wisdom and peace of mind.

No walk is complete (for me) without asking God to look after those who are less fortunate. Of particular interest in recent months are the teens and youth who are both gay and homeless. (Don’t misunderstand; all who find themselves without a place to live are in my prayers but I’ve simply been mindful, of late, of those children who have been tossed out of their homes for being LGBTQ or who ran away because the environment was anything but supportive. Just thinking about the abuse that a child suffers on the street (how they are so often taken advantage of and sexually abused) tears at my heart and assessing why they might be there in the first place leaves me with a level of anger I cannot begin to describe.

So if and when you read I’m off for my nightly walk and talk, you now know what I’m referring to. I’m going out to quiet my mind, give thanks and pray for a bit of help here on earth. God’s love is unconditional but I believe that if you want His help to achieve something, you need to ask for it.

Namaste and peace be with you,
Michael

Related: Labyrinth Meditation

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Gayatri Mantra

15 Feb

This post may seem like a departure from some of my more recent. It isn’t; the intent is still the same, to focus on Love.

As I have said previously, I believe “where love is present, all paths lead to God” (to the Higher Power from which we are all born and remain a part of throughout time). This video was shared by a friend on Facebook; it’s beautiful.

For those wondering, it is a Hindu chant, prayer or mantra (the translation follows)

Gayatri Mantra

Om Bhur bhuvah svahah
Tat savitur varenyamm
Bhargo Devasya dheemahi
Dheeyo yonah prachodayaat.

Translation: (alternate translation at bottom of entry)

OM, O Lord! You are the all pervading Source of Light, Sustainer, Protector and Bestower of Happiness, Kindle, Enlighten and inspire our Intelligence to possess Eternal Qualities.


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Friends and Differences…

09 Feb

Friends, they come in all shapes and sizes!

ROFLMAO! Okay, well… Here’s what’s up! I’m getting ready to head out for a bit, to have my nightly “walk & talk” with Spirit (God). I often walk the labyrinth at a nearby church I sometimes attend – and for me, that involves prayer (both, for what I’d like to see happening in my own life and even more importantly, prayers on behalf of others I perceive as being more deserving at the moment.)

It’s just what I do; it brings me some peace, especially after spending a day working in an atmosphere that is “less than stellar” and then driving in traffic (which I never enjoy) from the office back to my home.

But why am I writing about this tonight? Because I’ve been more vocal recently about the “faithful” side of me and in so doing, I noticed something when I signed on to Facebook this evening to check message and respond to comments.

Shucks! I’d lost some friends!! LOL .

Why am I laughing? Because it’s nothing new; this always happens when my focus changes, either on Facebook or in my blog. It happens most often after I express an opinion on one hot-topic issue or another.

There are classmates I graduated with who don’t take the time to read about what’s happened in my life since attending high school with them way back in the eighties. When they finally get around to doing that, discovering that I’m gay in the process, they might be quick to press the “delete” button. (I grew up in a conservative, small town in New Mexico; most there would like to think there weren’t many of us “gay guys” around town! ROFL… Truth is, we were there but the majority of us knew to lay low till we could get the heck out of town to live our own lives. LOL)

Even so, I’ve got some great friends from my childhood; one of whom has been really supportive in the last day or so. Thank you, Paul, for your message of earlier today; it meant a lot.

Prays Well with Others

There are gay friends with whom I’ve become acquainted with here on Facebook or in real life, who see me talking about prayer, faith and God, etc. or who simply don’t realize how conservative I am about “some” things (for instance, I’m really conservative when it comes to the subject of fiscal responsibility within the government). When they see that side of me, THEY freak out and might press “DELETE!” It’s as if my faithfulness (or being conservative whereas certain issues are concerned) is somehow a threat to some of my more liberal friends — but as I said, there are plenty of examples of “fair weather” friends on both sides of the aisle, conservative and liberal alike.

For the record, I’ve many friends on FB who are gay and aren’t the least bit threatened by my spiritual/religious beliefs; some of them even share similar beliefs.

Then there are the conservative friends whose acquaintance I’ve made online BECAUSE they were first attracted to my messages about spirituality, faith and God – only to later become offended when I take a stand on other issues that are also important to me (such as marriage equality and the like), in the process expressing a more liberal side of myself. It’s as though as long as I’m talking about something they can agree with or relate to, they’re there … but once I take a stand they can’t get behind, they’re gone in a flash.

Seriously??! (“friends” such as those won’t be missed)


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The Mayonnaise Jar

08 Feb

Jar of pebbles

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.” he said.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you…” he told them.

“So… pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

A friend on Facebook shared this with me earlier this evening. The story and the analogy were such that I just had to share it here on my own blog. Thank you, Taft, for sending this to me. As I said earlier tonight, you are special. Never lose hope and always remember that change is both, inevitable and often times for the better. You are in my thoughts and my prayers.

Namaste and peace be with you,
Michael

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