Matthew 11:28-30

Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Reflection:

An invitation no different than, what you would find on the plaque inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This quote comes from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, New Colossus. The promise of sanctuary and rest and freedom is one we all seek from across all cultures, races, nation-states, and religions. We seek a release from the burden of oppression and degradation. We seek freedom from bondage and slavery. We seek relief from our struggles with poverty and hunger and strife. We all hope to find a place where we can all prosper as equals.

Jesus offers this promise, even when nations and governments turn their backs on the less fortunate or the persecuted or marginalized. When even just a portion of the United States government seeks to ban immigrants or refugees from various countries whether they are predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East or South American countries, Jesus’ invitation is above politics. Looking out for those among humanity who are suffering, Jesus looks beyond borders and nationality or race and culture. He sees each person as God sees them, one of His creations and someone worthy of salvation and redemption through faith and grace.

The hypocrisy of white Christian Republican American who claim to uphold and defend Christian values as their own while denying hospitality and safety to the foreign stranger or refugee in need is astounding! They seem to blatantly ignore Jesus’ teachings and promote exclusion and the denial of respect and dignity and human rights in favor of preserving the sanctity of white upper-middle class Christian America. The Islamophobia and xenophobia among some Republican Christians is disturbing and runs counter to the fundamental teaching of Jesus who asked us to love our neighbors, love the strangers among us, and even love our enemies! By denying those unlike us a chance to lay their burdens down and to find peace from oppression or war, these hypocrites are reinforcing age old arguments of racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural superiority. They are declaring by their actions that some are entitled to more than others and that not all are equally valued creations of God.

Whether we are talking about Syrian or Yemeni refugees, or children fleeing human traffickers in South or Central America, or Mexicans fleeing the violence of well-established drug cartels… or LGBT refugees from Chechnya fleeing genocide in a death camp, we have to act on the promise of Jesus and be willing to love these people as much as we would want to be loved; and would we not want hospitality and safety and sanctuary if the tables were turned upon us and we were in need?

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Isaiah 40:8 “The Word of Our God Stands Forever”

Isaiah 40:8

“The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”

(NLT – New Living Translation)

Reflection: 

No matter what the season, no matter what may come and go– good or bad– the one constant that outlives and outlasts is the Word of God. If God says all His creations are worthy of love, redemption, salvation, mercy, grace, compassion, and sanctification, you better believe that His promise is everlasting. Through God, the everlasting, all things are possible and within His domain.

And whatever is lost or taken or left to decay or rot, He can restore if it is His will. He can bring life to the dead. He can give spiritual and physical fulfillment. He can grant freedom and mercy for the persecuted and oppressed. He can open hearts and minds and invite justice to rein over corruption. And God has all authority to make right what has been wrong. He can set straight the path that needs to be followed.

God’s love and compassion cannot falter or weaken. God cannot back down from a challenge or opportunity. God will not quit on us or ever fully forsake us in our times of need. While we may never fully understand the nature of God or understand how God works with us, through us, or around us… be assured God is always working and is always present.

 

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Ecclesiastes 10:11

“If the snake bites before it is charmed, there is no advantage in a charmer.”

Ecclesiastes 10:11 (NRSV)

Reflection:

This little bit from Ecclesiastes made me think and ponder more deeply than usual because I was looking for a broader context or application. The purpose of the snake charmer is to charm the snake and prevent the snake from biting and striking at the charmer and those nearby. Obviously if the snake bites before it can be charmed, then there is nothing the charmer can do but hope the venom doesn’t kill him and hope he can prevent the next strike– provided he can charm this snake after a botched first attempt.

If a teacher or mentor or guide is trying to steer people away from making some huge mistake, it would seem vitally important to reach this person or student before he or she could make that huge misstep. Ecclesiastes seems to  be suggesting that a mentor, guide, or teacher is only valued if he or she is successful– which makes sense. Mistakes can be costly, this passage states. Not being prepared and skilled in one’s profession is dangerous as well.

Another thought– giving the snake an opportunity to strike before it can be charmed makes a charmer worthless. If you do not act quickly to guide the lost or teach the student or prevent the sin… if you provide opportunity for sin to occur or for ignorance to thrive or for foolishness to spread, then your intentions to avoid these things is kind of moot and easily undermined.

If you know the nature of sin and can predict when something bad might happen and do not prepare or act accordingly– and you allow it to happen– you can only expect a negative result to occur.

But does this Scripture quote suggest that care taken after the sin or after the wound is of no value? If you cut yourself and don’t apply a bandage, won’t you just bleed out and do more harm? If after a mistake is made you don’t attempt to learn better or be more careful and attentive, then aren’t you sort of dooming yourself to repeat the mistake?

I think the overall message just from this quote suggests that preparation makes all the difference. Paying attention makes all the difference. Providing opportunities for sin to occur or for mistakes to happen undermines the efforts you could be making to getting things done right the first time.

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1 Samuel 17 “David and Goliath”

So one of the most classic stories of the Bible is the story of David and Goliath. It is the classic story of the underdog kid with attitude and sling taking down the well armored boastful giant.

In looking at this story from a more symbolic perspective, I see that each and every one of us has to face a personal Goliath in life– maybe even more than one Goliath. Maybe our “Goliath” is poverty or homelessness… maybe our “Goliath” is discrimination or bigotry and hatred. We each face a problem that at face value seems overwhelmingly huge and beyond our means to tackle. Whatever our monumental obstacle in life is, we often feel like it is a monumental giant problem we cannot overcome.

But there are two sides to the David and Goliath story! David obviously defeated his Goliath with two major keys to victory. #1 was confidence and a winning attitude. He had confidence that God was on his side and would have his back. He had confidence that God would not let him face his Goliath alone. The #2 key to David’s victory was that he had the necessary tools to get the job done– whether it was his quick wit and skill with a slingshot or his strong throwing arm and keen aim, David had used his tools wisely.

In my own life, my Goliath would be discrimination, bigotry, ignorance and hatred. If I had a dime for every time someone called me the F-word or called me “she-male” or misgendered me out of spite, I wouldn’t be homeless for sure… and I’d be feasting on steak and lobster every night. Yet I am confident that God has my back and that He knows my heart and knows my inner struggles to be an honest and sincere person. And when I am faced with a bigot or hater, I arm myself with that confidence and the wisdom to defuse the tension and conflict by either leaving the scene or applying humor or diplomacy.  There is no sense in fanning the flames or adding fuel to the fire. If I can avoid the conflict, I simply walk away. If however, I can do something to inform, teach, or help someone understand, I come armed with patience and information and honesty.

I also recognize that for many people, dealing with their Goliath requires a support system. When your Goliath is bullying and harassment or discrimination or persecution or even abandonment, the best tool in dealing and coping with these giant problems is to have a support system of friends, a trusted therapist, maybe a priest or pastor who is open and affirming, an LGBT support group, access to social media outlets for information and social services, etc. Building a support system or support network is the most valuable tool you can have! That way, you will never be alone and you will have the help and resources you need to deal with the crisis that may come up or the challenges of day-to-day living.

David was not alone when he faced Goliath. He had God on his side. You have God on your side  and you have the opportunity to reach out to others as well for help. Do not be ashamed or afraid of seeking help. You are gathering the tools and resources and allies you need to face your Goliath.

Posted in 1&2 Samuel, Faith, Inspiration, Self-Reflection | Leave a comment

On the Subject of Fear

Never let fear of others’ evil dictate the good you can do.

Never let fear of failure keep you from trying to succeed. Success only comes from trying and doing. You cannot succeed at something if you do nothing.

Never let the wrongs people do to you keep you from doing the right things for others and for self.

Fear can warn us of danger.

Fear can help us avoid danger but it cannot help us overcome danger. Only wisdom and courage can help us overcome danger. God can grant us that wisdom and courage.

Facing fear is not the same as rushing into danger and risking one’s life to overcome what could kill us. Facing fear is having the wisdom to know that you have power to live as full a life as possible.

You may be afraid of bullies, harassment, violence, discrimination, hazing, conflict, and any number of things that could harm you. These are reasonable fears. Yet what is not reasonable is having to live in fear of living. What is not reasonable is to be a slave to bullying, violence, harassment, and discrimination. To face these fears, you will need to stand up to bullies, gather with others and fight discrimination and harassment. You will need to have the wisdom to walk or run from violence and never feed the flames that would provoke someone. Have the courage to walk away and say to yourself, “Not my monkeys, not my zoo.” You can do better than to let someone try and antagonize you. You deserve more than the insanity and stupidity and intolerance of others. If they want to pull you into their circus of dumb, walk away from it.

Build your support system of friends and family. Be active in the LGBT community. Find your allies. Be an ally to others. Get hooked up on social media like Facebook and look for LGBT Support Groups and arm yourself with the resources that can best help you deal with fear, anxiety, depression, dysphoria, and discrimination. Get the hotline numbers for GLAAD, National Transgender Law Center, the ACLU, Trevor Project, True Colors, and others. Never think you are alone! You are not alone. There are many resources! You have to do your homework and look for these outlets and make use of them!

Posted in Editorial, Hope, Inspiration | Leave a comment

Joshua 1:9

Joshua 1:9

“I command you be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Reflection:

God has your back. He has your front as well. Be assured that He is beside you as well. Whenever you feel alone or backed in a corner or feel threatened or afraid or put in a seemingly impossible situation, know that God is where you need Him to be. God is watching over you and has only your best interests in His heart. God is all-loving and all-merciful and He is aware of the evils that often threaten us. He is aware of the challenges we face because in many ways, Jesus, his son, faced some of them as well– and faced death! Not only did Jesus face death, but he overcame it with the resurrection. Jesus has overcome the ultimate obstacle and God gave him the means to do so.

If you have faith in God’s power and put your trust in Jesus, you will be able to find your courage and gather your strengths and make God proud to call you His child and heir. All God’s children stand to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. You can take confidence in that Christ will be your advocate and savior. The problems of the world will just melt away when you know that your soul is loved and protected and cared for. God will find a way. Nothing is beyond God’s control. Think about that.

 

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James 5:11

James 5:11 (NIV)

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Reflection:

Whatever your struggle in life either as LGBT or ally, believe that God will find a way to restore you and empower you. God did not put you on this Earth to suffer pain and anguish. God did not put you on this planet to punish you. God is a God of love and compassion and mercy– not a God of chaos, confusion, desolation, or destruction.

Never forget that as much as God is at work, so is Satan. But as hard as Satan works to undermine your spiritual growth and personal success story, God is on your side and God ultimately wins His battles for your safety, security, and salvation.

It may be hard to have faith when things are looking grim and you are sitting in a gutter and feeling like you’re at rock bottom. But give God a chance and let Him work through you. There is a good chance that God has empowered you with the gifts, talents, skills, and abilities you need to push through. God will help you overcome.

If a little kid with a slingshot named David can take down a giant like Goliath, you too can find victory over any mountain-sized obstacle. Have faith and be confident that you are blessed with a creative mind– and maybe it will take some creativity to see past a problem.

Posted in Faith, Hope, Inspiration, James | Leave a comment