Colossians 3:12-14

Colossians 3:12-14 – NIV
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Reflections:
I’ve probably visited this particular Scripture verse before on this blog but I feel it is worth another visit especially in present circumstances. With all the violence, sadness, depression, anxiety, hatred, and animosity surrounding us and corrupting the atmosphere and invading our lives, it becomes ever more important for us to find our core set of values and express them without fear or reservation.
The world needs more kindness and compassion. The world needs more love. We must be the instruments of change we wish to see in this world. We must let our individual lights shine out and illuminate! We must show people around us that there is a better way than to hate and divide and oppress. There is a better way to deal with violence and that is to start caring for those who may be inclined to violence and uplift those who have been victimized by violence as well.
Charlie Chaplin, in his world famous speech featured in the film, “The Great Dictator”, had said, “Only the unloved hate…”. Consider that if hate begets hate and violence gets violence and those that live by the sword (or gun) die by the sword (or gun), can it not be said then that those that live by love will give and receive love? If loving creates love and compassion creates or enables compassion, isn’t that the goal? Isn’t that what needs to be done? How can we inject more empathy and open-heartedness in the world we want to see? By being more open-hearted ourselves and to be more outreaching and less judgmental or condescending or divisive ourselves.
We have to reach out to all people who are hurting inside so that in turn, we show them there is another path. Those who hurt inside could go on to hurt others.
I am talking about dealing with depression, anger issues, anxiety, folks afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorders… I am talking about people dealing with emotions that overwhelm them and shatter them and break them. We have to reach the emotionally challenged and disabled and love them and care about them.

Care about the hurt before that hurt fuels violence and self-hate.
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A God of Many Voices

Through God, all things are possible. God is infinite, God is all-knowing, God is all powerful, and God is beyond our mortal comprehension. So why is it that we humans tend to box God in or approach God with a sort of possessiveness? Why do we claim God can only be this way or that way or manifest specifically according to our culture and not  all cultures? Why do we enable or allow or perpetuate this notion that God could only be a bearded white man in the clouds who speaks only to Christians of the Mid-West for example or the Bible Belt? Why do we hold such narrow minded ideas about what God can or cannot be or what He could or could not love or tolerate or believe or convey to His creations?

Why do we assume that one religion or faith is the one true faith? Why do we assume that our faith or religion or spiritual path is the right one and the only one God would favor?

Why wouldn’t God speak to His creations in the languages they would understand? Why wouldn’t God manifest to His creations in the manner that they would comprehend or understand? Could God speak to a Muslim with the same intentions and message and clarity as He would a Jew or Christian or Taoist or Buddhist or aboriginal priest or shaman? Could God be the common source of all expressions of spirituality and faith?

If God were reserved for only one specific group of people or one specific culture and their one language, what incentive is there then to want to convert to such an exclusive group that would not accept you? Why believe in a God or faith that does not include you? Why believe in any faith or religion if the message was never intended for you? If people are going to push you away because of your differences and divergent thoughts and ideas about theology and religion, why would you want to be a part of it?

I believe God is a God of relationships. God is seeking to establish relationships that are whole and not broken with all of humanity. He (or She) created us to be in union with each other and with our Creator. The intention was for all of us to be in union– intent-connected, inter-related, co-arising, and co-existing in a harmonious balance under our Creator.

But it was Mankind’s arrogance and desire to be as God or surpass God or to be independent of all the forces that make us who and what we are that forced God’s proverbial hand to separate us from each other by language and culture and so on. As in the story of the Tower of Babel found in the Torah and the Old Testament. Mankind aspired to be more than what God intended for us– we were not satisfied with our achievements or God’s generosity. So God diversified the populations and set us apart from each other.

Why? So that God can teach us humility and the importance of relationships and the consequences of arrogance. We think we know everything we think we can control everything but in reality, there are forces and energies overseeing us every moment that are well beyond our control and comprehension. The moment we think we can pull a fast one on God, God has a way to remind us of His sovereignty.

So while we are a scattered and diverse peoples and we have many languages and cultures and paths of faith and belief, we must all put in more effort in our relationships to return to that common union we have with God. We must prove our willingness to make whole what our actions have scattered. We must come to grips that while it may be in our natures to form cliques and sub-groups and factions and sects and for us to separate from each other– God’s plan was and is entirely different. If we ever expect to be one with God, we have to consider how we can be one with each other.

Food for thought.

 

 

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Zephaniah 3:17

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Reflection: 

God, the Ultimate and Eternal Creator delights in you. He created you. He created you and loves you. There would be no point in Him creating something or someone He does not love. And He so loved the world that He bestowed upon all Mankind the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, His only son. Even when God granted us free will and knew we might be tempted or led astray into sin by Satan and his angels or influences, God still provided a means for us to repair our relationships with Him. God continues to provide a way out of sinfulness and disconnection by granting us the opportunities to reach out to the Holy Spirit and to Jesus for our salvation and redemption.

Even in the midst of our sins and in the days and nights we might rebel against God, our Creator, Jesus is willing to forgive our sins and redeem us. And in the process of forgiveness, Jesus will not condemn us. He will not turn away from those that sincerely repent and seek forgiveness. Those who admit their faults and are humbled in shame and guilt, he will not rebuke or cast out from redemption and salvation. He will advocate for us and stand with us before God and redeem us– he will sing and rejoice over our willingness to be clean once again.

God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit work in tandem to be connected with us. They work together to protect us and keep us safe from our sins. They work together to heal us and uplift us and empower us to be better people. They work together to seal our wounds and fill our voids and ease our burdens and sufferings.

 

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There is a Movement

 

There is a movement in the international community to respond to the crackdown in Egypt and in other countries against LGBT individuals. Governments in Egypt, Russia, and many countries where the ultra-conservative theologically based rhetoric or socially conservative ideology seems to dictate policy, and elsewhere, have made it their mission to persecute, prosecute, discriminate, and even punish and kill people solely based on their sexual orientation or gender expression and gender identity.

Some observe or note that many Islamic predominant countries are especially focused on anti-LGBT legislation, laws, and punishment. The truth is, we have LGBT hatred and violence coming at us from a wide spectrum of governments, and cultures, and religions. But the ultimate origin of this hate and bigotry and persecution is from people more than  institutions and attitudes based in ignorance rather than a particular religion or form of government or “ism”.   Governments and religious institutions can choose to support or bolster these harmful attitudes and ideas– they may even sponsor or promote these harmful and inhuman ideas and practices.

But ultimately, hearts must be changed! People must become aware of what is happening. People must understand what it means to be LGBT and why gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, transgender and queer people are just as deserving of human rights as anyone else. People need to develop an understanding that LGBT people are not freaks of nature or sub-human deviants bent on destroying society.

One way to illustrate how human we are and how equal we need to be among the rest of humanity is for us to continue to raise visibility and continue to speak up and speak out against injustice and the criminalization of our identities and sexuality. We need to also speak out about our everyday lives and everyday struggles to be accepted and included. People need to understand that we want to work, play, pray, have families, and have productive lives just like everyone else around us. We are not monsters and we are not abominations or infidels or blasphemous corruptors or sexual predators or any of that nonsense. We are people and we are trying to prove that.

 

Posted in Editorial, Equality, Freedom, Inspiration, Islam, Islamophobia, LGBT History, Muslim Queer Culture, Opinion, Peace, Pride | Leave a comment

The Challenge of Belief

How does someone believe in something or someone they cannot see, hear, touch, taste, or smell? How can we believe in an all-loving, all-powerful God when tragedies happen, genocide occurs, wars erupt, innocent lives are taken, disease runs rampant, famines, plagues, epidemics, and evil thrives?

That is the challenge every person faces and questions I think every soul honestly ponders upon at least once in their lives.

How do we know God exists? How can we be sure there is a heaven or even a hell… let alone a God overseeing every aspect of our lives, trying to guide us, protect us, save us… when it’s so obvious that humanity seems bent on self-destruction and it appears as though God is indifferent or unable or unwilling to intercede?

 

You cannot specifically touch, taste, smell, hear, or see gravity. Yet you can experience its impact upon your body, keeping you firmly planted on this Earth. Gravity is not something you can put in a jar and label or quantify like an assortment of jelly beans or like a typical specimen of organisms. Yet you can observe gravity’s effect on self and others. You know it exists even if you do not fully comprehend how or why it exists or manifests. Gravity on Earth differs from gravity on the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Saturn, and Pluto and other planetary bodies in space. Forces like speed, inertia, mass, volume, molecular composition all relate to gravity… but what is it? What is it really? Just the interaction of unseen forces interacting with the physical properties of an animate or inanimate object?

You cannot specifically touch, taste, smell, hear, or see love. Yet you can experience love in how it is expressed from someone to you. You can observe expressions love between a father and son, a mother to daughter, two lovers, between a child and a pet kitten, and so on. You can observe expressions of emotional outpouring and attachment but what precisely is love? How do you quantify or classify it? Love is not something that can be standardized or clearly defined. It is not a substance. Is it only an emotion or is it a manifestation of something generated by an interpretation from our brains to stimuli that interacts with hormones? Is it a chemical thing, a psychological thing?

 

There are forces at work that we clearly cannot see, cannot touch, taste, or smell. But we can be impacted by them and experience them. We can see the byproducts and can observe what happens to our environment around us when these unseen forces interact and affect our world.

 

We know that we exist. We know that so far, ours is the only planet in the Solar System and perhaps Milky Way galaxy that can support carbon-based lifeforms as we know them. How we came to be as we are today was the result of a long process of creation, evolution, development, adaptation, and interaction with forces beyond our full comprehension and understanding. We continue to learn and explore and we strive to make sense of the clues we have been given.

Something greater than ourselves is at work upon us. And who is to say conclusively that there isn’t some great designer behind the designs that dictate the patterns and chaos and phenomena of life?

Suppose I propose that the force that inspires us to love and show compassion and empathy stems from the Holy Spirit? The unseen force that motivates us to react to injustice and hatred and violence comes from the Holy Spirit? Suppose inspiration comes to us not just from our environment and from the people and places that hold our interest– but from some energy that moves us to be open and giving and expressive and creative and passionate. If you wonder where inspiration comes from, suppose you consider it comes from the Holy Spirit.

 

And suppose it was an unseen hand– that or the breath of an unseen Creator– that brought the Holy Spirit into being. Suppose or consider the possibility that there is some eternal energy or central energy source from which all unseen forces are generated and established and originated. Some catalyst that sparked the birth of suns and stars and other astronomical phenomena. Everything had a beginning and point of origin. Where was it, what was it? How did it all come to be? Something occurred to turn void into what we see today. Some chain of events was set into motion– who or what tipped over that first domino in the chain?

We still don’t know for certain. We can only suppose and ponder and investigate and consider. Yet humanity has stories, creation myths, creation narratives… humanity has passed on stories in the oral and written traditions of experiences with these unseen forces and energies working in their lives, impacting their environments. Mankind has experienced things Mankind cannot fully explain or quantify and Mankind has kept records of these experiences… these incredible experiences. So incredible they call them holy or sacred or divine. These stories are kept in the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, the Vedic literature, the Tao Te Ching, and so on… and so on…. Every culture and every nation and every people on Earth has sacred stories to explain the experiences they’ve had with the unexplainable and unseen and unknowable known.

I believe there is something beyond me at work. I believe free will moves us to explore, hurt as well as heal, love as well as hate, think as well as reject, open as well as close… and so on. I believe something greater than ourselves moves us and inspires us to do what we do…. something drives our passions and inspires us… and I believe that something also powerful but menacing inspires us to hate, murder, kill, destroy, and corrupt. There are forces in conflict all around us… influencing us… forces that fight to influence us. We cannot see, touch, taste, feel, or know them fully… but we know they exist because of the impact we experience when we are in contact with them.

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James 1:12 “Blessed is the One Who Perseveres!”

James 1:12 NIV — “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

Reflection:

A lesson in perseverance. Given recent developments in the United States and current events that seem to target the LGBT community negatively and specifically, it becomes disheartening to think things will ever get better or be where they need to be. Between Trump’s “turn-back-the-clock” administration trying to undo all the social and civil rights progress made by former President Barak Obama, and the rise of anti-LGBT bigotry and violence against the transgender community, it becomes so important for the LGBT community to remain strong, visible, and vocal about injustice, discrimination, bigotry, and hate crime. It is important for the community to stick together and to build solidarity and to stay united.

There is strength in numbers and strength when we all come together against a common foe– in this case our foe is injustice and discrimination and persecution.

Believe that God stands on the side of equality and justice. Believe that God is a God of love and compassion and mercy. Believe that God wants the best for us and wants to be loved and respected as equals among His creations.

Believe that in the United States, there is hope. There is hope in the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and are endowed with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

There is also hope in how we respond to these injustices and unfair laws and legislation. We can march upon Washington, we can protest peacefully in the ballot box, we can communicate our concerns to our representatives in Congress.

Behind every protest though, there should be prayer for guidance and a prayer for strength. We can even pray to open hearts and minds towards compassion and empathy.

 

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We Will Reap a Harvest

Galatians 6:9

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” NIV
Reflection:
In times of tragedy and somber reflection over loss and incredible misfortunes, it can be with God’s strength and courage that we rise up to respond to evil and tragedy and loss with compassion, kindness, goodwill, generosity, and love. I am thinking of the mass shooting in Las Vegas and the recent hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria that have devastated the Caribbean and states of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida as well as the islands of Barbuda and Puerto Rico and others.
When we are thrown in chaos and tragedy and loss, we are appointed times to mourn of course, but there does come a time when we must act and respond. We must pray and think outwardly and apply ourselves to meeting the needs of those in desperate situations. We must truly love our neighbors and look to helping them achieve their basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and medical provisioning. We must appeal to a sense of shared humanity. We must believe that we are all united under God and that everyone deserves care and compassion.

We must do unto others as we would want done unto us. The Golden Rule. Wouldn’t we want help if we suffered tragic losses and devastation? Are we not all in this world together? Are we so divided by race, culture, language, politics, and geography that we cannot possibly achieve some kind of solidarity in face of something as universal as a natural disaster or evil at the hands of killers and terrorists?

When we can lift each other up, don’t we gain a better sense of community? Don’t we stand stronger as a united people than a divided people? Isn’t there truth to the proverb about there being strength in numbers? When we can help others, don’t we feel a greater sense of brotherhood and a sense of accomplishment and well-being?
While we may feel overwhelmed by the tasks at-hand, if we trust in God to grant us strength and resources, if we gather together and stand up for justice, fairness, equality, and the triumph of the human spirit, won’t we accomplish great things together?
When good people gather together for a good cause, only good things can happen.
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