Isaiah 9:6 “For Unto Us a Child is Born”

Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Reflections:

Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, in the manger in the town of Bethlehem, the prophet Isaiah received a message of God to share with the Israelites in exile in Babylon of their deliverance and restoration as a people and nation. Isaiah saw in the prophecy the deliverer of an everlasting peace.

Now more than ever, I think we need deliverance. We need to step away from the divisive political rhetoric. We need to be much more aware of the consequences of our words, actions, and attitudes with each other and with foreign countries and foreign peoples. We need to cut our arrogance and self-centeredness. We need to be peace makers and not war mongers. We need to stop with the saber-rattling and posturing and boasting. We have been so quick to make enemies we forget how to make friends and allies. We look for the negative in each other and forget there is something positive in each of us. We allow fear and suspicion to dictate our relationships. We allow distrust to cripple our capacity to show compassion.

Cooler heads need to prevail. We need to start taking stock of who we really are and what are common values are. We need to get past the political parties and get beyond the things that divide us and start concentrating on looking out for each other, looking out for our communities and neighborhoods. We need to restore our relationships with each other and with our Creator who put us here on this fragile Earth that is in need of our better stewardship.

We are not taking care of ourselves or each other and we sure as heck seem incapable of taking care of our planet! We need to start making peace. We need to get past the fear propaganda and myths and negative stereotypes and the noise from the 24 hour news stations and go out and see each other face-to-face, eye-to-eye and get to what is real and not fake or phony. We need to learn about each other and realize, deep down, there is more to all of us that is similar than different. We might have different belief systems and different preferences and different faiths or political ideas– but deep down we all just want to get along and live in peace and respect each other and build something meaningful with our lives.

Christ came to us as a bridge builder and peace maker. We can thank God He has come to us to show us a better way. Now we must start to walk the path again and follow His lead. Because right now, we seem to be going in dangerous circles.

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Advent Week 1 and 2: Of Hope and Peace

So far at my church we have celebrated two weeks of Advent, the season where we prepare to celebrate and memorialize the first coming of Jesus Christ, when Christ comes as a child in the world. Each Sunday in the liturgical season of Advent we light a candle. Each candle represents a theme that helps us put things into a kind of spiritual perspective.

The first week of Advent and the first candle we lit at church was based on the theme of Hope. In Scripture, the people of Israel, prior to Christ’s birth, were in exile in Babylon (present-day Baghdad, Iraq) and were hoping for a big return to Jerusalem and a restoration of their temple there. They were hoping to return to the place of their ancestors and be restored as a nation and people after decades in captive exile.

In the book of Isiah the prophet, Isiah prophesied that a Messiah would come to be an answer to prayer and a bringer of hope to a nation of people in need of restoration. More than that though, was the prophesy that the Messiah would restore more than just a broken nation, but a broken world in need of restoration with God. The Messiah would being peace– a lasting and permanent peace between mankind and God and restore the relationship we have with our Creator. This is what most would consider, “The Good News”. News that there would be someone coming to deliver us a way out of this brokenness we feel with the Creator and the world around us and with each other. There would be reconciliation, forgiveness, and restoration of relationships both sacred and more mundane.

In this day and age now, where there is talk of war and rumors of war… and we live in a nation that is bent on ripping itself apart along political party lines and ideologies… hope and peace are becoming less abstract and more vital to our needs. We hope we can build bridges with each other and keep our heads on our shoulders. We hope that there is still something within all of us that can keep us together and keep us unified. We hope that there are values and qualities we can share that overcome differences in politics and ideology. We hope that cooler heads will prevail to keep us from throwing our country into war with the likes of North Korea or Iran. We hope diplomacy isn’t dead. We hope dignity and respect aren’t obsolete. We hope decency and kindness and compassion are. not lost.

We pray for peace and we pray for the courage and strength to stand up for the cause of peace. We pray for the courage to stand up to injustice, bigotry, oppression, discrimination, and violence against the marginalized and minority. We pray for non-violent solutions to violent actions. We want peace and compassion to triumph over this rising culture of hatred and divisiveness we seem to be witnessing.

This year, Advent seems to have much more meaning and greater sense of urgency than I ever experienced before. We are looking for more guidance and more wisdom. We are looking for something to rescue us from ourselves it seems. We have to turn away from our self-destructive attitudes and agendas of hatred and division and start thinking and acting on what it means to be peace makers.

 

Posted in Advent, Equality, Hope, Isaiah, Love, Love thy Neighbor, Peace | Leave a comment

Psalm 18:2 “The Lord is My Fortress”

Psalm 18:2

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Reflection:

For the last four years, since August 1st, 2014, I had been homeless. A homeless transgender woman who was unable to find a job, gain equal access to student teaching placement as a transgender graduate student, and $4,114 in debt. I felt I had no future and I didn’t feel like I had much of a present to speak of. Yet, the Holy Spirit guided me to First Baptist Church of Willimantic, where I found a place to gather my strengths, sort my thoughts, offer my prayers, and find food and the Word of God to nourish me.

I was able to build my support system and find a path out of my horrible situation.

So quite literally, the Lord became the rock on which I could rebuild my life upon. The Lord led me to agencies and church charities and organizations that enabled me to find a decent part-time job and comfortable housing I could afford. The Lord offered me shelter and saw that I would be protected from harm. He delivered me from homelessness. He provided the safe spaces and places I needed to be Rachel when the rest of the world insisted I be someone else less whole and less happy.

God has done all this for me and for what He has done, I humbly offer Him my thanks on Thanksgiving Day.

Amen

Posted in Psalms, Testimony, Thanksgiving, Transgender, Transgender Awareness, Transgender Hope, Truth | Leave a comment

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.

 

 

Posted in Faith, Genesis, Old Testament, Opinion, Self-Reflection | Leave a comment

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