Ordinary Things Becoming Miracles

I got to thinking this morning about how each of us is endowed with a variety of skills and talents and abilities– not all of which need to be extraordinary or spectacular. I got to thinking that some of the things about ourselves that we might take for granted, like abilities or skills, might look differently when used to help someone in need or in a desperate situation. Imagine the impact a hug could make to someone who is scared, lonely, or depressed. Imagine the difference that could be made in the life of someone disabled and stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire. Imagine the change in a person’s outlook for the day when someone is willing to just listen for a while and have a chat.

Ordinary things can make extraordinary differences in the lives of folks when you least expect it.

I got to thinking about how much pressure we might apply to ourselves to play superheroes and to make large sweeping social change over systemic problems like poverty, homelessness, depression, addiction, and so on single-handedly or some such. But I think it is the accumulation of all the little things that really matter that add up to make the bigger difference.

I also think that attitudes tend to change when accomplishment is made real. Knowing that some good came out of your efforts, you feel empowered to continue to do good and to continue to make those efforts. When you strain on making larger efforts or going beyond your means, it shouldn’t surprise you when success doesn’t come easy or come at all. Disappointment kills moods and kills enthusiasm.

So, I say take baby steps, do the little things right and well. Do the small things that might make the bigger difference in any given situation. Reach out to those in need of a helping hand, a welcome hug, a listening ear, a casual chat, help with a flat tire, or something like that. Find little ways to pay it forward. Little blessings can bring bigger miracles.

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Reflections for April 15th, 2018

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This is me. This is me as a transgender woman, three months into hormone replacement therapy. This is also me standing at the door to my church in Willimantic, CT. This is me as a Christian. This is me as I am. This is me being honest, sincere, and humble. I am not hiding anything. I am not trying to pull a trick. I am not trying to deceive anyone.

When I talk about my beliefs or faith or philosophy, I tell people right off the bat that I don’t claim to know everything or to have all the answers. What I do claim is that everyone has a right to ask questions, a right to learn, a right to find their own path, and a right to live full meaningful lives. I don’t go out in the world trying to convert the masses to my way of thinking and believing. I don’t cram my politics or ideology down people’s throats. All I do is offer people their spaces to find themselves, declare themselves, and be themselves. I invite people to share their experiences. I invite people to have experiences.

I tell people that have felt doors slam in their faces that I believe those doors can open. I tell people who feel left out or shrugged aside that there are places that still welcome and  include. I tell people who feel hurt that there are places in this world that provide healing. I tell people whop are afraid that there are people and places and organizations waiting to build you up and help you claim your courage. I tell people who feel they have no voice or fear that their voice can’t be heard that someone is always listening and there are places where you are free to speak your mind and pour out what is in your heart.

I try to encourage the LGBT community to have faith in themselves and in each other– but more importantly maybe, I try and encourage faith in a world where the LGBT community and beyond can find a middle ground, a place where respect and harmony and mutual compassion can thrive and not just exist with indifferent nods and tacit shrugs. I do believe that the culture of fear that surrounds the LGBT community can be transformed into a culture of courage and compassion. I do believe equality can be achieved and I do believe that having some kind of faith in a higher power and faith in each other will make the difference. If we all have that understanding that we are all a shared humanity  endowed wth incredible blessings and gifts, imagine the wonderful things we can accomplish together!

While we struggle in a world that seems eager to find excuses and reasons for why we should be divided or separated or segregated, it is imperative to put in even more investment and energy in finding reasons to do away with those lines of separation and segregation. When so many profit from instilling fear and paranoia, it is all the more important and vital that we look at what more can be gained from courage, communication, and community.

 

Posted in Hope, Inspiration, Introduction, Love, Mission Statement, Opinion, Peace, Pride, Self-Reflection, Transgender, Transgender Awareness, Transgender Hope | Leave a comment

Thoughts and Reflections, April 10th, 2018

A question I have asked myself often lately is this:

What scene or moment would sum up for you the impact of Jesus upon the LGBT community?

The answer, in my mind, is taken from at the Book of Mathew of the New Testament. It is the story of Jesus’ most profound Sermon on the Mount. Everyone may focus on the power of forgiveness and the resurrection and His last words on the cross upon His crucifixion, but in my opinion, if you want to truly understand the intent behind Christ, you have to go to His message, and for that, I think you have to go to His Sermon on the Mount as described in Mathew chapters 5-7.

The first thing that impresses me about the scene of the Sermon on the Mount is that the teachings are being conducted out in the open. All are free to gather and listen. The teachings are made available to all who are willing to listen and gather. No one is turned away. No one is judged by their appearance, status, wealth, race, culture, theology, politics, gender, age, or profession. The “church” at this point in His ministry is wide open and inviting and inclusive of any who are willing to listen and learn. And you are free to come and go as one pleases.

The second thing that I notice immediately is that Jesus is reaching out to all the marginalized. He blesses the poor, the meek, the oppressed, and those seeking fairness and peace and justice. His concerns are for those who struggle not just with their own sin, but in how the sins of others impact a person. He is concerned for the spiritual welfare of people in need. He is trying to instill hope in those that feel there is no hope.

Jesus is addressing the greater sins of oppression, exploitation, poverty, inequality, and war. He understands the mechanisms of human society and human nature that enables division and divisiveness. He acknowledges that most of the harm we endure is harm we visit upon each other through acts of greed, jealousy, arrogance, and ignorance.

Also important is the message that Jesus tries to hammer into our heads and hearts– that salvation is available to anyone. Redemption is available to everyone. Love is what will tie us all together and unite us. Compassion and empathy for others are the building blocks for the road to salvation. Love is the power that will enable us to rise to the occasion when the chips are down.

Is Jesus speaking directly to the LGBT community?

When Christ asks us to love our neighbors as we would love ourselves, I believe so. Jesus never mentions condemnation or judgment against gays, lesbians, transgender, or bisexuals or asexuals. Jesus did not preach or offer condemnation. He preached love, forgiveness, and redemption. Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount, gave an open and affirming invitation to all to consider yourselves blessed and welcomed and worthy of forgiveness and worthy of salvation and redemption.

Only when addressing the hypocrites among the Sanhedrin and Pharisees and those who manipulated and exploited the Mosaic Law for their own political and personal gains did Jesus exclude and indict. Only when folks were turning the temple into a market place did He show anger and disappointment. In most other circumstances, Jesus was a teacher, a healer, an advocate, and in many ways a social worker and activist for social justice.

I think Jesus can speak to the LGBT community and the LGBT community can engage and dialogue and gain a lot from the Gospels. I also believe that anyone from the LGBT community can approach Christianity and not feel threatened or challenged to somehow change who they are fundamentally. You shouldn’t have to feel like you need to change who you are or who you love or how you present or express yourself to be a “good Christian”. At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has already declared that you are blessed and worthy.

Posted in Hope, Inspiration, Jesus, Love, Love thy Neighbor, Mathew, Open and Affirming Churches, Opinion, Pride | Leave a comment

How to Live a Good Life

Matthew 19:17-19

 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

 “Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 Reflection:
If there was an instruction manual for how to stay out of trouble or to basically be a better person, Jesus was trying to provide the first and most important chapter of that book.
Jesus lets us know that nobody is perfect, no one is absolutely 100% pure and righteous either. We’re human beings. We have free will, we have quirks and flaws and finite characteristics, and we are prone to making goofs and mistakes. That being said, we were given plenty of gifts, skills, and talents to live pretty well with I think. We were also gifted with the capacity and potential to do great things. We were most importantly though, given the means to love one another and to discern right from wrong.
Living a good life doesn’t have to be any more complicated than trying to love and respect the God that put you on this Earth, love and respect your parents who raised you and provided for you, and loving and respecting your mind, body, and soul. It shouldn’t be a complicated process to try and love and respect your fellow human beings. Yet somehow it does get complicated.
How? We find reasons to dislike, distrust, fear, hate, and discriminate against others. We judge by appearances, we are taught our biases; and our preferences are nurtured but seldom explored or evaluated for their merits. We take comfort when we surround ourselves with like-minded people and we shy from those that challenge our views and thinking. We shy away from what we don’t understand and we shy away from intellectual curiosity and critical thinking and exploration– because that might undermine our deeply held beliefs. Our attitude may be to shirk critical thinking and reaching out simply because it requires effort and involves risk.
Stereotypes, lies, myths, false statistics, hearsay, and ignorance driven by fear mongering seems to prevent people from engaging the LGBT community. No one wants to see beyond the surfaces to understand the heart of the community. People are told to fear us. People are encouraged to hate us because we are not like themselves. They succeed in fanning this hatred by turning what is natural to us– love and living genuinely– into something unnatural. They don’t research the LGBT experience or create meaningful dialogues with the LGBT community if it means that their views and understanding of gender and sexuality may need to adapt or evolve or be re-evaluated.
People want to believe their beliefs are fixed and set like concrete slabs. They don’t want to re-visit these ideas and beliefs. They don’t feel the need to test them for their strength or durability and reliability.
If we didn’t apply critical thinking and if we didn’t explore and test knowledge, we might still accept the notion that the Earth is the center of the Universe and that the planet is entirely flat. We might also just as well assume that X-ray radiation is harmless and air and space flight is impossible and the combustion engine is just a pipe dream.
At no point in living the good life should we be cowering in fear or bending to untested myths and stereotypes. We should have the courage to try and understand each other, reach out to each other, and learn from each other. That is how we honor one another and build relationships.
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John 8:15-16

“You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.”

Reflection:

Jesus says it pretty clearly in the Gospel of John. He passes judgment on no one. He saw the people around Him judging others by human standards. True judgment comes from God, the Father, who sees us not with eyes that are flawed or fallible or finite, but with the eyes of our Creator, having seen our souls at the moment of our creation and conception.

Jesus is not concerned with our outward appearances or labels. He is not concerned with whether we are rich or poor or tall or short. He is concerned about our souls. He is concerned about or whole well-being. Rather than focusing on our sins, Jesus is focused on our forgiveness. Jesus wants to heal us and lift the guilt and shame from our shoulders. He does want us to stab into each other’s wounds and hold grudges or aim rocks at each other. He wants us to get past all that nonsense and see each other as God might see us, as precious beings capable of loving each other, respecting each other, living in harmony with each other.

It frustrates me that so many people find it easier to judge one another than to simply let it all go.

That being said, it is one thing to judge someone– but an entirely different thing to hold people accountable for their actions and to expect and encourage good behavior, respect, and moral conduct. But to judge someone based on their sins and hold them lower than yourself or to judge to the point where redemption is impossible is not what Jesus would want from us.

I look on this Scripture passage and suspect Jesus is evaluating how we pass judgment on each other. By what standards? Superficial and petty standards? By which moral compass are we judging others? We might have an understanding of right and wrong and we can identify when someone commits a crime against us or society. We can say that a person has made a poor choice or committed a crime. We can address the facts of the situation. Beyond that, who are we to judge with regards to the person’s soul or character? Do we judge to the point where we think we have a full understanding of a person’s motivations, conflicted conscience, psychological makeup, or character as a human being? Do we judge fairly or to we judge as someone who is reactionary, emotional, subjective?

Jesus is trying to remind us that judgement comes from the only one equipped with absolute understanding– God.

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John 7:18

“Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” NIV

Reflection:

Whenever I am faced with religious-based bigotry or discrimination, I always go directly to the Bible and directly to the Gospels and look closely at what Jesus taught, how He conducted Himself, how He related to others, and what it was He was asking of us as potential followers.

It always infuriates me when someone would use the Bible as a method of excluding people or putting people down. It disgusts me when people who claim to be Christian use the Bible as justification for physical or emotional violence against someone who they are personally uncomfortable with. The Word of God is not a weapon against the innocent. God did not give life or reach out to us through inspired prophets and writers and scribes just to see us slaughter each other or take His word out of context to serve some personal goal or worldly political agenda.

Our God doesn’t create just so He can destroy. God doesn’t create something to purposefully suffer. Mankind creates hatred, bigotry, prejudice, oppression, and violence.

God sent Jesus to us to try and teach us how to be better people, how to put our hearts and minds towards loving each other. Jesus came to us to restore and repair the broken and fractured relationships we may have with God and each other. There simply is no justification or reasoning behind hatred against anyone.

The truth is, Jesus asked us to love God with our heart, mind, and soul and to love each other with our heart, mind, and soul as much as we would love ourselves. Love our neighbors even if they be black, white, tan, purple, green, lavender, gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, transgender, a New York Rangers fan, a Boston Bruins fan, a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, a Catholic, a Jew, a Baptist, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Hindu, or Atheist. Jesus asked us to love our enemies and to pray for them and have hope for them. Hope that our enemies will heal the hurt in themselves or to consider their actions or to open their hearts or repent for their sins.

People who use the Bible to condemn are missing the whole point of what the Bible is trying to teach and inspire.

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John 21:15-17 “Feed My Sheep”

John 21:15-17

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

Reflection:

If you want to prove that you love Christ, may as well prove that you love what He stood for, fought for, and what He was trying to accomplish. Jesus was trying to be an instrument of God’s universal, unconditional love for humanity. Jesus was trying to care for those in need. Jesus was trying to meet the needs of those seeking His mercy, His help,   and His forgiveness.

I had also been thinking on this from another perspective. It is not always enough to say in words alone “I love you”. Showing love, acting out of love, and investing in the well-being of the ones you love makes a greater impact. Reaching out to lift up your fellow man or sister is an act of love. Helping those in need is an act of love. Showing compassion and generosity and care shows that you are walking the walk and not just talking the talk.

Jesus’ promise to His many followers came not just by word of mouth but by His active participation. He reached out and healed the sick, fed the hungry, and approached the sinner and forgave them. When Jesus asks Peter to “feed my sheep” or “tend my lambs”, He is asking Peter to show love not just for Jesus but for everyone whom Jesus loves. Take action! Share the love.

I also reflect upon the love Jesus is talking about. Love is a lot more than just hugs and kisses and being affectionate. To love someone is to care about the whole person– their health and well-being. It is to provide and to give what will provide quality to one’s life. That can include spiritual things as well as physical things.

Love is an investment of more than just words. It is an investment in a relationship and that requires and investment in resources and emotion and time and energy. Love takes work. Jesus is all about doing the work of being a loving person.

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