Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Living in a shack with Jabez and Sarah Young, and wearing my WWJD bracelet

Discernment and wisdom are something we are sadly lacking as Christians today. One has to only look carefully at the 2016 election to see the proof of that. We are gullible, and too earthly minded to have wisdom and discernment.


  Seventeen years ago, I was in my second year of five years working at a Christian bookstore in Salem, OH. A small book came out that year that took Christendom by storm, and became the best seller for any Christian bookstore. People would come up to the counter and ask, "do you have that book....." and I knew what book they were going to say.....The Prayer of Jabez. Well, except for the one lady who asked for "The Prayer of Jezebel" by mistake.... (That did happen).

 The prayer is found in 1 Chronicles 4:10: "And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, 'Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.' So God granted him what he requested." It had sat there unnoticed for thousands of years until miraculously Bruce Willkinson discovered it and changed everyone's lives......(yeah, right!"

 Seriously, people really got into praying this prayer. I had one lady convinced she had been asked to be in charge of her church's Christmas cantata as a result of her praying it. I admit I got the book (for free) and tried praying it.... but I should have skipped the part about enlarging my territory. All that happened was I gained weight. :)

 It didn't take me long to decide this was a fluke. God doesn't need little perfectly worded prayers, and this short prayer in the Old Testament was not some magic charm that would grant the pray-er his wishes if prayed enough. And yet millions of Christians swallowed the lie that praying this prayer was going to give them blessings. As with any Christian fad that has no substance, it eventually died out. Now you can buy the book as cheap as 49 cents on some websites.

Jesus Calling

  In 2004, a devotional came out that has become one of the most popular modern day devotionals: Jesus Calling. I was intrigued a few years ago, and bought a copy. I mentioned it on Facebook, and a friend sent me a link to what a popular preacher had to say about the book and author, and it gave me enough pause that I returned the book and got my money back.

 The more I researched the book, the more bothered I became by it. For one thing, the whole book is supposedly Jesus talking......we already have a book of Jesus talking. It is called The Bible. Also, this mysterious author has an odd religious past. Her conversion story is just weird. Ms Young makes the claim that Jesus is speaking through her in this book...... a dangerous claim. Is she legit? I guess it is possible, but I decided to err on the side of caution and have nothing to do with her devotionals.

 There is a great review of her book here.

The Shack

  When The Shack came out, I was intrigued. I was reading reviews of it on Amazon and Christianbook.com, and there was no middle ground. People either loved it, or they hated it intensely. I wanted to read it, but I didn't want to buy it. I contacted my library, and they got a copy in. I read the book, and was disgusted completely by it. In addition to quite a few curse words being thrown around, I felt the author lowered God the Father and Jesus way lower than they should have been. God was a black woman with poor speech who seemed a Santa Claus type figure. Jesus was a bumbling idiot. And the Holy Spirit was also a woman.

  I hated the book, and found it heretical.... a serious charge to make, but I stand by it. I posted two reviews of it:

The Shack, life-changing, or heresy?

Revisiting The Shack

  I am one of a few moderators for a Facebook group for Christian bloggers. This past week, a man submitted an article he wrote about The Shack - it is coming out as a movie. He titled his post "Why You Shouldn't See The Shack - But Why So Many Will. It is a very well thought out post, and he brought out some things I had not considered. If you like the book and/or are going to see the movie, you owe it to yourself to read it: Why You Shouldn't See The Shack - But Why So Many Will.

 And by the way..... he also calls the book heretical.

  WWJD, The Purpose Driven Life, and more. There is constantly something or someone coming out on the Christian market and Christian scene. And over and over Christians throng to buy, read, listen to, support, etc this new fad or person.

 But where is our wisdom and discernment?

  I read a lot. There have been some books that have truly made a difference in my life: The Ragamuffin Gospel, Not a Fan, He Loves Me, Gods At War...... and even some fictional books. Yet these books and authors are not without error. I'd like to think I have gotten pretty good at weeding out what isn't true when I read, but I am human.... so I am sure I don't do as good of a job as I would like to think.

 And then there is the fact that I did pray the prayer of Jabez for a while, got into the Purpose Driven Life, did the WWJD thing.....(I didn't wear the bracelet, thankfully").... and I know I erred with other things also.

 I am not one of those people who chirp that the Bible is all we need. Books, sermons, speeches, and other mediums can help us in our spiritual lives, and I can completely attest to that...... but there is a danger of just swallowing everything that comes along that is labeled Christian. Something doesn't need to be 100% heresy to steer us wrong..... all it needs is a small bit of heresy or something that isn't Biblical.

  When Jesus sent out His disciples, He told them to be as wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. I think we Christians have the harmless as doves down pretty well, but I fear we all are sadly lacking in discernment and wisdom. I want that. I don't want to be fooled by anything that has un-Biblical stuff in it. May God help us all to seek wisdom, and ask God to help us to see the truth about what we read, see, and hear.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February musings

  I haven't blogged much lately. There's a few reasons why: 1)  I haven't had much to say...... that anyone may want to hear, 2) I have really been depressed, discouraged, and disappointed lately (the 3 D's!), and 3) I still have a lot to say about Donald Trump, and his winning the nomination for the GOP nominee....but I have been silenced. So, I have to find other things to talk about......though something about him may sneak in occasionally.....give me a break, I was very vocal about Obama, and I don't like Trump much more.....

 Anyway, I have been working on this for a couple of weeks, and it was supposed to be January musings, but February is here.....so they are now February musings. Enjoy. Or not....

Stuff that has been on my mind lately

1) Maybe if people weren't in such a hurry to date and marry, they might find out who they are before they jump into relationships and lose themselves. Maybe divorce wouldn't be so common if people stayed single longer.

2) Valentine's Day is fast approaching...... or as I call it, Single Awareness Day.

3) We went over and listed the most important doctrines of the Church in Sunday School class on Sunday. I wanted to add two to the list, but didn't: Always vote Republican, and use the King James Version only. (Those would have been sarcastic).

4) What if we push people too much into marriage? What if there are people who would be better off single, but family and friends pushed them to date and marry? Could other people than the couple sometimes be partially responsible for the divorce that takes place so often?

5) I don't remember any of my Facebook friends saying we need to stop whining about who won the election, and that we need to support him......when it was Obama who won. Isn't that odd.......

6) The older I get, the more I hate winter. I'll be worrying about a safe trip to work, and I have friends hoping for more snow.....are they nuts?!

7) I truly can't see how any Christian could support abortion.... for any reason. To be OK with the ripping apart of an innocent baby........they'd never be OK with that if it were an animal.

8) If Heaven is so wonderful, why do health nuts work so hard on putting it off as long as they can?

9) People who smoke amaze me. They pay way too much for something they are going to burn, they seem to think they have a God-given right to litter wherever and whenever they feel like it....... and they will ask random strangers who smoke for a cigarette, and the random stranger will most likely give them one.

10) I am doing it: I am going to the Amish part of Ohio for two days next week, and taking advantage of the winter package deal from the Dutch Host Inn in Sugarcreek, OH. For $74.95 (plus tax), I am going to get:

1) One night stay at the inn

2) Supper (dinner) out at my choice of 3 restaurants

3) Breakfast out at my choice of 3 restaurants

4) A pound of Swiss cheese

5) A loaf of bread

6) 2 fry pies

7) A 1/2 gallon of apple cider

8) A 3 oz fudge cup

9) A bottle of BBQ sauce

10) A timer candle

11) A personalized pen

12) A collectible ornament

13) A pair of socks

14) Two popcorn balls

15) A leather coin purse

16) A dusting cloth

17) A stainless steel mixing spoon

18) A Swiss Heritage wine glass

19) 2 votive candles

   I did this last February, and loved it. All of the items are in stores scattered all over the area. When you check in, you get an envelope with coupons and a map where all of the stores are. I most likely won't go after the socks..... I wasn't impressed with the ones they had last year, and it is really out of the way. But the rest..... bring on the Amish scavenger hunt!

11) There is a lot of praise and worship on Facebook.  Sadly, God is not the recipient of that P&W.

12) I did my taxes Saturday night, and though most likely my return won't be back before the trip, that is one thing I am doing with my return. :)

13) I really, really need to get away.......see #10 :)

14) I am still disgusted enough by the results of the GOP primary, that I may never vote again.....and will at least be changing to Independent. Never again will I be told I must vote for the GOP candidate because I am a Republican. Never.

15) Lately I have been wondering how involved Jesus would be in politics. Would He even vote? Would He endorse any candidate? Or would He be too busy with heavenly business to even pay attention.........

16) Why on earth do we need and use Roman numerals here in America? I should not have to work at figuring out the release date on a CD because they used Roman numerals. Seriously... what is the purpose??

17) I was working 2 12 hour days and 2 8 hour days with my new job, but we are changing to 4 10's....... and I am not happy.

18) I believe any Christian in this country who has kids in Boy Scouts needs to pull their kids out of it after this new insane decision by the Boy Scouts of America. A good option is Trail Life USA.

19) I'll be honest about Valentine's Day......for the first time in my life. The main part I don't like the day is because I can't date/marry/find love......because of the inconvenient fact that I am attracted to the wrong gender. And no, I am not bitter, nor do I have an intense hatred of the day. It just isn't a day I care much about, and truly is a day that I am reminded everywhere I look that I am single for life. Maybe I should have taken my trip on Valentine's Day.......

20) I really admire people who stay out of political discussions, and who no one has a clue who they voted for or didn't vote for. I may aim for that next election.

21) Speaking of politics, wouldn't it be awesome if you could filter out things you don't want to see on Facebook.....football, politics, praise of politicians you despise, memes asking you to type "Amen!" if you love Jesus........

22) What if the liberals and conservatives are both wrong on this immigration/refugee issue?

23) What if we look at things too much as Americans, and not as Christians?

24) I wish I could live in sweat pants and t-shirts. And sandals.

25) It amazes me that heterosexual men love to watch almost naked guys boxing or writing around on a mat...... it would seem a sport that gay guys would enjoy. I personally find it all barbaric and a bit gross.

26) Spring is 49 days 6 hours 59 minutes 40 seconds.... from the time of this post :)

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Good Samaritan Parable for 2017

   In Luke 10, Jesus says the most two important commandments are to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself. He was asked who our neighbor is, and that sparked the Good Samaritan Parable. We all know it, but here it is:

30 Jesus replied, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. 31  Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. 32  Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. 33  A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. 34  The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. 35  The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ 36  What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”

37 Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (CEV)

  I think we sometimes miss the magnitude of the story. The Jews and Samaritans hated each other. It would be similar to the Muslims and Jews today, or the Democrats and Republicans.... yet this man who was an enemy is the one who stopped to help the man lying by the road.

  Now what if this story was told today by Jesus here in America? Replace the Samaritan with a Republican, and the hurt man by the road with Hillary Clinton or one of the women who just marched on Washington..... or Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, one of the gay men protesting outside of Mike Pence's home.....if you were that Republican, what would you do? Would you think something like "they deserve it!" "Good for the pervert!", or something else along that line? Would you pass by on the other side of the road and avert your eyes? Would you stop and help the injured person, take them for help and use your hard earned money to help an enemy?

  I have felt for some time that we Christians here in America don't get it. We don't truly live as Christians should. Think about this as I get political for a second:

  Right now it is very unpopular to criticize the man in the White House. Christians who voted for him love to toss up Bible verses to remind people what the Bible says in regards to leaders. Now stay with me, I have a point to make, and it may not be popular:

As Christians living by the Bible, and who believe that all of the Bible is inspired, do we have any more right to speak out against those who we don't support or agree with than those we do?

  Here is a list of people very unpopular among conservatives, and who many of us freely criticize and speak our mind of:

Barack Obama

Hillary Clinton

The women who just marched on D.C.

The gay people who protested outside of Mike Pence's home....and any militant gay people.

Al Sharpton

John Lewis

Nancy Pelosi

The women of The View

Illegal immigrants

Muslims...including refugees and terrorists 

Bradley Manning

Edward Snowden

Bruce Jennings

And more.

  Now think on this: if it is wrong to speak harshly of the man in the White House using the verses people use to make that point, is it not then wrong to speak harshly of the people I listed.... and the many others in this world who we consider evil and wrong? Are we to just love those who agree with us? Are we to just be Christian towards those who treat us well? When Jesus says to love our neighbor, does that exclude the people on the list above? When we are exhorted to speak well of all men, does that mean we can ignore that if the person is not of our political or religious ideology?

 God loves all of these people, and offers salvation and forgiveness to all of them. We are commanded to love even them...... and can we do that if we are posting things against them? We are all too guilty of using the Bible to our advantage. Criticize a leader we support, and we can quote Bible verses at you. But then we feel free to do the same with those we disagree with. Is that right? Is it Christian? Does it please God?

   And yeah, I get it.... we need to know what politicians stand for and against. We don't want to vote someone in who is going to turn our country over to communism and abolish all of our freedoms..... but can't we discuss the policies and stands of politicians without personally attacking people?

  I know, I am one to talk.....but we are all guilty.....well, a lot of us, maybe not all. I know of people who never post anything about politics, whether it be a politician, someone on The View, or anything else along that line....... but a lot of us feel free to speak harshly of liberals, gay people, illegal immigrants, and others.

 Could it be we are too easily offended by these people? Could it be we don't trust God enough, so we have to make sure everyone knows how bad these people are? Or could it be we are so addicted and focused on our comforts and freedoms that we feel we must do anything to protect them..... up to and including character assassination? Do we really believe the Bible when it says to love our enemies? Do we truly practice that?

 Who is our neighbor? Newsflash: it is more than those in our political party and those who love and agree with us. It is everyone......no matter how good or bad they are.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Showing grace to the man in the mirror

 There are people who knock reading fiction. I have heard Christians speak of reading "novels" as if you're dabbling in porn by reading a fictional novel. Ironically, Jesus told a lot of stories to get His point across, so they must have missed that part of the Bible.

  In my years of reading Christian fiction, God has spoken to me numerous times through what I have read. I have been encouraged, convicted, moved to change, and more. That happened this evening as I was reading a book that I got to review. During an emotional scene between the two main characters, the woman said to the man "Peter, would you consider one thing? Would you consider what your life might be like if you gave yourself some grace?"

 We hear a lot about grace: God's grace towards us, showing grace to those we come across, showing grace to those who wrong us, showing grace to those who criticize who we voted for...... (ha ha!). But this idea of showing grace to the guy in the mirror is a new idea to me, and not something I have ever thought about.

   Do I show grace to the guy who frustrates me most.... that would be me, believe it or not. I know people get angry and frustrated with me for a variety of reasons..... but no matter how many people I tick off, no matter how badly people think of me for the variety of reasons that are out there.... no one gets more angry or frustrated with me than me. Don't believe me? Well then you must have voted for Trump and are struggling to forgive me for daring to speak my mind about him. God can help you with that........ ;-)

   But seriously, there are things I did years ago, things I said, dumb stuff that I have never let go of. Too often, I find myself despising the man in the mirror. Is it any wonder I have a hard time thinking people will like me and look past my many flaws, when I can't look past them myself nor forgive myself?

 Show grace to myself....that is a foreign idea to me. How does one even begin to do that? Peter, the guy in the book, managed it, but he is a fictional character and the author controlled that. How does a living, breathing, real person show grace to himself?

 I get showing grace to others, and hoping they show grace to me, but me showing grace to.... me? Uh, how?

   For years, I struggled to believe God had forgiven me. I still struggle with that to some extent. And this may be part of the reason. I have become so good at holding everything I do and say against me, that I expect God to do the same. Yet the Bible promises if we confess our sins, He forgives us....whether we forgive ourselves or not.

 I don't believe the Bible speaks of forgiving myself, or of showing grace to me, but we are called to be like Jesus, and if He so easily and quickly shows us forgiveness and grace, then should we not follow His example and forgive and show grace as quickly and easily to the man in the mirror?

 It won't happen overnight. Old habits are hard to break, especially when it is holding a grudge against yourself. And man, am I good at holding a grudge against myself. The list of sins, flaws, stupid things I've done, stupid things I have said...... they play like a movie in my mind at times, going back further than I'd like to remember.

  January 1st is long gone. We are almost 3 weeks past that time when New Year's resolutions are made, but it is never too late to turn over a new leaf, to break an old habit.... to start showing grace to the person I am around 24/7.....me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What would you say?

   I am part of a ministry, Hope For Wholeness,  that helps people with unwanted same-sex attractions. It is an awesome ministry, and I have been privileged to go to a couple of their conferences. I met some great people, was encouraged, and given an immense shot of hope. To deal with an issue like this, and get around other Christians who are in your shoes..... there are no words to describe how that feels, and how helpful it is.

   One of those people I met at these conferences is "Matthew". Matthew is a lot younger than I am, and God has done some amazing things in his life in the last few years. I keep in contact with him through social media, and he has been a great encouragement to me as I see what God has done and is doing for him. He is one of those people I believe God is going to use in some great ways.

 Last night he posted something on one of the Facebook groups we are in that I am posting here, with his permission. In addition to changing his name, I also edited some information to help him remain incognito:

  It's hard to describe how tough life has been for me lately. Ever since a friend of mine died things have kept tearing away at me and crushing my joyful spirit. Another friend was injured seriously and is in serious condition. Shortly after I found out about my friend, someone at work approached me and informed me that my Christian coworkers were gossiping about how I was gay. A day after that a friend  told me he wants nothing to do with God, and he's embracing being gay. I'm dealing lot more with loneliness since most of my straight friends are in relationships. It feels like like its been one thing after another and I'm so exhausted. I continue to go to church every Sunday but I feel like I'm not hearing God's voice anymore. I'm struggling with doubting His goodness, because of all the tragedy that's been happening around me.

 If you knew Matthew and he came to you with the above statements, what would you say? How would you react?

Would you tell him it is his fault for "choosing to be gay?" Some would.

Would you tell him to just pray more? That is a common response.

Would you tell him there must be sin in his life that he hasn't confessed? There are Christians who would believe that and say that.

Would you tell him we all have tough times, and it will get better?

Would you tell him you'd be praying for him, and then walk away?

What would you say to him?

   I know what it is like to deal with some of what he mentioned. I also know how the devil works. So, though Matthew didn't say this, I can guarantee some of what the devil is saying to him right now:

"You'd be better off to embrace your sexuality. God won't care, and you wouldn't be lonely anymore"

"No one cares about you, not even God."

"It isn't fair that your straight friends have someone to love, and you don't. Go for it...find a boyfriend and enjoy life."

"All Christians are judgmental bigots. You'd be better off without them."

 What did I say? My first reply was "No advice here. .. just want to say I love and appreciate you Matthew....and will be praying extra hard for you"

 Then I messaged him this morning with this:

 " Hey, hope you're feeling better about things this morning. It is rough at times, but some day it will be worth it...... if not here, in eternity. So keep the faith. You have a lot of people rooting for you who love you and know what it is like. We aren't your heterosexual friends who haven't a clue....we have more than a clue.

   And yeah, it would be nice if we had these friends around us all of the time instead of just a few days a year. I get lonely. I wish many times I could have the fellowship and encouragement of the HFW conference weekly..... but I don't. And it has got to be worse for you at your age. Don't quit. Use this time to drive you closer to God. We tend to let things come between us and God and He hasn't moved........it is just sometimes so hard to see Him through all of the crap.... but He is there, and loves us beyond anything we can ever imagine. Being a Christian isn't always easy, whether we have SSA or not. If it wasn't this issue, it would be something else. At least I keep telling myself that 🙂"

  We who deal with this issue are broken. There are a lot of opinions and theories about what causes it. I personally am not a fan of the "born that way" idea, but it doesn't really matter one way or another. It is still brokenness. And though we are all broken in some way, this is a very tough form of brokenness to have.

  It is difficult being single while watching others date and fall in love. Many of us know we can never have that, and it shouldn't be our aim in life to fall in love and marry anyway. Serving God and pleasing Him should be our main goal in life, but it is natural to want love,  marriage, and a family.

  It is lonely. After you hit a certain age, all of your friends are dating or married, and then there is you. You have no one, other than family. Or at least it seems that way.

   The devil fights all of us, and uses our weaknesses against us. When you are dealing with something that so many Christians don't understand, like same-sex issues, the devil has a huge arsenal to use against you.

  So in closing, I ask you to pray for my friend. If you call him Matthew, God will know who you are talking about. You can even call him "Mark's friend." This is a young man serving God and not giving into the sexual temptations and desires that course through him. He is going through some very discouraging times, and has been hit from all sides.

   And the thing is, we all  know a "Matthew." The issue may not be same-sex attractions. It may be some other difficult struggle that no one knows of, or does know about. If one of these people came to you and confessed something like Matthew has told us, what would you say and do? Christianese and platitudes don't work. They may make you feel better, but they won't help the person needing love and prayer.

   If I lived close to Matthew, I'd take him out to eat and maybe shopping. I'd let him talk, and try to listen and not say much. I'd hug him....several times. I'd pray with him. I'd do all I could to help him know he is not alone and he is loved.

   We are surrounded by hurting and struggling people, but we as a church rarely take the time to notice and do anything about it. There is also the fact that we don't always know. I sat in the church pew hurting for years, bleeding on the inside. I was lonely, hurting, wishing at times I'd never been born, and having no clue how to handle these feelings I had. I lived constantly with the fear of people finding out my secret, and of the fallout if that happened. And now here I am talking about it openly on my blog. Go figure.

 If someone crosses your mind, pray for them. If you see someone who seems discouraged, reach out. It could make a difference in someone's life, and you may even save a life. And pray for "Matthew."

If We Are the Body, song by Casting Crowns.

It's crowded in worship today
As she slips in trying to fade into the faces
The girls teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances
Tells him that his chances are better out on the road

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is away?
There is a way

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
Jesus is the way

Saturday, January 14, 2017

January musings

Time for a post of random stuff that has been on my mind lately. I have been adding to this all month. It is not a post I sat down and typed up in one sitting. As things came to my mind and I had the time, I added to it. Warning, it does get political, for that is one thing that has been on my mind a lot lately. Welcome to the January mind of Mark Buzard:

1) There was day people were encouraged to get help for certain mental disorders. Now, they are encouraged to pursue them and you're a bigot if you speak out against it.

2) There are two guys, ages 69 and 74 that volunteer in the Emergency Department. Both are Republicans. Both do not like Trump and did not vote for him. They both believe Trump won't make it 4 years, but will be impeached.

3) I am proud of myself for not buying any Christmas candy as I shopped the 50% and 75% off Christmas clearance at several stores.

4) Wednesday, January 4, was my last day working for Allied Universal Security, and the last day working as the ER greeter. Monday, I started working for the hospital..... that means more money and better benefits.

5) Does anyone actually ever watch the special features DVD that often comes with the actual movie?

6) I had my first ever car accident that was my fault yesterday.....not a pleasant experience. Thankfully, my car is driveable, and no one got hurt. But I'd be happier if it had not happened. Slick roads - from wonderful snow -  were a contributing factor.

7) I hate winter. I haven't said that for a while, so I needed to get that out there. I could live easily with never seeing snow again......other than in pictures, where it belongs.

8) Some of my best friends are people who live too far away to see very often, if ever.

9) Why do they call it marinara sauce when it is just pizza or spaghetti sauce? The fancy name does not fool me.

10) No matter how many pro-Trump Facebook pages I block so I don't see people sharing them, I still see posts..... there must be a million pro-Trump groups.

11) Sometimes I feel like I have more than my share of problems.... SSA, discouragement, depression, weight issues.... and more. Yeah, there are people who have it worse, but that doesn't mean I have to like it....

12) My church never cancels for bad roads. They figure whoever wants to go bad enough will still go. When the rapture happens, they'll still have church for those who want to go bad enough.........

13) I think one of the best things Mr Trump's advisers could do is to keep him of social networks. That is when he most sounds and acts like Obama. George W Bush was a class act that didn't act like an immature baby every time he was criticized, but acted like an adult and decent human being. Obama and Trump could learn a lot from a real man and president. You never saw Bush striking out at celebrities, politicians, and media personnel because they upset him. Obama refused to give up his Blackberrry, and I doubt they'll be able to pry Trump's electronic devices off of him.

14) There is a fine line between women wearing enough make-up to help their looks, and looking like a raccoon or clown......or a woman of the streets.

15) And why do women need makeup, and men don't? Maybe men are the fairer sex since we don't need makeup to look good.......just a thought........

16) Pet peeve: People pushing a product on their Facebook page. Advertise elsewhere.

17) I am very skeptical of "essential" oils......it reminds me of the snake oil that was so popular many years ago

18) Isn't it odd that during the election, Trump and those supporting him were all about jailing Hillary, and he even promised to prosecute her..... but now that he has won, he and his minions don't seem to care about her crimes? It would appear that among being like the Democrats in many other ways, now the "Grand old party" has used something in the other candidate only as a means to get their guy elected. If it really mattered, it would still matter.

19) I have gotten to  the place where I don't really enjoy singing in church. I have to be very familiar with the hymn and like it a lot to feel like singing. Not sure what is up with that, as I sing in the car all the time.

20) I have developed a like of burning scented candles.... in case anyone needs gift ideas for me.

21) I so enjoyed my Amish Getaway last year, that I am thinking of doing it again...... I just need to find a couple of days that I am off, and that aren't going to be cold and snowy. And no, it won't be for two people, just me. :)

22) It is becoming increasingly unpopular and unacceptable to voice opinions contrary to those of others.... and sadly it is as bad among Christians as among the world....... and I am not just referring to politics.

23) I am beyond discouraged with the house buying venture. I am half tempted to find a cheap apartment and cram my stuff into it no matter how small it is, and no matter how crowded I am and forget this idea of owning my own place.

24) It is ironic that I dress up more for my job than I do for church.... and that this tie-hating guy that I am has been wearing ties to work for almost 4 years. At least with this position I can wear my own ties that tie, and not a clip on.

25) There are a lot of people out there who have tasked themselves with telling you what to post - or not post - on Facebook. And that is the only interaction I get from some people......when they don't like what I say. Odd how that works.

26) Quote from a friend of mine about..... well, figure it out if you can :) - "Sad is all the "Aarons"that helped build it and should have known better. We better hope Moses comes down of the mountain soon."

27) I am firmly convinced that the worst of my depression started when Obama won the election in 2008. Don't roll your eyes... I am serious. There was other stuff going on too, but I knew what kind of man he is and had prayed and hoped so much that he wouldn't win....... and he did. And that is seriously when the depression hit me the hardest. Now, round two: My depression has noticeably gotten worse since the Republican Party abandoned common sense and principles and nominated the man who was furthest from conservative and Christian values. I had hoped and prayed we'd get someone that was so far removed from Obama and was a decent conservative and Christian...... and again, my hopes and prayers were ashes. I seriously blame the election of Obama and the nomination of Donald Trump for the worst of my depression. Maybe I need to stop voting and ignore politics... my vote, my hopes, and my prayers obviously do no good.

28) My car needs repaired from the car accident..... but I don't know where and when to get that taken care of. Fun stuff. January really isn't turning out to be that great of a month, and it doesn't look like it will get much better. (veiled reference to..... well, we will keep it veiled)

29) I had a nice guy add me as a friend last night on Facebook, who then chatted with me for several minutes. He, like me, deals with SSA and we have 27 friends in common. I wish I felt more comfortable with sending friend requests, but I don't. I'll probably carry these feelings of inferiority and feelings that people don't like me with me until I die.

30) Of all the superheroes, Captain America is my favorite. Yeah, I am a geek who likes superheroes and superhero movies.

31) I have been wondering lately if it is a mistake being so outspoken and open on social media about my feelings, struggles, beliefs, and thoughts. I have considered withdrawing, being silent, and go back into that silent world I mostly lived in before social media...... but then Donald Trump would have won again - but beating me this time. The guys who are occasionally encouraged by what I write - don't look shocked, it does happen - they may miss my voice. So I most likely won't do that. I will try to keep people happy who apparently don't want reminded of what kind of man they voted for, by mostly being silent about that man.

32) I need a vacation. Seriously, I really need a vacation...... but that won't happen until the end of May (Outerbanks, here we come!) Maybe I should seriously consider that Amish Getaway.

33) Seriously, why are so many liberals so upset about Donald Trump winning? He is one of them, has always been one of them, and is the most liberal and corrupt person to ever run on the GOP ticket. They should be ecstatic that he won. Sure, they wanted a woman president, but her long time buddy and donor won..... so why are they so upset?

34) The election of Obama and Trump both show how easily the Anti-Christ will fool people....... even Christians, No, I am not saying all who voted for DT are in that category, but the ones who have followed him so easily and willingly and have pinned so much hope on the man. The Anti-Christ will be even better at wining people over than these two men.

35) I think we have all put too much hope in politics and politicians. I have been trying to remind myself that I am not living for this world..... and not even for this country.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Kirk Talley, Ray Boltz, and me

  **This is another promised blog post on what it is like dealing with same-sex attractions

Kirk Talley

  Southern Gospel singer Kirk Talley made news in 2003 when after being the target of a blackmail attempt, it came out that he was gay. He had been chatting in a gay chat room and a man recognized him and tried to blackmail him. Instead of giving in to  the blackmail attempt, Kirk went to  the FBI and the result was the world found out his secret. His CDs were immediately pulled from Christian bookstore shelves, and he went through a living hell.

   Singing News Magazine, a well known and long running Southern Gospel music magazine immediately stopped any advertising of him, and to my knowledge never again mentioned his name in concert advertising... even when he was one of many. Yet the same magazine had no problem with advertising groups that had members caught in adulterous relationships. To my knowledge, Kirk Talley has refrained from sexual activities with other guys, and anything relating to it ever since that incident.

Ray Boltz

   In 2008, Christian Contemporary singer Ray Boltz announced he was gay, and with his wife's blessing, he was going to pursue life as a gay male.... which he has been doing since, all the while claiming to still be a Christian. His music has taken on gay themes, and he often performs in gay affirming churches and venues. He believes since he prayed so long for God to take away his attractions for other males, then God is OK with him being gay..... and obviously also OK with him forsaking his wedding vows so he can fulfill his sexual desires for other guys.

 I still have the Ray Boltz CDs that I owned previous to his drastic lifestyle change. I enjoy the music, especially his Christmas CD, and I see no reason to throw out what he recorded before he walked away from God to live for his own desires. Kirk Talley....... I had gotten rid of my CDs of him long before the news came out about him.....I just got tired of his singing. Some people sound better in a group than solo :) - but if I had still had any, it also would not have caused me to throw them out.

   I feel for both of these guys. I know what it is like to have my secret told to others, and looking back it did come as a result of what some would call a blackmail attempt.(Yes, seriously)  I also know what it is like to pray for years for desires and attractions to go away that  I didn't ask for or sign up for.

   There are a couple of extremes in the church today regarding this issue. On one hand, you have the conservative/evangelical/fundamentalist who still believes that homosexuality is wrong, and many of them view it as the worst sin and react far from loving in regards to anyone who is gay or dealing with the issue in any way. On the other side of the issue you have the ultra liberal Christians who have decided that the Bible doesn't really condemn homosexuality, especially loving gay relationships. They don't believe God would be so unfair as to condemn it as a sin, and they consider anyone hateful and bigoted who dares to stand by the Bible view of sexuality.

 There is one thing that the more conservative churches and the ultra liberal churches do alike on the issue of homosexuality: they make it a special case. Many conservatives make it out to be this horrible sin and hurt, damage, and drive away some of the very people they could be helping and loving with their extreme and fearful views of this sin. The liberal churches have decided that of all of the sins in the Bible, God is OK with just this one and doesn't really mean what He says about in His Word.

  Given the amount of conservative Christians who ignored Donald Trump's promise to further gay rights and his waving of a gay rainbow flag saying "LGBQT for Trump", maybe there are more conservatives starting to consider it not a big deal. I don't know. And yes, I went there.

   I believe the church needs to be somewhere between the two extremes.  I have said it before, and I'll say it again: it is torture growing up in the church, sitting in the pew and carrying this secret struggle. There are some churches where a person with SSA would be ostracized and/or asked to leave the church - it has happened. Thankfully, it hasn't seemed to have happened with me in my church....... though I did just miss a whole month of church other than this past Sunday night, and only my pastor, his wife, and my Sunday School teacher missed me....so maybe I am a pariah after all.....(though it seems less dangerous to be SSA than it is to be #nevertrump among my Christian friends). Yeah... I went there too :)

   I believe the church has a lot of improvement to do in this area. I would love to see the day come that boys, girls, men, and women in our churches that have attractions to the same sex don't feel they have to hide it. I wish that more felt comfortable coming forward and saying "This is my secret, my struggle. I need prayer, love, and acceptance.... not of any sin, but acceptance of me as a person worthy of love and friendship".

   I'll be honest. It isn't easy to talk about this.....well, I have gotten to the point that it is.... but it took me years to get there. Growing up in a very conservative church,  I had no idea how people would respond. As I have mentioned in other blog posts, there were a few times when people in my church made some very cutting and un-Christian comments about gay people, and I heard my share of jokes and mocking comments over the years.

   The reality that many conservative Christians don't realize, or possibly do not want to realize is that we all know people who are dealing with same-sex attractions on some level. We are everywhere. We are your brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, friends, best friends, sons, daughters, grandchildren. spouses, pastors, coworkers.....  Sadly, there are many people in our churches dealing with SSA who will never tell anyone. Some will stay single and celibate, fighting a battle all on their own for the rest of their lives. Others will live a double life: Christian who has it all together when around others, and a secret life of one night stands and multiple sexual encounters. Others will walk away from the church, driven away by the hateful rhetoric of those in their church and family, possibly never to return. Others connect to a gay affirming church and live a life that will end in hell, encouraged  and helped there by other Christians in the name of love and tolerance.

 I've asked it before, but it bears repeating. If a friend or family member told you they were attracted to the same sex, how would you react? What would you say? Would they walk away from that encounter hurt and discouraged, or would they walk away knowing you love them no matter what and will do anything to help them deal with this very tough thing? Are you the type of Christian that a person dealing with SSA would approach to confide in without fear, or would you be on their list of "no way"?

  I started this blog post out talking about Kirk Talley. A couple of years after his very public outing, he recorded a live concert. On that CD he related a story that I have shared a few times on my blog, but it also bears repeating, so I am sharing it again:

 There was a young man who played guitar in the worship band for his church. He met with his pastor and confessed that he was attracted to other males and needed help and prayer. His pastor promised to pray for him, and they parted ways. At the next service at that church, the pastor told about it from the pulpit, turned to the horrified young man standing on the platform behind him, and told him to leave his church and never come back....... that "his kind" were not welcome there.

 I don't know what happened to that young man. My heart breaks for him and others like him who have been hurt by Christians and the church. I hope and pray he didn't walk away from God when he walked out of that church. I  hope he found a church where he could be loved and receive help.

 As I related that story here, a thought came to me that I never had before when thinking about it: what was the reaction of the congregation? Did no one speak up in the young man's defense? Did no one call out the pastor for his horrible words and actions?

 And a better question: what if that happened in your church? What would you do? Would you silently agree and think "what a queer, we sure don't want people like him around here." Would you disagree with the pastor, but stay silent? Or would you stand and call him out, even if it meant you yourself may have to leave the church?

 I believe the conservative church needs to do a better job of addressing this issue and of reacting to it. My church runs around 230-250 most Sunday mornings, and I know of three people who deal with SSA. Myself, a young married guy, and a third person who I don't know  the identity of. In a church that size, I would be surprised if there were not more. I have sat in my church before and looked around, wondering who else may be sitting in the shadows carrying this secret.

 May we be the kind of church and the kind of Christian that people won't feel the need to hide in the shadows, but will feel comfortable and confident to come out of the shadows and get help. It is what the church should be all about.