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

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.

Planned Parenthood....... hands that shed innocent blood

I am a bit radical in some areas.

 I believe abortion is murder, the murder of the most innocent of lives.

 I believe life begins at conception, and that the Bible backs that up.

 I don't believe in exceptions for rape and incest, for one doesn't punish the baby for the sins of it's father.

 I believe no Christian should ever vote for a candidate who is not pro-life, which is one reason I couldn't vote for Donald Trump..... I have yet to see evidence that he is pro-life.

I believe Planned Parenthood should be de-funded, and that no tax dollars should ever be given to any business that kills babies.

  I know that the people who hold all of those views are rare, and are not looked upon favorably by even other Christians.

  In Proverbs 6, there are some things listed that God hates, one of them being hands that shed innocent blood. If someone can come up with more innocent blood to shed than babies in the womb, I'd like to see what  that would be.

 It would seem that we Christians have become calloused to this holocaust that has been going on for far too long in our country, and across the world. We have become used to the fact that it is legal for a woman to lie on a table and allow people to go in and rip apart her baby, often because it isn't convenient to have the baby, and/or they don't want the consequences of their careless and "free" sex.

 I have heard the arguments..... "if it isn't legal, women will do it in back alleys with coat hangers, and might die or be hurt seriously." Good! Sound harsh? Stay with me as I paint a picture: Say an evil man tries to kill some people, but is taken out before he manages to do it.....we rejoice. We say he got what we deserved, and are happy lives were saved. Now what if a person was going to kill a small child and dies in the attempt? Again, we would rejoice he was taken out and the child was safe. So is it that bad to say a  woman gets what she deserves who is trying to have her baby ripped apart in the womb and dies in the attempt?

  You see, we have whitewashed this murder of innocents so much, that we are more concerned about the safety of the murderers,  than the fact that millions of these innocent lives are being ripped apart so the mothers aren't inconvenienced.

  And yes, I get the fact that there are women who have been raped and are victims of incest, but it would seem better to have the baby than to kill it and suffer the effects that women suffer, not to speak of the dangers of abortion on the mother, There are women and girls going into abortion clinics who had no choice about getting pregnant..... but does that make killing the baby OK? Is it less of a murder, is God OK with someone He created being ripped a part?

 I also get on rare occasions, the mother's life is at risk....but very rare.

 As for de-funding Planned Parenthood, I am all for it. The idea that taxes taken from us is helping to pay for killing babies is a horrible truth that we should not have let happen. Undercover work has shown that Planned Parenthood has encouraged young girls to keep quiet about being molested. They have been shown to sell baby parts.... and yet there are Christians who don't want them de-funded, as if the good things they supposedly do make up for all of the murders that lie at their door.

 If God does indeed hate hands that shed innocent blood - and His Word says that He does..... then what do you suppose HE things of Planned Parenthood? Does He look at the good they supposedly do and ignore the very, very evil and horrible things they do? No, He doesn't work like that. God doesn't have the scale of good and evil that we have.

 And if God does hate hands that shed innocent blood, how can we crawl in bed with those who do, or with those who defend and fund them? How can we vote time after time, election after election for those who not only support their cause of killing babies, but celebrate it and try to force it on all of us?

 We would never vote for men who advocated killing toddlers. We would be 100% against funding a place where toddlers were brought in and cruelly murdered......yet because the baby is where we can't see it, we aren't bothered that much by it, and continue to put people in office who want this most innocent of blood shed, and who are gaining financially from those murders.

 Some day we will all stand before God. What if He asks us why we didn't do more to fight this horrific evil? What if He asks us why we voted for people determined to keep it legal? What if He asks us why we didn't want to de-fund the biggest provider of legal murder in our country? The pathetic excuses we offer here won't hold up there, and we probably wouldn't have the nerve to voice them in front of the God who hates the shedding of innocent blood, and who created each of these lives being taken so easily.

  This past election woke me up in more than one way. For the first time in my voting life, I could not vote for the Republican candidate, and this was one reason. It was a small thing to do, and that wasn't the only reason I voted Independent.... but we need to do so much more. It isn't enough to consistently vote pro-life. We need to do more. May God help us to wake up and fight this horrible evil that so many have become too used to.

I am a Christian who is 100% against the shedding of innocent blood, and against those who do it.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 was a horrible year because William Pugh died

 I am not big on celebrities. They get paid too much, the majority of them seem to hate true Christianity and Christians, they generally are self-centered and wouldn't give the average American a second look.

 Sure, there are some I like. I love superhero movies, and Chris Evans is awesome as Captain America. Chris Pratt has done and said some really cool things that make him stick out more than the average celebrity who claims to be a Christian. And there are some I can't handle: the ladies on the View, Lady Gaga, that guy who did the Apprentice show, and others.

   But they are no better than any of us. They will all go to meet God the same as we average people will, and He won't be impressed with their celebrity status. If they haven't truly served Him here on earth, they won't go to Heaven no matter how many people here on earth say "rest in peace" or "they are in a better place", etc. If they were not a true follower of Jesus here on earth, they will spend an eternity in hell.

 There are a lot of people making a big deal over all of the celebrities who died in 2016, and they go on and on about how horrible of a year 2016 was because of these celebrity deaths. You'd have thought it was the tragedy of the century that the chick from Star Wars or Star Trek died....... I have no idea which is which, nor how they are different.

 But you know what? William Pugh died in 2016 too...... does that make 2016 any worse for these people bemoaning celebrity deaths? Who was he, you ask? He was some random guy who came up when I Googled "2016 obituaries" - that's who he was. No, he wasn't in Star Wars or Star Trek, he doesn't seem to have done anything the shallow celebrities do...... but he was someone's father and grandfather. People loved him and mourned when he died.

  I get it.... celebrities are people too....... but if we are so addicted to entertainment and so caught up in the people making music and TV shows and movies to entertain us, that we think a while year is a horrible year because some of these people died who entertain us......then maybe we are too focused on entertainment and not enough on what matters.

 And I am not saying you should never be sad when a celebrity dies....... but come on.....to make a year out to be horrible because someone you don't know personally but was simply entertained about.....that is crazy talk.

Empty buildings and broken people

   Maybe it is odd of me, but I often feel a sense of sadness when I pass an old building that has been deserted and lies empty, slowly eroding. Houses, barns, sheds, and saddest of all: churches. The thoughts don't always come, but they often do:

  I find myself wondering why the church closed. Did it slowly die because people stopped coming, or did the congregation build a better one and let that place alone to die where they worshiped for so long. What did that church see over the years.....people come to Christ, happy couples married, babies dedicated, people lining the altars as God moved....but now there is nothing there, no one to meet together and worship. It is just an empty, deserted, and forgotten building. It isn't really even a church anymore, for a church is where people go to worship.

 And the houses....what happened there? Were the people unable to pay their taxes, and a bank foreclosed that doesn't really care about the house? What memories were made in that house? Any house sees happy and sad times, good and bad. And now so many of those houses that used to be homes, are rotting, eroding buildings that have become an eyesore.

 Once in a while, someone buys one of those houses or churches, and makes them completely over. Sometimes there is no hope of restoration, and it is torn down and demolished so a new building can be built where the old one resided.

 Deserted and empty buildings are sad, but empty people are worse. I see them also everywhere I go. You can tell by looking at them. They often look older than their years. Sin will do that. Alcohol, smoking, drugs, careless sex, and more all age the body and dull  the eyes. If you look in people's eyes and listen to them talk......hidden under the vulgarity and careless talk is years of hurt. Broken people, souls that are black as night or ripped apart from all the person has been through and suffered - often because of their own choices.

   Buildings can be beyond repair and restoration, but no person is beyond repair and restoration by the loving God who created them. The body may never be restored, and sin may cause suffering for their rest of their life, or even shorten their life........ yet God can do so much more with the soul and mind than any construction company can ever do with a house. God never looks at a person and sees them as beyond hope, incapable of being restored by His loving hands.

   It is so easy to look at people and think there's no hope. I have seen countless people come through the Emergency Room addicted to drugs, coming back for the umpteenth time. I've seen families weeping because their loved one took too much of a drug one time too many. I've seen the people checking in hoping to score some drugs from the hospital to help them with their habit. I have helped people check in to be seen for things that are caused by their own sinful habits and lives. And yes, I have been tempted several times to think there's no hope of change for that person. They'll never amount to anything, that drug that they are so addicted to will some day cut their life short.

 Yet any of these and others like them can be saved by God and totally transformed and changed. We don't serve a God who shies away from people addicted to drugs, sex, who have AIDS or other diseases brought on by their sin.

 These people caught in addictions and sinful lifestyles who seem to have no hope of change, or any desire for it......if they take one step towards God, He will come running to save their souls......just as He has done for so many down through the centuries.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Marrying your best friend.........

 **if you are one who says you married your best friend and don't get my humor and sarcasm, you may want to avoid reading this post.... you have been warned.

   There are things people post on Facebook that bug me: sports, posts asking me to type amen if I love Jesus, anything pro-Trump (or any other liberal), and the "I married my best friend!" posts.

 I just think they're kind of weird, and they raise all sorts of questions.....

   I didn't have a best friend until 11 years ago.......and here is a newsflash: my best friend is a guy.... so if I posted I was marrying my best friend...... well, that would be weird. It would also unfortunately be legal....... but still weird. And wrong.

  But here is the thing: most of these people posting "I married my best friend!", had a best friend of the same sex at one point. And that is what raises my questions:

At what point did their best friend of the same gender cease to be their best friend, and their girlfriend or boyfriend become their best friend?

Do they tell their best friend that they aren't their best friend anymore, and how? "Sorry dude, it isn't you, it is her........."

If the best friend is married, and he's your best friend and his wife is his best friend, how does that work? Is he actually your best friend if his wife is his?

  Doesn't asking the used-to-be-best friend to be your best man or maid of honor become a bit awkward? "Dude, I know you were my best friend before she came along, and I know I kind of tossed you aside, but would you be my best man - no, your're not being reinstated as my best friend, it's just I'm marrying her, so she can't be my best man........"

  But seriously, when does it happen that the best friend of the same gender ceases to be the best friend and the girlfriend/boyfriend becomes the best friend? Is there a time limit, does it happen when the engagement occurs? And what about the people who know that for years you and your buddy have been best friends....... if you put on Facebook "I'm marrying my best friend!", how do they know you're marrying Jane and not John?

   Maybe I'm weird to be bugged by this, and weirder to wonder about this stuff, but I think I raise some good points and questions.

 Maybe someone could invent a kit for this. It could contain a card for the previous best friend to let them know they have been let go.... and why, notices to friends and relatives that your best friend is now "Jane" and not "John", so they won't worry when they hear you're marrying your best friend.

 But then what happens when the couple divorces? Does the best friend that got downgraded become the best friend again? I assume if a divorce happens, that the ex-spouse also becomes the ex-best friend........which brings up the need for another kit........

   So here's a thought..... how about keeping the title best friend for your best friend of the same gender and say you're marrying the love of your life. That makes more sense than marrying your best friend, and saves a whole lot of confusion.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A word for the year: Worship

  It has become a popular thing to pick a word for the year and focus on that word all year long. One of my favorite authors posted hers yesterday and asked what others were picking. I jokingly replied "chocolate", but have been thinking about this picking a word for the year ever since.....with a serious frame of mind.

 Maybe this is a woman thing...... I have only seen woman do it,  but I have never tried to be like other guys. And I did find this site by a guy talking about doing it, and the why of doing it - MyOneWord.com.

  Regardless if it is a woman thing or not, I have decided to try it. And the word that has been on my mind a lot lately, is worship..... so that shall be my word. I even have a devotional on a year of worship titled "The One Year Worship the King Devotional", which also helped me pick this word for the year.

  I have alluded to it before, but I find myself worshiping the best outside of the four walls of the church. I think there are a few reasons for that:

1) I don't like going to church all that well. Yeah, I sound like a heathen, but I assure you I am not.

2) I don't feel comfortable in corporate worship. When I am driving it isn't unusual for me to have my hand up as the words of a song minister to me - I keep one hand one the wheel - but I don't feel comfortable doing that in church. I cry, and express myself in other worshipful ways that I'd never do in church. I can be myself outside of the church.

3) Church seems so routine. I have no answers, but it is the same over and over: opening prayer, 2 songs, offering, another song, prayer, testimonies, sermon, benediction. I guess I don't feel I am there to worship, but just to sing and hear a sermon.

  And no, I am not advocating not going to church..... we need to be around other believers of similar faith and beliefs....... but what if that isn't enough? I get it that we aren't supposed to go to church with the attitude of what can we get out of the service. That isn't what I am getting at...... I am just saying the worship service for me just doesn't seem like a worship service.

 So I will continue to fill my pew at church, but I am going to focus more on private and personal worship. That is what gets me through.

 In the last several years, I have gotten my most spiritual growth and help at home. No, I am not saying sermons don't help and encourage, for they do. It is just I got to the place long ago that I felt I couldn't be myself in church. Well meaning evangelists said things that made me walk away from the idea of going to the altar for help, and instead doing it at home. I never felt I could ask for prayer when I needed it for my very tough and personal struggle.

 It hasn't helped that I have felt like an outsider at my church for a long time.

 So I started doing more at home. If I needed prayer, I'd stand through the altar call and pray at home. If I needed someone to pray for me, I'd ask people who have been where I am and who don't give off the idea that they have never struggled with anything.

 True worship involves complete honesty, authenticity, and openness...... and I feel I can't have that at church.

 So my goal this year is not to skip out on church, but to focus more on worship in my personal life, and even if I don't feel like I am doing it at church, to do more of it at home in my personal devotions, Bible studies, while I am driving my car and listening to Christian music.

 We were made to worship, and in this year of 2017, I want to focus more on that, and to do it in the right way.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016, a year in review......and 2017, a year of the unknown

People have been bemoaning about how bad 2016 was because some self absorbed people, aka celebrities, died. That doesn't affect my year, as I am not much into what celebrities do or say...... but 2016 did have some bad moments. But it also had its good moments. Here is my year in brief:

Good: The Amish Country getaway

1) In February, I took my first 2-day trip by myself. I went to the Amish part of Ohio on a Monday and Tuesday, taking advantage of a package deal by an inn there. For $89.99, I got a night's stay there, my choice of breakfast and dinner at 3 different restaurants, and a lot of free things from different businesses all over the area: cheese, bread, and more. I visited 3 different cheese places, and did a lot of shopping.....it was a blast.

Bad: the hospital experience

2) March brought a surprise stay in the hospital. I passed out at work in the ER - a good place to do it - and was diagnosed with bronchitis and a pulmonary embolism. I also got a bonus diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. It was sooooooo much fun, but I did feel very close to God during that time.

Good: Family vacation

3) In the last few days of May and first days of June, I went to the Outer Banks with my oldest sister, her husband, my nieces, and my parents. Some of my cousins came down and stayed a few days, and we had a blast. I did something I never thought I'd do with my fear of heights - I climbed the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The only thing that would have made it better was if my other sister and her gang could have gone.

Very bad: election 2016

4) Election time was a disaster in my opinion. I still can't understand why and how so many Christians so eagerly supported a man like Donald Trump and passed over some very decent Christian conservative candidates to pick him. I was -  and am - as upset as when Obama won, and figure this will come back to bite Republicans in the butt. I don't see him as any better than Hillary or Obama. I still have a lot of anger over my so-called conservative party losing their minds, integrity, and everything else to nominate a man like him, and what it was like to go through the election as a #nevetrump person.....it wasn't fun, and I dread 4 years of this man as much as I did Obama......something you only get if you couldn't bring yourself to vote for him, even with the scary Hillary monster stories. And I really have had some harsh things said to me, even by people in my own church. I know... I am too outspoken, and God forbid I criticize DT because he has an R behind his name and was considered the lesser of two evils by so many and the Republican Messiah by so many others.........

Good: meeting the authors 

5) In early November, I took a trip over to Amish country to meet two authors: Kimbery Woodhouse and Tracie Peterson. I enjoyed meeting and chatting with these two lovely ladies, and it was a definite highlight of my year.

Good: Christmas

6) I had a difficult time getting into the spirit and mood of Christmas this year. The disastrous and joke of an election has had me down, added to it by the pressure from family and friends to keep my opinions to myself of a president I despise as much as Oabama, but had no one tell me to keep my opinions to myself about him.

 Disappointment over my house deal falling through is still heavy on me, and discouragement and depression have been hitting hard. I did come out of it enough to enjoy Christmas and had a great one with my family.

Mostly good: the new job

7) I accepted a new position that will be with the hospital, instead of being outsourced as I have been. It has its pros and cons, but I am looking forward to it. One of the biggest pros is a $3.68 an hour raise, and 3 days off a week instead of 2.

Bad: house buying

8) One of my many flaws, is I don't deal well with disappointments.... and this house buying has had a lot of disappointments that I am letting bother me more than I should...... but it is very frustrating.

Bad: Sickness

9) I had a cold for a couple of weeks, and then just when I started getting over it, it came back in the form of bronchitis. I was miserable for the latter part of November and much of December with it.

Good: Family time

10) I had a lot of fun times this year with family, and spent a lot of time with the nieces and nephews I love so much.

    I view myself as a realist, leaning a bit towards the pessimist side, if I am honest. As bad as it sounds, I have been looking at the prospect of a new year wondering what hurts and disappointments this new year has in store......not a good way to look at it, I know. We are getting a new president who I don't consider any better than what we have had for 8 years, so I am not even looking forward to Obama leaving office. To me, it is the end of one error, and beginning of another..... made worse by the fact that the so-called conservative party nominated and voted this one in, so I can't blame the liberals for this one.

 I have had it up to my gills with house hunting and disappointments in that area. I have been tempted to just rent a small apartment and cram everything I own into it..... but I don't want that.

 I haven't done New Year's Resolutions for a few years, and don't really like them..... but I decided to make some this year:

1) Buy a house and move into it.

2) Be more positive. (that may be my biggest challenge)

3) Make the world happy by going into my anti-Trump closet...which will mean doing my best to ignore his existence..... and a lot of Facebook posts. I already stopped paying attention the news, and that helps. (check: THIS may be my most challenging)

4) Read more books....my depression has been so bad  this year, it affected my reading habits.

5) Laugh more.

6) Be a better Christian and man.

7) Pray more, and read my Bible more.

8) Lose weight, and watch my diet better.

9) Stop caring what people think of me.

10) Have more fun.

11) Think more on the good things

12) Register as an Independent and get out of the Republican Party. (yeah, I am serious about that)

13) Become more comfortable in my own skin, and find more purpose as a single.

Other 2017 stuff:


I have so many devotionals, that I usually read two per year..... one in the morning and one in the evening. For my morning devotions, I will be reading One Year Worship the King, and for evening The One Year Impact For Living Men's Devotional. Both look very good, but the first is one I have been looking forward to using since I got it earlier this year.


  In #13 of my resolutions, I mentioned becoming more comfortable in my own skin, and finding purpose as a single. I have been doing pretty well on the first part, but not so much on the latter. As part of the latter, I'd like to become even more open about my issues with same-sex attraction, and discussing things related to it. The church needs to learn to deal better and more compassionately with this issue and with those who deal with it..... and maybe, just maybe I can help a little in that area, and even more importantly than that: be a help and encouragement to others who deal personally with this very tough issue, especially those who may not be as far up the road as I am.

 It really can be tough being single at my age, but I am dealing with it far better now than I have in the past. I'd also like to better address single issues in this coming year. The church has really dropped the ball with singles, and emphasizes marriage way too much in my opinion.


  As I stated before, I don't deal well with disappointments.... and it is something the devil uses to discourage me and bring me down. No, I haven't backslidden (a term Calvinists won't get), but I have definitely not been up to spiritual par lately. The election crap, Donald Trump. being told to "shut up" about DT, having a house deal fall through, striking out over and over on houses, depression, being sick for so long and wondering if I was going to end up in the hospital again, missing a whole month of church and having no one check on me other than my pastor and his wife and my Sunday School teacher,  winter, and all kinds of other stuff have piled on til I feel buried in discouragement, depression, and disillusionment . The devil doesn't care how he gets us, as long as he gets us..... and he has found this tool of discouragement a success with me over and over. I am doing better than I was, but I haven't climbed completely out from under the pile yet.

The book:

Country singer Brad Paisley is credited with saying it: that today is the first page of a 365 page book, and to write a good one. I want to do that. Unfortunately, I don't have control over everything in that book, and there will be good and bad, and plot twists that I won't see coming...... but I serve a God who isn't surprised by plot twists, and can use them to make my book a good one no matter what happens. There are still 364 pages unwritten in this book of mine titled 2017. I hope and pray that whether I keep all of my resolutions or not, I will be a better man and Christian by page 365, and that in spite of Donald Trump and his supporters, church, houses, jobs, sickness, or whatever else 2017 holds, I will keep the faith and have a stronger faith when the last page of my year is written.