Friday, December 23, 2011

How I Know I Am In The South...

I am still exhausted from the semester. I flew across the country, with an unexpectedly long delay in Phoenix (we were held in order to avoid stranding some folks from Denver whose flight had been delayed significantly by snow... after experiences I have had in the past, I totally support this). I met a couple of very nice folks who were also going through to RDU from SFO via PHX on the flight; I love the random assemblage of people who can end up on a plane: a lawyer from Michigan, a web designer who works at Stanford but who is from Indiana and whose parents settled in North Carolina, a nice young visual effects artist from Greensboro, an absolutely fine guy from Durham who works in solar panel engineering... and me. Seminary student. Dirty old man. Minister-in-training.

Oh how I love the LORD!

Anyway, here's how I know I am back in the South: today my mom and I went to lunch before picking my dad up at the nursing home; I took my cup to the drink-machine. Saw the "tea" container. Wondered... would it be real, traditional, Southern sweet tea if not labeled as such?

Yes, oh yes it was.

It was beautiful and tasty and I could feel my waist expanding as I drank it. And of course I refilled just before leaving. Jesus loves me, this I know. Amen!

Monday, December 19, 2011

It Was What It Was. And It Was.

Friday 12/16/2011. 412PM. Last paper submitted. Semester over.
Όλα επαίνους προς Θεό. Γίνεται!

Due to how the fares were lined up when I booked my ticket, I am still here for a few more days. I think that's a divine thing... I have time to rest, to watch a shit-load of stuff on my TiVo, and to just enjoy being. I could write more, and probably will, but for now? Coffee, morning news, and leftover cake from last night's closing Advent service at school. Wow, simply wow. What Meredith, Jason, and Kelly have managed to do with <awaken> is truly beautiful. I was so honored to be asked to light the final Advent candle and say a few words about what peace means to me. Just beautiful stuff, it was. And that song which they used to frame the entire set of services... The World Stood Still by a Christian folk-rock group from SoCal named Future of Forestry. (Yes, the name of the band is from the C.S. Lewis poem.)... wow. Gonna definitely download that song when/if I get that iTunes gift certificate from my mom for Christmas.

All in all, life isn't so bad.

Time for my mid-morning nap!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day - 24 November 2011

Wow, it's been a long time since I've blogged. School got crazy. I can write more about that later, but for now here is my statement for this day...

Let us pause for a minute to remember that from God through Jesus we receive all things.

Let us pause for a minute to honor the sacrifices of our first-responder compatriots who are working today to put out fires and/or save our lives on a moment's notice.

Let us pause for a minute to honor the thousands of our military compatriots who are away from home today, willing to die for us without regard to whether we support wars.

Let us pause for a minute to honor the thousands of families with empty seats at their tables because their children died in such wars.

Let us pause for a minute.

Let us pause.

Let us pray for the strength to build a better world for future generations so that no families will ever have such empty seats at their tables.

Let us pray for the strength.

Let us pray.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spiritual Journal Entry #5

This is an odd entry... having been so sick for so many days this semester... like, missing most of two weeks of school... I cannot reflect on the spiritual practice from class on 10/10 because I wasn't there. What I can do, though, is write a reflection on an intersection between some things in my Rule Of Life and my experience on Friday 10/14.

Points of context from my Rule Of Life:
1) I committed to attend Labyrinth Walks at Grace Cathedral in SF
2) I expressed a stretch-objective regarding movement-based praxis

It is ironic that I would express my tendency to avoid movement-based πρᾶξις when I am so deeply interested in labyrinth-walking. There's an obvious irony, yes, but on Friday 10/14/2011 something happened while walking the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral that really synthesized several threads of my spiritual life. While walking the labyrinth I hit upon the concept of space-holding: I know from my worship experiences at COR-SF that I am a space-holder and I gladly embrace that role which God has given me. What was not so clear to me until this week's labyrinth walk was that my role as space-holder in Pentecostal worship also appears while moving through a labyrinth; this became clear when I sensed a woman behind me on the walk and -- acting totally on instinct -- I held space at a turn so that she could pass me.

I believe that the power of labyrinth-walking lies in the metaphor of the intentional walk. When a group of people walk a labyrinth, we are pilgrims on a shared divine path. Out of many spirits, one intent. Από πολλά, ένα. Some of us are natural lead-feet, some of us are stop-and-smell-the-roses, and yes... some of us are space-holders. I now understand that my identity as a space-holder appears even in movement-based praxis.

Will the circle, be unbroken, by and by Lord, by and by?
There's a greater home, awaiting, in the sky Lord, in the sky.

Sicky Sickerson Speaks!

Being sick, in a word, sucks. A really awful cough-gack-sinus thing has been going around... thank God for my friend Anne's access to ciprofloxacin. I am not normally a believer in the rush to use antibiotics, but in this case it was necessary. I had been running myself ragged... getting waaaaaay too crazybusy with school, worship, and in general just going too fast. It's ironic that the mantra for my Tuesday night Biblical Character Study class is SLOW DOWN... sheesh, mayhaps I need to listen to that mantra!

Anyway... that's it. Sicky Sickerson has spoken.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Day We All Knew Would Come

It is done. The master visionary, Steven Paul "Steve" Jobs, has left the building.

I really have no words to explain my feelings at this time. I didn't know the man; hell, he didn't even do me the courtesy of following up with me when I stepped forward to express my passionate desire to work for his company. But the simple truth is that this man had a profound impact on my relationship to technology, to the printed word, and to music. From the first day I used the Macintosh back in the Spring of 1989, my relationship to the world changed forever. There really are no words to adequately express my gratitude. Thank you sir. Thank you. A million times, thank you.

Αναπαύσου εν ειρήνη, ω καπετάνιος καπετάνιος μου!
Rest In Peace, oh captain my captain!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spiritual Journal Entry #4

The theme of the week? Language. This was the week that I led my small group in a spiritual practice. I sang three Hebrew lines from a standard Passover Seder liturgy and then had them sing a dual-note Κύριε Ελέησον chant in call-and-response fashion while I sang the Beatitudes from the Sermon On The Mount in the same two notes. The irony is that another classmate had just led us in prayer using a Psalm which he read in English and then in Tongan. It truly is a blessing to be surrounded by so many different languages and modes of expression in our various connections to God. Now if I can just manage to get through this latest round of cough-gack-shit! Yes, that's right. I am apparently sick. Again. Let me be at peace and know that God has my back... I missed church this past Sunday, and my Monday morning NT class, and my Tuesday evening class as well. It's not a good time to be sick. LORD, I ask you to carry me through this period in the semester when things get so crazy.

May my cry come before you, LORD; give me understanding according to your word. May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise. May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, LORD, and your law gives me delight. Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands. (Psalm 119:169-176)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Spiritual Journal Entry #3

This week we did Martin Luther's Four-Stranded Garland, and it really works for me. But I was deeply and profoundly disappointed with how the Confession strand was handled. I know that at least one student in the class went into a total emotional shutdown when the word was mentioned, and the instructors did not adequately explain the role of that strand; the student in question never did re-engage that afternoon.

In addition, another student asked about this whole "why do we have to believe that we are dirty and need to be cleaned" b/c she is not from a Christian background and I think the instructors did a poor job of explaining that point as well. It felt like the instructors could not even understand the question b/c they are so Christian-focused. Perhaps they need a refresher on the meaning of the words interfaith and ecumenism? But back to the point... the Four-Stranded Garland practice does work for me. I need to devote more time to trying it for real some day on my own!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Death-Penalty Hypocrisy: Part Two




WHAT IS PHILIP YELLING ABOUT NOW? His name was Derrick Mason and he was a cold-blooded killer who forced a woman to strip her clothes off so that he could look at her titillating features just before he shot her in the face. Clearly, he deserved to die. Ooopsie... I thought you were opposed to the death-penalty?

People on the political far-left have, for years, tried to guilt-trip me into supporting a moral outrage against the death penalty. As if I am not fully capable of reaching my own moral conclusions about the value of every human life, as I learned from my personal Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

I am a white man from the South, folks: I grew up in the part of the country where the vast majority of state-sponsored killing occurs and I know for a fact that it is applied capriciously and racist-ly. Please stop insulting my intelligence by trying to teach me something I already know. Turn the mirror back on your own face and ask yourself this: why you weren't holding a prayer vigil in the PSR Chapel this week for the white-supremacist in Texas, or the black man in Alabama who openly admitted that he was guilty? I am so tired of knee-jerk politics from both the right-wingers and from arrogant holier-than-thou left-wingers. You make a lie of the values you claim to hold by applying them capriciously, and this makes you no better than the right-wingers. Stop doing the Republicans' work for them by engaging in Republican-style moral hypocrisy.

I have spent much of my adult life, since moving to California almost 23 years ago, shouting against the Republican hate-mongering shit-machine... and yet, my siblings on the far-left make it hard for me to stand with you this week. C'mon folks, throw me a frickin' bone here. Grow a spine and stop acting like a bunch of vapid celebrity-groupie armchair-quarterbacking moral police. If you identify as liberal or radical Christians then stand up and admit to your own moral epic-fail this week. Express regret for the opportunity you squandered this week to make a powerful Christian statement against the death penalty.

Let's review:

This week there were three state-sponsored killings in three states in the Bible Belt.
This week those three states killed one white supremacist and two black men.
This week Texas and Alabama killed two men whose cases were [legally] air-tight.
This week Georgia killed one man who might have been innocent.

I pray that radical-left Christians will ask themselves one core question: if Jesus were presented with three state-sponsored killings in a two-day period across three states that are socially dominated by people who claim to follow His teachings, what would Jesus have done?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Death-Penalty Hypocrisy

Note that in this post I am totally skirting any admission of where I stand on the issue. The point of this post is not to place my beliefs up for public scrutiny or discussion; my point is to extend the argument on the death penalty and to perhaps educate some folks so they examine their own position more consciously.

People who oppose the death penalty will mark Wednesday 9/21/2011 as the latest in the long line of state-sponsored killing in American history. But did you know that two people were killed in state-sponsored killings here yesterday? Or were you so focused on what appears to be another blatantly racist application of the death penalty in the South that you totally ignored the other state-sponsored killing, which also occurred in the Bible Belt and which was the direct outcome of race-hatred?

Everyone is on the "Troy Davis bandwagon" and folks on that bandwagon have been making some powerful moral arguments. What bothers me personally about this is that everyone is going on and on about the "wrongness of the death penalty" with regard to a possibly innocent black man... and nobody seems to have even heard of a man named Lawrence Brewer. I HAVE NOT HEARD ONE PEEP OF PROTEST AGAINST THE EXECUTION OF AN AVOWED RACIST PROUD-TO-BE-KKK WHITE MAN WHO WAS EXECUTED IN TEXAS ON THE SAME DAY.

So, let's review: do we actually oppose the death penalty, really? Or do we only oppose it when it is being applied in such a heinous way like with Troy Davis? I saw a protest sign equating the execution of Troy Davis with lynching -- equating the execution of a black man with lynching since it seems quite clear that something was fundamentally wrong with the state of Georgia's case against him. I get it.

I'm a white Southerner; believe me I get it.

But, are we protesting the execution of Troy Davis because it was a vile and disgusting racist miscarriage of justice, or because we think that state-sponsored killing is wrong? And for that matter, here's my challenge question: is there a middle-ground with the death penalty? Is it possible to maintain moral outrage against the death penalty in all cases "but"? Yaknow, all cases "but" those cases where we define the criminal act as deserving of death? And how is such a position any morally different than stating something like "I oppose abortion in all cases but when the mother's life is at risk?" 

I would think when it comes to human life that the argument becomes a binary: either we are against the death penalty or we are not. Period. If we want to say that the death penalty is morally unacceptable then WHY WERE WE NOT PROTESTING AGAINST THE EXECUTION OF THE RACIST WHITE MURDERER AS WELL? Do we oppose the death penalty only when it is the latest Cause Célèbre or when it is being applied in such an obviously unjust and racist way?

My opinion is that if we OPPOSE the death penalty then we OPPOSE it. Period.
It's not a gradation of morality, is it?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Spiritual Journal Entry #2

What a day this was in class. Today in small group, we did not even get to the scheduled "spiritual practice" example, because my group contains eight beautiful personalities that are experiencing the glory and the agony of spiritual growth that occurs when stepping forward to serve the Savior. I have no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit is working through these beautiful people... it's just odd to realize that there are ways in which God is making things easy for me by comparison to other people. The oddest part is that I am so committed to my lovingkindness and desire to support my fellow seminarian pilgrims that I have not shared much with them... about my father's health, about the miasma of my parents' marriage, about my tremendous sense of impending financial doom, etc etc etc. Maybe I will need to work on that?

But for now, what was amazing about today's praxis was that we held each other's pain, loved each other, and nobody was left alone in their struggles. We could do a lot worse with our spiritual practices.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Spiritual Journal Entry #1

Over the next few weeks, I will be keeping a spirit-journal for one of my MDiv classes. There will (hopefully) be other entries in my blog besides these journal entries... but we'll see how the Holy Spirit and my schedule end up interacting with each other!

My first reaction when this class began was... simply... oh shit, that woman who attacked me in last semester's reflection session is in this class. I'll show her: I'll use my newfound loving connections with my fellow first-year MDiv students to isolate her. How messed up is that shit? But the simple reality is that even though her misplaced anti-male hostility toward me was very real, I do not wish her ill. In fact, I feel pity for her: the more I hear about how many people on campus dislike her, the more I wish I could get along with her. I just don't know how. This came into my mind when we were doing our "group share" and she mentioned something I thought was very sweet. While the class was doing its prayerful meditation, lifting up each student's "share," I felt a genuine desire/hope for reconciliation. I have no idea what form it will take, or whether it will even come to pass. But what I do know is that I placed the intent out there as an outgrowth from today's meditative practice.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Best Film I've Seen In Years

It's a veritable classic. It has the:
  • Sensibility of Monty Python
  • Pathos of Les Miserables
  • Squick of Event Horizon...
And it even features lots of boobies and a gun. Seriously.

Check out my friend Sarah Thompson's new film. It is called The Truth About Zombies and you can view it for free on Sarah's YouTube Channel -- spread the word about this film. Show some love to The Sarah!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Orientation Week

What a week this has been. I was remarking earlier today to a seminary friend that history will record something miraculous: in the week before Labor Day 2011, I will have attended church five times. That's right, five times in one week: two Pentecostal gospel services, a standard mainline Protestant MCC-ish service, a Taizé service, and a nearly indescribable service called Awaken that was designed by three second-year MDiv classmates. More on the impact of Awaken, later.

And I gotta tell ya... it works for me. I find that the more time I spend in "church mode," the more normal it feels. And the more time I want to spend in church mode. God has truly worked miracles in me this week; I know now, clear as day, that the Holy Spirit has been fixing the cracks in this broken vessel from inside... and the Spirit has even been fixing cracks I didn't know I had. Δόξα εν υψίστοις Θεώ!

I just re-read the last entry I uploaded to this blog before orientation began; I got chills from its prescience. A new truth has appeared... seven months ago my friend Gina and I put forth the thought that PSR wouldn't know what had hit it this fall when we started our core MDiv studies; this remains true. However, I had tacitly made the assumption that Gina and I would be prime-movers in such a shift; I am now convinced that God had even greater things planned all along:

The bottom-line is that God has drawn a staggeringly beautiful group of people to PSR in order to begin their studies this fall. I do not even know where to begin; there were honestly only one or two new students at the entire orientation who gave me that not-so-fresh feeling and even those few people did not trigger the kind of ickies that were triggered in me by some of the students I met last year. There are two guys on whom I have a crush that will never go anywhere because they are straight, and there is another guy on whom I have a crush that will likely never go anywhere because even though he is gay he is also like 25 years old... and yet, this is all perfectly fine because I just do not know how I would have the time or the emotional bandwidth for a relationship at this point:

A core reason is that my Sobriety Ministry at COR-SF will start in less than two weeks, and also because the Holy Spirit has moved me to work with Gina to design a new series of worship services following in the lead of what my now-second-year MDiv classmates have done with their Awaken service design. This series of services will operate under the name Reconciliation... styled in the Greek as ΣΥΝΔΙΑΛΛΑΓΉ (Sūndēăllăghé)... and whose tag-line is Giving Voice To The Silenced.

God is most definitely still speaking. AMHN.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What Kind Of Man Would I Be?

What kind of man would I be if I didn't take a small minute, right now, to let my dear readers know that my entries may get a little less frequent on the morrow. Why, you ask? School starts next week and at the urging of my beautiful friend Gina's beautiful wife Sarah, I am going to participate fully in the New Student Orientation. They take Fall orientation quite seriously at my seminary; this week I will have five 12-to-14 hour days in a row. Praise Jesus, bring it on!

Am I looking forward to getting up at 630AM each day this week? Not really. Do I have a choice? Yes; I have permission to pick-and-choose based on what strikes my fancy. But... would I do that with the Bible? Would I do that with God? Would I do that with my salvation in Jesus Christ?

The answers are self-evident.

Today at church my brothers-in-Christ Lee and Jesse announced the formal date for the kickoff of the new ministry we are starting at COR-SF... Recovery In Faith. As Gary Busey once pointed out on Celebrity Rehab: Son Of a Bitch, Everything's Real. The Bishop was there today and she definitely invoked the Holy Spirit; the Spirit chose to anoint Charlene, of all people. What an amazing musician she is... the Spirit was in her, she was literally howling with God's Love... and she never missed one note on the organ. God is still speaking, Jesus is still healing, and the Holy Spirit is still moving across the waters. All things considered, life isn't so bad. The Bishop even lifted up our sobriety ministry in her homily. Son Of a Bitch, Everything's Real.

In late January 2011, I sat in a room in Mudd Hall and met some beautiful people. I want to take a minute to recognize my friends Gina Pond, who is currently sleeping in the next room (she is staying with me this week), and Robbie Gilchrist. Robbie is a wonderful young man who reminds me that yes indeed we have brave allies among the cisgender straight white men in this world... THANK YOU JESUS FOR THE GIFT OF PEOPLE LIKE ROBBIE... I am profoundly blessed to be in the company of such excellent and admirable hobbits.

Just before wishing her a good night's rest, I pointed out to Gina that almost exactly seven months ago, we reached a point where we began to think that PSR wasn't going to know what hit it when we start our core MDiv classes. That was before I'd become such close friends with Lee, or been abused by Lindsey's hypocrisy, or found my stride at City Of Refuge, or met Michael Cronin (with whom Gina, Robbie, and I will begin MDiv core-classes this semester). In short, I can now see that there was an air of prophecy in Gina's statement about what we are about to bring into the PSR community in the Fall of 2011. Let the games begin. For those of you who know Fraggle Rock: the Trash Heap, has spoken. Nyeeeeeh!

Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. Such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil. (Romans 16:16-19)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Steve Schulz for President!

Ok, no I don't really mean that. Well... actually, Steve would be a better Secretary Of State... I think I want Buster Posey for president actually. Anyway... I hung out with a really awesome guy I met 2 years ago on an airplane. [Cue the porn music...] No no no! It wasn't like that! Sheesh!

Anyway, I want to give recognition to my recently-reconnected-with friend Steve. The simple truth is that the world needs more people like him. The millennial generation gets such a bad rap; if one watches media coverage then it would seem that the world of folks born in the late 1980s is defined by Facebook, Jersey Shore, and Kim Kardashian's allegedly callipygian badonkadonk. Not so for this young man. Steve comes from a long line of religious conservatives but (bless his parents) he was raised to love his neighbor. He understands Islam, his passion calls him to stand up for my civil rights -- God bless my heterosexual allies! -- and he actually gives a damn about places like Syria.

How long will all of you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalm 82:2-4 NIV)

I must say that I have really been struggling over the last year or so regarding my fear that the world may have reached its tipping point -- the point from which we cannot recover, the point where the only way "forward" is through a total global collapse. As a Christian, I do not fear such a thing on a spiritual level: in fact, if it is going to happen at all then I want it to be a total collapse so that we can just get on with the Second Coming already! But, it's this weird viscous in-between shit that drives me bonkers. Not knowing how I am going to find part-time work with enough pay to get by and not be homeless by the end of this year; not knowing how my parents are going to weather the current shit-storm they are processing regarding my dad's health and living arrangements; not having any clarity on how I am supposed to answer God's call without ending up living in my car (hello God... I'm not preaching a prosperity-theology here... but... dude, seriously, could ya throw me a frickin' bone re: how I am supposed to survive?)

But when talking with Steve, I see a path forward. I see hope for the future. I see someone who actually gives a shit. Praise God for the people of Steve's generation who have his passion for justice.

Your older sister was Samaria, who lived to the north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you with her daughters, was Sodom. You not only followed their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they. As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done. Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done. (Ezekiel 16:46-51 NIV)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Part Of "For All" Is Unclear?

Φίλιππος δουλος Θεού με μαρτυρία για την ιεροσύνη του συνόλου των πιστών ·
Philip, slave of God, with a testimony to the priesthood of all believers:

Exactly 1010 days ago I was born again in Jesus Christ. I reached a point where I could no longer ignore the call of the Holy Spirit and yet, there was still this nagging issue: I am a gay man, can I really be a Christian? I sat with God about this, and the answer to my prayers on it could not have been clearer... it is not only possible but it is part of God's Plan for me. But why, God? Why me?

The simple truth is that God's LGBTQI children are suffering at the hands of Satan. The enemy has infiltrated into the highest ranks of Christian leadership globally and he has possessed many who call themselves Christians. Recognize them by listening to their theology: whenever the message does not start from the undeniable love of the Good News, particularly whenever a self-declared Christian tries to shut the doors using theology from the Old Testament to exclude God's LGBTQI children from an extravagant welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven, that person is under the control of Satan. Pray for their soul's deliverance from evil, and move away from them into the light of salvation in Christ Jesus. ΑΜΗΝ!

As I came to understand the truth of this, I connected with the MCC movement... and simply by opening myself to God, Facebook became a place where I have connected not just with other gay Christians but also with other people who are beginning to finally, after many years, stand up and confront the enemy face-to-face. We must stand and roar loudly, in another day of Pentecost, directly into the face of Satan and all who are in his service -- particularly those who do not recognize that they are under his thumb. We must rebuke the enemy as our Savior did. And Jesus answered and said unto him, "Get thee behind Me, Satan! For it is written: Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." (Luke 4:8 21-KJV)

We must be warriors for peace in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. We must embrace the priesthood of all believers and we must demand that the doors remain wide-open for all who hear the call of salvation by faith. We must not sit back and allow Satan to tear our siblings in Christ away from their Salvation. We must not sit back while the Republicans continue trying to take ownership of our Savior and to defile His holy name for their political agenda. Not in God's name.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Who Guy Fawkes Actually Was

They're at it again: Civic Center BART Station shuts down. Police clear the station. Protesters march on Market Street, shutting down traffic there; the group arrives at Powell Street Station and now that station is shut down. We're pretty-much repeating last Monday's protest. Nothing has changed, nothing will change b/c of these protests, except it will turn one of the most liberal urban areas in the USA against the very causes that they would have instinctively supported.

Thing is, I do not fully disagree or fully agree with issues that are being protested re: BART's police department. If it were simply a matter of that, I would shake my head, shrug my shoulders, and not get hot under the collar. But I cannot believe something I am seeing here. Check this out:

The anarchist undertone of this movement is linked to the cybergroup Anonymous; the movement has adopted the caricature of Guy Fawkes... and that makes me sick to my stomach. I ask you: do you know anything about Guy Fawkes?

Guy Fawkes was a Catholic terrorist. He was inspired to attempt an assassination of James I/VI in order to restore Roman theological hegemony over the Scots, English, and Irish. Yeah... James VI of the Scots -aka- James I of England. The James of the King James Bible. The James who had a number of close male friends including a courtier named George Villiers, styled 1st Duke of Buckingham, whom James referred to as my sweet child and wife and whose bedroom contained a just-recently-uncovered secret hallway directly into James's bedroom. I wasn't there so I don't know anything for a fact... but... I mean... hellllloooooo?

Guy Fawkes attempted to murder King James, a likely man-fancying Protestant, in order to return Catholic rule to the Isles. And this group has adopted that attempted murderer of one of my kind as a symbol. I for one think this is a really shitty irony and this is an open letter to that movement: please do not use the likeness of a man who sought to undermine the Protestant Reformation in my ancestral homelands.

Finally though, is the point where I am beside myself with regard to their hypocrisy. Let's ponder this: they use the phrase ANONYMITY IS DEAD as one of their rallying cries and yet they wear masks. How in the hell is that in keeping with their stated beliefs? Could it be that they are really just a bunch of passive-aggressive anarchists-at-heart who do not realize that they are undermining the very causes they claim to support with their hypocrisy? People who truly understand and support a deeply-held belief do not hide behind a stylized face-mask.

I am a Jesus-freak.
I am a Socialist Democrat.
I am a same-gender loving cis-gender man.
You know my name from my profile.
You can see pictures of me on my Facebook account.
I live in San Leandro, California... ~20 miles from SF.
I am not hiding behind a mask

Come out, little ones; let us see who you are.
You might find that you have more allies that way. Food for thought.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Holy Handgrenade

I am but a tiny speck, surfing across a Quantum Whirlwind that flows out from God, on the foamy wings of the Holy Spirit... I live to serve. I serve to live. I model myself after Jesus The Christ.

In the past three days I have had a wonderful church experience, a long chat with my bestie Anne, and not one but two conferences related to LGBTQI inclusiveness in Christian praxis. I am starting to see a local community... a community of religious thinkers, yes, but more importantly a community of religious doers.

Certainly, I did not expect the summer of 2011 to proceed like this. It goes beyond just dropping the Berkeley Summer Greek Intensive Workshop; it even goes beyond the decision to drop the MABL and pursue "just" the MDiv. It goes to the fact that I am coming to understand my identity... I am a minister. One of the many gifts that City Of Refuge has given me is the understanding that ministry is not just about a title, or a degree; it is a process, a praxis, and a state of mind. I am a minister-in-training, certainly, but I serve a living God: I will always in some way be a minister-in-training. Praise the LORD. Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. (Proverbs 17:1)

I gave my first testimony at church. Sunday 8/14/2011 marked 1000 Days, and I offered it up as an example to the congregation of what God can do. The wall of applause was deafening. I did myself a favor: I stood there, closed my eyes, and let the Spirit wash over me through the sound of the applause. It was, truly, something I hope that everyone gets to experience at some point in life. Seeing my name on the order of servce... Brother Philip Tanner... wow. Just, wow.

That's about all my mind can regurgitate right now. 

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
για Δόξα του Θεού αιώνιας. ΑΜΗΝ.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hactivism Versus Terrorism

I believe that taking down web sites in response to political intrigue, or in response to attempts by governments to suppress the free flow of information, or in the interest of fighting the corporate overlords, is heroism in the grand revolutionary tradition. And inasmuch as radical hackers are doing that... I can't say I oppose them (at least, not in theory). In the last 24 hours a cabal of hackers took over the web site... while I am not on the side of the protestors with regard to BART's police shooting a violently psychotic armed man who was charging the officers, I certainly would support them in their efforts on Constitutional principle. So far, so good.

But I draw the line at invasion of privacy. It appears that personal information from approximately 2000 MyBART accounts was copied. In other words, stolen. Now, let's review: a core mission of the radical hacker movement is to go after entities (such as governments) that seek to block the free flow of public information while simultaneously protecting private information from being used for nefarious purposes.

How in the hell does stealing the personal information of 2000 innocent people help your cause? We often use the phrase "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter" glibly. But when hactivism goes beyond DDoS and front-page defacement into invasion of privacy, then the radical hacker is no longer representing the larger cause of freedom. You have become the very thing you claim to be fighting. You have become a wielder of fear as a weapon. In short, you are a terrorist.

Specifically with regard to the MyBART incident, many of the 2000 victims were on your side. These people who supported you are going to turn against you, because, simply put, you attacked the wrong people. Those 2000 people are not the police officers involved in the string of high-profile shootings. They are not the corrupt political machine that runs BART. Those 2000 people are your neighbors, your friends, and some of them -- like me for example -- are activists. Because of your actions, the story is no longer about those you claim to be defending; it is now about the innocent people YOU attacked and harmed.

Nice way to defeat the cause you claim to support. Morons.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Put This Moment... Over Here

The title of this post is from the interstitial lyrics of an old Kate Bush song from Side Two of her magnum opus The Hounds Of Love. It just popped into my mind.

I am still playing shy-boy. There's this guy; I have a crush. There are many reasons that I should not do anything about it, perhaps the most important of which can be summed up with "don't shit where you eat" or "don't fish off the company pier" or "don't rub your horny ass up against the company doorknob" ...but... there are also two specific reasons that I should call this man. One is a legitimate dialogue-point regarding Christian worship, and the other is as a possible networking opportunity for a friend who is looking for career opportunities up in the SF area.

That's it. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along, move along.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

God Is Still Speaking. And Teaching.

EdNote: written Wednesday 8/10/2011 but published Thursday 8/11/2011

I attended Taizé at MCC-SF this evening. I'd been there a few times before; the whiplash-inducing juxtaposition between the still, quiet, meditative musically focused praxis of Taizé and the full-body experience of the praxis at COR-SF is quite... well, whiplash-inducing. In absolutely the best way possible.

In terms of the formation of my own personal praxis, it is interesting to me how I seem to need both extremes. Damn! Isn't that how it always is with me? Manic moves and drowsy dreams, living in the middle between the two extremes. Yes, I really did just drop a Hall & Oates quote into this post. Sue me. I have, for as long as I can remember, been a walker between two extreme worlds... it is present in my description of my ideal man (ask me about that sometime if you care to know more), my ideal home, my ideal wealth-level, my ideal job, and on and on and on.

Interestingly enough, though, since I took up the banner of Christ there has been a noticeable pull of justification toward embracing this down-the-middle-between-the-two-extremes nature. It seems that God wants me to be both a space-holder in Pentecostalist praxis and a swimmer in the Olympic-scale choral harmonies of Taizé. Isn't it interesting that two such extreme polarities co-exist in worshipping the Christ, that the two polarities are directly connected by the work of Bishop Yvette Flunder and Reverend Elder Jim Mitulski (both theologically and literally), and that I happened to step into this legacy at this point in time?

God is still speaking, and God is still teaching.
And God is good. And God is always in charge.

And I am grateful beyond words.

I walk into MCC-SF early and find myself talking to a nice man named Victor. A fellow Southerner. And it turns out that Victor is a PSR grad. And on the ministerial staff at MCC-SF. Victor asks me "so, are you looking for a field placement?" The angels laugh. The next thing I know, I am being walked back to the church offices and introduced to everyone there. Including the head pastor. There was discussion of a series of one-hour workshops I want to offer to the community on Scriptural exegesis based from the original languages and cultures, focusing on verses traditionally used against queerfolk. And how I am in absolutely no rush since my FieldEd year won't begin until Fall 2012. And, along the way, I meet Mike... he is a member of the choir and is therefore one of those beautiful voices I have been blessed to hear singing those beautiful harmonies in the Taizé services this summer. Upon mentioning my status as a PSR seminarian, he smiles and says "so I guess I will see you in a few weeks." Mike is starting PSR's MDiv-core classes this Fall. I love God.

I will extol the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His name together. I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles. 
(Psalm 34:1-6)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Philip's Doctrinal Hierarchy Test

Over the nearly 1000 days since I got Saved, I have thought anew re: questions about Scriptural Primacy. We often find internal contradictions in the Bible, sometimes direct contradictions where in one verse it says "this must not be done" and in another verse it says "this must be done." How do we resolve such apparent contradictions?

It is conceptually quite simple: I have, so far, been able to resolve every incidence of this with what I call Philip's Doctrinal Hierarchy Test. Today for the first time I actually codified this Hierarchy Test; it appears below. And yes, like everything on this blog, I retain full copyright.

Start with a question in the form of "is this [thing, behavior, thought] OK?"

1) Look for an answer in the OT. 
  • If you find an answer in the OT 
  • then that OT answer is provisionally in effect 
  • else n/a
2) Look for the answer in the not from the mouth of Jesus in the NT.
  • If you find an answer not from the mouth of Jesus 
  • then the OT answer from #1 is superseded/repealed 
  • else the OT answer provisionally continues 
3) Look for an answer from the words of Jesus Himself.
  • If you find an answer from the words of Jesus Himself 
  • then the NT answer from #2 is superseded/repealed 
  • else the OT answer continues in force 

The logic is conceptually simple. The challenge comes from understanding whether the words of Jesus in #3 do, in fact, contradict #2. Jesus often spoke in parables and gave indirect lessons; He often answered questions with additional questions. However, if we approach all such questions of doctrine with an open mind, open heart, and remember that God wants all of us to put our faith in Jesus first, then I believe we will be well-served by my Doctrinal Hierarchy Test.

Στο όνομα Πατρός, Υιού, και Αγίου Πνεύματος. ΑΜΗΝ.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

We Have Work To Do

So many things speak so loudly these days.

My new life at City Of Refuge SF continues to move forward... God is good.

Today at church there was a Moment For Social Justice ... one of the ministry staff explained Ramadan to the congregation: what it means, what its theological underpinning is, universal praxes associated with it, and by doing so she drew parallels between Christian and Muslim praxis. From that point, she asked a simple question: if Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and share so much theology, then why are we killing each other? You could've heard a pin drop. It was awesome awesome awesome and given the context [first week of Ramadan, and the day after the loss of 22 SEALs, 7 Afghan soldiers, and a civilian interpreter in the war in Afghanistan], it was an important lesson which I want to lift up for all to hear.

In the next few days, we will have the first meeting of a new ministry program that we are hoping to start: a ministry focusing on addiction recovery through faith. Oy, it's gonna get interesting!

And, I stepped forward... consulted with one of the ministerial team after today's service... next Sunday 8/14 will mark exactly 1000 days since I got Saved and they are going to recognize it in front of the congregation. PRAISE THE LORD.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take  R E F U G E  in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me because my hope, LORD, is in you. 
(Psalm 25:16-21)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Guilt of Salvation

When it comes down to it, I have done a tremendous amount of work on myself over the last few years. And, of course, Jesus has done even more work on me during that same period. The honest truth is that His Grace has made things easy for me.

And that's why I feel guilty. 990 days ago I made a deal with the Savior. All I had to do was recognize God's sovereignty, submit to work for His Plan, and in return God has let me see just how far He is willing to go in holding me in His arms. I have seen miracles in the last 2-2/3 years, and yet I am still astonished when I look back over my life and see just what God has done for me. To be clear, I do not feel that God has been "too good" to me... my ego still struggles to accept that God is empowering me with exactly what I need to spread His Good News -- nothing more but nothing less. I freely admit that my ego wants more power -- more ability to lead people, more ability to pay my bills, more ability to live comfortably rather than on the edge of poverty & destitution. When it comes to that manifestation of egotism, I am still a work in progress but even in this aspect, God has been incredibly forgiving of my ego.

What I live with, simply put, is survivor's guilt.

Grace broke some profoundly dangerous addictive patterns in my life... and now, I see my friends suffering and struggling to control their addictions. They are no less deserving of the freedom I have in Christ. Why me, Lord? Why? Why did You choose me? I am not pretty, I am not a media-friendly photogenic thin guy who people want to listen to when I speak. Why did You give me this freedom? What shall I do for You with my understanding of the truth behind addiction?

Grace empowered me to heal astonishingly fast from the heartache of whatever it was that Ross and I had and whatever it was that he walked away from... and now, I see my friends suffering and struggling to heal from deep pain in the aftermath of failed relationships. They are no less deserving of the loving satisfaction I have in Christ. Why me, Lord? Why? Why did You choose me? Why did You give me this healing from my heart's pain and leave others to suffer? What shall I do for You with my understanding of Your mercy and how living for You has brought me joy beyond any orgasm I could ever imagine?

I know that I can never repay You for your gifts; there is nothing I will ever be able to do that will equate to Your gift of the Only-Begotten Son on the cross for me and all of Your children. I wish I could just let it go... but... I feel guilty for surviving. So many people who I love, who I see as just as deserving of Salvation as me, are in pain... losing the battle... never knowing the peace You have brought me. If I could ask one thing more of you, it would be this: could You either save more of Your children from their pain, or at least tell me how my Salvation fits into Your Plan?

...and the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm... Who has the wisdom to count the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens when the dust becomes hard and the clods of earth stick together? Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? 
(Job 38:37-40)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Name Is Mongo Mushybrains

I do not even know where to begin.

I am now officially a member of City Of Refuge United Church of Christ. I had decided to take that step last week, but the way it all coalesced... the week of Bishop Flunder's birthday celebration, a CORSF Fifth Sunday event, the Holy Spirit moving forward and saying "yeah, and Lee too" with my brother-in-faith and seminary colleague Lee... it really does testify to the truth of a common call-and-response I have been experiencing at CORSF... 

"Is God good!?" [YES!]
"Is God good!?" [YES!]
"Has God been good today!?" [YES!]
"How do I know!?" [HOW?]
"Because I'm here." [PRAISE GOD!]

I could write at length about the overwhelming intensity of emotion that overtook me when I walked to the front of the church to officially stand before the congregation and join the church. The fact that I did so in the presence of Bishop Flunder, and her wife, and the absolute roar of love for me and deep full-body hugs galore when the Holy Spirit tore into me and uncorked emotions and tears which I had not felt since the moment I got Saved in 2008. I could write about how the common saying as everyone was hugging me was "Welcome home, brother Philip."

I could write about Jeremy, the absolutely loving huggy-bear minister-in-training who I met when I came forward to join the church. I could write about the most beautiful Alabama accent I have ever heard in my life; I could add that when Jeremy was hugging me I wanted to just fall into him and stay there... how his beauty was just... perfect... how he could've looked me right in the eye at that moment and made me fall in love with him... how I felt the the Holy Spirit deep within the bowels of my loneliness at that moment, stirring me with an overwhelming mix of love, lust, and spiritual satiety in the presence of a mortal I had never even seen before that day. I could write about how the Spirit reminded me that yes, indeed, I have a fiery passionate essence that needs to be loved by another man and that wants to give my heart to another man...

I could write of how from that powerful moment I now understand with absolutely no doubt in my mind, that my mate's list of non-negotiable traits now includes "must be a Christian." The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. (Psalm 118:22-24)

I could write about the music. The music... the CORSF choir. The solo numbers offered in love to Bishop Flunder, sung by church members with absolutely positively staggering vocal ability. The singing group of which my neighbor Deninge is a member -- the fact that I was at church watching my neighbor perform and it is now my home where she was performing. And I could write of the virtually indescribable glory of being in the presence of the full Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir as they gave the phrase "wall of sound" a meaning that Phil Spector could not even begin to approximate. When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me. May all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD, when they hear what you have decreed. May they sing of the ways of the LORD, for the glory of the LORD is great. (Psalm 138:3-5)

I could write of how God kept on giving, how I found myself drawn to say goodnight to Bishop Flunder and how basically "out of nowhere" [the Holy Spirit LAUGHS in response to that phrase] the Bishop begins speaking about CORSF's need for a strong ministry for addiction recovery... and how that led to contact information being traded with CORSF's Outreach Programs Minister, and a discussion about further passions such as trasngender ministry outreach. I could begin to try to communicate to the reader regarding how generous God was to me on Sunday 7/31/2011. Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD. (Psalm 150)

I could try to explain how I think I am called to be a "circle holder" that provides for the physical safety of those through whom the Spirit moves during worship. I do wonder what would happen if the Spirit ever took hold of me in that fashion... my body is not physically capable of the ecstatic channeling that I have seen at CORSF, but I do know that I would be honored to be a circle holder for those whom the Spirit takes over during worship. It is a noble role, and I thank God for the chance to serve. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. (Acts 2:42-43)

I could try to capture the glory of that day, from beginning to end. I could try. But in the end, I would fail in any such endeavour. For it is not possible to recount the many and varied ways in which God spoke, and is still speaking, in any way that does them glory. It cannot be explained in words. To understand what I have experienced, one must experience it directly.

C'mon over; you are invited. Anyone who welcomes you welcomes Me, and anyone who welcomes Me welcomes the one who sent Me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. (Matthew 10:40-41)

Εγώ ο ίδιος για να προσφέρουν τη μεγαλύτερη δόξα Θεού στον μονογενής Υιός.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How Do I Know That I Am Not God?

At first, the question itself seems beyond ludicrous. How do I know I am not God... well, I'm just not. It is self-evident, is it not? Well... for purposes of discussion, let's say that it is not self-evident. Let us imagine that I just woke up from a seemingly infinitely long nap and honestly do not know whether I am God or not.

The obvious responses come forth first and easiest...
  • My essence is trapped in a mortal body with health problems.
  • I honestly do not know how I will prevent myself from being homeless when my unemployment benefits run out this fall.
  • I have applied to nearly one THOUSAND jobs since being laid off in Fall 2009; who in their right mind wouldn't hire God?
  • I have a contradictory needs which I cannot reconcile.

These things must prove that I am mortal and therefore not God, right? But wait just a minute: Jesus was a mortal man while, in a beautifully quantum way, also being God. Jesus may have lived a "perfect life" but He was born into an imperfect world with pain & suffering, He ministered in an imperfect world with pain & suffering, and after His death and resurrection the world He left behind is still imperfect and full of pain & suffering.

So, I must look deeper to figure out whether I am God.

Many people point to how Jesus forgave people unconditionally and point out to me that I must not be God because nobody can really do that. Really? Well, let me ask you this: what do Casey Anthony, Alec Baldwin, Chris Brown, Adolf Hitler, Glenn Beck, Rick Santorum, Karl Rove, Jeffrey Dahmer, Osama binLaden, and Pontius Pilate all have in common? Simply, if each of them showed up at my church asking for me to minister to them, I would do so without hesitation. Without judgment.

So, such a deep capacity to forgive and not sit in judgment over another person, regardless of who the person is and what they have done... such a "Godly manner" as this... well, I do have that. So, we still do not know if I am God or not.

Let us look into Scripture for guidance. I cannot fly; when I tried to walk on water, I sank; I cannot make rocks into food; and I cannot magically heal people. Ah-HAH! That must be it. That must prove I am not God, right? It's obvious from the earthly life of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament, that the Son could do all these things. But wait... there's a problem... Jesus never did these things to show off. And we're now at the Gospel record of Satan's temptations of Jesus.

Okay, this is now rather disturbing. I don't think that I am God. Why, then, am I seemingly unable to prove that I am not God?

It comes down to this: people ask me for answers to some Big and Scary Questions and the Holy Spirit replies to them through me. The Spirit tells people where the answers are; often, the Spirit directs my eyes to Biblically-based answers, often with great chapter-and-verse specificity or with real-world-based aphorisms...
  • Check out Psalm 111.
  • This is Book-of-Job stuff.
  • Galatians trumps Leviticus.
  • Galatians Galatians Galatians!
  • Sola fide. More with the text of Galatians!
  • Stop fighting a battle that Jesus won 2000 years ago.
  • There are now only 2 Commandments. Not 613, 10, or 7. Just 2.
  • BREATHE: in with Jesus, out with Satan.
  • Get out of the f'ing way and let God do His work.
  • More God, less you.
  • Don't tempt God.
  • Stop living in the shadows.
  • Tell the truth. Repeatedly. Fully. Loudly. ALL OF IT.
  • "I'm no theologian but I do know that God is a power bigger than mom & dad combined, and YOU. OWE. HIM. BIG." [-Lisa Simpson to Bart when Bart's prayer for snow to cancel school is seemingly answered]

I write about those issues in this blog. I counsel people when they ask me for help. They claim to understand my responses. They thank me, genuinely, for helping. They pretend to pay attention to me. Then, sure as shit, they ask me the same questions again. And again. I answer them again, saying the exact same things that I said the first time... twentieth time... fiftieth time... and yet, still, they keep asking me the same questions.

Thankfully, God is still speaking.

God doesn't tire of repeating His lessons over and over until His children learn. This we know to be true; the Bible shows us this over and over. And this, in the end, is how I can prove that I am not God. God doesn't get tired. Philip, a called disciple who wishes nothing more than to serve God and share the Good News of Salvation in Jesus, does get tired. I am so tired of these battles. These never-ending battles. And yet... God commands me to continue. Keep preaching the Good News. Keep helping His children.

On 17 November 2008, God worked a miracle on my behalf in front of my own two mortal eyes. It was made abundantly clear to me that this miracle came with precisely one condition: service. I am His now, I belong to Him and I will serve Him unconditionally for the rest of my life. God said it, I believe it, that settles it. I get it. But... can I ask just one favor, one tiny little request? Could I please see at least one of my parishioners receive Your guidance and fully incorporate it, fully sign on to it, and know the peace I know in Your loving Arms?

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Friday, July 29, 2011


And with that, it was done. On Earth as it is in Heaven.

This weekend I will step forward to officially begin the process of adding my name to the membership of City Of Refuge UCC, the amazing church founded by Bishop Yvette Flunder 20 years ago in San Francisco. I have written about my experiences there in earlier entries. My friends have told me that when I speak of my experiences there, my soul lights up... in Gina's words... like a Christmas Tree. I like that image.

I have committed to this as part of my religious education under the tutelage of "Comrade Jim" -- Reverend Elder Jim Mitulski. What a wonderful man he is. He's so... honest, loving, friendly, and actually gives a shit about my success. When a minister tells me to not join his church but to join another church instead since it will be better for my spiritual growth and my connection to God as I step forward in my vocation... well, it takes a special kind of person to set the ego aside like that, and I thank God for Comrade Jim.

One thing Jim emphasized strongly with me is that this is a true commitment. Honestly, I think I am a bit terrified of it. But that's OK because, as David Bowie once sang... "turn and face the strange." It's so strange to think that I live 500 feet from a UCC church and yet I am committing to a UCC church that requires a 30-minute train ride and a long walk to its front door. It's so strange to think that I am affiliating with a church that reflects a worship-tradition that is both intimately familiar and totally alien to me as a white man from the Southeastern USA. And Jim also opened a new line of thinking for me... I have been to the Taizé service at MCC-SF several times this summer... Jim was the leader of MCC-SF for 14 years... he mentioned that MCC-SF is a great place to do one's fieldwork... mmh... veeeery veeeery interesting...

But perhaps more than anything else, it's wonderful and strange that I am here. No more dilettante bullshit before God. From now on, Sunday is a school-day for me. As I learned from Melissa Scott... this is bootcamp for eternity, and I just enlisted.

Praise the LORD. I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly. Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate. (Psalm 111:1-4)
Φίλιππος, δούλος Θεού, εκθέσεις στην εργασία. ΑΜΗΝ.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Εγώ Αγαπώ

I love God for the Only Begotten Son, Jesus The Christ, who willingly laid down His life so that I might live forever in His Grace.

I love the surreal ways that the threads of my life are coalescing.

I love that I have a name for my longterm vision... 
The Islamic Christian Church of Jesus Christ, Quantum.

I love that God has brought such beautiful people into my life like Gina Pond, Debra Newcomb, Rābi'a Mirhadian, Mark Kerrins, Lee Whittaker, Mauricio Najarro, and Vik Slen.

I love the way I reached out to this guy named Jake who works at Panera in Alameda and gave him my contact information just in case he needs help as he continues to get settled here in the Bay Area.

I love my cats. I love how they love me, and I love how they drive me up the f'ing wall.

I love how when Lee and I leaned into the Quantum Foam with intent to form a support system for older & re-entry students, GTU's administration reached back toward us with an unconditional blessing.

I love that Jesus saved me from myself 982 days ago.

I love that I have been reconnecting with second cousins on both sides of the family.

I love that I am able to help my father reconnect with some of his cousins before Parkinson's Disease takes him from me.

I love that Jeret "Speedy" Peterson is no longer suffering.

I love that before too long, I will have my first-ever home-church and that it will be either New Spirit Community Church at PSR in Berkeley, or City Of Refuge UCC in San Francisco.

I love that God has shown me that not only can I be Christian and gay, I can even be Pentecostalist and gay. Take that Sarah Palin.

And, more than anything, I love that I can honestly say that the one thing I want more of, is the ability to love.

Goodbye My Beautiful Speedy

Jeret "Speedy" Peterson killed himself on Monday (7/25/2011).

Many people wanted to write Speedy off as a problem-child after his shameful behavior at Torino in 2006, when he got into a drunken brawl at a post-competition celebration and was sent home early. And yet, within a month this amazingly talented young man won the USA's national championship in his sport.

Speedy's life was as uneven as his professional success. After landing The Hurricane, his signature 5-3, Speedy came home from Vancouver in 2010 with a Silver Medal. I will never forget the image on his face that night, as he went back to the athlete's village, tears streaming down his face. Thanks to God for letting Speedy feel that moment of perfect joy in a life that was too short and too full of sadness.

It is easy to judge people for killing themselves... this beautiful and talented young man was an addict, specifically an alcoholic. Speedy drank in order to dull the memories of deep trauma: he witnessed a friend commit suicide violently, and -- far more tragically -- Speedy was raped when he was a young boy.

I write this entry not just as a farewell to a beautiful human being, but as a reminder to all of us: addiction kills. And finally, a thought: if you want to get your jollies by taking sexual advantage of a child then please do society a favor and kill yourself first. God forgive me for that thought, but I will not take it back.

Rest in peace Speedy. Sochi won't be the same without you.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Shalikashvili & Winehouse, Oh My.

The world is abuzz with mourning over the right-wing terrorist attack in Norway. And yes, that's what it was. Right-wing terrorism. One wonders how much longer it will be before people like that young man in Norway repeat his behavior here in the USA.

This morning I awoke to news of the death of Amy Winehouse. Wow. It seems that the world's general consensus sits somewhere between surprised it took this long and that's really sad. The fact that that creepy 27 Club thing has happened again is... just... creepy. [Look up 27 Club on Wikipedia if you are wondering what it is.]

Amidst all of this, though, I would like to take a small moment to remember someone else who died today: General John Shalikashvili. He was Bill Clinton's first Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman in the mid-1990s. His military history, and his personal history as well, were the American dream: born in Poland to a family of Georgian nobility who were refugees that ended up fleeing the coming of the Iron Curtain into Germany, this man dedicated himself to military service for most of his adult life.

Shalikashvili was one of the highest-ranking voices to speak for repeal of DADT. And he died the day after the Readiness Certification was filed.

Thank you for your service, General Shalikashvili.

Friday, July 22, 2011

FFS: Those OTHER Extremists

And now it appears that even *I* was wrong about today's terrorist attack in Norway. There is a supreme irony here: I jumped up, in my blog entry immediately prior to this one, determined to use words from the Qur'an and Hadith not only to indict the terrorists but to defend Islam against the inevitable anti-Muslim backlash we always see whenever anything like this happens.

God truly does have a surreal sense of humor.

It now appears that today's events in Norway were not a Norwegian 9/11 but rather a Norwegian Oklahoma City. The parallels are chilling: the perp is a young man who attacked his own country because of an irrational hatred of its government's control over the citizenry. He was a radical-right conservative, heavily armed, and he used a bomb made from farm-fertilizer. In this case though, the guy took things further: he massacred a large gathering of teens and young adults who were attending a summer-camp sponsored by the liberal socialist political party that has dominated Norway's political landscape for decades. Decades during which, I might add, a remarkably stable steady-state economy was realized through a coherent philosophy of democratic socialism with a tightly regulated marketplace, comprehensive reinvestment of national oil profits, nationalized healthcare, and a national trust fund.

Isn't it ironic that earlier today I leapt forward to defend Islam against the scourge of fundamentalism which has placed such a blight on its beauty in the Western mindset, when it was actually one of "my own kind" who was responsible? Since I took it upon myself earlier today to "school" some Muslim extremists (who turned out not to exist) with Islamic Scripture, it seems only fair that I do the same to the actual perp (who identifies as a Christian) with the New Testament:

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.                               (Matthew 5:7-11)

Then shall He answer them, saying, 'Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.'
(Matthew 25:45-46)

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written: 'Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.' Therefore: 'If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. For in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.' Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:18-21)

Calling All Angels: Operation Norway

Ας προσευχηθούμε για Βασίλειο της Νορβηγίας·
God in Heaven, MotherFather of us all, unknowable perfection from which all things flow, who gave the only begotten Son for our Salvation, we ask you to hear this prayer for help. Please be with your children in Kongeriket Norge as they recover from today's terrorist attack. We ask you, oh Grand Architect and only all-Sovereign master of the Universe, to heal those who are injured, to comfort those who are crying, and to remind all who mourn that spirits live forever and that their loved ones are now safe in the arms of the Savior, forevermore.
Στο όνομα του Σωτήρα μας Χριστού Ιησού, ΑΜΗΝ.

We do not yet know who the perpetrators are, what their motivations were, or whether they were, in fact, Islamic jihadist extremists. However, what we do know is that even at a cursory glance, today's attacks in Norway have all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda. We also know that within the last year, authorities in Sweden narrowly averted some sort of attack and have intercepted significant chatter re: planned attacks across Scandinavia. Because of this, I offer you words from the Prophet Muhammad PBUH and I ask God to command the perpetrators of today's attack to read these words and to know that by the words of Muhammad PBUH himself, Muslims who commit acts of terrorism make a lie out of their personal profession of faith in God's word as revealed in the Holy Qur'an and the Hadith:

Do not wish to be like anyone, except two cases: first, a man to whom Allah gives wealth and who spends it righteously; second, a man to whom Allah gives knowledge of Qur'an & Hadith and who acts according to it and teaches it to others.
(al-Bukhari Volume 9, Hadith 255)

Anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should not harm his neighbor, and anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should entertain his guest generously, and anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should talk what is good or keep quiet. Abstain from all kinds of evil and dirty talk.
(al-Bukhari Volume 8, Hadith 47)

Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well and that if they do wrong you will do wrong. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong if they do evil.
(al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1325)

Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to people.
(al-Bukhari Volume 9, Hadith 473)

He who recommends and helps a good cause becomes a partner therein; he who recommends and helps an evil cause will share in its burdens.
(Holy Qur'an Chapter 4, Verse 85)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Reflections On A Dream

It all ended with a flawless touchdown at KSC. 

As a member of GenX, I come from the generation whose adolescence was shaped by the profound imagery of shuttle launches; in addition, being an Air Force brat placed me in a subgroup of people who were profoundly moved by the subtler but nonetheless technically staggering set of processes that had to execute perfectly for safe landings. After Challenger, and even moreso after Columbia, launches and landings never again were "routine" in the way they had become during those few golden years in the mid-1980s.

Coming to terms with the fact that there will be no more shuttle launches is, in a word, surreal. As I sit on my couch in the San Francisco Bay Area writing these words in the wee hours of a summery July morning, I can still vividly remember that early afternoon over 30 years ago at my elementary school in North Carolina when the entire school watched the first landing... in an exotic far-off locale called California. My mind is swimming between multiple levels of irony.

I could go on about my memories of the program... about how nearly 22 years after that glorious first landing it was the very same shuttle that never came home... about the direct connections I had to the Space Shuttle Program through the USAF... about so so many points in my life where my memories are framed around shuttle milestones...

But at this moment I feel the power of that lesson from John's Gospel about the greatest love (the kind of love that makes a person lay down his life for others). In the spirit of that love, as a way to honor the drive toward the stars, and as a reminder that we stand on the shoulders of those who paid the ultimate price for our exploration of space, I hereby list the names of the precisely 30 people who have died in service to either the Russian or American space programs. God bless them, one and all:

Valentin Bondarenko
Theodore Freeman
Elliot See
Charles Bassett
Gus Grissom
Edward White II
Roger Chaffee
Vladimir Komarov
Clifton Williams
Michael J. Adams
Robert Lawrence
Yuri Gagarin
Georgi Dobrovolski
Viktor Patsayev
Vladislav Volkov
Greg Jarvis
Christa McAuliffe
Ronald McNair
Ellison Onizuka
Judith Resnik
Michael J. Smith
Dick Scobee
Sergei Vozovikov
Ilan Ramon
Rick D. Husband
William McCool
Michael P. Anderson
David M. Brown
Kalpana Chawla
Laurel B. Clark

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Barry McCauley

On Tuesday I attended a memorial service for a man I never met named Barry McCauley. Barry had been a student at Starr King School for the Ministry (SKSM), one of the nine sister-seminaries of the GTU. I attended because I take ecumenical community organization very seriously; I have two friends who were deeply affected by his death and I wanted to be there as a supportive witness to them, but I also wanted to let the SKSM community know that I support them as a whole.

I knew that I would be emotionally affected by the memorial, certainly, but I was unprepared for just how deeply. Toward the end of the service there was an open space for people to share memories of Barry; the stories I heard about this beautiful man were simply a joy to experience. I was moved by the Spirit to speak, and I told the group that I was in an unusual position because my memories of Barry began with his memorial but that I wanted them to know that Barry's spirit is so powerful that a person he never met was moved to tears by the love in the room.

The two points of the memorial which touched me the most deeply were 1) when an SKSM student spoke of how Barry made her feel what it would've been like to be friends with Jesus during his mortal life more than any single person she has ever met, and 2) when someone read a journal entry Barry wrote that focused on his sadness at the pain his white friends live with as allies of him as a black man. The very concept that a person of color "gets it" re: the narrative of the white ally... there are no words sufficient to express the gratitude I felt, hearing this man's words.

Several folks commented on how Barry was an incredible mix of lovingkindness and lion-like passion for social justice, how it was in his nature to challenge people to grow and rise up to the call of building a better world. I ask God for the strength to be worthy of the call expressed by Barry McCauley -- a man I never met, who inspires me. From henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Galatians 6:17-18) αμήν