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

Monday, July 18, 2011

City Of Refuge 7/17/2011. Praise GOD.

I am still buzzing from today's City Of Refuge worship service.

The sermon was delivered by the fabulous Ann Jefferson who, in addition to her role as COR's Associate Pastor, is the coordinator of the ministry certificate program at my seminary. The sermon alone was a monumental experience... this amazing woman of God connected her recent experience with altitude sickness while at the Presbyterian Conference Center up near Zephyr Cove NV (southeast shore of Lake Tahoe, just a few miles beyond Stateline along US 50), to the synoptics' story of Jesus, Elijah, and Moses shown to Peter, James, and John on the Mount Of Transfiguration. But she didn't just make a nice metaphorical connection; she delivered the kind of sermon that reminds me of precisely why I am a Christian, why I believe so strongly in a radical-deconstructionist Protestant reclamation of liberation theology, and why I am in exactly the place God wants for me, doing the exact work God wants me to do. I have the ability to write Biblically-based sermons of this caliber and I thank God for that blessing; I only ask that God give me the powerful voice to deliver such a sermon to others who deserve to know the peace I have found after so many years.

But, that said, this entry is about something else.

Upon arriving at the COR building and sitting down for the beginning of the service, my friend Lee and I both noticed this absolutely radiant slightly older woman; she had a long royal-purple head-wrap and was just... cool. I am sure that most of us can relate: you walk into a room where you do not know many people, you meet eyes with some folks who you remember from an earlier time, and then you find yourself just awed by the spiritual presence of one particular person? Well, that's what I experienced. Oh, but wait: there's more to this story. So much more.

During the service we noticed this wonderful sister looking back toward the entryway; some folks arrive on fashionably-late time so I figured that perhaps she was looking for a specific person. Sure enough, she looked back and started to beckon someone... again, I didn't give it much thought. Then this wonderful sister actually got up and walked back behind us, presumably to help the other person. There are many people with mobility challenges in this congregation; again, I didn't give it too much thought.

Then I saw her return with the person whom she had beckoned.

Now, I do not know who this other woman was to her. Maybe they've known each other for years. Or maybe they just met on the street. Or, maybe the Spirit was moving through them, guiding a person who needed to feel love at that moment. I do not know. I do know that, as they walked past us in the aisle, it suddenly became clear to me that the second woman was either homeless, or at-risk, or had some internal conflict... and that she was afraid to step forward into the Living Word. The Holy Spirit moved through the room and gave strength to the first woman, who convinced the second woman not only to enter the seating area but to walk up with her and sit next to her approximately three rows back from the front. Almost immediately, I sensed that this second woman's spirit was encountering the Holy Spirit in her midst, and her entire body-language shifted toward peace and love. And toward safety. I saw the Holy Spirit grip a person who had been tossed aside by society and let that person know, with no uncertainty, that she is safe, that God loves her, that Jesus died for her, and that the Holy Spirit is with her.

I saw a miracle, with my own two eyes.

Not a millisecond after that thought came to me, my entire body did the electric "zing thing" and it was like a dam burst across my tear ducts. I looked over at my friend, and realized -- to my amazement -- that his eyes were also leaking. "Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth concerning anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in Heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:19-20) At that moment, two things screamed into my consciousness. There is irony here, because I take the underlying theological lessons of these two things to be self-evident. But, clearly, God wanted to remind me of some basic things...

First, God gave my friend and me a blessing by allowing us to witness the Holy Spirit alighting on this woman; it serves as yet another proof that Salvation spread outward from that moment in time, 2000 years ago on a hill in the Middle East, and It is still working its magic in us in the manner of the Holy Spirit which has not ceased flowing across the Earth since the Day Of Pentecost.

Second, we are all equal in Salvation because Jesus died for all of us. Not just for those with access to the Federal Student Loan Program. And that brings me to my take-home point: those of us with access to multiple Bibles, who have a steady roof over our heads, who have a stocked cupboard from which to choose our next week's meals, have been given privilege. But such a privilege does not come without a price: to those whom fortune smiles, service beckons.

Or to put it another way, if we profess to fashion our lives after the model of Jesus, but we do not first-and-foremost devote ourselves to serving those in need, then of what use are we? All of us who accept the deposit of the Holy Spirit are saved; this we know. But if the Holy Spirit demands that we love our neighbor as we love ourselves, then how can we serve God and not offer service to those who are in need? If we claim to have received the Holy Spirit but we do not let it take over our actions in service of equalizing the world for all of God's children, then have we really accepted the Spirit?

And there was a cloud that overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying "THIS IS MY BELOVED SON: HEAR HIM!" And suddenly when they had looked round about, they saw no man anymore, save Jesus with them. (Mark 9:7-8)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It All Comes Down To This

Calendars are interesting things. By standardizing the pulse of the living world into discrete quanta, calendars give us the illusion that we have control over the future. For example: if we make a "firm" date for dinner at 8PM three days from now then we create an expectation on the Universe that in approximately 72 hours we will be sitting down to eat food. It's a neat illusion.

Of course, at times that illusion crashes down. Theologically speaking, the reason is simple: we are not, ultimately, in control. We do not create the future, inasmuch as God is in charge, has always been in charge, and will always be in charge. Sure, we like to focus on our God's gift of free will, and we like to believe that we can change the course of the future. Even I myself fall prey to the I-am-in-charge side of the paradox of Free Will when I continue to be so deeply moved by Galadriel's line to Frodo: "even the smallest person can change the course of the future."

But just thinking about it even a bit more closely, the paradox rears its beautiful head. Ponder this: if we can change the future, then just who is really in charge here? God, or us? If we take God's sovereignty as a self-evident aspect of our theology, then we must invariably conclude that we can only change the future in ways that God permits. Otherwise, God is not completely in charge, right? Of course, ultimately, this type of thinking takes me to what must be the single Old Testament book that I have come to love the most: the book of Job of course.

The saga of Job has been on my mind a lot lately, and particularly in the last few days. It began early this week as a matter of extrapolating Biblical lessons out of aspects of the Harry Potter canon, but in the last 24 hours I have been buffeted by death multiple times. Nobody I know has died but, ironically enough, it has been people from whom I was precisely two degrees removed. I thank God for blessing me with the ability to support my friends who are in mourning.

The juxtaposition of the end of the Harry Potter film saga with my very recent taste of mortality is unmistakeable. While the story of Job teaches us that ultimately God's machinations are a mystery to us, we still have that never-ending need to figure out a meaning to all of this stuff and a need to believe that all people's deaths, no matter how mysterious, fit into a masterfully crafted Grand Unified Theory of everything. After all, God is in charge... right?

In the end though, I find myself drawn toward the conclusion that those who are still alive must go through the sense of loss, the anger at God, the desperate attempt to turn back the clock, and hopefully then they can arrive at a state of acceptance and learn to find joy again. I pray for this outcome for all my friends who are hurting right now from the loss of people they love.

On a personal note, this first decade of the 21st century was marked by 9/11 but it was also marked by Harry Potter. The decade began with the first film and it has ended with the advent of the final film. It's a monumental achievement, and I for one cannot believe that it's been almost 10 full years since we first saw The Boy Who Lived come alive on the big screen. Yes, he came to fame as The Boy Who Lived. But, in the end, we shall lift him up as a role model, a hero, for something more amazing and much more simple. Simply put, Harry Potter stared Satan straight in the face and he was willing to die for the one thing most precious in this world: love.

μείζονα ταύτης ἀγάπην οὐδεὶς ἔχει, 
ἵνα τις τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ θῇ ὑπὲρ τῶν φίλων αὐτοῦ.
(Greater love hath no man than this, 
that a man lay down his life for his friends.)
- John 15:13
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sister Wives, Gay Civil Rights? WTF?

I have plenty of anger toward the LDS re: its role in Prop 8 as well as its positions on many other social issues. I may eventually vent that anger in other posts but to be clear, this post is not an anti-LDS rant. The Mainstream Mormon Church disavowed polygamy many decades ago. 

The family featured on TLC's RealityTV show Sister Wives is suing the state of Utah. Their suit alleges that Utah was aware of their polygamous lifestyle but only began investigating them when the popularity of their show reignited a cycle of bad press about Mormonism and polygamy.

Whoop-de-f'ing-doo. Why do I care what a family -- albeit a family whose daughters are clearly being groomed to follow a polygamous lifestyle -- does with their personal lives? Here's why: the core of their legal argument is the 2003 SCOTUS ruling on Lawrence v Texas, the landmark case wherein the court ruled that sodomy laws violate the 14th Amendment's guarantee of substantive due process. Simply put, the family's position is that they are not in violation of Utah law because there is only one legal marriage, with the other marriages being spiritual marriages. The family views the need for one legal marriage as a point of civil law with which they are happy to comply. Gee, I wish I had their problems.

But the thing I must keep in mind is that whether I agree with their interpretation of Scripture or not, this is a deeply religious family and their beliefs should be respected. I think Utah is in an indefensible position with regard to regulation of polyamory between consenting adults who are not attempting any type of fraud and who specifically refuse to receive any public aid for their children; this family is quite wealthy so the financial issue is moot. This lawsuit is not being filed by people like the FLDS: this is not a case of incestuous child-rape masquerading as religious freedom like in Hildale & Colorado City.

And yet... these polygamists propose to use a SCOTUS ruling about my sexual freedom and civil rights in order to extend their heterosexual privilege. One could point out -- quite correctly -- that the Sister Wives family is not trying to alter a legal definition of marriage, and that nobody in Lawrence v Texas was either, so the case law is applicable to them as well. It makes logical sense, I suppose, but it still just doesn't sit well with me.

I am not asking for the right to marry multiple husbands; my religious beliefs do not permit such a thing. My religious beliefs do, however, recognize my right to a spiritual marriage with another man; it's called ἀδελφοποίησις (adelphopoiesis) and it was an accepted practice of the early Christian church. All I am asking for is some reciprocity from polygamists regarding my religious freedom: if you want me to advocate for your right to marry lots of women, then how about offering to help me secure my right to marry just one man. Really, is that asking too much?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Girrrrl, It Ain't About A Man.

I was talking with a friend today and she mentioned her desire for a companion in life. She then asked me if I'd ever lived alone; it took a minute for me to understand that what she was really asking was whether I had ever been in a cohabiting relationship that ended and was then forced to live alone.

It got me to thinking, just how fundamentally blessed I am that God has seen fit to keep me in a living situation where I have a roof over my head but do not have to share it with anyone, save my beautiful furry boys Shadow and Saxon. It's also interesting because this particular seminary friend, as it turns out, is feline: her animal totem is a mountain lion. As anyone who knows me will know, my animal totem is also a large feline... for many years it felt like he was a full-on black panther -- meaning, a highly melanistic specimen of Panthera onca jaguar -- but recently I have come to wonder if my totem is some form of mix that includes mountain lion as well, in the form of a mountain lion like my friend's animal totem Puma concolor.

But why do I mention this? Well, one thing that Puma concolor is widely known for is its reclusiveness. Mountain lions would just-as-soon be left alone, in solitude, and they prefer to live with as little contact with others of their species (not to mention other apex-level predators) as possible. Some research has documented mountain lions with habitat ranges on the order of several hundred square miles. Dear God in Heaven, if only there were that few people in the SF Bay Area... sigh...

Interestingly enough, though, my chat with my seminary buddy got me thinking: am I really happy in my life of solitude? I must say, somewhat reluctantly, that I basically am. Do I wish I had a husband? I guess I do, but here's the thing: when I consider the basic sense of wholeness and satisfaction that I feel when I wake up every morning and know that a man named Jesus loved me so much that he laid down His own life for me, it leaves me wondering: could a mortal man ever give me that much love? The answer is self-evident. After knowing this love, why would I even seek anything else?

I read the paragraph directly above and I think back to where my life was, for example, five years ago. Philip-2006 would read the words in the preceding paragraph and truly, honestly, think that Philip-2011 had gone absolutely, totally, certifiably psychotic. But, yet, it feels like I am more true to my spiritual essence now than at perhaps anytime in my life since 1996 when I had what I call my "Spiritual Awakening."

It's a curious life that I live. I sleep alone, in a bed that is easily big enough for me and my two cats (each of whom has his own kitty-bed on top of my bed) and like, yaknow, two other grown men (God bless those Swedes and their DUX Corporation's beds!). But, in the best of ironies, I simply no longer need anyone in the bed with me -- except those two stunningly beautiful cats who do not complicate my sleep cycles the way another person would. All my life I had been looking for something... for the great man, for the great job, for the great home. Never with an adequately grateful spirit giving thanks to God for where I was. [Yes, there's a Star Wars Yoda-quote implicit in this line of thinking!]

But, now, I feel... whole. Would I like a cuddle-bug? Sure. Do I want a husband to wake up with every day for the rest of my life? Sure. But, when I juxtapose the concept of such a mate with my life in Christ... well... I just can't imagine ever meeting a man in this life who would come close to giving me that level of satisfaction. Of joy. Of relief. Because, finally after all these years, I am not alone.

What more could a guy ask for?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Maybe It's Just Me...

...but I wonder if I am past the point of no return with regard to my technological prowess. I mean, I love my MacBook Pro and use it like a fiend; it's my fifth Mac (after... let's see... in order: LC475, 8100/110, Cube, and G4 TiBook). I'm on my second iPhone. I am copacetic with the Netflix streaming-video concept. My Facebook profile lists "Extreme TiVo" as my personal sport. I get technology. And yet...

People just a few years younger than me have like 1000 friends on Facebook. I follow a younger guy on Twitter who often posts like 35 tweets each and every day. A a lot of my younger friends who use Twitter, follow like 600 people or more. I just can't keep up. Hell, I don't even know if anyone actually reads this blog. Of course, I don't really care if anyone reads it, per se: this blog is my Diary-in-the-Cloud and it gives me a chance to get back into the habit of writing (nearly) every day. That said, a friend of mine actually did ask me if I had a blog where I am writing about my faith-walk. (I wonder if he is reading these words?)

Is this perception of social dislocation some sort of mark of having turned 40 years old in May 2011? I don't know anyone older than I who maintains such a continuously active social-media connection: it seems that people I know who are social-media multitasking fiends were all born after 1975.

Maybe, just maybe, I am an actual adult now? Jesus Mary & Joseph... these kids nowadays... Lord, just put me on a boat with an iPod full of 80s techno-pop and JS Bach, sail it into the open ocean, then firebomb it like in Viking-days. Ack!

That settles it. Time for chocolate chip cookies dipped in Nutella.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Life continues to percolate.

The state of CA is working on retroactively restoring my benefits... the weather seems to have settled into a nice moderately cool summer pattern... my mother continues to be an absolute angel with helping me out... a particular quirk of the way I type has made itself known, as I kinda broke the upper-right Delete key on my MacBook (it's not functionally broken per se, it's just kinda cattywampus from repeated angled hard-strike attack)... my annoying neighbor is still annoying the faeces out of me... I'm still needing work... and all that jazz.

The final Harry Potter movie opens in less than a week. I still haven't seen the two films after Order Of The Phoenix; I own Half-Blood Prince on DVD but I don't even have a copy of Deathly Hallows Part One yet. Sigh. I thought I was better at sustaining an epic commitment than that. Of course, I am sustaining my commitment to Christ -- at least I am trying my best to do so -- so I s'spose I shouldn't complain.

As Willow once said in a freaky episode of Buffy... bored now... ;)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Scourge Of Dualism In Technology

Several weeks ago I started this blog to document my faith-walk, using my Blogger account. I even designed a spiffy forward-looking ministerial business card featuring mini-logos for Facebook, Twitter, and Blogger. Almost as if in response to me, Google has announced that they are going to retire the Blogger brand, therefore bringing up the chance of a new logo before I've even gotten my spiffy new business card printed. FFS. Then the Zuckertwat [see earlier post] announces that "something awesome" was coming to Facebook this week, while Google launches Google+ which is clearly designed to take on Facebook and Twitter. And along we go...

Dvorak versus QWERTY.
EightTrack versus Cassette.
VHS versus Betamax.
Mac versus PC.
AOL versus CompuServe.
AIM versus YahooMessenger.
Microsoft versus Netscape.
Yahoo versus Google.
Gateway versus Dell.
Oracle i9 versus Microsoft MySQL.
BluRay versus HD-DVD.
Verizon versus AT&T.
DirecTV versus Dish.
... and now, it's looking like...
Google+ versus Facebook.

And the beat goes on.

Dualistic "format wars" in tech-history share one brutal truth: arrogant rich people associated with marketing & branding get richer while the rest of us -- people who do actual work for a living -- continue along, trying to keep our homes, feed ourselves, and not sink into despair.

I liked my business card layout just the way it was. Thanks a lot, assholes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Something Completely Different

Every once in a while, the awesome comedian Loni Love will pick a topic on her Twitter feed and initiate a trending-topic cascade. Yaknow, posting something funny with a hash-tag and getting people to respond creatively with the hope of her choosing to retweet your tweet? Anyway, the other day's topic was four words that you might utter after having sex. Now I am a fairly creative guy, but something about that topic really clicked with my carnal mind. In short... I. Went. Hog. WILD.

Submitted for your salacious reading pleasure:

#fourwordsaftersex "HELL to the no!" 
#fourwordsaftersex "Did you just fart?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "Clean that shit up." 
#fourwordsaftersex "And your name is?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "Go home now, bitch." 
#fourwordsaftersex "Get the hell out." 
#fourwordsaftersex "Where are my cigarettes?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "I have had bigger." 
#fourwordsaftersex "Ever heard of SANTORUM?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "What were you expecting?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "Straight guy, bent hole." 
#fourwordsaftersex "Still think you're straight?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "That hole's better... see?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "Next time stay quiet." 
#fourwordsaftersex "Next time stay awake." 
#fourwordsaftersex "Future deliveries in rear." 
#fourwordsaftersex "I liked it there." 
#fourwordsaftersex "Who taught you that?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "Where'd your friend go?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "Bring your brother tomorrow." 
#fourwordsaftersex "Your brother was better." 
#fourwordsaftersex "Your father was better." 
#fourwordsaftersex "Your son was better." 
#fourwordsaftersex "Prince would be proud." 
#fourwordsaftersex "No, he's not dead." 
#fourwordsaftersex "You come here often?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "Tastes great! Less filling!"
#fourwordsaftersex "Did you break it?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "Eight ball. Rear pocket." 
#fourwordsaftersex "What's your hourly rate?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "Do you take DiscoverCard?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "The sex tape's better." 
#fourwordsaftersex "Boom goes the dynamite." 
#fourwordsaftersex "I... like... big... BUTTS" 
#fourwordsaftersex "Whoomp! There It Is!" 
#fourwordsaftersex "My hips don't lie." 
#fourwordsaftersex "That's NOT eleven inches." 
#fourwordsaftersex "You're really a Congressman?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "You're really an intern?" 
#fourwordsaftersex "Damn you, brown liquor!"
And finally, to honor Independence Day and those who fight for our freedom...
#fourwordsaftersex "Don't ask don't tell." 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Προς Γαλάτας • God For All

Yoda in the Empire Strikes Back, laughing, with Luke Skywalker's pen-light.

Yesterday (Sunday 7/3/2011) I attended the afternoon church service at City Of Refuge ("COR"). It is an inner-city UCC congregation in San Francisco, near the corner of 6th and Howard Streets in the transition zone between SoMa and the Tenderloin. Definitely a neighborhood where Jesus would have ministered.

Being that it was the middle of a holiday weekend, attendance was not so high. But that was OK because these folks have some hard-core Jesus up in that place!

The fabulicious Bishop Yvette Flunder -- a black lesbian -- founded COR in direct response to anti-gay theology in the black community, as well as in response to the reprehensible lack of compassion shown to people with HIV/AIDS. COR focuses on being intentionally radically inclusive. And I *like* it.

There were old Mexican lesbians. There was a transgender lady whose mini-skirt was more mini than skirt. There were old African American church ladies, dressed to the nines. There were some younger black folks, also spiffily dressed. There was a plain ol' white lesbian or two, some Asian ladies, a lot of "obviously gay" black folk, and a few -- two -- hella f'ing hot gay white men ... well, one of them was hot and the other one was... well, let's just say that if an artist drew a rendition of the perfect man for me, it would look like this guy. I could not take my eyes off him. Sigh... and I even think there were a few straight people, eek! ;)

There was dancing in the aisles. There was gospel-singing. There was cheering, clapping, hootin-and-hollerin'. There were "can I get an AMENs" galore. And there was love. Genuine, all-embracing, unapologetic, bold, inclusive, STAND UP AND CLAIM YOUR PLACE AMONG GOD's BELOVED CHILDREN kinda love. "When you bought the ticket for the cruise, you bought the whole package. Walk up to the buffet and claim all of it. Take some of that glory over there, some of that joy right here, a full serving of the Salvation stew. It's all-you-can-eat. The WHOLE package." Liberation Theology at its finest!

The people at COR are serious Pentecostalists in the best way imaginable. The gift of the Cross, and the salvation that poured out on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit first descended into humankind, is still propagating outward from the Source. Thank God in Heaven for that.

I knew it was going to be a special experience from very early in the service:

Sitting at Peet's Coffee with my seminary-buddy Lee before the service, we talked about the power of Paul's Epistle to the Galatians and how it sits at the centerpiece of both my own walk into Christianity and historically was one of the prime inspirations for a guy named Martin Luther. God smiled. The New Testament scripture from which the opening of the service was framed... was... the portion of Galatians Chapter 5 about freedom in Christ.

Can I get an AaaaayA-men?!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Twitterverse, DJ Qualls, and Jennifer Gimenez

Twitter is strange. On the one hand, I love its openness and I love how I can can send a message to almost any celebrity who moves me -- or even a random cute guy I came across while lurking online. But at the same time, it's a great way to take all of one's fears of rejection and concentrate them into 140 characters... and if I don't receive a reply back then the lack of response takes on a palpable reality: there in my living room, alone, as the celebrity responds to other people not me; as if I am owed something personal in return? It's a strange matrix, the Twitterverse.

But over the last week, two really neat things have happened.

First, I saw a rerun of L&O:CI featuring the character-actor DJ Qualls. You may not know his name, but you likely would recognize him. He excels at playing supporting characters of a certain... quality. I would call him a hot gay nerd, except I don't know whether he is gay. Or a nerd, for that matter! Anyway, I think he's a real cuteypie nonetheless -- and that's all that matters. :)  I got brave and basically told him via Twitter that I thought he was adorable. And he replied! It was a nice moment.

And then there is la fabulosa Jennifer Gimenez: what an amazing lady she is, in a class all to herself! She has done a lot of work over the years, but I know her from her work with Drew Pinsky. I hadn't been following any of the press coverage of the season of Celebrity Rehab that just started last week, so I was completely surprised by the appearance of la linda señora as a rehab-tech at Pasadena Recovery Center. Long story short, I made a point of tweeting her after the premiere episode, and she tweeted me back personally! It wasn't until a few days later that I happened to be reading a blog entry she wrote about the overwhelming response she has gotten since the airing of the upsetting events of the Celebrity Rehab season premiere; I was absolutely staggered to read just how crazy-busy her life has been in the last week... and she specifically mentioned taking time to respond to emails, text messages, and tweets -- and very specifically mentioned her gratitude for the support her fans have given her lately via the various social media platforms. I was really moved; her humility in the presence of so many people is truly admirable.

I wonder if it has occurred to Sra Gimenez that some people are still alive today because of her commitment to pay it forward?

It's the same thing that runs through my mind when I occasionally call forth enough bravery to tweet Dr Drew. The work these people do... sheesh... literally, they save lives. What more noble enterprise can there be, in keeping with the Great Commission that the Savior issued to us before His crucifixion, than to use the lessons we have learned in order to save the lives of other children of God? Yeah, I went there… invoking the J-man again. But I know that I am here today because Jesus saved me from myself. When I see the never-ending gift of His Grace shining through other people, I call it for what it is. Thank God for people like Jennifer Gimenez, Drew Pinsky, Bob Forrest, and the fabulous Shelly Sprague.

Can't Get That Song Out Of My Head!

It's bad enough when a song gets stuck in my head. It's even worse when that song is a commercial jingle. And yet again worse when it's one from my childhood. But nothing, no nothing, on Earth could have prepared me to cope with what I've been singing all day. Lord in Heaven, WHY?

Click at your own risk. I am not responsible for the infection of your brain.

Oh Facebook, How I LoveHate You

I happened to see an article today wherein Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that Facebook will be unveiling something awesome next week. Big. F'ing. Deal. Here's a revolutionary idea: how about a Wall that shows me what all of my friends are doing / saying / posting? Like how it used to be? And how about a field next to my name on my Profile page that shows my most recent Status Update? Like how it used to be?

The new-and-improved Facebook is directly responsible for why I found out today that a high school classmate's mother died a while ago. Thanks a lot, you don't-know-shit-from-shinola born-in-the-mid-1980s Zuckertwat. I am so tired of this RealityTV-obsessed, devoid-of-longterm-memory, unaware-of-history generation. They are one of the reasons that historical revisionist ass-hats like Glenn Beck, Michelle Bachman, and the Tea Party are able to make up whatever shit they want from "history" and people just believe it without any critical analysis. I'm about this close to starting a rant with the words these kids nowadays.

And now for something completely different.

VeggieTales. Specifically the episode with a spoof of Hamlet. In an interstitial song number Larry The Cucumber sings about his silk hat and box of chocolates, to the tune of the late 19th-century Italian song Funiculì Funiculà. "He crushed my silk top-hat, now whaddya think of that?" And no, I'm not high. I'm just... random sometimes.
 God help us all.