LGBT Weekly » Social Chaos Tue, 13 Oct 2015 23:43:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Take charge of your thinking Thu, 08 Oct 2015 17:44:54 +0000

As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

We can all think of giants in the field of “practical spirituality” whose lives have shown the possibility of how we can live our own lives in the direction of our choosing.

Norman Vincent Peale pastored the Marble Collegiate Church in NYC for 52 years. During that time, he started Guideposts magazine, wrote several books including the Power of Positive Thinking, and was one of the first ministers to hire psychologists to his church staff to offer professional therapeutic counseling. He took the mind/body/spirit connection very seriously. Dr. Peale lived to be 95 years old and was active for 94 of those years.

Rev. Ike was a very interesting personality, known as a prosperity preacher, but in reality, he was a metaphysical teacher who was trying to empower people to believe in themselves and experience the best in life. He built a large congregation in the Washington Heights area of NYC, for a time had a very successful television and radio ministry.

Louise Hay is 88 years old and still active. Her story includes surviving child abuse, an unplanned pregnancy, failed relationships, and even cancer. In her 40’s, she became a Religious Science practitioner and went on to create the Hayride which was an empowerment and support group for people living with HIV. The group became very large and eventually was even bi-coastal. Before there were treatments for HIV, there was Louise Hay offering hope and love to people who had experienced way too little of either. She became a bestselling author and even started her own publishing house. She has very effectively demonstrated the power of a raised consciousness.

And Rev. Dr. Johnnie Coleman was told as a young woman that she was terminally ill. She discovered a daily devotional guide full of positive teachings and affirmations, and it changed her life. Her illness went into remission, she became a New Thought minister, started her own school, seminary, and even her own denomination, the Universal Foundation for Better Living, the denomination where Della Reese is a minister.

What did these accomplished leaders share in common? Most of them became bestselling authors and very successful in their ministry. Were they just lucky, or did they understand and use life-principles that served them well and then used those same principles to help others as well?

These life-principles are referred to in the book of Proverbs, also known as the book of Wisdom. Lady Wisdom in Proverbs invites us to her rich banquet. It’s an open table that excludes no one. We are all invited to answer Wisdom’s call and be blessed by Her.

The writer of Ephesians tells us that wisdom comes from joy and gratitude, which are qualities already within us, just waiting to be expressed. Joy and gratitude. As we allow ourselves to experience joy, and find reasons to express gratitude, we can tap into the power of wisdom in our own lives.

It’s a matter of consciousness, as Johnnie Coleman says. Consciousness is what we are aware of … as we focus on joy and gratitude, it focuses our attention, our awareness, our consciousness on what is good, and what we focus on we tend to experience.

Joy and gratitude is the result of choosing where we place our thoughts – from moment to moment. That’s how we answer Wisdom’s call and participate in her abundant feast. Joy and gratitude.

In our reading today, Jesus is represented as bread. Theologian Rev. Durrell Watkins said, “The bread of divine wisdom and eternal life isn’t like manna that just sustained people wandering in the wilderness; this internal sustenance is everlasting, life-giving, and without limit.”

The true bread, the Christ within … is that which is made in the divine image, and that, my friends, is the truth of our lives. We are made in the Divine image of God. You are made in the Divine image of God. Nona Brooks taught that we are in God, and of God, and if that is true, then we are entitled to every blessing that life has to offer.

The Buddha said, “What you think you will become.”

Proverbs 23:7 says, “As we think in our hearts, so we are.”

There are those who want us to be afraid, who want us to not believe in our own sacred value, who want us to live with shame and regret and a sense of smallness.

But our playing small won’t help them or us, so instead, let’s believe in our sacred value, let’s believe in our enormous potential, let’s believe that we deserve the best, that we are made in the divine image of a loving God, that we are a gift and a blessing to the human family, and as we dare to believe in ourselves and experience healing, we won’t be healed alone, but others will be raised up with us, perhaps even some of those who wanted to keep us down.

So, let’s commit today to changing our attitudes so that we actually expect the best, and believe for the best.

Let’s change our mind-set from believing the deck is stacked against us, to believing what the psalmist wrote, “God withholds no good thing from those who live with integrity!”

The hand we’ve been dealt may seem random and not that great, but how we play the hand and how much we enjoy the game is all up to us!

Let’s release the past to the past, knowing the future is filled with infinite possibilities. Let’s choose to focus on the possibilities that we most deserve and desire. Why? Because what we focus on, we will attract.

Let’s fill our thought patterns with positive affirmations and by giving thanks for every blessing, no matter how small – and even for blessings we haven’t experienced yet. What our minds can conceive and believe, we can achieve.

The bread that never runs out, the living bread of heaven, the bread on the all-inclusive table at Wisdom’s feast is ready. So, let’s use our words, our thoughts, our attitudes, and our actions to direct that infinite source of goodness – the living Christ within us to make life more joyous and more abundant.

Every week we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Are you ready for a little bit more heaven right here on earth? Then let’s not just say it, let’s expect it, give thanks for it, and allow it.

As Rev. Coleman has spent decades teaching, “I am the thinker that thinks the thought that creates the thing.”

Let’s take charge or our thinking and create the best for ourselves, our church, our community and our world. We have the power and we can put it to good use.

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Modern Victorians Thu, 01 Oct 2015 18:01:21 +0000


A recent trip down memory lane in my hometown was definitely a double-edged sword. True, nostalgia and memories met me at every turn, but shock also when the turn didn’t reveal the expected. For example, my stately high school had morphed into a bizarre condominium. Worse was my childhood neighborhood of large Queen Anne style Victorian residences with turrets, widow’s walks, columns, etc. These fine examples of traditional New England were still there, but now sullied by the structural additions of several current owners. Of particular horror were the contemporary styled decks projecting onto once gracious lawns. Hot tubs, grills, umbrellas and deck chairs added to the ambience. The visual effect, when contrasted with the attached stately Victorians, was less than attractive. With a little adapting and blending, the owners could have accommodated their modern whims and still achieved a pleasing continuity with the original verandas, gardens and patios.

Twisting this topic into my column, I relate us aging seniors to the stately houses and their ill-considered improvements. There are those of us also rushing to gussy up with the latest trends and fashions without paying attention to the total effect. The result is the same; an unpleasing disconnect of many parts. Blending the old and new into an appealing physical and fashionable appearance is the goal. We are not Victorians, but you get the idea.

Excuse me, are you a he or a she?

In the woods and coastal areas of Down East, I couldn’t help being impressed by the large number of “rugged” individuals. I cannot confirm their gender or sexual preference; I am merely commenting on the impression given by their muscular fitness, T-shirts, boots and baseball caps. This called to mind the current suggestion that we ask people about their sexual/gender status and how they wished to be referred to. Having no idea, however, if these people were of the LGBT clan and thus unsure of their reaction, I demurred. Later, pondering the problem and the etiquette involved, I came up with, “Excuse me, Sir or Madam, as the case may be, may I enquire as to your preferred personal pronoun?” Polite and to the point. Who could object? Feel free to use it anytime.

A similar issue occurred at an uncomfortable lunch with my brother when he suddenly yelled across the restaurant, “Hey, Sweetie. Where’s my drink?” My heart practically stopped, but nothing happened. The wait-person brought his drink and received “Thanks. Let’s meet later, doll.” To my horror, she left giggling, “Oh, stop!” I then lectured him on vocabulary correctness and came to the edge of referring to him as cisgender and all that, but feared total destruction of our relationship. We stayed with safe banalities and family tensions.

This is an example of the work still to be done in many parts of the country. It is reassuring to know, however, active LGBT groups abound working hard to bring their cities into the 21st century. It starts with both sides communicating (better than my brother and I). We just might learn something from each other. What a novel idea!

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The transformative power of enhanced vision Thu, 01 Oct 2015 18:00:56 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

In school, I sat toward the front of the class. Not to be a teacher’s pet, but so I could see more clearly. I had my first professional eye exam my senior year in High School. I clearly remember putting on my first pair of glasses. It opened the world up to me in ways I never thought or knew possible. For the first time, I saw the world with clarity and detail. Things were no longer blurred together.

I had no idea what I was missing until I put on my first pair of glasses. Enhanced vision revealed a whole new world and a new way to navigate through life! The gift of enhanced vision was transformative!

To a certain extent, I identify with the blind man in our Gospel reading who said, after Jesus put saliva on his eyes, he could see people but they looked like walking trees. I get that. That’s what it’s like to be near-sighted. Everything is a blur, and you only see big fuzzy shapes (Christmas tree lights are awesome without glasses!) It took another blessing by Jesus to enhance this man’s vision to greater clarity.

Perhaps Mark included this story in his gospel, not just because it was a miracle worth noting, but much more because it was a metaphorical description of the human condition. Let me explain.

Throughout the week I have several opportunities to talk with people – and sometimes the conversation comes up about how crazy this world seems, with what we hear and see on the news, and things that make you just shake your head; and it boils down to them saying, “Pastor Dan, I don’t know, but something is not right; something is just not right with people.”

I agree – many times it does seem as if “something is not right.” We see and experience so much pain and suffering and brokenness and grief and conflict, that we too might say, “Something is just not right!” There’s a word that is often used to describe the “something that is not right,” and in many Christian circles it’s used quite often – and that word is sin.

However, a question that I and many progressive Christians ask is this: “Is sin the best term to describe that “something?” Or, would we understand the “something that is not right” and the solution better if we used multiple images for that “something?”

Think about it, the Bible itself uses multiple images and has multiple solutions to that “something,” but Christianity has mostly disregarded the other images, and as a result has been near-sighted when it comes to viewing the “something that is not right.”

The Bible uses many images for the “something that is not right,” like being in exile, or being in bondage, or becoming lost, or having a closed heart, or experiencing a deep hunger and thirst in the soul, and, in today’s reading, blindness – and these other “somethings” are not exactly the same as sin.

Using multiple images, I think, speaks more authentically to the diversity of experience that exists in our lives, rather than just attributing it to one word.

If I find myself in some kind of exile, the solution has to do with returning home to a life-giving center.

If I am in bondage and oppressed by an outside force, the solution has to do with being set free.

If I have become lost for any number of reasons, the solution is about being found or given a road map to better navigate.

If my heart has been closed because it has been wounded, the solution has to do with being embraced by a healing love that can open my heart.

And if sin, as willfully not loving is the issue, then yes, forgiveness can be an empowering experience that lifts the weight of my guilt and regret.

So, I simply ask, “Should we use sin as a blanket designator and root diagnosis of the “something that is not right?” Or could it be one designator among many biblical images of that “something?”

When I put on my first pair of glasses, the enhanced vision introduced me to a whole new world and a whole new way to navigate through life! The gift of enhanced vision was transformative!

Seeing with the enhanced vision of Jesus usually doesn’t come all at once, but takes a long time – even a life time.

May our eyes and heart be touched so we can see more clearly – and may the gift of enhanced vision be transformative.

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Essence and non-essential Thu, 24 Sep 2015 16:45:51 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

Teachers are wonderful! I applaud our teachers! They make such an impact on us. Who are the teachers who made the biggest impact on your life?

Theologian J. Holub tells of a seminary professor that made it to the top of his list. If a student in his professor’s class stubbornly and persistently elevated something to a place of theological prominence, something that the professor thought was theologically inconsequential; it would light his professor’s fuse. He would quite literally launch into a rant.

And if the student persisted in making the point, the professor would stomp around the room bellowing out one specific word: “Adiaphora, adiaphora, It is so much adiaphora!” The students could never quite detect if he was really as upset as he conveyed, or if it was merely staged as a teaching technique.

Well, if it sounds like Greek to you, it’s because it is! Adiaphora means “indifferent things.” In Christianity, it refers to anything not essential to faith; things that are not meant to be core faith matters, but rather, belong out on the periphery of relative importance – if not completely out of view.

The professor would often make a teaching point after his rants. He would remind the class that the beginning (foundation) of wisdom is the ability to discern between what things are adiaphora and what things are of essence.

Essence has to do with the core nature of something – the heart of something – the guts of something. He taught his class that this process of discerning doesn’t end in seminary – it’s a life-long journey.

It’s not always easy to discern whether something should be considered adiaphora or essence.

In Mark’s Gospel, the faith community here, had made something that was adiaphora into essence. In other words, they moved something that belonged far on the perimeter into the center and made it absolute – and it took a prophetic and challenging voice of discernment to sort it out.

Over and over again, Jesus took issue with those in the faith community who had elevated rituals, practices, laws and traditions to a place of essence. He even calls them hypocrites for the shallow and rigid nature of their faith. In being obsessed with ritual, practice, law and tradition, they had gutted the religion of its essence which Jesus called the “commandment of God.”

A few chapters later, in Mark 12, Jesus defines the “commandment of God” as “loving God with all of your heart and loving your neighbor as you love yourself.” For Jesus, that was the essence. To love God is to love neighbor, and to love neighbor is to love God – that is the essence of religion.

It’s amazing how quickly some are willing to abandon that which Jesus identified as essence in order to pronounce judgment and condemnation on others. They run to their Bibles and cherry-pick a verse from here or there, ripping it out of context, to reinforce a prejudice, or hatred, or to justify self-indulgence: all the while gutting Christianity of its essence – and in the process, create a religion that is harsh, unyielding, rigid and unloving.

Tex Sample, Professor Emeritus of Church and Society at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri tells a story of his days of youth in Sunday School in Brookhaven, Mississippi. Tex writes about his fifth grade Sunday School teacher, Mr. Doe, he calls him. He said Mr. Doe was the wealthiest and most influential man in town. Tex says that about once a month Mr. Doe would teach that Black people were inferior, that they were subhuman, that slavery had been right, that it was biblical and that segregation was Divine will and should be defended with their lives. (I find it hard to believe that this teaching was allowed in the church …)

In that same church, says Tex, there was a retired missionary named Miss Hattie Bowie. For 30 years she had been a missionary in Korea. She would invite the kids over to her house and show them things she had from Korea, and she would talk about how wonderful the people in Korea were, even though they were very different from them. She even taught the kids the song “Jesus Loves Me” in Korean, which Tex says he can still sing to this day.

Tex says he never remembers a direct confrontation between Hattie and Mr. Doe, but he says it seemed like every time Mr. Doe would make one of his religiously justified prejudicial points, Miss Bowie would make a counter-point.

Tex says, Mr. Doe’s and Hattie’s religions were very different even though they went by the same label, lived in the same town and attended the same church. Mr. Doe used religion to justify his racism thereby making his prejudice essence. But Hattie made Jesus the essence and, in so doing, sent racism beyond adiaphora – and into oblivion. You go, Hattie!

Franciscan mystic, Richard Rohr said, “God is always bigger than you imagined or expected or even hoped. When you see people going to church becoming smaller, instead of larger, more closed rather than more open in love, you have every reason to question whether the practices or rituals or sermons or sacraments or liturgies are opening them to an authentic experience of Divine love.”


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Our new vocabulary Thu, 17 Sep 2015 20:28:43 +0000


In case you haven’t noticed, we seniors have been puzzled, even aggravated, by the deluge of new LGBT related words. We try to be politically correct and opine with authority as if we fully understand what we are talking about, yet in reality many are not quite sure. We accept these new concepts in silence rather than admit to the unpardonable sin of ignorance just as we did as kids.

Let’s look back … way back; we had not the vaguest idea what a red riding-hood was or a tinder box; nor for that matter, the mystifying one-horse open sleigh which, by the way, I gleefully sang as “one horse soap an say-ay” thinking it was a meaningless phrase akin to “tra la la” and “hi ho the dairy oh.” More seriously was the reciting of “The Pledge of Allegiance” whatever that was. More baffling were “one nation indivisible” and “inalienable rights” which I couldn’t pronounce, much less know what they meant. I’m not sure the teacher did either.

So hang on. The meaning of these new words will clarify with time. If not, they will vanish into the dictionary’s obsolete category. Does “hubba, hubba” ring a bell? My most ardent prayer is that “amazing” and “awesome” will soon be so designated. Occasionally, words/usages have been accepted quickly: mouse, app, vape, etc. This likely will be the case with the new LGBT vocabulary once the meanings firm up.

So relax. “Cisgender” and “gender queer” will be rolling off your tongue as easily as, “”Sidney is no longer gender questioning, but sexually secure as a pre-transitional trans male and comfortable in hes gender-choice identity.” Face it, seniors. These changes are coming. I can’t wait. Can you?


The first bar visit

Passing the several raucous and predominately LGBT bars on University Avenue Saturday night, I was amazed at the hetero mix inside. In my day “straights” would never knowingly enter such alleged dens of depravity. I seldom visit such places now (Why not? Ask a senior). I do, however, enjoy looking in and remembering. Who can forget one’s first daring foray; greeted by loud music and noise in the cheap places or the twinkling piano and show tunes in the better joints (ties and jackets were worn). The lesbians often had a pool table with its accompanying ball-smashing. All places, of course, were viewed through a barely penetrable miasma of smoke (often of a particular pungency).

The bars took turns being raided, so there was the titillating fear the police would barge in and the more rational hope they wouldn’t. This baptismal encounter with overt sexual freedom was enhanced by the discovery and affirmation we were not alone.

But what an ordeal of questions: how to meet someone, what to say, where to go and, most importantly, what to wear? Oh, well, the important point was we had broken the ice and entered a new world with no turning back. All this is still true, but with the new variety of sexual preferences in attendance, the still closeted or questioning can enter with a group stress-free and take their time acquainting themselves with the LGBT world. Later, with a clearer understanding of themselves, they can drop in alone and find acceptance.

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Concern for the multitude Thu, 17 Sep 2015 20:28:40 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

I love a story about compassion and allowing God to multiply the gifts and talents we already have; and the joy is watching how God uses them to make a huge difference in our life, or someone else’s life or multiple lives!

Let’s take a look at Matthew 14. A crowd had followed Jesus out into the wilderness, and it would be getting dark soon. Concerned, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

Well, you can imagine the disciples’ surprise when Jesus said that! “He wants us to do what?” they probably said to each other!

“We only have five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down. It is obvious that Jesus is in charge of the situation.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, Jesus looked up to heaven and gave thanks and broke the loaves.

Isn’t this a beautiful foreshadowing of The Last Supper? He blessed, broke, then gave … and the disciples gave the food to all the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and then the disciples picked up twelve baskets full of broken pieces that were left over.

What an amazing story! Let’s look at a few truths here:

First, there’s Jesus’ concern for the multitude.

Matthew begins this story by saying, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick …” Nothing new in that. Throughout the Gospels Jesus shows compassion to everyone – especially the least and the lowest.

Jesus came with one purpose and desire – to seek and save all people to live their best life now. When he gazed out over Jerusalem before entering on a donkey on what we celebrate as Palm Sunday, he wept. Jesus wept. Why? He knew the heartaches, the headaches and the hungers that go with being human. The compassionate Christ cares for each and every one. This is what we are called to do.

Now, to really appreciate the compassion Jesus had for the multitude, remember how the story actually begins: “When Jesus heard what had happened to his good friend, he withdrew by boat, privately, to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns …” Did you catch that?

“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew to a solitary place.”

What was it that happened? If we go back a few verses, we discover that Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, had just been beheaded by King Herod. How do you think Jesus felt when he got this news? How would you feel? A family member that you were very close to has been the victim of an atrocious crime. No wonder Matthew said that Jesus withdrew to a solitary place. Don’t you think that maybe Jesus wanted to be alone to grieve the death of his cousin? But then Matthew adds, “Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.”

Jesus can’t even have a few moments alone to grieve. If this had happened to me, I think I wouldn’t feel like seeing a crowd of people coming to me for help. But that’s me, and perhaps that’s you, but that’s not Jesus. Jesus had compassion for the crowd. And he still looks at us with that same compassion today.

But there’s a second thing we need to see: Not only does Jesus have compassion, he’s also capable. Jesus is competent to do for us more than we can even imagine!

Many people have tried to give a rational explanation for the miracle of the fishes and loaves. But when they do that, they miss the point. The important point of this story is that Jesus is able to supply our needs, no matter how he does it.

This may be the point where a lot of us are missing the joy of our faith. We believe God cares about us and our needs, but we don’t really believe that God is able to help us. And so we lead joyless, powerless, just get-through-the-day lives. But what good is compassion without capability? Jesus is able, more than able!

But there’s one more thing that needs to be said: Jesus uses what we give him to work with.

What if that young boy hadn’t been willing to share his five loaves and two fish? I think Jesus would still have found a way to feed that multitude, but think of the blessing that that young boy had as he gave what he had to Jesus – and then saw it blessed and multiplied more than he could’ve even imagined possible! There seems to be a clear principle of faith here: God works with what we have and what we give.

Are there some things in your life that you can use to bring joy into someone else’s life? Jesus has compassion for our needs. And he is able to meet our needs. And sometimes (many times) God uses us to meet the needs of others.

God is able to use us in a wonderful way, if we are willing to take even the little we have and let God bless it and multiply it. God is compassionate and capable. Let us be compassionate and bring love to our world.

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We’ll always have Juneau Thu, 10 Sep 2015 16:19:05 +0000

Aerial view of Downtown Juneau and the cruise ship port

When I was about 12 I cut a photo from a calendar, framed it and hung it over my bed. It was a picture of Juneau, Alaska, and its harbor. I’d look at it and imagine myself there. It wasn’t as much Juneau as it was Alaska. To this young sheltered kid who had already developed wanderlust, it defined adventure and yes, even escape, and dreams of travel and exploration were born.

In case you’re wondering, it took me over 35 years, and a series of circumstances but in 1996 I made it with a friend to Alaska for two weeks. And yes, Juneau. Let’s look at dreams and God’s role in them. I’ll tell you upfront that I may not give you a lot of answers; but I hope and pray that I leave you with much to think about.

One thing that I have pondered in my faith journey and I bet you have, too, is the whole idea of God granting us the desires of our heart. I mean, really? God does that? Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in God, and God will give you the desires of your heart.” It won’t surprise you that it has often been misinterpreted to mean, pray to God, go to church and God will give you what you want. Like “Let’s Make a Deal.” No, the psalmist here is not talking about a Rolex or a yacht, but something more profound and intrinsic. The Hebrew word translated as “delight” meant delicate or sensitive; it’s about seeking our pleasure and happiness, our friendship, in God, in being sensitive to God’s will for our lives.

Even in this modern day, “desire” is a loaded word. Its meanings range from ambition, lust and greed to passion, yearning and love. It’s almost two different words in one. And it’s the latter that the psalmist is addressing, saying be aligned with God in your spirit, with God’s will for your life, and God will place in your heart those desires and dreams that are good and right for you.

Desires, passions, dreams. In a Thesaurus they’re pretty much synonyms. They are deep, personal, even intense. They drive us, excite us, inspire us. They focus our thought and energy.

Sometimes dreams are goals we develop in childhood or inherit from parents or other loved ones. Sometimes they come as a surprise. Once visiting an antique fair where my good friend Jim Petersen had a booth, I came across a wooden, pendulum chiming wall clock. It had never occurred to me before but I suddenly realized, “I’ve always wanted one of those.” After Jim assured me it was a very good buy, I walked out of the fair with it. Much like another God-given passion: I know some time in my life I looked at a man, and though it had never occurred to me before, I suddenly realized, “I’ve always wanted one of those.”

Ultimately I think dreams are just very much a part of our DNA. Perhaps you’ve long dreamed of a specific career or seeing the Eiffel Tower or running a 10K or just finding peace and tranquility in life. Maybe you love football or giraffes or needlepoint or Broadway show tunes and have no idea why. OK. There could be an explanation for the Broadway show tunes. But I assure you that my passions for travel and writing did not come from my parents. In fact, they actually tried to douse them, which perhaps speaks to the resilience of dreams.

If dreams are really imbedded in our hearts, then doesn’t it make sense that they arrive there from someplace special, spiritual, and yes, even sacred? Yet, how do we know we’re hearing God and not our selfish wants or some whim or Baskin-Robbins’ flavor of the month? Maybe fear and self-doubt make it more complicated than it really is, holding us back from just trusting God and giving God the credit.

Fr. Michael Scanlon, former president of Franciscan University, hesitated to become a priest, because he knew that if he did, God would send him to Africa to be a missionary. While many people have a mission to minister in Africa, he hated that idea. Fr. Scanlon eventually shared his concern with his spiritual director, who gave him this insight: If God wanted to send him to Africa, God would put Africa in his heart. And it would be his deepest desire, his calling. Maybe it’s kind of like God putting in our heart to go to Juneau, rather than, say, Bakersfield.

Ultra-conservative evangelist Bill Keller says, “Where do you think you get the passion for the things you care about? From God! God gives each of us the passions and desires we have in our life.” Now, Keller’s theology and mine are about as close as San Diego and San Antonio, but in his statement I think there is a world of truth. He further adds that it is out of our God-given desires and passions that God directs and guides us in service. All of us.

In the words of John Lennon in “Imagine,”“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” What is your dream today? It may be as complex as creating a computer program, saving the rain forests or curing cancer or as simple as growing a garden, volunteering or giving love. You probably didn’t come here today without a Juneau. Some desire in your heart. A passion tugging at you. Or maybe a dream you feel is lost or buried.

Author Jonathan Malm has devised three filters to help us determine if our dream is really from God and give us peace that it is worth validating and pursuing.

Does it ultimately bring glory to God? God created everything for God’s glory. Malm points out that the dream doesn’t have to be labeled with a Christian fish or crucifixes. But it means the dream does not reflect poorly on God. If it’s ethical, honest, heartfelt, demonstrating hope, peace and love, God gets glory in that.

Does it benefit others? One of God’s biggest concerns for our life, as exemplified by Jesus, is how we treat others. A dream that lifts up others, looks out beyond ourselves, promotes the greater good and has universal value is likely going to pass muster here.

Does it seem bigger than what we can handle on our own? That doesn’t mean impossible, but from Malm’s perspective God doesn’t give small, easy dreams. God thinks big. The dream may require us to step out of our comfort zone, get our feet wet or hands muddy and seek the help of others. Even boldly go where no man … or woman … has gone before.

Doesn’t your dream pass the test?

I confess I wrote much of this sermon while I was high. That is, flying to and from Michigan for my 50th high school reunion. 32,000 feet gives you a whole different perspective. At that altitude things seem small … cars, towns, cornfields, interstates. But you realize feelings, emotions, desires and dreams have no constraints. Dreams rise sky high … And last.

In Pixar’s animated masterpiece Up, Carl and Ellie were an unlikely couple, she very outgoing and he quiet and reserved, but they shared two passions. A great love for each other and a dream of going to an imaginary place in South America called Paradise Falls. It was their Juneau. Though they tried hard to save for a trip, life got in the way: A flat tire, injury, home repair and finally Ellie’s failing health. After Ellie’s death Carl’s heart is aching that he didn’t fulfill their dream, their grand adventure. And then he looks through their picture book that Ellie handed back to him from her hospital bed.

In Ellie’s final written words “Thanks for the adventure, now go have a new one,” Carl realizes two things. That one of Ellie’s dreams had indeed come true: a wonderful life with a spouse she loved. And that the dream of Paradise Falls was still alive; it wasn’t too late. And in the movie, with the help of thousands of helium balloons that dream comes true.

I admit it. One of my dreams has always been having a partner. I know it fits that three point criteria I shared, and I’m not letting go of it. But how do you keep a dream alive and wait patiently? That’s a whole ‘nother sermon. Yet, doesn’t the scripture talk about God granting the desires of our heart? Desires. Notice that: plural, not singular. I do have other dreams still germinating. Travel, photography, the great American novel. A close friend repeatedly tells me write, write, write and gave me an inspirational reminder poster that simply says “Follow Your Dreams.”

Let’s hold fast to our dreams. As Humphrey Bogart famously said to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca,“We’ll always have Juneau.” OK, it was really Paris, but you get the idea. Let us always have our dreams. Be open to that antique clock when it presents itself and grab on to it. Know that dreams may change or evolve or morph. But most of all, acknowledge your dreams, your desires. Name them. Pray and meditate about them. Be confident that that’s not selfish. As long as they pass the filters, trust them and that they are not just of your own doing. Let them lift you up. Embrace them. Follow them and put effort into them. In faith, let yourself go to that place over the rainbow where “the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”

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The catch-all drawer Thu, 03 Sep 2015 16:48:26 +0000


I finally faced the devil and cleaned up my catch-all drawer. It had reached 120 percent capacity and constantly jammed. The climax came when, as I gave it a manly yank, it suddenly leaped out, scattering its innards hither and yon. Seizing the opportunity to seriously get the upper hand, I spread the slew of forgotten trash and treasures over the floor for a better view. The battle was on.

Not stopping to unduly ponder the choices, or to read the contents too carefully, I quickly acquired a “keep” and a “toss” pile. At first, things were easy to discard like the dried rubber bands, crumpled grocery receipts, several inkless ball-pens, a tie pin (ask a senior) and, of course, the many memos from long ago with forgotten names and phone numbers often with mysterious scribbles: “Jake 30 doctor C,” “dragon tat smoker D,” “Jim/Joe/Jeff?,” “bubble Montana,” etc. Who knows what they mean?

The tough choices were the one cent stamps, the almost new flip-phone, the expensive eye-glasses from four years ago, a pile of discount coupons from various stores, casinos and porn shops possibly still usable, a tube of rubber cement surely good for a second time, several maybe new batteries, likewise, a couple of seemingly OK condoms. You get the idea.

I ended up keeping most of this stuff; you never know. When I finished, the throw away ratio to the keep was sadly not as great as I had envisioned. However, the drawer is neater and there is room for new must-keeps. All in all, an afternoon well spent. Follow my lead and you’ll feel great. Next, I envision an assault on the hall closet which is becoming a twin to Fibber McGee’s (ask a senior).

How times have changed

With all the gender/sexual bending, re-defining, choosing, denying, etc. flooding the media today, I confess to being confused as I am sure many seniors are. When young, we were surrounded by unquestioned sexual norms. Deviations were unheard of and unmentionable. Books, movies, TV and life in general told us what was expected of us as we fulfilled our roles. For example, men, shown in many a comedy skit, could not boil an egg. More importantly, they should not. Likewise, girls daring to study engineering were soon harassed out to more “suitable” majors. Toys and games were sexualized and seldom bisexual (asexual? unisexual? Whatever!).

What a change today. Women can be Army Rangers. A kid’s cartoon program had a boy having a tea party and later he held and bottle-fed his baby sister. My initial shock turned to wonderment and pleasure. The mix of ethnic groups has been obvious for some time and scenes with male nurses and women doctors no longer raise an eye brow. But I have been neglecting to pay attention to broader inclusions.

Last night, I noticed a child in a wheel-chair in a commercial, not blatantly starring in it, just one of the regular background characters. Thinking back, this happened with LGBT characters which first appeared in small and then starring roles in all media forms. The exposure snowballed over the last 20 years to the current “not an issue” situation.

The assimilating and incorporating those with special differences, including the impaired and challenged, into a visual and acknowledged part of our lives is a trend which is gathering momentum to the enrichment of all.

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The time is now Thu, 03 Sep 2015 16:48:02 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

“For everything there is a season and a time …”

Time! So, what is time? Have you got the time? We use the word all the time.

The ancient Greeks had a couple of words for “time” – kairos and chronos.

Chronos is about chronological time: ordinary time; clock time. Chronos is what we mean when we ask, “What time is your appointment?” “What was her time in the 100 meter freestyle?”

Chronos time is easy to measure with watches, clocks and calendars. Sometimes we can feel like we are slaves to chronos time, and you might have heard, “There’s just not enough time! I need more time!”

In order to manage chronos we have calendars, day planners; some are so high tech that all of our chronos events are linked by the cloud to help us get to the places we need, and the people we need to see, “on time.”

However, kairos time is not like chronos time. Kairos time is completely different. Our reading in Ecclesiastes is about kairos time. Kairos, we could say, is another dimension of time. Kairos is the “right time”; the “appropriate time”; or the “time of opportunity.”

Kairos cannot be measured with clocks and calendars. Kairos time is perceived with wisdom and discernment and beats to the rhythm of love and compassion, instead of seconds.

The Bible is filled with examples of kairos time. When Mark presented Jesus arriving on the scene in his gospel with these words, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news”, he was not referring to a date on the calendar, but he was speaking of the opportunity to move in a radically new life-direction through new life in Jesus.

What might be helpful to better understand kairos time is to think of kairos as the dimension of time where the Spirit of God lives and moves and works freely and spontaneously; God time; or Divine time.

A kairos moment almost always comes unexpected, and when it does, an opportunity presents itself. Now being able to see that opportunity is another thing! The phone rings, an email appears, someone drops by, you get a text, a crisis occurs that calls for my attention, or compassion, or a listening ear, or a comforting heart, or help with someone’s need, or a simple prayer, or an affirmation, whatever. A kairos opportunity is not written in my chronos calendar, it simply presents itself.

If I am so rigidly bound by my chronos calendar and my perception of reality is limited to just that dimension, I am likely to marginalize the kairos moment, and even excuse myself from it, by saying, “Sorry, I don’t have the time.”

The ironic thing about it is that life experience has repeatedly taught me that I most often experience a God-Presence in the kairos moments of unexpected opportunity rather than in my carefully planned chronos daily calendar.

I’d like to talk about some kairos opportunities that present themselves any time of the year; kairos opportunities using three “C” words.

First, commitment.

“For everything there is a season and a time …” Many congregations resemble going to a sporting event. By that I mean, the arena is full of people, and it’s a good experience for most, but the overwhelming majority of the people are sitting in the bleachers cheering the players on.

Now is a time for commitment. Now is not the time to withdraw to the back rows of the bleachers and just cheer the players on. Now is the time to engage. There is much work to be done.

Second, community.

Now is the time for community. One of our core values is community. Our deep desire is to offer a safe and open community for people to worship, learn and grow in their faith. We are committed to equipping ourselves and each other to do the work that God has called us to do in the world.

Unity is found in community. Let’s reach out to those who are new in our community; let’s draw from each other’s strengths; let’s celebrate the role of our faith community in the larger community. Now is the time for community.

Third, continuity.

Now is the time for continuity. We have just celebrated 45 years of bringing people closer to God and one another. What a great mission! We have a great foundation; let’s continue to build on that.

We are an open and affirming faith community. With roots in the teachings and spiritual practices of Christianity, we are also respectful of the rich wisdom of other faith traditions. How honored I was to be able to give the invocation at The Center with my beautiful colleague, Rabbi Laurie.

We affirm each individual as a unique and gifted creation of God. Building on our history of celebrating diversity in sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, we are a congregation that welcomes all people.

We are called to:

Teach and practice the Good News of God’s unconditional love for all people

Welcome home those who have been spiritually wounded or are seeking or growing a relationship with God

Actively promote equality and justice for all people

Be fully engaged in our own growth and with others on their spiritual journey to hope, healing and wholeness

With wisdom, discernment and intentionality, let’s direct our energies toward commitment and community so that we will experience continuity between what has been and what is yet to be. No eye has seen, no mind can conceive what God has in store for us! Amen.

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Free, free, free! Thu, 20 Aug 2015 18:00:37 +0000

Faithful readers, let’s face it, in some areas we do not seem to grow smarter with age. Figures constantly show we are the ones who most often fall for the scams and rip-offs which besiege us by mail, phone and email. Today my topic deals with some which seem simple yet are fraught with unpleasant consequences.

They all revolve around the word “free.” So simple. So effective. You think, “What can I lose? It is free.” And so, before your luck changes, you call or write for the miraculously free gift. You blithely provide your name, address, phone number and email address and soon after (often before) your giveaway arrives, there starts an unrelenting barrage of phone calls, emails and letters all enticing you to commit to a “special offer” involving, guess what, your money. The constant requests will come also from other businesses which have bought your name from the original company.

Do not try to get off their call-list by pushing the button “to stop further calls.” That tells them you listened to the whole spiel and so are still a possible sale. Just hang up. Sorry to say, but some of the religious ones are the worst offering holy water, pray shawls, praying hands of pure Jerusalem gold, weekly magazines, prayer requests, and the list goes on. I’m not saying they are not deserving of a chance to beautify your home. Just be aware of what the initial free offer developed into.

Before sending any money for the blind African orphans or an AIDS clinic in Appalachia, Google something like “check credibility of charities” for a list of the good and the bad organizations.

Finally, don’t forget “plus handling and shipping.”

A house call

To the senior set it is no secret that slowly but surely, like it or not, we end up handling things ourselves, so to speak. In my case, time progressed until the whole thing became too much and thoughts of seeking outside assistance crept into the picture.

My frustrations reached the breaking point last week and I now confess: I hired a professional. I went online which seems to be the proscribed route nowadays. It was not easy with so many personal ads touting a wide selection of services. I was like the indecisive donkey starving to death between two bales of hay.

I questioned several with the required physical attributes as to their understanding of what an older person wants – and doesn’t want. You wouldn’t believe some of their suggestions. There are limits you know; unfortunately more and more as I age.

The price was set and he arrived garbed and equipped as we had agreed. I was nervous, but being a pro, he soon put me at ease. I explained how he was to proceed and he didn’t object to anything. Why would he? I am not one of those with bizarre, freakish expectations. I admit to a moment of unease when I showed him the bathroom and he produced a pair of rubber gloves reaching to his elbows.

I hurriedly excused myself and left to survey the rest of the apartment which I had spent hours cleaning to make a good impression. Finding all was suitable, I instructed him on what to do in the bathroom and when finished there he could start on the kitchen and the blinds.

He was excellent and I’ll hire him again. I’m through handling those chores myself. It was money well spent. If possible, hire a cleaner. You deserve it.

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Confessions of a struggling optimist Thu, 20 Aug 2015 18:00:12 +0000

Sometimes I still fight having a bad day, despite being an optimist and knowing God’s love for me, and that I’m surrounded by loving people. We need to be honest. Life happens.

I’m so grateful to my colleague, Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins (Senior Pastor of Sunshine Cathedral MCC, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), who wrote this blog with his confessions. He has given me permission to share this with you this week.

As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

Optimism is a choice for me. It isn’t “natural” … that is, I didn’t learn it in my home or school or even in the church of my youth. Because I was already a young adult when I embraced New Thought philosophy (the idea that we can take control of our habitual thinking and thereby improve the conditions of our lives), I had long established/programmed thought habits that fed into anxiety, shame, regret and dread.

As a child and young adult, I worried about almost everything. I saw the world as a challenging place where every good thing and every success could only come by means of struggle. Added to the habitually negative way of viewing the world that I was taught was a family history of depression. I not only “learned” anxiety, in some ways, I biologically inherited it!

Additionally, I was a gay child in a super conservative, fundamentalist Christian region of the country, where fear (fear of God, fear of hell, fear of punishment, fear of not being good enough, fear of gays!) was practically in the water supply … it seemed ubiquitous, natural, normal and inescapable. So feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and low self-esteem all seemed to come naturally to me; those feelings certainly dominated my mind for the first 20 years of life (and have paid unwanted visits from time to time ever since).

But I did discover the idea that there is a universal power that flows through and expresses as all life, that this power is the energy of life, the “stuff” from which we are made, and by changing our thoughts and attitudes and expectations we can tap into that power and direct it more usefully for our benefit (rather than unintentionally using it to reinforce our fears).

So for almost 30 years I have been an avowed optimist. But that doesn’t mean that the first 20 years of programming went away. Some days, I still struggle. My struggles are now aided by the assurance that things will get better, that I deserve for them to get better, and that I have the ability to weather the current storm (real or imagined) and see brighter days again. The struggle doesn’t last as long, or occur as frequently, but it does still happen.

I still have work to do. To this day, when I experience inward turmoil, or outer challenges, a negative voice rises within me accusing me of being a fraud. Those old negative tapes still exist. They are buried, the volume is turned down, but they are still in storage in my subconscious.

Usually, when I feel badly about feeling badly, I am able to remind myself that optimism isn’t a choice I made 30 years ago; it’s a decision that I first made 30 years ago, and it’s a choice I must continue to make daily. When I remind myself of this, I start to forgive myself for being overly critical of myself, and I begin again affirming my value, daring to know that things can, ought to, and must get better, and I start remembering the many things for which I can be grateful. I start to see the good that outweighs the bad, the good that the bad can’t take away, the good that is waiting for me beyond the bad … sometimes, I even notice that the bad isn’t as bad as I first imagined.

I share this because optimism saved my life. It got me through bouts of depression, including the worst bout of my life about five years ago. It also helped me cope with spinal defects, get my weight under control, and even live a healthy life, in spite of a chronic diagnosis, for a couple of decades now. Optimism has helped me survive professional challenges, has made it possible for me to see 22 countries so far, earn multiple degrees, and find and share my life with the true love of my life.

There remains a universal power, we are part of it and it is part of us, and we can use it to improve our lives. We can remind ourselves of this fact as often as we need to, and as we do, things start to get better again. So, I remain an optimist. Some days it takes more effort than others, but I still believe that it’s worth the effort. And so it is.

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We are a rainbow people Thu, 13 Aug 2015 20:41:13 +0000

As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways.  Take from here what works for you.  Celebrate life with joy and peace!

What an amazing year this has been so far!  Who would have ever thought marriage equality would be the law of the land?  And that the ban on transgender people serving in the military is closer to being completely lifted.

How wonderful to celebrate our wholeness and our authentic selves as an act of worship – our lives are better as a result.  We celebrate equality and pride – and our symbol is the rainbow flag – look around, we are a rainbow people!

The rainbow is a natural occurrence.  Light refracted and dispersed by water droplets in the atmosphere is all that a rainbow is.  And yet, in sacred literature, it symbolizes something pretty amazing.

In Genesis 9, after a great flood, we see the rainbow as a sign of hope and of connection with our Divine Source.

The prophet Ezekiel envisioned the glory of God as a rainbow in the sky.  Many colors, overarching the diversity of creation, an inclusive symbol of light and beauty and hope is how the prophetic imagination of Ezekiel presents the experience of God.

In Revelation, that very imaginative and creative writer saw in his mind the presence of God being surrounded by a rainbow.  And again, that writer imagined an angel of God being wrapped in clouds, with a face like the sun, and the angel was surrounded by a rainbow.

The rainbow image is one we’ve adopted for our community,  and how wonderful that for the first time in San Diego history, it’s now flying in City Hall.  And after June 26, the Day of Decision, the White House and many other national monuments shone brilliantly in rainbow colors (so awesome to see), and how cool that for us as people of faith, the rainbow is also an image we’ve inherited for our God.

The Source and Substance of the universe expresses as light and diversity and hope and beauty and we are made in that image – in God’s image!  We are a rainbow people!

On the night of June 27 and the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 in the West Village of New York City, a rainbow revolution broke out.  It is the Stonewall story.  It was, in this country, the LGBT community’s shot heard around the world!

A bar that was not gay owned but that catered to gay people, and the most marginalized of gay people…homeless youth, drag performers, cross dressers, transgendered people, and blue collar gays and lesbians…and this bar was raided by NYC police.  Such raids were common, but somehow, this group of people at this bar, on this night, refused to take the harassment.  One legend says that because gay icon Judy Garland had died less than a week earlier, and her huge funeral services had just concluded, that her devotees were just extra raw that night.  That can’t be verified, but something happened that night that would forever change history.

On that fateful night, the police attacked and started to round people up for the paddy wagon, but the unheard of then happened…queers fought back!  They chanted, they screamed, they threw rocks and bottles, they lit garbage on fire, and as police would be dealing with one group of rioters, another group would come up behind them.

The Stonewall troops included trans people and drag queens, and while the police swung their night sticks – wigs, false eyelashes, and Lee press-on nails flew through the air.  For our community, it was the rockets’ red glare!

Of course, we do not condone violence, but how amazing that people dared to stand up for themselves and insist that they had self-worth and dignity worth fighting for!


At the same time in history, women’s liberation, civil rights, anti-war and many other movements demanding change were happening.  Perhaps the spirit of revolution was just in the air.  In any case, LGBT people were heard and would never again be completely invisible in our society.

Almost a year earlier, another counter-cultural, under the radar, world changing event took place.  In the fall of 1968 a defrocked Pentecostal minister started a church to affirm, celebrate and empower same-gender loving people.  It would, of course, include allies of the gay community and would soon take up feminist causes and in the following decade would take the lead in caring for people with AIDS, but it all began with one country preacher from Northern Florida starting a church with 12 people in his living room with a message that God’s love was all-inclusive and unconditional.

Since that courageous beginning of Metropolitan Community Churches, other denominations have made reconciling gestures toward the LGBT community.  I am forever grateful for the courage and vision of Rev. Troy Perry who stood up when almost no one else would and decades before most did to say that same-gender loving people are valued as much as anyone of the people of God.

Let’s never forget the cutting edge agent of change that MCC has always been and always MUST be.  Before Stonewall, there was MCC, and that’s something that MCC can be very proud of on this Pride Sunday.

MCC began in 1968

The Stonewall Riots occurred in 1969

The first Gay Pride Parades were held in 1970 to commemorate Stonewall

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association took homosexuality off its list of psychiatric disorders.

And yet, all these decades later, there are still large groups of people who hide behind religion to say their fear or hatred or ignorance of same-gender loving people is mandated by scripture.  IT IS NOT!

That same argument has been used to justify the suppression of women, child abuse, slavery and any number of atrocities.  Eventually, the leaders of religion are always embarrassed that religion was allowed to be misused so abusively, and religion must repent.

I like how fellow MCC minister in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Rev. Durrell Watkins said, “As followers of Jesus, we have a right and an obligation to re-think the oppressive ways that scripture has been interpreted.  Jesus valued the human being more than the tradition, the text, or the institution.  And so like Jesus, we value people in the name of God rather than give lip service to God at the expense of human dignity.”

In our scripture reading today we hear Jesus tell his disciples to show kindness to these little ones.  Little ones meant those without status, the so-called “little people” – those who didn’t have the protections of wealth or power or privilege or even citizenship sometimes.  The little ones were children, and women, and slaves, and the chronically ill, the eunuchs, and the poor…anyone on the margins of society, anyone not part of the dominant, privileged class.

Rather than using religion to marginalize people, Jesus wanted spirituality to be used to liberate and empower the marginalized, because in the kingdom of God, all people have sacred value and dignity.  ALL people!

Friends, I leave you with three points:

First, we are more powerful than we realize … together we can do amazing things … together we can grow the most dynamic and life-changing ministry right here at The Met.  We have a mission of bringing people closer to God and one another and a vision to be a vibrant, inclusive and progressive community of faith that transforms lives and transforms the world.   We can confront injustice and we can heal from the wounds of the past and create something new and miraculous.  We are a rainbow people – made in the image of God – a beautiful part of God’s creation!

Second, let’s always be grateful and never forget those who have gone before us and whose shoulders we now stand on.  And let’s be grateful for those who bravely stand with us.  Praise God for our allies, and may we be as present to others who also struggle for equality.  We are all a rainbow people!

Third, justice is never for just us. Marriage equality, taking down the Confederate flag, transgender equality are all important to celebrate.  However, cures for AIDS, for Alzheimer’s, for cancer, for MS, for all that causes suffering and hardship also must be found.  Correcting the damage of institutionalized racism, challenging sexism, protecting the environment, standing up for peace, caring for victims of abuse, caring for our planet … friends, there is a lot to do!

As Abraham Lincoln said, “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.”  We deserve justice, and we must also remember that justice is never for JUST US.

We are all children of God, made in God’s image, filled with God’s spirit, and we are all part of the creation that God calls “very good!”

We are a rainbow people. All of us children of a rainbow God!

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Dignity restored and affirmed Thu, 06 Aug 2015 19:20:59 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

I’m so happy that our refusal to compromise on the affirmation of the dignity and sacred value of all people has helped contribute to a new generation of families where children are loved and supported unconditionally.

When the Supremes sang our song on marriage equality and the thunderbolt of justice was heard throughout our country and the world – of course, I was thrilled and celebrating like you. My Facebook lit up! Now, I have probably close to 100 conservative relatives and friends as Facebook friends, aunts and uncles, brothers, cousins, nieces and nephews, and how many of them made any comments of congratulations or “I’m happy for you?” None!

As I went to The Center with the 1,000 other people rejoicing at this wonderful step toward equality and dignity, this was in the back of my mind. And as I looked out over that diverse crowd, I thought to myself – this is my family. This is my tribe! And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in that room with that experience.

Jesus affirms life. Jesus affirms that life is meant to be a blessing, and we each are meant to experience life abundantly. Today, in our scripture reading, we see Jesus affirming the dignity of one whose dignity had not been recognized by the larger society.

The Pharisee calls the unnamed woman a sinner. We don’t know why the legalistic Pharisee has labeled this woman a sinner other than he feels qualified to judge her and dismiss her as less than he is. Jesus, by contrast, doesn’t seem to notice anything wicked about her. Rather, he is impressed with her expression of gratitude and generosity. He sees and affirms the good in her.

The power and privilege seeking Pharisee wants to shame Jesus while assuming superiority over the so-called sinner. And yet, in Luke’s telling, it isn’t the self-important Pharisee, but the so-called sinner who demonstrates that in God’s kingdom, all people have sacred value. The one the Pharisee has tried to humiliate is the heroine of this story.

The woman in the story must have saved up a lot of money to buy this really expensive ointment, and then she shared her valuable resource with Jesus.

The Pharisee hosting a dinner for Jesus is a protector of the status quo, but that doesn’t impress Jesus. This woman’s generosity and commitment to service is what Jesus calls good.

In the kingdom of God that Jesus preached, the first and the last are on equal footing, the new person is valuable just like the person who’s been around forever, the person who works for an hourly wage is valuable just like someone who has inherited a fortune, a person studying to earn a GED is valuable just like someone with a PhD.

Following Jesus isn’t about achieving privilege or protecting the status quo … following Jesus is about building a different kind of community where the outsider, the newcomer, the different, the other, the queer, the person with no family support, the person in recovery, the disadvantaged, the person struggling to regain health, the interreligious couple, the spiritual but not religious, the agnostic, the person who doesn’t yet believe that they are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake, can be the hero of a sacred story; where you and I can learn to believe in ourselves, where every person can hear that they are a child of God, where dignity is restored and dignity is affirmed.

May God give us the will, the strength and the tenacity to build this kind of community.

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Super soakin’ Pride Thu, 06 Aug 2015 19:00:20 +0000

photo: san diego lgbt pride

So we had a little rain, even a lot of rain; so what. Pride was great! Soaking and dripping the paraders paraded and the cheerers cheered; all laughing and smiling. I was sitting in the “shaded from the sun” covered seating area. As the deluge started, dry and comfy, I smugly enjoyed the spectacle of the inundated avenue, drooping feathers and drowned hair-dos. I was soon punished, however. The pressure of the trapped water above me finally split the tenting releasing a veritable Niagara. Drenched, but smiling madly for the chuckling onlookers, I might as well have been sitting on the sidewalk. The tightness and wetness of their uniforms aside, I was especially moved to see the police and members of the armed forces. Such a sight was once beyond our wildest imagination.

For me, my main event occurred going to the festival. As I was trying to cross the raging torrent called Park Boulevard and standing in water over my ankles, a car roared close behind me (deliberately!) unleashing a gigantic 10 foot tidal wave which left me completely sopping and bedraggled. It was such a perfect comedy scene however, I had to laugh. Luckily two young women pulled up and said, “We saw what he did. Can we give you a lift?” and they did. That was the spirit I encountered all day. Covered with a garbage bag, I watched the similarly attired good-natured, enthusiastic crowd.

Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard. The results were clear and deservedly appreciated. The spirit of the 2015 Pride and its many supporters can make the LGBT community proud.

Note that date

Time flits by at such a rapid pace we often don’t realize when a week, a month or even a year has passed. More and more we write messages to ourselves on calendars, memos and scraps of paper scattered here and there. This helps, but only if we remember to look at them. Make a note of that. Unfortunately, I didn’t and this week it cost me. A notice from our local TV service arrived announcing my credit card payment had been refused and to cough up the money plus a $25 penalty charge. Well! Since it had been working perfectly for a year automatically every month, I called in high dudgeon to complain. Guess what; it was my fault. A year had sneakily passed since I’d signed up and when I got my newly re-issued credit card with my usual number, I neglected to pay attention to the new expiration date; thus – pay attention – making all arrangements with the old date invalid.

It seems on receiving a new card, we are to inform all those places with which we have an arrangement of the new expiration date. Without that reprogramed information, it won’t work. If you receive a surprise notice from your supermarket, cable service, newspaper, etc. informing you of your failure to pay (plus a penalty), most likely this is the problem. Before this happens, look at your monthly bill and see which card you are using with that company. Grab a piece of paper and jot it down for future reference. Don’t forget to make a note where you put the note.

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This is REAL Christian persecution: Augusta church hit with anti-LGBT hate Thu, 30 Jul 2015 16:00:20 +0000

The Augusta church hit with anti-LGBT hate crime

This week I want to devote my column to an article written by David R. Henson about the MCC church in Augusta, Ga. that was hit by a hate crime following the SCOTUS ruling showing how there is so much work yet to be done.

The article first appeared at and is reproduced with permission of the author.

Pastor Dan

Christian persecution in the United States is real.

It’s just not what you think.

Christian persecution isn’t about having to offer birth control to women.

It’s not about having to serve wedding cakes to gay and lesbian couples.

Christian persecution isn’t even having people call you out when you spout homophobic, sexist, or racist opinions, veiled blasphemously as biblical.

Real Christian persecution is having your church burned to the ground because black people worship there.

Real Christian persecution is having your church graffitied hatefully because gay and lesbian people can worship there.

Real Christian persecution in the United States terrorizes people — often Christians themselves. It calls to mind violence, done in the name of God, continuing in the name of God. And Christianity — particularly as it has been historically practiced by white, heterosexual people in the United States — has a very deep, very long history of perpetrating this kind of violence.

The latest victim of such persecution is the Church of Our Redeemer, a Metropolitan Community Church in Augusta, Georgia (MCCOR). It’s an open and affirming church in the midst of a deeply homophobic culture that birthed the Southern Baptist Convention. The church is a beacon for LGBTQ equality, a home and safe haven for many in the town.

But a neighbor Tuesday morning called the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Rick Sosbe, after noticing a vandal had sought to extinguish the church’s light for equality. Someone had spray-painted “Leviticus 18:22″ on doors of the church along with the words “burn” and “lie.”

As someone who until recently ministered in the Augusta area, who has walked its downtown streets in solidarity during Pride, and who has known some of this church’s ministers and members, I was both shocked and angry when news of a hate crime hit so close to home.

And just an hour away, the KKK, a self-professed Christian organization, is protesting the Confederate battle flag being removed from the South Carolina capitol in the most vile and hateful of ways.

Certainly, these two shouldn’t be simply equated with each other, but at their core, both are motivated by hate and by violence toward difference. Hate, it seems, has become a “Christian” value for some.

How in God’s name has Jesus been fashioned into an idol for bigots?

Need we be reminded that almost half of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community are professing Christians? Need we be reminded that the vast majority of Black Americans are Christians?

Need we be reminded – yet again – that in the United States, it has almost always been Christians terrorizing Christians?

White Christians terrorizing Black Christians for 400 years.

Heterosexual Christians terrorizing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians for decades and longer.

And those categories aren’t mutually exclusive mind you. But I put these examples together because it bears remembering that hate crimes in this country have tended to be committed overwhelmingly by Christians, frequently against Christians.

It’s terribly ironic. Christians like Franklin Graham fret and worry about attacks on the Christian faith from Muslims or other vague bogeymen who aren’t white, who aren’t Christians, or who aren’t heterosexual. But the real attack on Christianity is coming from Christians.

But as tempting as it is to focus just on this evil and hateful crime in Augusta, at the unknown criminals who attempted to darken the light of love and equality that MCCOR represents, that’s not the whole story. The MCCOR community is continuing to shine its light in Augusta. Church and community members — even a few passersby — have rallied together to repair the damage, to clean and re-paint. There has been shared joy in the joining together to literally erase the hate, according to folks there.

As always, the whole story can be so much bigger and more generous than an act of hate. And we can be a small part of that. In many ways, MCCOR is a beacon — and a fairly isolated one at that — in Augusta for ministry to and among LGBTQ people. And you can let them know they are not alone. Send their church a message or prayer of encouragement, a message of God’s love. Pour out on them the gift they have poured out in Augusta, the gift of welcome, of acceptance, and of unconditional love.

Make a donation to MCCOR here at their Go Fund Me site: or send checks and loving messages directly to 557 Greene Street Augusta, Georgia 30901-1459.

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San Diego LGBT Pride 2015 Gallery Thu, 23 Jul 2015 18:52:07 +0000 _DSC6761 _DSC7112 _DSC7658 _DSC8266 _DSC8604 _DSC8865 _DSC8911 _DSC8935 _DSC9064 _DSC9085 _DSC9100 _PRD0007 crop _PRD0010 _PRD0013 _PRD0020 crop _PRD0028 crop _PRD0028 _PRD0032 crop _PRD0036 _PRD0040 _PRD0042-2 _PRD0043 _PRD0058 _PRD0061 _PRD0064 _PRD0123 _PRD0158 _PRD0197 _PRD0200 _PRD0205 _PRD0207 _PRD0209 _PRD0226 _PRD0252 _PRD0257 D81_9177 D82_6894-2 D82_7255 DSC_0001-2 DSC_0021-2 DSC_0159 IMG_0068 IMG_4007 IMG_4422 IMG_9437 IMG_9514 IMG_9605 IMG_9998 PRIDE2015_RapidEyeMedia-3 REP_1076 REP_1082 ROB_6349 ROB_6350 ROB_6367 ]]> 0 Call to make sure Thu, 23 Jul 2015 17:52:35 +0000

To solve world problems I regularly attend my weekly discussion group where, on occasion, I shyly and reluctantly offer my humble opinions, suggest hints of advice and make tactful corrections. Last week, beguiled by an amusing video on a male art site, I missed my bus and so stayed home. It seems my non-appearance, greeted with dismay by some (and delight by others), was a cause for concern resulting in my phone ringing at 9:15 p.m. We seniors seldom receive calls after nine, so I answered with the dreaded anticipation of death, debt or disaster. What a relief to find it was a friend from the group wondering if I was OK.

“How kind, yet how unnecessary,” I thought, but then I reconsidered and realized the LGBT umbrella is our family, our security. Living alone, family far away and our circle of friends shrinking, like it or not, for many of us seniors us is all we’ve got! If you do not enjoy this unwritten bond, come out and join something; anything and get involved. San Diego has many choices that will revitalize you and get you away from the TV. You will soon develop a circle of like-minded, caring friends. It is crucial that we LGBT seniors become family and look after each other.

Relating back to the original situation: when an unexpected absence provokes an array of negative possibilities leading to the inevitable question as to what to do, the answer is: call. Forget the time and the momentary inconvenience. Your friend will soon calm down and appreciate your thoughtfulness. And just possibly, you may save a life.

Enjoy the past

I just returned from visiting my sister midst the wilds of Iowa corn fields where I was delighted to take part in a dinner by kerosene lamps hosted by a charming Amish family. With the six kids ages from six to 12 (two sets of twins) all doing their part, mother prepared a fantastic meal on an old wood stove while father made furniture in the barn during daylight.

At dinner, he with his long beard, but no mustache, was always joking and informative. He and the boys wore dark trousers (buttons forbidden, so suspenders) and white shirts (hooks and eyes) and the girls, like mother, were in long dresses and white caps, but with fancy glasses frames, Mickey Mouse socks and pink shoes proving rules can be adapted. And yes, they had a horse and buggy.

I also had a nostalgic visit to a classic, rural general store. With a heavily laden strip of fly-paper dangling over the cash register, it had the usual “goods and sundries,” but much of the merchandise had certainly passed its shelf life. A faded Shirley Temple coloring book, dust covered Larry, Curley and Moe mugs and for only 39 cents a pair of those huge, red wax lips. The display of mood rings brought back memories, but sadly I did not see any pet rocks on offer. Young people might not appreciate all these treasures, but my sister and I had a ball. So my advice this week is to visit the past with some same-aged friends.

True, looking back can bring sadness, but that is up to you; skip over dangerous territory. Why waste the time? You can have a merry, even boisterous afternoon relating and reliving the fun you had, the sillier the better.

Laugh together with seniors who can understand the LGBT world of our youth.

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Keeping faith and works alive Thu, 23 Jul 2015 17:52:05 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

Happy 45th anniversary MCC San Diego!

Anytime people come together to be encouraged, to share their best, to embrace a vision for the future; anytime people come together to speak a word of healing to the hurting, to love and be loved, to affirm the sacred value of all people then the power of love is made manifest, the wind of the spirit blows, the Christ Light shines and those dead in despair are raised to new lives of peace and purpose.

We at The Met are committed to sharing the Good News of God’s inclusive love to all people in every way we can. Our anniversary isn’t just a glorification of what has been, a walk down memory lane, but it’s an affirmation of who we are and of what still can be!

Metropolitan Community Churches may have started 47 years ago to create a safe spiritual home for gay men and lesbians and their allies, but the mission continued to expand and grow from there, and transgender and intersex and gender non-conforming people were brought into the fold, and feminist theology and the recognition of the sacredness of the feminine was brought into the collective consciousness; when the AIDS crisis hit, MCC was a leader in showing compassion to those who needed it most, and when human rights violations would take place anywhere in the world MCC raised a voice calling for healing and justice.

I like how one person put it: MCC was started to include some on the margins, but has grown to include and bless and uplift many, and as everyone at some point has probably needed to hear of their sacred value and worthiness, (no matter their social status or personal circumstances), the message of MCC is still needed today!

An anniversary isn’t only a glorification of what has been, but a call to action for what still needs to be done.

We are a people of faith! Our faith helps us hope even when hope seems ridiculous. Hold on! Hold on when life seems crazy and out of control! We long for better days, and sometimes those days come quickly, and sometimes they seem a long way off; either way, it is our faith and hope that sustains us and keeps us knowing there is still joy to be had and joy to share.

There are choices we can make, attitudes we can cultivate, thoughts we can think on that will reduce our suffering and help lift us above the disappointments in life.

The good we seek already exists in the realm of possibilities, and we can learn to more fully see it and then seize it. “What we focus on we tend to attract.” Right?

The writer of Timothy 2 tells us that God has already given us great resilience, the power to call on hope, the ability to love ourselves and to choose our thoughts, attitudes and focus.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but rather of empowerment, love and self-discipline.”

Luke 17 shows the disciples asking for more faith. But more isn’t always what’s necessarily needed. Jesus responds by telling them to use the faith they have, the ability to trust the Divine goodness that is already within them.

Let’s look at it another way. You already trust life to some degree. Even if you trust it to be lousy, that’s still trust, or faith; now, learn to use it more positively and you can turn some things around, or at the very least, change how you understand or experience what happens in life.

But what God does for us, God does through us.

Someone once complained to Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes of MCC Toronto, Canada saying that they weren’t getting fed in church anymore. And Rev. Hawkes said, “Maybe it’s time to take off the bib and put on an apron … maybe you aren’t being fed because you aren’t doing any serving.”

And it’s true, isn’t it? Babies and invalids, plants and pets need to be fed; the rest of us need to help with the cooking and serving. And, as we do, there are lots of tasty bites for us along the way, and the joy of doing something that matters. What God does for us, God does through us. Our hands are God’s hands. Maybe that’s why Jesus’ brother James told his community, “Faith without words is dead.”

Remember in Genesis 2, God created a garden, but needed a gardener. That’s us. God needs partners. That’s us. Instead of begging God to do more, maybe we can do more with what God has already given us; maybe then we’ll see the miracles that God wished us to have all along!

Thank God, for Troy Perry, who didn’t wait for God to force justice and inclusion and radical change on the world of religion; Troy rolled up his sleeves and went to work, and then God through him could do more.

Thank God for giving us all a spirit of hope and peace and inner strength to live out our mission of bringing people closer to God and one another.

Thank God for giving us a universe filled with unlimited blessings, and the ability to choose to see and seize and share them.

We don’t need more miracles working faith; we need to recognize, accept, and put to use what we’ve been given; and then, the miracles will flow as never before.

Let the miracles begin! Amen.

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O happy Pride Thu, 09 Jul 2015 16:32:13 +0000


What a great theme we have this year for our Pride events: “Liberty and Justice for All.” The Supreme Court decision giving us all the right to marry certainly gives us extra reason to celebrate. So get out and join the crowd beginning with the Hillcrest Block Party Friday July 17. If you want a two-day free ticket for just two hours of your time, check and see if there are any last minute openings for volunteers. As usual, there will be food and entertainment galore, plus the ever-popular people-watching as the guys and gals get all gussied up and flash their flesh. Why not join them with your own fantasy outfit? Yes, naughty is fun, but please, those who love to go over the line (You know who you are) save it for the private parties. Call me an old grouch, but many gay and supportive straight families bring their kids to enjoy the parade and special children’s activities; let’s not alienate them. First timers will be surprised at the number and variety of booths sponsored by our local LGBT groups all ready to explain their organization and recruit new members, including the police department and armed forces! Seniors will be on view riding in a trolley. Give them a wave. They are members of FOG, the Fellowship of Older Gays. “Older” is very vague; if you remember disco and can shave, join us. The group will be sponsoring a “take a break” table with shade, seats and refreshments open to all. You may see me there as well as at the LGBT Weekly/Pride Card booth early Saturday afternoon. Come chat with me and some of the staff members. We’d be glad to hear your comments and suggestions.

For seniors, a mystery solved

Sorry, kids, many of you will probably have to ask an old-timer for an explanation. This brief is specifically for the senior seniors for whom I have great news. At last I have the answer to the mystery that has puzzled all of us for years. I assure you what you are about to learn is true. It was revealed to me by Lamont Cranston! You know; the one who knows. I trust I need say no more. We who loved “Let’s Pretend” in the morning and were terrified at night by that squeaky door must think back to other best-loved memories and how we secretly assigned gay and lesbian labels to the players. Of course you joined me in my suspicions of Bruce Wayne and his “ward” (Yeah, right!). We knew why Miss Brooks never nailed handsome bachelor Mr. Boynton. Many a tomboy dreamed of being caught in the magic lasso and sharing the power over those weaker men. And chauffeur Kato surely controlled more than one joy stick. All so clear to us. Yet one great mystery has remained. Papers and panel discussions have focused on it and linguistic theories have been proposed, but nothing has been accepted. UNTIL NOW! Through an extensive séance and Ouija board session, I was privileged to be given the secret by my spirit friend, the aforementioned, “Monty.” Let’s decipher the pieces and then put them together. “Be” means “below, under.” “Osa” is “#1, best, favorite” and “Kim” is the possessive “my.” And there you have it. The frequently quoted and yet always mis-spelt KIM OSA BE may be translated as … drum roll …“My favorite bottom.” Now you know. You’re welcome.

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Hot buttons! Thu, 09 Jul 2015 16:31:41 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

In Mark 6:3 we read, “And they took offense at him.”

Somebody’s hot buttons were being pushed! We all have hot buttons. What are your hot buttons? You know the feeling of intense emotion that explodes within us when one of our hot buttons is triggered.

It seems like we live in hypersensitive times where it doesn’t take much to light someone’s fuse. Many books have been written to help people take responsibility for managing their hot buttons and to learn how not to hit the hot buttons of others.

Hot buttons are part of the human experience and they take place in the workplace, within peer groups, on the playground, with family and in communities of faith.

My brother David and I used to be master button pushers with each other. We are 16 months apart and all I can say is, “My poor mom!” I’ll never forget saying something to get him going, and he grabbed a shoe to throw at me, I ducked, and it went through the living room window!

I also have my personal set of hot buttons – when I see people littering – it drives me crazy!

I think one characteristic of Jesus’ life and ministry is that he pushed a lot of hot buttons, especially the hot buttons of the religious and political elite. In fact, Mark records a story of Jesus going to the synagogue on the Sabbath and there was a man with a withered hand there. Like vultures, the religious leadership was poised to pounce if Jesus departed from the strict Sabbath laws.

Well, he did and in a dramatic way too! He called the man front and center, and he restored his hand. Mark tells us the religious leadership responded by initiating a conspiracy to destroy him. I think Jesus pushed a very volatile hot button!

Mark also says that Jesus was angered and grieved by their hardness of heart. In other words, it looks as if they pushed Jesus’ hot button as well.

Jesus also triggered the hot buttons of those closest to him; his hometown neighbors and even his immediate family. In Luke 4 when Jesus was visiting his hometown, people became so infuriated with him that they drove him out of town and even attempted to throw him off a cliff! Some people get irrational and dangerous when their hot buttons are pushed.

The last TV I bought I got an upgrade: HD – high definition! Today, the word, “definition” has come to be associated with optics and video, and it means “sharpness of image.” The higher the definition or resolution, the sharper, clearer, more precise is the image. The higher the resolution the better and more expensive!

Using that analogy, the religion of Jesus’ time also had its version of HD (high definition), and it had nothing to do with computers, TV’s and smart phones. Theologian J. Holub says that it had to do with things they considered sacred. The religion of Jesus’ day had very clear, sharp, precise definitions of what was sacred and holy and so do we!

When Jesus came along and pushed their holy hot buttons, he provided new definitions that changed the resolution of their sacred things and they took offense at him!

And what’s really interesting is Jesus often changed it to a lower resolution. Rather than creating an even sharper, more precisely defined image at a higher resolution, he often blurred the picture; softened the rigid edges of their high definition sacred things.

By healing the man’s withered hand on the Sabbath, in the synagogue, strictly prohibited by the clearly defined, high resolution, high definition Sabbath laws, Jesus blurred the image.

Jesus wanted to show them that worship without compassion was hollow and empty; worship that cultivates hard hearts and unbending, dehumanizing and exclusive attitudes is a sham! It drove them crazy and pushed their holy hot buttons to the point that they conspired to destroy him.

Jesus changed the resolution of another sacred thing by redefining close relationships from being based on blood connections to grace connections. His new definition was based on grace, the infinite height, length, breadth and depth of God’s grace that left no one out and connected everybody. This is the Good News of God’s inclusive love that we proclaim loudly and unashamedly at MCC San Diego!

As we look at the ministry of Jesus, we see that he often redefined, or changed the definition of those things that people considered to be sacred and, in the process, pushed a lot of hot buttons.

Jesus challenged his followers and challenges us to decrease our legalistic, exclusive HD resolution and, rather, to grow in love, grow in grace, grow in compassion, grow in inclusion, and grow in the pursuit of social justice which changes the resolution and blurs the picture and makes the lines fuzzy.

In some ways, this makes life more complicated and less defined, but in the end we are set free from being unbending and exclusive and open to more grace, more inclusion, more compassion and more love.

God, thanks for pushing our holy hot buttons! Amen.

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‘No one is free, until we all are free.’ Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:59:45 +0000

As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

There are many strong emotions surrounding the killing of nine black people by a white man while in a Bible study in their home church. The following article from The Huffington Post, written by the moderator of the MCC Denomination, Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, reflects the feelings of so many who are outraged and grieving over the gaping wound of racism that still exists in our country.

As a church that values diversity and inclusivity, we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers around this country who are victims of racist systems. God, help us to not fear the other. Helps us to love and forgive the other. Help us to support one another as we move towards healing and understanding – and let it begin with me. Amen.

“We are enraged at the execution of Black people in the streets, in the prisons, and now in a church! The killing of Black people in the Mother Emanuel AME Church is an act of terrorism, and will go down in infamy as the Charleston Massacre. This heinous crime of shooting Black people in the midst of a Bible study in church is just one more dramatic example of how racism is deeply infused in the United States.

“As the global moderator for Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), founded to welcome LGBTQ people, we know what it is to have our people murdered and our churches burned. We know that these acts are acts of terrorism are based on hate and intended to dominate whole swaths of people.

“We grieve for the families who lost loved ones in this massacre. We grieve for all those who are victims of racist systems. We grieve for our country built on racism.

“Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston, South Carolina, was the site of the shooting. It is one of the oldest Black churches in the South and is no stranger to hate. White slave owners burned Emanuel AME in 1822 when founding church member, Denmark Vesey, attempted to organize a slave rebellion. Now, once again, this historically Black church must endure racist violence.

“We stand to say all racial terrorism must stop. If white people admit that our privileges are grounded in endemic racism, there might be a chance to turn things around.

“I do not speak alone. I speak as part of a diverse community with members in dozens of countries and from many races. My colleague Rev. Darlene Garner, head of emerging ministries with responsibility for diversity in MCC, is a woman of African descent and says:

‘As an African American woman, I know we have not come very far when a 21-year old man can sit in a Bible study for an hour and then announce that he was there to “kill black people.” He spewed racial hate and executed African Americans in their own church – starting with an 87-year-old woman.

‘In the United States we say ‘Remember 911,’ ‘Remember Normandy,’ ‘Remember the Holocaust,’ but when we remember our history of slavery and racism, too many people say, ‘Get over it!’

‘We will never forget the Charleston Massacre.

‘As a Black child, I learned about Juneteenth, a Black celebration that few in the dominant culture know about. This year is the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth , when the news that slavery was over reached African Americans in Galveston, Texas – two and a half years after the Emancipation Declaration was signed.

‘The Charleston Massacre taking place during the season of Juneteenth is a clear and undeniable reminder that not everyone knows that slavery and racial tyranny are over. African Americans have now been legally free for more than 150 years, but racist systems of lynching, redlining, voter suppression, poverty, imprisonment, and massacres have continued to enforce racism from then until today.

‘The Charleston Massacre is not an incidental act of senseless violence by a disturbed young man. It is an example of the racism taught to generation after generation and reinforced by seemingly color-blind policies that systematically deny the humanity of people of color.

‘Institutionalized racism raised another one of its ugly hydra heads in 2013. At the same moment SCOTUS made history by ruling to allow same-sex couples in California to marry, they gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This month, the Supreme Court may make marriage equality the law of the land, but this country’s pact with racism overshadows everything. Any celebration will be dulled by the ongoing grief we feel for the human family.

‘People in the United States who wield power have a choice. Will we evolve into massive change for a more just society with checks and monitoring of historically racist practices, or will we devolve into ever expanding violent terrorism against people of color? It is up to us.

‘If we as a country would fall to our knees in repentance, and then rise to challenge the underlying racism that pervades this country, change would be possible. The Charleston Massacre could become a historic turning point.

‘For Metropolitan Community Churches, founded almost 50 years ago as a haven from homophobia, this most recent act of racial terrorism reminds us that people of all colors, classes, and creeds must remain vigilant, because, as Dr. King said, ‘No one is free, until we all are free.’”

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Caitlyn and Christine Thu, 25 Jun 2015 22:14:22 +0000

Christine Jorgensen

The mostly positive comments and support concerning Caitlyn Jenner are encouraging. Seniors remember the different reception which greeted non-rich, non-celebrity Christine Jorgensen. The announcement in 1952 that she was now a woman and had been (gasp!) surgically altered stunned us all.

Not the first, but certainly the first one anyone had heard about. There she was in our movie news reels; a charming and attractive woman bravely exposing her personal history, transition and intimate feelings to the world. Oh, the jokes and insults that followed, but she endured them with grace.

All her life she shared her journey through countless interviews and speaking engagements. With poise and determination she presented a great example for the many who would follow in her footsteps. Few did so publicly until recently when Chaz Bono told his story and now Caitlyn who decided six decades of hiding was enough.

Not so long ago people thought they didn’t know any gays or lesbians and thus were unsupportive of their concerns, but once their family members, friends and co-workers came out of the closet, their attitude changed drastically. With all this publicity, I hope the same will occur this time as more people reveal and share their gender issues.

Some feel Caitlyn should have transitioned more privately. I disagree, with the ever-present paparazzi hounding her, it would have been impossible; furthermore, the good results coming from it will be enormous.

A new chapter awaits you, Caitlyn. As they say, “You go, girl. Let it all hang out.” Oops, I mean … oh, hell, you know what I mean.

May I have this dance?

I can’t stand those TV dance competitions in which kids and teams are tormented by heavy verbal abuse from aggressive, demonic teachers followed by the same from their badgering, relentless mothers all mouthing the sentiment, “Because we love them.” I’m aghast. I pray the winners get more than a party at Denny’s. As for the losers, practically catatonic with disgrace and fear of retribution, I hear it is a choice between self-immolation and a nunnery.

In junior high we went to Miss Mason’s School of Dance to learn the waltz, the foxtrot, etc. We lined up on opposite walls and the boys crossed over, bowed to a girl and requested the dance; the girls curtsied (!) and accepted. We watched and imitated Miss Mason and her, one might contend today, light-footed partner, the handsome, immaculately coifed Mr. Dumont with his year-round tan. He obviously didn’t realize how tight his pants fit in the front and back (I did). Couples danced six inches apart or, as the Catholic schools advised, left room for the Holy Ghost. The exception was the daring jitterbug.

When it was a ladies choice, Rhoda Levine would always grab me and proceed to “accidentally” crash into me and grope me. The bruises left on my chest hinted at falsies of granite.

For years now the young have given up holding or touching their partner, but now the rage is for the girl to grind her rear into the boy’s crotch. How does he hide his “excitement” or does he bother?

How I pine for the days when sweeping around the floor for a grand waltz was romantic, fun and oh, so gay. Imagine doing it today holding your same-sex partner. Maybe they will return. Here’s hoping.

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Raising a consciousness of Christ connections Thu, 25 Jun 2015 22:13:56 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

The scriptures in the Bible are sometimes referred to as the “canon.” The word canon comes from a Greek word that means “reed or cane.” This refers to a standard of measure. It came to be applied to the scriptures to denote their authoritative aspect.

Most of us have our personal canon within the canon, that is, our core collection of scripture within the larger body of scripture. And entire denominations have been organized around differing core collections of scripture.

Even the person sitting in the end zone of the football game with their placard displaying a scriptural reference is revealing their canon within the canon, not to mention their personal agenda.

It’s important to remain aware of the temptation and danger of proof-texting or cherry-picking scripture as it is sometimes called, that is, taking a passage out of context to reinforce a personal agenda, like a fear based prejudice. Throughout history, people have misused scripture to justify wars and slavery and all sorts of inequality. Martin Luther even warned his students against this approach when it is reported that he said, “Using scripture I can prove that bad beer is better than good wine.”

Over the years my canon within the canon has changed and evolved and expanded as my knowledge and understanding of scripture has grown. How has your understanding of scripture and your interpretation of it expanded as you’re on your spiritual journey?

I love discovering new scriptures and new understandings. In 2 Corinthians 8, we read where the apostle Paul spent nearly 10 years soliciting funds for what was commonly known as the “Jerusalem Fund.” This was a collection he took up among Gentile congregations in Macedonia and Achaia (modern day Greece) to help Jerusalem congregations who were facing very difficult times as a result of drought, heavy taxes and a sluggish economy. This passage is part of Paul’s final appeal to the mainly Gentile congregation in Corinth to help out their sisters and brothers in Jerusalem, who were mainly Jewish followers of Jesus.

A part of what happened was that Paul’s initial appeal to the Corinth congregation had hit some resistance after they had initially promised to respond. They had not followed through on a previous pledge, so Paul made a second appeal.

Paul wrote these rather direct words, “… it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something, but even desired to do something – to now finish doing it.”

Paul appealed to the church in Greece because they were in a relatively prosperous time and living comfortably. In his first letter to the Corinthian congregation Paul had encouraged them to exercise self-discipline and regularly “set aside” something for the Jerusalem congregation on a “weekly basis.” What is so remarkable about this and even beyond that, what is captivating and challenging is that in Paul’s time, the rift between Gentile and Jew was one of the deepest and most profound of all human divides.

What Paul asked the congregation in Corinth to do was so counter-cultural. It went against common sense and cultural and social norms. But could the life-changing point be this: for Paul, even in the face of great cultural resistance, the “Jerusalem Collection” was a tangible expression of what he perceived to be the very heart (core) of the Christ experience?

Could it be for Paul, that his experience of Jesus was a challenge to the mindset of mutual exclusivity? Because of Christ, Paul saw things differently; he saw a sense of connection, not just with his immediate circles of family and friends, but between the needs of others and the abundance of others. For Paul, Jesus revealed lines of connection that the Corinth congregation did not see or recognize. Jesus made visible links of interrelatedness that perhaps they were hesitant to acknowledge or accept.

Paul experienced the living Jesus as one who challenged him to live with these lines of connection to be visibly seen, out in the open.

We might call this living with a consciousness of Christ connections; seeing these Christ connections as a calling rather than living with a sense of mutual exclusivity. In other words, we need each other and we are all connected.

It’s amazing what a natural disaster or a horrific traffic accident or a senseless shooting will do to bring total strangers together in support of one another. There is power when we all combine our resources, like the outpouring of humanitarian aid to Nepal, like so many people going out to support AIDS services and education through The Center’s Dining Out for Life. And how we are constantly bringing in clothing and food items to support Uptown Faith Community Service Center and our Feed My Sheep food pantry… all of this is living with a consciousness of Christ connections.

As Jesus people, and that is who we are as followers of Christ, we are called to affirm, recognize and live with a consciousness of Christ connections; connections that link the needs of some with the abundance of others; connections that are healing, empowering and freeing!

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Following Jesus to the other side Wed, 17 Jun 2015 20:49:54 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

In the Gospel of Mark 4, Jesus calls us to follow him to the other side. The other side of what? The other side of where? Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side. And leaving the crowd behind … they went across.”

Jesus lived dangerously and placed himself at great risk for the sake of inclusive love; and Jesus challenged the boundaries and then issued challenges to his followers.

In Mark there are two traumatic boat experiences on the Sea of Galilee. Both stories have common themes. In both stories the disciples were crossing to the other side. And in both stories there is “fear” that overwhelmed them and then Jesus addressed that fear.

Now, there are a couple ways to see and understand these gospel stories. One way is to take them literally, as historical narratives that we could have taken a video on our smart phones if we had been there. If we take the literal approach, we can easily get hung up on whether or not it really happened the way Mark describes it, and debate about it endlessly, and never really get to the core meaning of the story.

Another way is to see and understand these stories as not merely literal historical narratives, but as what many Biblical scholars call metaphorical narratives. Metaphorical narrative recognizes that truth can be delivered through metaphor, and that these early faith communities understood the metaphorical nature of the stories they received and passed on about Jesus.

The metaphorical approach takes seriously the depth of what Jesus meant for those early faith communities; communities that shaped their lives around his teaching, communities that named Jesus Lord. Theologian, J. Holub wrote, “This approach says that the deepest meanings of the stories are found in their metaphorical nature rather than in a strictly literal sense.”

How wonderful that when we take this approach, it can open up great vistas of understanding and wonderful new dimensions of meaning about Jesus and the impact he had on those early communities of faith that followed him, and also how he shaped their community and their individual lives long after he was gone. It also speaks of how Jesus can continue to shape and impact our lives today.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” The “other side” of the Sea of Galilee was not just different in its geographic features a few miles away, but it was different culturally, socially, ethnically, politically and religiously; it was so different it could have been 10,000 miles away or even on another planet!

The Sea of Galilee separated two major regions: a Jewish region and a Gentile region. When Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side,” he was transporting his disciples across a significant boundary. The other side was a center of Greek and Roman culture; an alien culture; a Gentile world. One of the most pronounced lines of demarcation of the ancient world was that between Jew and Gentile. Do we still have pronounced lines of demarcation in 2015?

What this story is about is crossing these boundaries. As we read the gospels, Jesus passed back and forth across these boundaries often, as if they didn’t even exist.

So, Jesus took the initiative with his disciples, climbed into their little boat and crossed a boundary. As they were crossing they encountered a great resistance, and then they were engulfed and almost capsized in fury of fear.

Again, if we read this story strictly literally, it is only about a wind-storm, the disciples’ fearful response, and then Jesus miraculously calming the winds and waves. But as we look at this metaphorically, it opens up whole new dimensions of meaning.

We all know about the power of fear. Fear is a powerful force that can distort our thinking, our attitudes and our perceptions. The first and most powerful boundary the disciples had to cross was that of their fear!

One of the hardest things in life to do is to cross strong boundaries we have drawn in our minds. Many of our boundaries are rooted in a narrow mentality that invokes fear of anything outside of that boundary. And when we are challenged to cross a boundary, we are met with head-on gale force winds of our own fear. The disciples encountered the mighty resistance of their own fear in crossing a boundary they would have never crossed had it not been for Jesus. Are we much different than the disciples?

As we’re reading this story, you can’t miss the ironic humor of Jesus peacefully and calmly asleep in the boat; all around is chaos, panic and fear and Jesus is snoring. You can almost hear the agitated frustration of the disciples when they say, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?”

Here they are, in a great storm, waves were beating against the boat so much so that it was being swamped; and where’s Jesus? Asleep on a cushion! Jesus’ life was not defined by fear.

And this is a journey that Jesus leads us on also; to cross boundaries of overt or subtle prejudice; to cross boundaries of bias; to cross boundaries of narrow-mindedness; to cross boundaries of elitism and arrogance; to cross boundaries that prevent the nurturing of community and greater unity; to cross boundaries that exclude, minimize, dehumanize and categorize people.

Jesus says, “Come on. Let’s go across to the other side.” “Don’t worry, I’ll be with you.” “I’ll calm the storms of fear.” Could that be what the stilling of the wind and the waves is all about? The absence of fear?

When fear no longer controls us love can flow; compassion can flow; justice is possible. Fear is paralyzing and it can also blind us to seeing who and what is on the other side. Fear doesn’t let us listen to “their” story, to feel their pain, to hear their voice, and in this vacuum we come up with all sorts of distorted conclusions about “the other side” that we can mistake for the truth.

Theologian Sallie McFague writes, “People all look alike when you cannot be bothered to look at them closely.”

Mark says, “And leaving the crowd behind …”

If you choose to follow Jesus across one of your fear-based boundaries you will leave a significant crowd behind, and they might give you grief for it. But fear not, the world needs courageous and bold people who are willing to not let narrow attitudes and fear define and rule them.

Let’s be bridge builders of understanding and cooperation with people on the other side. It’s what we are called to do. It’s a bold invitation; Jesus says, “Come on with me. Let’s go across to the other side.” Amen.

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The talk Thu, 11 Jun 2015 19:18:49 +0000


TV programs now feature teen pregnancies and schools offer kindergartens. We seniors remember girls suddenly going to live with grandma, their names never to be mentioned. Obviously, they had ignored “the talk” which I encountered in the 6th grade. First, the girls were sent to the nurses’ room for a mysterious enlightenment and then we boys received a lecture titled, “Manhood.” The “Parentally Approved” expert (a local pastor) proceeded with a mouth-foaming rant about the devil controlling our hand. Then followed a movie with stick figures, dogs humping each other (!) and a mother in a hospital bed, every hair in place, smiling and cradling a baby. It all ended with a final harangue about our filthy hand, a prayer to save us from the temptations of the Evil One and a plea to respect our mothers “for what they’d been through.” Since my mother had not been through anything more than a nasty lobster bite, I left the room in a daze.

The girls had received a similar commentary and threats of eternal damnation. One girl said it was about their aunt visiting every month which brought screams of laughter from her friends. Naturally, we boys pretended to get the joke. Later, we decided it had all been about babies, but a friend had already informed me how your car thing goes in the girl’s garage thing and then angels bring a baby.

This other stuff was most confusing, but no complaints, it got us out of a history test. At home mother averted her eyes and said if I had any questions about “the talk,” I was to ask my father.

His advice was succinct and irrefutable: Boys, hands in pockets. Girls, legs crossed. Can’t go wrong with that.

All ages welcome

As people of all ages live and learn, the joy of reading never ends. We are especially grateful when what we read is in some way related to the LGBT experience. Gratefully, we note the recent increase in the acceptance of our lifestyles which has considerably enlarged our choices. On the other hand, many seniors in our community cannot get over the closet days and are hesitant to let their reading material be known, embarrassed to examine a particular book in a library or reluctant to stand in front of a store’s LGBT section.

Joining them, the young and questioning are equally uneasy about publicly searching for information and novels which they can relate to and which confirm they are not alone. Also there are parents and friends exploring ways to address a family issue. Luckily there is a private, discrete place where help is available: the Bruce Abrams Lending Library right here in our wonderful LGBT Center.

There you will find thousands of books connected to our various lifestyles, people, movements, etc. Everything is covered: serious studies, fiction, non-fiction, parental advice, self-acceptance, biographies, children’s books, even some DVDs. All conveniently arranged and labeled in sections. The price is reasonable: free.

Get a card from the front desk, make your selections and check out up to four books for one month. It is a fantastic bargain and an invaluable asset to our community. Check it out and check them out.

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Awaken to the Christ within Thu, 11 Jun 2015 16:52:22 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

Author Ann Lamott, gave a commencement address at Goucher College in Baltimore. She said, “Your (biggest) problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued; whether you are going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are (going) to find out the truth about who you really are.”

She goes on to say, “So from the wise old pinnacle of my 49 years, I want to tell you that what you are looking for is already inside you. You have heard this before, but the holy thing inside you really is that which causes you to seek it. You cannot buy it, lease it, rent it, date it or apply for it. The best job in the world cannot give it to you; neither can success, or fame, or financial security; besides which, there ain’t no such thing. J.D. Rockefeller was once asked, ‘How much money is enough?’ and he answered, ‘Just a little bit more.’

“What you are looking for is already inside of you,” she said.

Do we really believe that? Do we really trust that? If we do, many times our lives do not often show it. Many people have lived much of their life believing that what they think they need to make them happy is outside of them, external from them, separate from them; that they must go “out there somewhere” to get it. So, off they go on this endless external quest in their pursuit.

“How much money is enough?” he was asked. “Just a little bit more!” he responded.

How much power and control is enough? Just a little bit more?

How many possessions are enough? Just a few more?

How big a thrill is enough? Just a little bigger one more time?

How much security is enough? Just a tad more?

How many toys are enough? Not too many more?

This journey is a journey of futility, because there is no such thing as “just a little bit more.” It’s an illusion.

In the light of this, Jesus tells a parable. Now, a parable is a metaphor of the Kingdom of God (Realm of God) that is based on something ordinary and every day.

Jesus said, “The Kingdom (Realm) of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself… but when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

It’s as if the farmer scattered the seed, went about her business, and then one day just woke up and was awakened, much to her surprise, to all of this grain growing right outside her door, and, voila, it was ready to be harvested! So, she harvested it! There was little or no effort on her part that caused it to grow to fruition. “The earth produces of itself,” said Jesus. It was much more like it was a gift that just happened, and she awakened to it!

In Luke’s gospel some Pharisees (religious leaders of the day) came to Jesus and asked him when the Realm of God was coming and what to look for. Listen to how Jesus answered them, “The Kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the Kingdom of God is within you.”

“Within you” – the realm of God is within you; not outside of you; not separate from you, but within you. The Greek word for “within” means “within the boundaries of what is already yours.”

Our spiritual life is not just a matter of going out somewhere and getting anything, but a matter of awakening to that which is already within us. That is what Jesus did. When he challenged people with crazy things like “Pray for your enemies” or “Forgive 70X7” or “Do not judge” or “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” he was not proclaiming a new set of laws, but was awakening them to the realm of God, the Divine grace, that was already within them – and when we awaken to this, we will experience great joy and fulfillment and deep purpose.

When we awaken to the Christ within, it is breathtaking, captivating and transforming. The realm of God is within you. Therefore, you are love; you are compassion; you are forgiveness; you are grace. Your purpose is to share love, and to be loved; to help the poor, to feed the hungry, to include the excluded, to empower the vulnerable; to build bridges of peace; to bring comfort; to work for justice; to build community.

Look again into your life and awaken to the Christ within you. And may your light of love and peace brighten the world around you more and more. Amen.

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Intimate portraits Thu, 04 Jun 2015 17:01:28 +0000

FilmOut San Diego had their 17th Annual LGBT Film Festival this past weekend. Opening night was full of excitement for the documentary Tab Hunter Confidential. The film has received accolades at several film festivals worldwide so the anticipation was not surprising. The story follows Hunter’s career and how he navigated through the politics of Hollywood as a closeted actor. Unlike some other documentaries, in this one the subject himself narrates the film.

Tab Hunter was also presented a Lifetime Achievement Award. He greeted the audience and told them how excited he was to be back in San Diego. In the past he frequented Del Mar to attend horse shows and visit friends. An audience member presented him with a gift that was sent by Lana Turner. Hunter was then asked to discuss what prompted him to write the book, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star.

He and the film’s producer, Allan Glaser, had a comical back and forth explaining the full story. Hunter pointed at Glaser when the question was asked, “Allan said, ‘You know, I hear that someone is going to be doing a book on you and I think you should do the book’ and I thought – ‘Oh please I could never do that’ ” and then Hunter handed the microphone to Glaser. Glaser described a reluctant Hunter who thought no one would want to read about him but Glaser assured him that he thought a lot of people would and then he handed the microphone back to Hunter while the audience burst out in laughter. “I said, alright, I’ll do it. Get it from the horse’s mouth and not from some horse’s ass after I’m dead and gone,” said Hunter.

FilmOut’s next screening will be the directors cut of Studio 54 July 15 at Landmark Hillcrest.

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter by Johannes Vermeer

For more information about Tab Hunter, his movie and his book:

At the Timken Museum you can view The Private World of Vermeer which showcases Johannes Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter until mid-September. This is the first time the painting has been in San Diego and is on loan from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. One can feel like a voyeur, as the painting appears to capture a young woman at a vulnerable moment. We can only speculate the content of the letter.

This painting is one of thirty-six known paintings by Vermeer in the entire world. It’s believed that he produced about fifty paintings over twenty years but the others were destroyed. Vermeer’s paintings have often been described as “stilled lives.” June 8 at 10 a.m. there will be a lecture given by Professor Ann Jensen Adams of UC Santa Barbara. The lecture will examine Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter in relation to contemporaneous concerns about the passage of time, and its measurement. As always, the museum and lecture are free.

Follow me on twitter: anapines1

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The Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) Thu, 28 May 2015 16:15:23 +0000

At a recent meeting the mention of today’s topic brought hardly a flicker of recognition. A sad response to the work of lesbian partners and pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. All they wanted to do in 1955 was to dance together in their favorite bar.

The problem: it was against the law! Fed up, they started a group at their home where they all could dance and be themselves. Word spread and soon it grew to be organized as the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB): the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the United States. It was a safe place for women to admit their sexual desires, develop self-confidence and advocate for their rights.

The name was chosen to pass as a poetry club to fool the police. (Really necessary? You bet! AAS). By 1958 there were chapters in all the major cities and in 1959 The Ladder magazine was started. For ten years DOB flourished, but as the ’70s neared, the woman’s liberation movement, reaching out beyond lesbian issues and encompassing women’s rights in general became more popular.

After 14 years the Daughters of Bilitis passed into history. However, it remains a shining example for the LGBT community of what a few people can do to make a difference. Del and Phyllis should be remembered and honored for binding women together across the country and having an enormous impact on self-acceptance and public recognition of lesbian life.

Today, various LGBT organizations continue to work for the same goals. For lesbians, however, the Daughters of Bilitis was there at the start and don’t you forget it.

A baby-sitting plan

We with extended families face sporadic pleas to babysit. For seniors, thoughts of an evening of noise, tears and drama gives us pause. With no excuse at hand, we warily agree, beseeching all powers to tire the kids out and pack them into bed early so we can enjoy Judge Judy.

To achieve this goal, I suggest the following fantasy: set up an outdoor target near a water faucet, arm each with a water pistol, gun or bazooka and with firm orders to aim solely at the target and under no circumstances at each other, go inside. Ignore the screams and shrieks for 40 minutes then go out, scold them sternly and have them change clothes, dumping their wet garments into the hamper.

For dinner, cover the kitchen table with plastic and dump the spaghetti and meatballs in the middle and announce “hands only.” The kids will love it and with finger painting a plus, the meal will never be forgotten.

Next, of course, is to clean up the mess with towels, etc. Into the hamper with them along with their clothes which now may have a spot or two on them. Before dessert, hold a race up and down the stairs three times. The winner gets to cut the cake and decide who gets what.

With careful nurturing, a pillow fight should ensue. Finally, after hiding any visible damage, we have the statue contest. Once in bed, they see who can stay still the longest while counting backwards from 100. I predict you should soon be free for Judy’s verdicts. When the folks return, exit quickly, before the kitchen or hamper is visited. You will forever be the kid’s favorite sitter.

With luck, you won’t be invited back.

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What happens when the wine runs out? Thu, 28 May 2015 16:06:25 +0000

Marriage at Cana, c. 1500, Gerard David, Musée du Louvre, Paris

As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

I love love! I love to celebrate love! And one of the best places for that is a wedding! I’m so lucky; I get the best seat in the house! There are times when I’ve had to fight back the tears as the love being expressed was so profound and palpable. And there are other times when funny things can happen, that maybe aren’t so funny at the moment, but later, looking back, get a good laugh!

In the Gospel of John, Jesus attended a wedding at Cana in Galilee and at that wedding there was a crisis, and it was not so funny – they ran out of wine! Now, in that culture, a wedding feast was the biggest event in village life, with the newlyweds treated like royalty for several days of ritual and festivities. It was the host’s responsibility to provide everything for the festivities and to ever run out of anything would be an insult to your neighbors and a big embarrassment for yourself.

John’s gospel is called the “metaphorical gospel” by Biblical Scholars meaning that John wrote in such a way that intentionally invited the reader to look deeper than the literal story and to interpret the stories metaphorically. So, the stories in John’s Gospel, and many other places in the Bible, have multiple layers of meaning into which we can go deeper and deeper. For John’s community of faith, the meaning of Jesus is revealed by unpacking the metaphors and exploring the deeper layers of meaning.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus is presented as what some call the creative energy of God taking expression in a human life. John begins his gospel by speaking of the Divine Word or “Logos” in Greek. Many of you will recognize this passage: “In the beginning was the Word. (The Word) was in the beginning with God … All things came into being through (the Word) … What has come into being was life, and the life was the light of all people … and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us …”

The “Logos” or the Word, was understood as God’s living creative energy through which authentic life came into being; not just biological life, but fullness of life, richness of life, quality of life. John’s Gospel affirms that this Divine creative energy was present in the person of Jesus.

John begins this story with the words, “the third day.” So, already in the first three words we get a glimpse at how John uses layers of meaning and metaphor. “The third day” on the one hand, could be a literal reference to the story that precedes it, like three days later. But on the other hand, if we go deeper, we see it also as a reference meant to remind us of the resurrection – “the third day.” This could be John’s way of telling his readers that the creative life-giving energy of God that the disciples personally experienced in the life of Jesus is also present in the risen Christ! The ongoing presence of Jesus that they continued to experience in their community of faith some six decades later when this gospel was written.

And Jesus, filled with this creative life-giving energy, changed the water into wine – and a lot of it! Let’s do the arithmetic: Six stone jars at about 30 gallons each comes to 180 gallons! That’s a lot of wine! That’s an abundance of wine!

And here at this point, we are again invited to explore the layers of metaphorical meaning. We can get all hung up on the literalness of the story. We can argue if this really happened or not, or if the wine was actually fermented, or, we can go deeper.

The six stone water jars were for the purpose of the rites and rituals of purification. Their function was ceremonial not hygienic. Let’s go deeper. In other words, the jars could metaphorically represent a religion that had, for some, become hardened by legalisms and rituals; a religion that God mired in its own dogma, a religion that was more concerned about correctness than compassion; exclusion than inclusion; self-satisfaction than social justice.

Jesus had them first fill the jars with water, which was their natural state and function for ceremonial ritual. And then the waters were transformed into wine; something radically new, unconventional and some would say wild and crazy!

In verse three, John says, “the wine ran out” which started the panic and crisis. Sometimes in life the wine just runs out. Somehow, somewhere, someplace, sometime and in some circumstance, the wine in your life and my life is going to run out. The wine runs out!

How do you know when your wine has run out? You know the wine has run out when your religion does more to separate you from others than to connect you with others.

You know your wine has run out when you face a crisis like sickness, great loss, failure, betrayal, divorce, estrangement, your own mortality and you are only filled with fear, regret, guilt, anger, depression or despair.

You know your wine has run out when you become aware, in a moment of honest clarity, that all of your hectic running around, all of your consuming, all of your busyness, all of your thrill-seeking is only a mechanism to cover up the muffled voice of anxiety whispering in the depths of your soul that you are feeling empty and hollow.

You know your wine has run out when you face profound disappointment, when things don’t work out like you expected and you feel as if the best days of your life are lost, never to come again.

You know your wine has run out when your life reaches a place where you are reduced to saying, “What happened? How did I get here?”

Several years ago I took a trip to Switzerland with my dad and stepmom. My stepmom’s family comes from there and we were trying to find some of the villages that her family came from generations ago. We got on a train and about 6 p.m. found ourselves at the end of the line, in a little village nestled in the mountains; it was picturesque and so peaceful. We were the only ones on that train, and the station was closed and so we carried our luggage and went to the police station across the street. The officer looked at us with curiosity and we were grateful he spoke some English as my German wasn’t very good. We told him we were looking for a place to stay and he said, “I’m sorry, nothing is open, nothing is available, and the train doesn’t leave until the morning.” We looked at each other and said, “What happened? How did we get here?” We were in a predicament. I think he could see the panic on our faces as we tried to remain calm and he said, “Hold on,” as he picked up the phone. This was a really small village and three minutes later he said the owner of the only hotel (three rooms) was willing to let us stay there, but there would be no amenities, just a bed to sleep in and a shower in the morning. We were grateful!

We walked there, and found the place to be quaint and beautiful, with a view of the snow-covered mountains, a church steeple, and you could hear the bells of the cows on the hillside. We showed him our gratitude and told him our story of why we were there and about 10 minutes later he knocked on our door and said the family was having fondue and would we want to join them for dinner – fabulous!

Metaphorically speaking, the wine ran out on our trip on that dead end and we were left in the mire of “what happened?” But when the wine did run out, to our great joy we encountered a generous and creative presence that gave us new hope, and revived our spirits and filled our souls. What could have been a very scary time turned out to be one of the best memories of that trip!

Could this be a huge part of John’s purpose for telling this story as the event that begins Jesus’ public ministry? For John’s community of faith, their old, narrow views and religious had left them in a dead-end state of “What happened? How did we get here?” Jesus turned them around to go a more life-giving way.

The wine will run out. But when it does, we are not alone. The creative energy of the risen Christ is there to fill our empty jars with sweet new wine, to bring new life, new hope and new direction. And like he kept the best for last, he invites us to “Love our enemies” “Forgive 70X7” “Turn the other cheek” “Do not judge” “Follow me!” and many, many more.

This invitation might seem counterintuitive, and I encourage you this morning to not only hear his invitation, but also hear the encouragement of his mother, “Do whatever he tells you.” If you do, you just might be surprised and even transformed beyond your wildest expectations and enjoy the taste of new life and new hope and new joy! Amen.

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Converting San Diego’s neglected areas can be transformative Thu, 21 May 2015 16:00:29 +0000

Take Back the Alley | Photo: Media Arts Center

This past weekend, Radio Pulso del Barrio, Bread & Salt and Roots Factory hosted an event in Logan Heights that included music, food, vendors and art. Attendees were also invited to create a print using a simple press method. You carve out your design either on a wood or rubber block, cover with paint, flip and press on paper and you got your art. This was part of the Take Back the Alley initiative that took place throughout the week.

Community members and Qualcomm volunteers participated in the event that started in 2011 by the Media Arts Center San Diego to bring awareness to these neglected areas. Many of the alleys in San Diego are intimidating due to the lack of upkeep. They can be full of broken glass, have uneven asphalt and trash. Bringing awareness and the public together to convert these spaces can be transformative. They can be utilized as congregation areas for each community.

A popular complaint among different community members at the City Council meeting May 18 was the lack of spaces in their neighborhoods in which kids could safely play. There are areas that do not have sidewalks, have outdated libraries, and unviable parks. There are articles, memes and commentary out there that complain and/or joke about “kids today” being glued to their phones, social media and or video games. No one ever seems to mention that some of these kids don’t have a safe place to be outdoors. One of the speakers was a teenage boy who asked the Council members to please fix the park in his neighborhood because he wants a place to go out with his friends.

The Take Back the Alley initiative could at least help alleviate the need for safe play areas in some neighborhoods that were mentioned at the Council meeting. As a participant you can help clean up, paint fences and light posts, do construction and some gardening. The next event will be May 29 in City Heights. You can also donate at:

Silo Market Art Show | PHOTO: ANA PINES

Cohort Collective had a free art show at SILO in Makers Quarter. The organization includes a contingent of diverse artists who display their work at events and have collaborations with businesses around town. There were oil paintings, mixed media, photography, wire art, murals and installations. White walls were erected in one area to display some of the art. Artists making murals and installations on the spot utilized the rest of the space. There was also a wall where guests could freely pick up a spray can and paint their tag, name or whatever their heart desired. Some of the collaborators included Exist 1981, Spenser Little, Christopher Konecki, Carly Ealey, Neko, Dolan Stearns and Joey Vaiasuso. Artists outside of the collaboration were also invited to display their work. There were really impressive and affordable one-of-a-kind pieces. Find out more at:

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Ask a senior (AAS) Thu, 14 May 2015 15:00:46 +0000


My briefs are aimed mainly at seniors, the retirees, but I try to interest everyone. To get different generations to interact, I often make a joke or a point requiring younger readers to “ask a senior” (from now on AAS). But we are all seniors to somebody, so whom do I mean? I think of four age groups: A 20-35, B 35-50, C 50-65 and D 65+. Moving either up or down, people understand most references of the next group, but beyond that they usually need help. “Patty, Maxine and Lavern” are OK for D and maybe C, but B and A are lost. The crossword clue _ _ _ _ Turner could mean “Tina” to B and C, “Lana” to C and D and “Who?” to A.

To be more specific and relevant, LGBT topics are no different: Well of Loneliness, Christine Jorgensen, the Mattachine Society were at one time discussed by many in our community in whispers. Why? AAS. We seniors had lots of tough times when we were young, but we had some great ones also and not only those of us living in a big city. Men in small towns took business trips, remember, and women teachers (most other jobs were unavailable) sharing a home was common and accepted: “Old maids living together to save money.” Ha! Little did people know. We can tell wonderful tales revisiting our youth and about how LGBT life became what it is today. We were there! So ask us. Use an AAS as a starting point. Be friendly and enjoy the conversation. Who knows where it might lead. Afraid they might make a pass at you? So what! The day will come when they won’t. Then you’ll really get upset. Don’t believe me? AAS.

A year well spent

Forty years ago I dared leave teaching for a year to produce educational theater. I treated my first audience to the historical giant Everyman a 15th century play of Christian salvation with allegorical characters speaking old English. Sadly, I misjudged the youth of Iowa. The ensuing near-riot caused the school board to replace my show with Reefer Madness (AAS).

Never a quitter, I next tried to educate by reviving America’s only original contribution to theater, The Minstrel Show. Alas, somehow my young cast was under the impression it was an early version of Soul Train. The first script reading occasioned such appalling language and hysteria I felt it wise to cancel – encouraged by hints of painful retribution should I continue.

My final attempt to uplift and cultivate beyond the norm was a creation of Hal “Hunk” Harvey, avant guard playwright and former Chi Chi LaRue star (AAS). His Billy the Kid and Johnny Appleseed was a gay romp we staged in the basement of the Holy Blood Tabernacle, a cheap, but regrettable choice of venue. The graphic love scene ending Act I resulted in our fleeing out the back. I had voiced misgivings, but was assured art would triumph. Bull feathers! Lord knows what would have happened with the nude finale. My funds gone, I returned to teaching.

Was the year a failure? Absolutely not! It was just what I’d hoped for: a year of fun, excitement and great memories. So, for whatever time you can, get out of your rut and go for it. Enjoy.

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A chain reaction of love Thu, 14 May 2015 03:29:24 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

I love kids. When I was growing up I decided I wanted to have five kids; I don’t know why that number exactly. Upon graduation from college, I started to hear from parents and grandparents, “It sure would be nice to have some babies in the family!” Well, I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn’t going to get married any time soon, if ever (being married to a man wasn’t even a possibility in the ‘80s), and I was the eldest of three boys, so I was feeling some pressure. Thank God for my brothers; they took all the pressure off me as they succeeded to have 10 children between the two of them! Woo hoo! Now I’m Uncle Dan and that’s fantastic!

I have great admiration for parents. I’ll never know the amount of work and dedication they put into their parenting skills. It’s a huge investment.

It’s amazing how fast kids grow up. Starting out as precious little babies, aww, so cute! There are so many “firsts” to be witnessed; holding her head up, rolling over, standing up, then taking his first steps and those first words, “Pastor Dan!”

Then come the twos! Maybe you’ve heard of this phrase, “the terrible twos!” Well, that might be a little too harsh, so there’s another “T” word that might describe this developmental stage; how about “the terrific twos!” The dictionary defines “terrific” as “extraordinary or intense in either a positive or negative sense.” The twos are terrific because there’s so much emerging in this little life all at the same time: physically, psychologically, emotionally and cognitively. It’s quite amazing when you think about it and “terrific” in that sense.

And it’s also “terrific” in another sense, and there are some other T words that come to mind like, tiresome, tough, taxing, tricky and trying and testing!

Two year olds are trying out everything, and in the process of “trying” out their developing personalities, intense curiosity and increasing skills; they “test” their parents and grandparents (whether from their family of origin or family of choice).

Kids at any age can be adorable, and at the two-stage they can be totally charming with their big eyes, beautiful hair and killer smile; and when they push the envelope and push their limits and they have to be told “no”, something else develops; a unique style of defiance. “No you cannot have that right now, close the refrigerator.” And then they pause, and look back at you with those big eyes and flash that charming smile and then proceed to do the denied thing anyway! Ha!

That’s where consistent disciplinary skills are employed; firm on one hand and loving on the other. When kids push the envelope many things go on in the parent or guardian. They are presented with an opportunity and this defiance either brings out the worst or the best. The defiance becomes a defining moment for everyone involved and it can cause a chain reaction of emotions, for better or worse.

Well, Jesus and his disciples intentionally pushed the edge of the sacred envelope of their religion, and in the process, pushed the hot buttons of the core leadership of the religion. The way the Pharisees looked at things, Jesus and his disciples were being defiant, especially in regards to respecting and honoring Sabbath Law, which was at the very heart and core of their religion. There were a whole series of rules, regulations and restrictions of things that were not permitted on the Sabbath; restrictions that were sacred and holy and were considered integral to honoring the Sabbath and fundamental to orthodox religious expression. I remember as a kid, we couldn’t mow the lawn on Sundays!

I like how Rev. J. Holub puts it, “By intentionally and defiantly stepping over those sacred lines and boundaries, Jesus provided the critical mass that yielded the opportunity for the best or the worst to come out in those around him.”

In the Pharisees, the religious authorities and those who represented the power structure, unfortunately, the worst came out and they rejected Jesus and his teachings. “The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” Not only did it bring out the worst in them, but the worst of the worst.

The religious of Jesus’ day, as represented by the authorities and hierarchy, could only see Jesus as a defiant, trouble-making, rabble-rousing enemy to be destroyed. Jesus was a threat to the tight little religious box in which they lived; so it came down to either their neat little box, or him and they chose their box.

The end of Mark 2 says, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

What Mark is saying, right at the beginning of his Gospel, is that he and his faith community were experiencing something radically new in Jesus; something not based in law and legalism; not based in restrictions of what you could or could not do; not based on hierarchical power structures; not based on a narrow-minded mentality, not based on rigid morality codes, not based on a dualistic mindset of who is included and who is excluded, clean and unclean; righteous and sinner; in or out.

What they experienced in Jesus so radically transcended the political and religious culture of his day that it could only be described as putting new wine into new wineskins. Jesus did not come to patch up a stuck religion and power-based politics, but he came bringing a whole new life; a paradigm that challenged the old one in every aspect and at every turn in the road.

Jesus eventually triggered a chain reaction of love in the lives of those who encountered him. Jesus transcended religion and saw the face of the Divine even in the most feared and despised; the lowest and the last and the least.

Jesus’ primary mission was not to get people to believe the legalistic correct things that would, “poof”, transport them to heaven, rather, he lived and taught through his words and actions, to make people whole in love, and that love would bring the realm of heaven into the world right now.

Jesus opens us up to live every moment to the fullest, to live with a consciousness of God’s amazing grace that is transformational in how we see and relate to those around us, in contrast to religion that is often held captive by its unbending and correctness of beliefs rather than the freedom of living with compassion and Christ-like love.

Jesus is our model for care, compassion and community. May we continue to teach and practice the Good News of God’s unconditional love for all people. May we welcome home those who have been spiritually wounded or are seeking or growing a relationship with God. May we actively promote equality and justice for all people and be fully engaged in our own growth and be present with others on their spiritual journey to hope, healing and wholeness. Let’s begin a chain reaction of love! Amen.

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What makes us different? Thu, 07 May 2015 02:56:29 +0000

“Race: Are We So Different?” exhibition, San Diego Museum of Man | PHOTO: ANA PINES

There’s a new permanent exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Man (SDMM) that poses the question, “Race: Are We So Different?” For some, it will be their second time seeing it. “The American Anthropological Association curated the exhibit, it was here at the Museum of Man about four years ago and we had such a huge community response that we knew we had to bring it back and so we purchased it, and it’s now a permanent part of the museum” said SDMM Marketing Manager Grant Barrett.

The exhibit is honest in a way some will not expect. There’s a replica of a stoop that poses the question, “How does skin color privilege some and hurt others?” There are many that would like to pretend it doesn’t exist. Imagine the faces of these people showing up to an exhibit like this? But, the positive impact that the exhibit has on some is what matters most. “I wasn’t at the museum four years ago but I heard from my co-workers who were that a lot of important conversations have been started in this exhibit. We had a wonderful moment where this 80-year-old woman who was with our executive director in the exhibit and he said, ‘Well, what do you think?’ She said, ‘I gotta tell you, I’m 80 years old and I’m never too old to learn something, I didn’t even realize it doesn’t really matter.’ She went on to explain that she was holding on to all these old ideas about race and color without thinking about it. She just continued to believe these things without reassessing her opinions and ideas and this exhibit even at 80, turned the corner for her, and if one person a week or a month or year goes away changed like that, its completely done its job,” said Barrett.

It’s a great exhibit to have but one can only hope that change is not just in someone’s mind but also in his or her actions. For instance, there was an experiment posted online where the same resume was sent out with two different names and the African American sounding name got the least amount of calls. What would the HR representatives say about their decisions? And how many have an African American friend or family member and are still bias in their choices?

“Race: Are We So Different?” exhibition, San Diego Museum of Man | PHOTO: ANA PINES

If a survey were taken of museum employees in Balboa Park would they be as diverse as the art and messages they promote? It’s great to find these things interesting but those conversations don’t mean anything until there is action attached to them.

“Race: Are We So Different?” exhibition, San Diego Museum of Man | PHOTO: ANA PINES

I recently went to an event that promoted the importance of multilingualism in education. They talked about diversity, being non-judgmental and understanding. One of the people that organized it had judged me as a person that didn’t belong on “her team” within five minutes of meeting me and reading my resume. My resume showed that I had the same qualifications as the person I was replacing but I didn’t belong. The person I was replacing also liked me and still, I didn’t belong. I can only ponder on what her bias is. My resume also shows that I’m part of the LGBT community and the timing of the meeting coincided with a day that you could see my tattoo. It irked me to see her being praised for a forum that promotes the very thing she is not. Being able to quote a book is not the same as living by the ideals you pretend to have.

Either way, conversation does have to start somewhere and the great thing about having this permanent exhibit is that it will be updated throughout time. “The fundamental idea in this exhibit is that race is almost completely a social construct. We understand race only because of the things we were told rather than the things that we are. Your genes do not control your behavior in the way our ideas of race say that they do,” said Barrett. They’re also considering bringing back an old exhibit that was at the museum 100 years ago. Putting them side-by-side would be an interesting juxtaposition to see how and what has changed when we talk about race. For more information go to:

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Let’s join our hearts for change in our world Thu, 07 May 2015 02:56:23 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

A time of celebration, of rejoicing! A time of shouting “Hosanna” and singing and dancing! Jesus enters Jerusalem; the anticipatory crowds were hopeful that Jesus was going to deliver them from the Roman Empire that was ruling this land. Jesus knew why he was coming to Jerusalem, and that this would be his final entrance before being crucified – and he wasn’t full of doom and gloom. Was he somewhat serious? Probably. He was living life with purpose and intentionality. He was living life to the fullest! He was living in the present moment; and that let all of those around him live in the moment too!

Recently many people celebrated Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. It’s where the passion of Christ is lived out. It’s a passion that led to a journey of unconditional love. May our hearts be sensitive to God’s Spirit as we journey with Jesus. And when it feels like it’s the saddest and loneliest time, the stone is rolled away by resurrection power! Hope and Love usher in New Life and we are not alone!

Sometimes it’s in the silence of our hearts that we can experience God’s presence and unconditional love. Take a moment; find a place of quiet solitude, still your heart and your mind as best as you can.

As you pray, sit in the quiet; be open to God’s presence of holy love and all-goodness. During this time, know that you are united with spiritual sufficiency; there is nothing too big or too small for God; be assured that your needs are met out of the pure love of God.

The unconditional love of God’s Divine Spirit in the universe expressing through you will continue to bless you in every area of your life. Unconditional love is always there, in every human being and every situation, available to bless and to prosper.

Let’s join our hearts for change in our world and let it begin with us. Change for more love and compassion. Peace in our world. Racial tensions to ease, bridges of understanding and love being built. Marriage equality to become the law of the land. Restoration of home and lives after natural disasters and in war-torn lands. The list goes on and on.

Let’s join our hearts for change in our world, and let it begin with us. Amen.

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Never ending mysteries Thu, 30 Apr 2015 17:07:13 +0000


Alone at night and trying to sleep, we travel the road of memories often focusing on the mysteries and puzzles of long ago. Many of mine torment me even unto the present as my mind wanders to the deeper and more esoteric bugaboos of my early years. Will I never discover what a diddely squat is and why doesn’t it mean anything?

At home when it came to eating broccoli, why was mother so concerned with the children in China? Were there not problems of greater moment here in America? My trust in reportage was sorely tested by the information from a kindergarten classmate that if you step on a caterpillar, it turns into a butterfly. Multiple squished, green blobs on the sidewalks near my house testified to my diligence in investigation and truth-seeking. Sadly, the hypothesis has never (yet) been proven.

As an adult, similar conundrums have arisen to plague me. Why do I never know anyone in the society page photos? What is a White Party and why is it not considered racist? How can television ads be taken seriously with such claims as: “Free diet plan, plus cost of the food” or when a new medicine warns, “May cause death.”

The LGBT world does not escape my questioning mind. I toss and turn over serious quandaries. How can members of our community support policies that suppress and discriminate against us? How can loving parents suddenly turn and disown their children? Other issues create tensions of a more personal and physical nature. Why do my minimally invasive questions to Orlando Bloom go unanswered? With so much to ponder, it is a wonder I ever fall asleep.

Tapas vs. topless

We of the LBGT community know we did not choose our lifestyle. There were incidences so early in our lives we didn’t even understand what it meant to be attracted to toys, sports and people we were told were not suitable, but which we now realize pointed to the reality of our self-identity. Seemingly unconnected events have continued to unexpectedly reinforce this insightful assessment.

For example, my first visit to San Diego was to attend a conference. One had to stay closeted in those days, so I met in the bar with guys from the group and joined in the drinking, swearing, chick assessing, etc. with my best straight impersonation. Through the din someone suggested a great tapas and dancing place. I had just learned the word and as I wanted to sample some local food, quickly agreed. When we approached our destination, I realized to my horror the word had not been “tapas” but “topless.” What a fright! What an education! Suspiciously gigantic breasts worthy of suckling King Kong swung and bounced. Areas terra incognita to me were exposed to raucous appreciation.

Giving credit where due, the ability to twirl pendulous mamalia in opposite directions simultaneously is an admirable talent, although not one often seen on a job resume. I commented as expected and stuffed a dollar here and there. I’m not really sure where, as I shut my eyes. I was spared the humiliation of a lap dance by a phone call from our driver’s wife and (“dammit!”) we had to leave.

It was a sensuous display to be sure, but my complete lack of interest further confirmed my gayness. I’m sure you have similar stories and agree: Being LGBT is not a choice.

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A VIP (Vibrant, Inclusive and Progressive) church Thu, 30 Apr 2015 17:06:29 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

Through a series of Holy Conversations our guiding documents were created to inspire and inform a clear sense of mission, and a powerful vision to bring transformation and blessing to many more people in the years ahead.

We are an open and affirming progressive Christian community of faith. Our mission is to bring people closer to God and one another.

Core values are principles that guide our behavior. Our core values represent our most cherished beliefs and principles. Our core values are inclusion, community, spiritual transformation and justice.

Inclusion: Love is our greatest moral value. Inclusion is a primary focus of our ministry. We want to be conduits of faith where everyone is included in the family of God. We believe that all people, as they are and where they are, should be welcomed at God’s table.

Community: Our deep desire is to offer a safe and open community for people to worship, learn and grow in their faith. We are committed to equipping ourselves and each other to do the work that God has called us to do in the world.

We don’t want to become stagnant in our faith. As we live our faith through learning together, asking questions, being stretched in our thinking, we grow together. There are so many gifted people – you’ve been uniquely gifted – and I strongly encourage you to discover your gift, grow your gift, then share your gift. Not only will you be blessed, others will too!

Spiritual transformation: A message of liberation guides our ministry. We believe that when people are invited to experience God through the life and ministry of Christ, lives will be transformed.

We come to Christ just as we are, and we are changed by what we find. We experience a loving God with open arms, inviting all to take the sacred journey of faith and transformation. We are growing in our faith and claim that our place in society magnifies our place in God’s family. We are one of the many voices of God that, until recently in history, has been lost in the margins.

Justice: We are committed to uplifting all people and standing with those who suffer under the weight of oppressive systems. We are guided by our commitment to global human rights.

This is why we stand up for marriage equality, equal rights for women, support and give to Uptown Faith Community Service Center for the under-employed, work with The LGBT Center in AIDS education, serve on advisory boards for the mayor of San Diego and the San Diego County Sheriff and have been asked to hold church services for our transgender sisters at George Bailey Detention Facility; and the list goes on! We have an unfinished calling.

Our statement of vision gives us a picture of what we will look like in the years ahead if we fulfill our mission of bringing people closer to God and one another. Our vision is a view of the ideal state of this church and the impact it will have on us and our community.

Our vision is to be a vibrant, inclusive, progressive community of faith that transforms lives and transforms the world. A VIP church!

As a vibrant church: We will increasingly become a place to grow and a place to give. More people will become engaged in our mission and ministries by discovering their gifts and developing their strengths. As an engaged church many will be inspired to passionately live out their life’s purpose. A symphony of talents will produce the transforming harmony of grace and love.

“A place to grow – and a place to give.” I like that phrase. One of our strategic plans for the years ahead is to increase the number of people who are engaged in the mission and ministries of our church.

As an inclusive church: We will meet people where they are on their spiritual journey. People who encounter us will experience authentic hospitality and affirming love. We will grow in diversity.

We are called to greet people with open arms, show them love, and offer them generous hospitality. There are no regulations or hoops you have to go through in order to come to God’s table of Holy Communion – a table of all-inclusive love. And as we welcome all people we will grow in diversity. My prayer is that more and more people, from all walks of life, will come and see someone like them.

As a progressive church, we will be a beacon for equality and a force for social change. We will make a positive difference in our community and beyond. We will build bridges of understanding and cooperation with people on other spiritual paths. As we give voice to our passion for justice, we will share in the transformation of the world. Praise God!

Jesus led the way in acts of compassion and acts of justice. And because we have been a people in the margins, we understand more fully the grace of God extended to us. We continually seek to distance ourselves from exclusion and draw ourselves, including all those who are marginalized in any way, ever closer to a loving God.

This is who we are – together, let’s deepen our experience of the Divine through our acts of service, sharing our talents and giving of ourselves (time, talent and treasure). As we transform ourselves, we can’t help but transform the world around us. Through our church and our connection with MCC Global Outreach, we are advancing human rights and social justice around the globe.

Through your support and sharing your gifts we nurture and support a faith community free of judgments and self-righteousness, where Scripture is used not as a weapon to restrict, but as a bridge to understanding between all people.

Let’s continue to be MCC – a VIP (Vibrant, Inclusive and Progressive) church, bringing people closer to God and one another! Amen.

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Timken Museum celebrates with eighth annual ‘Art of Fashion’ show Thu, 23 Apr 2015 18:45:04 +0000

Art of Fashion | PHOTO: ANA PINES

Timken Museum also known as San Diego’s “jewel box” of fine art, held it’s eighth annual Art of Fashion 2015 fundraiser Monday, April 20 from 7-10 p.m. The event featured work from student designers and one was chosen that evening to receive a $5,000 scholarship. Dame Zandra Rhodes, international fashion icon and designer and honorary chair led the event.

Ten graduate student costume designers from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television’s (UCLA TFT) David C. Copley Center for Costume Design created half-scale costumes inspired by Claude-Joseph Vernet’s 1749 A Sea Port at Sunset from the Timken collection.

Students started working on the five month research project in September. The painting was chosen by Academy Award-nominated film and theater costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Ph.D., “I could’ve chosen any picture here and I hope you spend some time in the gallery, one would think that I would pick a portrait being a costume designer, but you see, I’m really interested in stories, and I wanted something where there were a lot of people and a lot of scenery and a lot of architecture because I wanted the students, I wanted their imaginations to fly.” Landis is also a professor and founding director of the UCLA TFT Copley Center.

Rhodes and an honorary committee had a private luncheon in the museum prior to the event to choose the lucky designer that would receive the $5,000 scholarship. The winner was first year UCLA graduate student Charlotte Ballard. She thanked her professors for their support and inspiration.

Art of Fashion: (L-R) Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Charlotte Ballard and Dame Zandra Rhodes | PHOTO: ANA PINES

Fashion enthusiasts from all over Southern California also enjoyed appetizers, libations, desserts and a candy bar. A live violinist established an upbeat mood while models posed in front of paintings that inspired the costumes they were wearing. Designers were available to talk about what inspires them and the outfit their model wore. “The whole thing is so clever in expanding a museum so that the works of art jump to life in all different forms. Let’s see how far we can take the Timken into its world adventures and the way we’re spreading out now it seems pretty good,” said Rhodes.

Art of Fashion | PHOTO: ANA PINES

This is considered one of Timken’s most important events. “It’s a brilliant way to construct a creative and interdisciplinary educational opportunity for extremely talented costume design students and it allows us to raise funds for our programs to keep the love of fine art alive in San Diego,” stated Anita Crider, chief operating officer of the museum. Proceeds from the event go to supporting the museum’s outreach programs.

The museum is free and open from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and Sundays 12:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m. It is closed on Mondays and all major holidays. For more information visit or call 619-239-5548.

Art of Fashion | PHOTO: ANA PINES

About the Timken Museum of Art

Located in San Diego’s historic Balboa Park on the Plaza de Panama, the Timken Museum of Art is the permanent home of the Putnam Foundation’s world-class collection of European and American art and Russian icons. It is the only museum in Balboa Park that offers free admission to the public. Masterworks in the collection span 700 years of history and range from 14th century altar pieces through 18th century portraits and landscapes to 19th century still life. The works of Italian, Dutch, Flemish, French and American painters are represented, including those of Veronese, Guercino, Petrus Christus, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Jacques-Louis David and John Singleton Copley. The collection also includes the only Rembrandt painting on public display in the area.

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With God there are no coincidences Thu, 23 Apr 2015 17:44:54 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

Recently, Lee Bowman, the minister of administration for MCC San Diego, preached a powerful and poignant sermon. I wanted to share it with you – I know you’ll be blessed for reading it. Blessings, Pastor Dan

True story. Two years ago 75-year-old Marion Shurtleff went into a Christian bookstore in San Clemente and, at the last minute, picked up a couple used Bibles for her study group. Looking at them at home she noticed some old folded papers in one. It was a month before she took time to look at it them, and when she did she got what was no doubt the greatest shock of her life.

She recognized the writing right away and turned pale. You see, it was an essay that she had written some 65 years before as a Girl Scout in Covington, Kentucky 2,000 miles away. And while the Bible was old, it wasn’t printed until some 28 years after she wrote her essay! How did it get there and to her? An unbelievable coincidence … or was this an astounding God moment, a God wink?

Let us pray: God, it is no accident that you are here in our midst today. Guide my words and all of hearts to hear what you have to say to us this morning.

The 13th century mystic and poet Rumi said, “Life is like a gorgeous tapestry with each of us a thread. We can’t possibly see how it’s all being woven together, but I now know we can get glimpses through coincidence.” And I don’t think he was talking about what we commonly think of ‘coincidence’ but something much deeper and more meaningful and intimate.

In your tapestries, I bet each of you has stories, maybe not as dramatic as Marion Shurtleff’s, some you’ve perhaps never shared with anyone. It may be a phone call out of the blue from an old friend or an encounter at just the right place in just the right moment. Or it may come in the lyrics of a song, lyrics you then can’t get out of your head, or a poem. Maybe even a billboard or bumper sticker. Or, like a good friend of mine in Iowa that never liked cats, you have this absolutely amazing cat come into your life and now has for his water bowl a martini glass. Or you’re in a theater watching a movie and suddenly some words speak to you, and a big gigantic light bulb goes on, so bright you’re worried it’s disturbing the other theatergoers. It’s a little epiphany. Something has helped you connect some dots in your life, something has spoken to you. Or someone.

Have you written off such things as chance or coincidence or accident, fate or luck? Why? I’m serious, why? Did you feel that maybe, just maybe God was winking at you, really touching your heart and it was a little scary and if you told anyone, that they’d want to send you off to Shady Pines?

Woody Allen once said, “If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.” I don’t think that’s ever happened to you, but if it does, let us know. And please, tithe on it.

But we’re not Woody Allen skeptics. We’re people of faith. If we believe that God makes no mistakes – and we say that right on our Pride T-shirts – If we believe that God knows the number of hairs on our head, notices the lilies of the field and the sparrow that falls to the ground – then it’s not a giant leap to believe that with God there are no coincidences. If we believe God is only present in the big, splashy Hollywood-production type events in the world, isn’t that limiting God, depersonalizing a personal God?

Why is it easy for us to pray to God and believe God hears us … and we do believe that, right? And yet be skeptical that God talks back – through people, through song, through nature? Does God only hear and not speak? Is our relationship with God just a one-way street?

I believe God led me from Michigan to Denver, Colorado, some 35 years ago, which directly led me to coming out and finding MCC. Some of you know my story that as a man just beginning the coming out process, I walked into MCC of the Rockies, on my third attempt by the way, on just the Sunday that guest preacher Rev. Freda Smith was delivering her famous “Purple Grass” sermon, the perfect message for me to hear. I have always felt – no, I have always known – that I was meant to be there in that exact place on that exact Sunday. Nothing and no one can convince me otherwise. I believe God led me, called me, beamed me, whatever you want to name it, to be here in San Diego. Coincidences? No. Because these were events that impacted and totally changed my life. Deeply.

I find God moments in little things. When our friend Kaki Johnson always spoke here about living in the moment. When I hear Oscar Morris say “All is in divine order.” Words like “Namaste” call to me. When a blank page turns into words and sentences, that speaks to me. When I’m in the mountains or in Hawaii … everything speaks to me! Or walking at night in the park or at the harbor. Sometimes we just have to get away from all the noise and hubbub of life to hear it, to the mountains, the ocean, the desert or a meditation garden.

Much of the time when I go out walking or hiking, I don’t know exactly where I’m heading. Sometimes I just let the spirit guide me. Yet, 80-85 percent of the time I realize I’m just where I am meant to be. It may be the view or the peace and serenity or an inspiration or some words that come to me but it is a genuine sensation of fulfillment. One not explained or dismissed by the words chance or coincidence. (Indeed parts of this message came to me and got entered into my cellphone while hiking.)

In our Scripture from Jeremiah God tells us that there are plans for us, for our peace, not harm, for a future with hope. That, when we seek … or allow … God will let us find that holy presence. ‘Plans’ don’t sound like accidents; ‘hope’ doesn’t sound like something left to chance; and ‘God’ here doesn’t sound like some remote entity that has forgotten about us and not part of our life.

Words that have always spoken have in some way guided my life are from Robert Frost’s “The Road Less Traveled.” I know them by heart.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

In the movie The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which by the way, is almost as good as the first one, one of the elderly characters is being courted by two wealthy Indian gentlemen. Both have proposed and she’s having a difficult time deciding between the two. In one poignant scene her driver is taking her to visit one or the other and he keeps asking her, right or left, do we turn right or left? What she ultimately decides is truly a beautiful God moment, one I won’t spoil for you.

Yet, when we’re confronted with that proverbial fork in the road, whether it’s a move or a job or a person or just which trail to take, our ultimate choice is not by accident or whim or coincidence. Just be aware that when we’re deciding between A and B, that with God guiding us, the answer just, just might end up being C. And if so, go with it knowing that the C stands for confidence and connection, not coincidence.

One final true story. Some 16 years ago after living here just a few months, I was pumping gas at the Emerald station on El Cajon Blvd at lunch time near our old church on 30th Street. A guy in a tie-dye shirt in the next lane and I looked at each other and had the same thought: Do I know you? Have we met? While the answers were ‘no’, we chatted and ever since, Michael Sayre has been one of my dearest friends, a kind of spiritual guru to me and we’ve been mirrors for each other. All by a chance meeting at a gas station. Oh, wait, excuse me. I don’t believe for a second that that was by chance.

I sometimes wonder, as we all probably do, how different, how less rich my life would be if I hadn’t gone to Colorado or not been at that Emerald gas station at just that moment on that certain day. But you know, that’s irrelevant. That’s not how the story happened. That’s not the way it happened to Marion Shurtleff in San Clemente. And it’s not the way it’s happened for you many, many times.

Rumi also said, “We do act but everything we do is God’s creative action.” Everything we do is God’s creative action. That also doesn’t sound like much of a coincidence.

What I hope you take from this sharing today is as simple as this. What is accidental from our perspective is specifically allowed by God. Don’t be so easy to write off as flukes the little miracles that happen in your life; or some genuine inspiration or meeting someone, whether they are in your life temporarily or for a lifetime, as just pure fate. Whether you agree with me or not, don’t be so ready to dismiss that still small voice within that urges you to go somewhere or do something or call someone or take this road or that road. OK, if that small voice is telling you to have that 800-calorie Death-by-Chocolate dessert or buy a Maserati, that might not be God talking to you. Use a little discretion.

But be open to the possibilities. Be fully present and aware. Trust your heart a little more and your mind a little less. Seize the God moments. Go with them, grow with them. And that if this has spoken to you, please don’t write it off as a coincidence.

Let us pray: Thank you, God, for this time together. And whatever we take from here, may it be with your blessing, love and grace. Amen.

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Mercy me (OMG)! Two hundred! Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:43:06 +0000

As this is my 200th brief, I want to use it to thank my readers for their support. I enjoy the challenge of juggling senior oriented advice and humor. Naturally, I write from my viewpoint as a senior gay man, but I try to make the comments and examples enjoyable and pertinent to the entire LGBT readership.

I often include comments to the younger crowd hoping to start generational exchanges since both sides have a lot to learn from each other. Growing old can be difficult, but so can being young. I try to wake up younger LGBTers to some aspects of aging: whether they like it or not, it is coming.

After 200 topics, the challenge of finding new ones is not easy. If you’ve got a subject for me or any comments, pass them on via the published LGBT Weekly or the online edition. Keep in mind my briefs are crammed into a 15-line template, thus restricting the scope of my topic and the depth of my coverage; to say nothing of depriving you of some fabulous puns and jokes due to the length of the set-up. When that can’t be condensed to a workable size, it all gets cut. Also note, I rarely mention specific local businesses and never get political; even the anti-LGBT bigots and idiot governor in Indiana will get no comment from me.

My humor, such as it is, often is just for fun, but at other times it includes a message for those who look deeper. Despite being encouraged, I do not twit, face or blog. All that interests me, but I admit to needing a patient tutor.

I hope you’ll continue enjoying what’s in my briefs as so many have in the past. I welcome feedback and am happy to chat with fans who greet me when I’m out walking the streets.

A blow below the belt

How unkind people can be and how undeserved when innocent words and phrases are misinterpreted. I myself have been accused of filth and degradation in my columns when really it is they-of-evil-mind who have twisted my innocent ramblings.

Imagine my shame and indignation when it was remarked that my recent environmentally inspired and educational paper-making article “smelled and the ending actually stank!” Such blows below the belt do not go unnoticed. It is like when I, and I’m sure you, have been standing on the corner waiting for a ride when invariably “friends” drive by shouting wisecracks about what we are waiting for, price comments and further cruel jibes full of suggestive innuendoes.

True, at a certain age one doesn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted, but that is not the point. I am not safe at home either. A visitor noticed the lovely grey patina on the mantle and smiling sweetly, smugly mentioned dust. Did I retaliate and mention the skunk line in the part of her hair. No. (At least not to her.)

A final example: I am constantly in defense of my man-bag; a chic, modern, masculine accessory. Some might deem it an example of androgynous ambiguity, but when carried by myself there should be no question. It is not a purse! Besides, as I tell everyone, the sequins are on the inside. Joke! Even my lesbian cohorts give me grief about it, but I give them tit for tat and mention their huge tank or macho butch-buggy they call their little RV.

Of course, all these childish exchanges produce negative vibes and at our age we don’t need the aggravation. To recover from these verbal assaults, I suggest finding distraction in shops, restaurants, movies or the inevitable fallback, sex. With various aids, films and ointments, we seniors can still enjoy a wild session; although, speaking for myself, it would probably be more enjoyable with someone.

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Bringing people closer to God and one another Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:42:14 +0000

The Metropolitan Community Church, San Diego

As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

In every church and organization it’s important to periodically engage in what we call Holy Conversations; an intentional time of focusing on the future to carefully and prayerfully consider our identity as a congregation and also to discern what we are called to become and be doing in the years ahead.

At the heart of this process was a series of three congregational forums and two online congregational surveys. It was an opportunity for the whole church to be involved. The purpose of this process was “to inspire and inform a clear sense of mission, and a powerful vision to bring transformation and blessing to many more people in the years ahead.”

One of the truths revealed in our Holy Conversations is that we are, indeed, a progressive Christian community of faith. Initially, MCC was started to be a “church” for all of those in the LGBT community who were disenfranchised from or kicked out of the churches they grew up in. MCC was founded in, and now reaching beyond, the LGBTQ community. We are in the business of transforming ourselves as we transform the world.

MCC San Diego is an open and affirming progressive faith community. We believe God values everyone and leaves no one out. We believe in a God who is concerned with every human being personally and accepts each one with unconditional love.

Many here have found their connection to God through the life, teachings, and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus is our model for care, compassion and community. We also recognize and respect those who find their connection to God though other spiritual paths. We are not spiritual elitists. This is being inclusive.

Jesus connected with and respected people from all walks of life, and different beliefs, and no beliefs at all. One of the principles of Progressive Christianity is to find the unity and sacredness of all life by following the path of Jesus and also, to find value from other sources of wisdom.

We believe one of the ways in which God speaks to us is through the Bible. We consider its accounts and teachings in light of their historical and cultural context. Remember that phrase that many theologians use: “I take the Bible seriously, not literally.” It is an inspired book that has withstood the test of time. We remember also, that it was written by people over many centuries – and as we look at the timeless truths in the Bible we view them in this light.

We are guided by Jesus’ teaching of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And the greatest Commandments: “Love God with all your heart; and love your neighbor as yourself.”

I love this! Can you imagine if the whole world would live by these words of Jesus? May we strive to do this here at The Met. Imagine the energy of healing and love that would permeate everything we do. This really sums up the saying by Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”

Our mission is to bring people closer to God and one another. Concise. To the point. Powerful! And most important, easy to remember!

Reiterating what you, as a church, affirmed: “We are an open and affirming faith community. With roots in the teachings and spiritual practices of Christianity, we are also respectful of the rich wisdom of other faith traditions.”

This is why we offer classes about other faith traditions and sacred teachings – in order to build bridges, to focus on the similarities, not to point out the differences in an elitist approach.

Here at MCC San Diego, we affirm each individual as a unique and gifted creation of God. Building on our history of celebrating diversity in sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity, we are a congregation that welcomes all people. Our two fastest growing demographics are our transgendered and heterosexual sisters and brothers! I celebrate that!

Therefore, in fulfilling our mission of bringing people closer to God and one another, we are called to:

Teach and practice the Good News of God’s unconditional love for all people.

Welcome home those who have been spiritually wounded or are seeking or growing a relationship with God.

Actively promote equality and justice for all people.

Be fully engaged in our own growth and with others on their spiritual journey to hope, healing and wholeness.

In a nutshell, we are called to be light to God’s unconditional love for all people – come just as you are.

Our Scripture reading this morning talks about God’s unconditional love: “For God so loved the world that God gave us Jesus, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” I also like the King James Version of this, “… that whosoever believeth in him …”

That leaves no one out! So many people have been hurt by church and religion. We have a great opportunity when we hear conversations like this to say, “You should try out my church, I’ll bring you, I’ll save you a seat.” No, we are not perfect. There is no perfect church! However, I sure can get behind a mission statement like this and I want to do all I can to bring people closer to God and one another. Amen.

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Discover San Diego: Prehistoric era to present day Thu, 09 Apr 2015 19:00:07 +0000

Coast to Cactus | PHOTO: ANA PINES

It’s about that time of year when our friends and family come to visit and we end up doing the tourist stuff we don’t normally do on our own. Many cultural events have been planned around Balboa Park’s 2015 centennial celebration this year including the much-anticipated Coast to Cactus: In Southern California at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

There were over 100 people that came together from concept to completion. “We have a core team here at San Diego Natural History Museum but then we work with Science Museum of Minnesota,” said Exhibit Developer Erica Kelley describing the amazing work that happened behind the scenes to bring the display to fruition. She said that it’s been over a decade since the museum did its last strategic plan and they always knew they wanted to do a Fossil Mysteries and a Habitat Exhibit.

Even if you think you know everything there is to know about San Diego, you’ll discover there’s more to see. The region is one of only thirty-five biodiversity hotspots in the world and because of its diverse terrain it has one of the highest concentrations of different species of any geographic area of similar size. We can go to the beach, desert and mountains in one day experiencing changes in climate and our surroundings. Besides the natural history of San Diego, you will also learn about the imported plants and animals that have re-shaped the atmosphere as well.

Coast to Cactus | PHOTO: ANA PINES

Some of the exhibition highlights include an oversized replica of a segment of mud from a local tidal flat. Kids can crawl inside the replica to experience how animals survive in the mudflats. There’s also a virtual storybook that tells the tale of the chaparral ecosystem and how periodic fires are a natural and necessary part of life for the California habitat.

Fossil Mysteries | PHOTO: ANA PINES

Adjacent to the exhibition is Fossil Mysteries, which gives visitors a glimpse of prehistoric times of the area. The fossils are from Southern California and Baja California during the Cretaceous (kreh TAY shus) Period. You can examine fossil skulls and skeletons and learn how to identify how they lived and what they ate. It’s interesting to note that not all animals are carnivores. Interactive activities include opportunities to touch real fossils and rocks, examine and identify microfossils and find and identify plants and animals in the woodlands and lagoons of prehistoric San Diego County.

Fossil Mysteries | PHOTO: ANA PINES

These two exhibits give you a complete picture of Southern California from the prehistoric era to the present day.

The exhibitions are located in the Dennis and Carol Wilson Hall of Biodiversity on Level 2 of the Museum. All information within Coast to Cactus is presented in both English and Spanish.

More information:

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Living life to the fullest Thu, 09 Apr 2015 18:59:57 +0000

Kristoffer Kennelly

As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

Recently, we had Kristoffer Kennelly, a congregant at The Met, share his journey upon receiving a diagnosis and prognosis for cancer after having found a lump in his lymph nodes. It was so very powerful; I wanted to share it with you.

Kristoffer grew up Mormon (LDS) and remembered when he was 19, on his first mission trip to Japan, going into the home of an elegant elderly woman. His more seasoned LDS companion was doing the talking and was trying to get in the house to have a deeper conversation. The wise woman thanked them for stopping by and almost ignoring her, Kristoffer’s companion kept on talking, she had to interrupt him and wisely said, “We have a saying here, there are many paths leading up to the top of Mount Fuji, and each one has to find their own path.” Kristoffer heard the wisdom in this and stopped his companion from talking. They left her house and Kristoffer knew he was living someone else’s path and he left his mission trip and the LDS.

Years later, he is invited to Metropolitan Community Church (The Met) by a co-worker. He would zip in and zip out – and one Sunday he ran into someone he had dated years and years ago – they reconnected and it was true love. Kristoffer married David! Aww! It was a beautiful wedding ceremony. They opened up a pub and life was busy, full and blessed; then the lump was discovered.

Kristoffer’s first reaction was one of anger, then grief, then loss and fear. He talked about looking at the holes in his life due to this diagnosis and prognosis and then he had a mental clearing and a soul’s baptism. The holes became places of wholeness! He realized he had been given a blessing by having mortality look him in the face. His entire perspective changed.

So now, he wakes up in the morning determined to live each day to the fullest. Sunsets have become more precious to him – as they symbolize the end of a day and an opportunity for him to reflect on what he did that was positive for him and for others that day. He then shared several things he does that help him not only live and love life, but to live in the now. Here they are (in his words):

First and foremost, I see myself as whole, not a disease.

I no longer feel the need or desire to control anything outside of me.

I take nothing for granted, not time, people or dreams.

I see the blessings and magic in everything around me, the good, the bad, the happy and the scary.

I go within for answers instead of placing blame or pointing fingers.

I recognize greatness in others, even when they don’t see it themselves.

I respond more and react less.

I no longer fear my moments alone and treasure the time of gentle contemplation (prayer is speaking to God, meditation is listening to God).

I don’t hold back tears, for joy or sorrow. They are the baptism of my soul.

I nurture my strengths and lovingly accept my weaknesses.

I no longer see lack in my world, but beautiful abundance.

I wake each day with “yes” on my lips. Yes I can. Yes I am happy. Yes I am fulfilled and blessed.

I take moments daily, to breathe. Just a moment to find that place of light.

Thank you, Kristoffer, for bravely sharing your journey. It is inspiring. God bless you!

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Alarm systems for alarming situations Thu, 02 Apr 2015 14:42:59 +0000


A serious topic today. You younger readers, think about an older person you love. A friend fell recently and, although not hurt, simply could not get up. Luckily the people downstairs heard her fall and called 911. When I thought of what the result might have been, I realized the importance of those alarm systems we read about.

Many LGBT seniors live alone and whether or not we have arranged for someone to check on us, we should seriously look into these devices which can help anytime, anywhere. They constantly know where you are and some can even understand when you fall and are unconscious.

The Internet has an overwhelming amount of information about many programs usually with a monthly charge of $15 to $30, with/without a contract, with/without an installation fee. You wear a “button” out of sight around your neck or wrist; when in trouble, you push it and it becomes an intercom and a real person answers to help, call your friends or, if necessary, 911.

However, it obviously must be worn all the time. If you are on the floor or passed out in the garden, it is worthless on the table. Being waterproof, they can be taken into the dangerous bathroom: a major site for slipping, strokes or heart attacks when “pushing” to do your business.

Look through some sites and get more information from the ones that sound suitable. If a friend has one, ask for a demonstration. Do not delay. You may need it the next trip down the stairs, walking across that wrinkled carpet or just going to the bathroom. It is hard to admit needing one, but many of us should. You know who you are. Face it.

A boast exposed, almost

Reading of the recent exaggerations in government qualifications, office expenses, mileage charges, etc., I was reminded of the long ago trouble I got into with a teensy over-statement. I was almost forced to admit to the slight embellishment, but my luck held. It wasn’t my fault; it stemmed from what we call a “senior moment” when the mind suddenly goes blank.

For example, going to the kitchen and then wondering why. Don’t understand? Ask a senior. But I digress. The exact details are now vague, but it went something like this: at a party seated next to me was a little, obnoxious, know-it-all who constantly disagreed with my opinions. So infuriating. When something about France came up, he switched to French (the show-off) and practically dared me to reply. True, I may have implied, OK, exaggerated I spoke it on par with de Gaulle, but I saw no way to avoid the challenge.

Unfortunately, as mentioned, my mind went blank; my two years of French (solid Bs) gone. The only phrase coming to mind was “Ooo la la” which I strongly doubted would save me nor would “Cherchez la femme.” I was left with the pointless “Crepe Suzettes a la mode” when suddenly the ’70s Lady Marmalade rescued me. I blurted out as rapidly and confidently as I could, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (dramatic pause) ce soir?” Stunned by my fluency and, no doubt fearing his own incompetence, he quickly replied in English, “Absolutely. I was thinking along those lines myself.” Later that night, I made sure French never played a part in our activities. So he wasn’t such a pompous dolt after all. He wasn’t so little either.

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Resurrection power Thu, 02 Apr 2015 14:41:46 +0000

Giotto: The resurrection of Jesus

As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

There’s a story about a little boy who lived with his grandfather. They were country folk and actually quite poor. The grandfather’s small cottage had fallen into disrepair and he wasn’t much of a housekeeper. The little house was dark and dusty and stale. But it was home.

One day, a stranger, a small woman with a sweet smile, came up to the little boy in the park and handed him a lily. And then she walked away. Not thinking much of it, the little boy took the lily home to his grandfather. The grandfather put the flower in a mason jar and placed the jar in the window. Compared to the clean jar, the window looked really filthy. So, the grandfather cleaned the window, which of course, also allowed more light into the room.

The extra light in the room exposed the dirt on the floor. So, the grandfather had his grandson sweep the floor and then came behind him with a mop and mopped the floor. Well, a clean window and natural lighting and a freshly mopped floor seem to require something a bit nicer than a mason jar for the flower, so the grandfather found a vase hidden away in a cupboard and put the lily in it and placed it back in the window.

That one little flower had really made such a difference to their entire living environment, the grandfather decided they should have more flowers. So, the next day, he spaded up a bed of dirt in the front yard and his grandson planted some seeds.

Within a few months, the flowers are gorgeous and grandfather and his grandson have manicured the entire lawn and it becomes so pleasant that neighbors just stop by to admire the flowers and talk to the small family. The sad, lonely two person family living in squalor had transformed their lives into an experience of beauty and celebration and they even made friends in the process.

Now, by this time, the lily that a kind stranger gave the boy is long dead. But the house is clean, the lawn has been transformed into a beautiful garden, and both grandfather and grandson now have friends in their lives. The flower died, but the difference it made in two people’s lives never did.

Friends, that’s resurrection power! Lives are changed, renewed, energized and made whole. That’s divine life being expressed. That’s dawn overcoming the long night. That’s the beautiful butterfly emerging from its cocoon.

I love resurrection stories! And I love that there are so many of them!

There are the fairy tales like where Sleeping Beauty falls into what appears to be a lifeless state until true love’s kiss revives her, restoring her to the world of the living. “Someday my prince will come!”

And there are many more resurrection narratives in our sacred Scriptures. In I Kings 17 the prophet Elijah raises a widow’s dead son back to life. In the New Testament, Jesus resurrects a 12-year-old girl who has died (Mark 5), and he raises his dear friend Lazarus back to life after he has died (John 11).

And not only does Jesus do this in the New Testament, but Peter raises Tabitha back to life (Acts 9) and later, a young man accidentally falls to his death from a third story window and Paul raises him back to life (Acts 20).

If there are so many resurrection stories why are so many drawn to the story of Jesus?

In Mark’s gospel, “Who, here, experiences the resurrection?” Well, we read that Jesus is missing from the tomb and all we see is his absence. This is how the oldest of Jesus’ resurrection stories reads. Later versions will add some post-resurrection encounters. So, back to the question, “Who experiences the resurrection?”

The young man at the tomb and the three women who come to visit, they are the ones who are experiencing Jesus’ resurrection. They are there to honor and remember their loved one. They are realizing that his importance cannot be destroyed. They are discovering that who he really is and what he really meant to them cannot be held in a tomb. And so now they must take their experience of Jesus’ resurrection and do something with it.

The power of Jesus’ resurrection is that his victory is really ours! The tomb is empty. Now what? Now move forward. Keep working. Keep doing what you’re called to do.

The young man at the tomb tells the women to return to Galilee, and that Jesus is going ahead of them. I love that line! Jesus paved the way for them. Their job is to continue on the path. The empty tomb means that we now must go forward and keep doing the work that Jesus did of empowering people, of celebrating the sacred value of all people, of offering hope and healing, of demanding justice for all.

Mark says the women were afraid. They didn’t even know what to say, “For terror and amazement had seized them.” This version of the resurrection story doesn’t end with easy answers or even certainty, just a calling. A calling to keep going. Keep moving. Keep doing. Keep making a difference.

On this Resurrection Day, it’s now our job to be Christ in the world. We are now the hands and feet of Christ; and as the young man in the empty tomb said, Jesus has been raised from the dead and is going ahead of you. That’s good news!

When we show compassion, when we challenge racism, when we resist homophobia, when we affirm that all people, without exception, have sacred value and no one is ever beyond the reach of God’s love, we are sharing resurrection power and we are letting the light of Christ shine through us.

Jesus’ resurrection reminds us that life is more than just the number of years we have on this earth. If God is omnipresent, if grace is true, then life doesn’t really end at death for any of us. We have a hope and an eternal future. The power of Jesus’ resurrection is that others share it; they experience it, and then are called to action because of it.

Easter is real and relevant every time we share hope, compassion, generosity, forgiveness and goodwill to all. The facts can be debated, but the truth is our experience.

Because we are committed to being the living, loving, justice-seeking presence of Christ on earth, we can say with total confidence, “Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed.



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Discover the Chinese American Museum in L.A. Thu, 26 Mar 2015 19:40:46 +0000

Chinese-American Museum | PHOTO: ANA PINES

While in Los Angeles looking for a public bathroom I came across a sign for free admission to the Chinese American Museum. How could I not go in and explore? It’s located in the Garnier Building, the last surviving structure from the city’s original Chinatown. It opened in 2003 and features exhibits, special collections, lectures, workshops and other public events. It’s always interesting to read the stories of other immigrants who contribute to the diversity that make America what it is. We’re so similar and so different at the same time. Always in common is that we’re all forced to be strong because it’s inevitable that there will be discrimination to overcome.

There’s a quote on the wall that peeked my curiosity, “Under our Constitution all persons are entitled to the equal protection of the laws without regard to their racial ancestry.” –Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy. On top of the quote in smaller letters it read United States Supreme Court: Oyama v. California, 1948. It refers to when in 1913 and 1920 California passed Alien Land laws in which persons ineligible to become citizens of the United States were prohibited from owning land thus, only whites and African Americans could own land even though it wasn’t explicitly stated. Oyama, a Japanese Immigrant was a target of this law as he had purchased six acres of land in Chula Vista in 1934. To try to circumvent this unjust law he deeded it to his U.S. citizen son Fred. Due to growing sentiment against the Japanese because of

Chinese-American Museum | PHOTO: ANA PINES

World War II, Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans were ordered to leave the West Coast in 1942. The Alien Land laws added another regulation stating that buying land under another persons name was proof that they were trying to outwit the law. Asian Americans could no longer purchase land under their children’s name. The Oyama’s went to Utah and the state tried to take possession of their land. ACLU took the case and got Oyama the justice he was due although it didn’t rid the country of this unfair law, it was cited in other court cases which lead to its final repeal in 1956.

The Chinese American Museum is Southern California’s first and only museum dedicated to sharing the history of the Chinese American experience in Los Angeles. They also have current local artwork in the community gallery. Admission is suggested so you can contribute more or less. Adults $3, seniors and students $2.

For more information visit:


There’s so much to do in San Diego with the beautiful hikes, beaches, shops and restaurants but sometimes a little change of scenery does you good. This weekend I went to stay at a cabin in Idyllwild nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains. The shops and restaurants in town are locally owned and it’s also known as one of the100 Best Small Art Towns in America. If you’re tired of traffic jams, construction noise or just stressed out, then the peacefulness among the tall pines and cedars may be the best medicine.


If the more adventurous side of you emerges it’s also known for rock climbing. Tahquitz Rock and Suicide Rock are popular among experienced climbers and beginners. Newbies can do “bouldering” in which you learn the main climbing skills necessary to advance and you’ll only be a few feet above the ground. Mountain biking is a growing activity that you can also try. There are approximately eight trails that mountain bikers can frequent. Some go up to 20+ miles, elevation gains of 3,000 feet and moderate to very steep routes.

My partner and I walked around a bit and then enjoyed the quiet as our dog Cookie ran around like she’s never ran before. She even tried to chase a squirrel. It was nice to see freedom through her. After we checked out we went to get some candles in town and took pictures of a Buddha statue made of wood. We only stayed one night but we’re definitely going back to check out the hiking trails and art scene in the near future.

For more information visit:

For more information visit:

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There’s not a spot where God is not Thu, 26 Mar 2015 19:36:37 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

Emily Dickinson, a nineteenth century American poet said, “They say that God is everywhere, and yet we always think of God as somewhat of a recluse.”

I believe God is omnipresent. That means God is everywhere and fully present – all at the same time. And if God is omnipresent, then “there’s not a spot where God is not.”

Like light, like air, space and thought, God is everywhere; all the time. And if God is everywhere, the good news is that we can never be separated from God, we can’t be lost from God. The Source of All, the Substance of All that Is cannot be removed from all that is and, therefore, cannot be removed from us.

Acts 17:28 says, “It is in God that we live and move and have our being.” God is right where we are. God is everywhere we are. Wherever we are, God is. If you believe that, then it’s an affirmation of divine omnipresence. And you can say, “Wherever I am, God is.”

For many of us, it’s tempting to hold on to our childhood view of God: God the gift-giver: “Santa God”; God who delights in punishing us: the “Marquis de God”; or God who’s somewhat distant until we call out for help carrying our heavy burdens: the “Bellhop God”. But none of these images are an omnipresent presence in which we could live and move and have our being.

I love the psalmist’s view of God: “Where could I go from your presence? Where could I flee from your presence?” The short answer is nowhere. There is no such place. I like how I’ve heard Rev. Durrell Watkins say it, “God is the life-force of my being, the omnipresence in which I live, the Breath of life that is my life.”

A couple weeks ago we talked about the creation story in Genesis 2 and 3 where the first human is made from the earth and God breathes life and spirit into the newly formed human. So from the very beginning, the human’s life is the very breath of God. God is the creative power that forms the human, and God is the life-breath that gives life to the human. There is no separation. In God we live and move and have our being.

Our reading in Psalm 139 shows us that connection with God is not limited to church buildings or scriptures or sacraments or creeds. No, the power of God is in the sky and space, day and night, everywhere we are and everywhere we look. There’s not a spot where God is not!

So, the stories we read of an exiled Moses finding God in a burning bush, of Jonah being called to minister to his enemies the Ninevites, of Jesus being born in a barn, of Jesus being found by Persian astrologers, of Jesus eating with prostitutes or advocating for children or talking with a Samaritan woman, and of God being in the places least likely to be found.

How can God be accessible to Assyrians, or Ninevites, or prostitutes, or lepers, or kids, or Samaritans, or gays, or those who have a different name for God, or those who have a different political or economic philosophy? Our reading in Psalm 139 clearly shows that there is not a spot where God is not, which means that God is with the rich and the poor, the marginalized and the hurting, and with those of other religions or those of no religion and is even with those we are tempted to call our enemies.

When people believe that God can’t be found in the love that two people share (no matter their race or sexual orientation), or that God can’t operate through the ministry of women, or that God can only be found by Christians, or even by certain denominations within Christianity, they are saying that God is far removed from the lives we actually live. Their God is not an omnipresent God. However, a God in which we live and move and have our being must be omnipresent, and therefore, fully present wherever we are and whoever we are. That’s omnipresence.

Because there’s not a spot where God is not, God can be found in a burning bush, or an unwed young girl giving birth to a baby in a barn, to a lonely woman getting water at a well who is treated like dirt by the majority, or on a hill where thieves and murderers are being crucified. This is the way of omnipresent divinity.

Last week we talked about Jesus de-cluttering the temple. In his gospel, John has Jesus saying that the temple will be raised up in three days. The religious authorities thought Jesus was talking about the literal temple, but Jesus was using the temple as a metaphor for the body. What does this show us?

A couple things: One, this shows us that Scripture is often meant to be taken metaphorically rather than literally, and two, it reinforces for us that we are God’s temple. We are the temple of God. Our world, our bodies are the temple of God. We’ve been taught to see God in Jesus, but sometimes we forget that Jesus saw God everywhere. Jesus, in whom we see God, also sees God in us. Wherever we are, God is; there’s not a spot where God is not.

Do you ever feel like God has abandoned you or condemned you? Do you ever feel like you’re beyond the reach of God’s love or that God is nowhere to be found?

Friends, it isn’t even possible. The breath of God is the spirit of life in you. You cannot be separated from God. Oh, such good news!

Dr. Durrell Watkins wrote an affirmation that I like:

I am in God.

God is in me.

I can never be separated from God.

This is the good news.

And so I rejoice!


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Not the greatest of days! Thu, 19 Mar 2015 21:08:43 +0000


As my partner Yohei and I entered the lobby of the Bangkok Airport, I reached for my passport and realized it was still on top of the hotel bureau. Yohei had forgotten it.

Not one to cast blame, I began by telling him not to panic: words guaranteed to panic anyone and it did. He instantly assumed I was having a seizure. Denying this and keeping my voice well on this side of frantic, I explained the amusing situation. He made me sit down, lower my voice; note people were staring and count to 10.

Fully in control scarcely a moment later, I found him calling the hotel where they asked if we knew we’d left the passport there. What did they think he was calling about! Anyway, they sent it to us by the hotel van which we waited for in the blazing sun for 40 minutes. Drawing considerable attention, I might add, from security.

Finally it arrived and we ran to the counter of Thai Airlines our usual carrier. Ignoring the enormous line by announcing our flight was about to leave, we barged to the front under a blaze of hostile stares and unkind comments. I shouted to (certainly not “at”) the uncooperative staffer to get a move on, but she kept yakking about something. Yohei finally got her point: our tickets were for Japan Airlines. Again no time to berate him, we rushed to the JAL counter and found the same unsympathetic reception. And, dammit, the same semi-English babble, seemingly about gate 7.

Looking at the time, my hysteria had me about to reach up and rip that smarmy smile off the bitch’s face when Yohei grabbed me and roughly hustled me away, growling in my ear, “The tickets are for the seventh. This is the sixth.”

Oh. How we laughed. Pay no attention to his version of this story.

Poo poo paper – the perfect present

We senior travelers, especially those who have been to Thailand, know the feeling of “Been there. Done that.” Hang-gliding, snake farms and alligator wrestling no longer call to us as they once did. We now aspire to higher stimulation and prefer something more intellectual. Thus it was in Chiang Mai I again eschewed the fun and allure of bungee jumping and instead ventured forth into the Poo Poo Paper Park. The “poo” being, yes, that “poo.” Especially that of our friend the elephant and its conversion into paper. True!

Remembering the popular circuses of our youth, we certainly had at least a glimpse of and therefore some visual knowledge of their droppings (thuddings?) and will remember a great deal of undigested fiber was visible – fiber superbly suited for the making of paper. Naturally, it has to be separated and processed and that is where the park comes in. It is cleverly arranged to take the visitor through the production line so to speak, skipping the initial depositing which is done au natural in the local surroundings and brought in to the factory by the villagers.

All is sanitary and modern and the result is a wonderful array of paper products which make unmatchable gifts for the person who has everything. My previous unfortunate encounter with elephants (issue 140) had me leery of the afternoon, but all was so delightful I wanted to share this experience.

Check out the “fecal facts” on the thoroughly enjoyable and informative Web site I know there are those of you expecting cheap jokes about shit and sheets of paper, making crappy crepe, etc., but I realize my readership is far more sophisticated and would find such juvenilia simply offal.

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Clearing the clutter Thu, 19 Mar 2015 21:07:38 +0000

Jesus expels the money changers from the temple | PAINTING BY GIOVANNI PAOLO PANINI

As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

Many people associate Lent with suffering, “What am I going to give up?” And as a result, suffer!

“Suffer” also means “to allow.” Jesus said, “Suffer the children to come unto me,” that is, allow the children to come to me. During this season of Lent, in preparation for Holy Week and Easter, let’s focus on allowance rather than pain. Let’s allow ourselves to grow spiritually, to learn, to experience more hope and peace in our life during this intentional season of reflection.

Our scripture reading this morning is from the Gospel of John. This Gospel of John is often called the “mystical gospel” where Jesus is shown in many different ways metaphorically, like Living Water, The Bread of Life, The Road or The Way, Light of the World. Biblical scholars tell us that to more fully understand John’s message, it helps to engage it on this metaphorical level, and the deeper we go, the richer the meaning.

The story of Jesus clearing the temple is one that many of us know. We’ve heard sermons about it and we’ve seen dramatic depictions of it in movies; it’s one of the few stories that appear in all four gospels. However, John is unique in the way he handles this story. All of the other gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) have this story near the end of Jesus’ ministry right after Jesus arrives in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. John positions this story at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Interesting.

Now, the fact that John chronologically re-positions this story and rearranges details is OK because accurate chronology was not the important thing for John. The important thing was the meaning John and his faith community gleaned from this story.

Here we see Jesus mad; he’s expressing this animated anger in the temple. He enters the temple and literally clears out the place! It’s a crazy scene with people, coins and cattle scattered in every direction! It certainly wasn’t subtle!

So what could this be all about? Was it that Jesus was upset because people were selling and buying in the temple? Is that the core message here? Probably not.

This story is not about holding bake sales and fundraising events in the church, as some people have tried to use this Scripture in the past. That interpretation is seeing the story at a very narrow and superficial level. We can almost be sure that’s not John’s purpose in sharing this story because by the time John wrote this gospel the temple had already been destroyed and gone for almost 30 years! So, let’s go deeper!

We are getting to that time of year, where the days are getting nicer and nicer. Where I grew up in Wisconsin, we could feel the intensity of the sun getting stronger and the days getting longer, and it caused an annual event to come to our house – spring cleaning!

I remember when I first had my own place, I had so much “stuff” in it, so much that it got difficult to clean and just felt cluttered and cramped. I knew I had to declutter my place, but didn’t know where to begin! I was paralyzed. So, someone wisely told me, start in one corner, even a 4×4 area, and start de-cluttering. It took me about a month, and I threw so much away and gave so much away, and it felt freeing and there was even a better energy in the house.

For many people this is not an easy task. We have a resistance to letting go of our precious keepsakes. Sometimes it feels like if we let go of our holy and hallowed stuff, it will affect our life on some sort of a sacred level. So we resist.

However, once we can get past our initial irrational resistance and apply decluttering principles we might actually begin to enjoy the process and even find it liberating.

Could it be that this story for John and his faith community is something like this? Jesus saw that religion had become cluttered with so many laws and rigid practices that they even became more important than knowing the heart of the Divine. It became regulation over relationship.

Perhaps this incident in the temple represented decluttering of a religion that was out of touch with the heart of God and had become obsessed and paralyzed with ritualistic processes and practices, legalisms and literalisms, do’s and don’ts, boundaries and prohibitions.

Maybe John tells this story right at the beginning of his gospel to declare that, in Jesus, the readers were being called beyond all of that; into a new way of thinking and being. It was a call to clear out the clutter and let go of rigid legalisms. It was a call to embrace the powerful positive energy of love; that it was not about the temple, but about Jesus.

Richard Rohr, a Franciscan mystic, wrote a book called A Lever and a Place to Stand where he describes stages of spiritual development.

An early stage of the spiritual journey he calls the “Stage of Law or Conformity.” He believes this stage (or box) is most often the beginning place of a spiritual journey, but never meant to be a place where people remain and get entrenched. He goes on to say that for most people, this is a rather rigid stage where the emphasis is placed on trying to feel a sense of certainty and security; this stage is often characterized by literalism and filled with rewards and punishments; either-or thinking.

He also notes that the negative side to this early stage is that people have a tendency to become harshly judgmental and condescending toward those who are perceived to be outside of the box.

Isn’t this what happened with Jesus? All of the gospels show Jesus, over and over, getting in trouble with the religious authorities and the rigid religious system. He did all kinds of unacceptable things according to the people inside this inflexible religious box; like touching lepers, eating with outcasts and partying with sinners, speaking openly with a Samaritan woman, healing on the Sabbath and a whole lot more!

Jesus would’ve loved Graham Moore’s acceptance speech at the Oscar’s where he said, “Stay weird. Stay different. And when it’s your turn to stand on this stage, pass the message along.” He would’ve been cheering with Meryl Streep when Patricia Arquette boldly said, “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

And he would have joined in a standing ovation, saying “Black Lives Matter.” And cried, experiencing the moving song, “Glory!”

Jesus was perceived by people inside the religious box as being a threat and a renegade. For Jesus, it was love, compassion and justice that always won over the spiritual law and it put him at risk.

In the next stages on the spiritual journey, Father Richard Rohr says that as followers of Jesus we are set free from that confining box and that we can move beyond that into an ever evolving and deepening experience of Divine love.

Jesus challenged (invited, called, summoned, urged, drew) his disciples to clear out the clutter of rigidity and move into a deeper experience of God’s grace and inclusive love.

Jesus challenged his disciples to clear out the clutter of viewing life and others from a place of religious superiority but rather from a place of solidarity.

Jesus challenged his disciples to clear out the clutter of using religion to condemn and judge and be used as a weapon and move toward forgiveness and reconciliation.

Jesus challenged his disciples to clear out the clutter of using religion and rules to separate and create boundaries and move on to inclusion of all people.

Jesus challenged his disciples to clear out the clutter of the thinking of what’s in it for me, and move toward self-giving love and creating a community of hope, healing and wholeness.

Perhaps we are all being called this morning to clear out the clutter of anything that would prevent us from a closer relationship with a loving God who calls us to stand with the marginalized and be the hands and feet of God letting our light shine brightly!

For Lent, let’s give up having God neatly in a box. Let God out of the box and throw away the box and let’s be surprised how big God is!

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International Women’s Day: The endless struggle Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:41:07 +0000

International Women’s Day | PHOTO: ANA PINES

Powerful voices took over downtown Los Angeles March 8 for International Women’s Day. According to the United Nations the first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States Feb. 28, 1909 in honor of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions. Today, events are planned around the world to honor women’s achievements, bring focus to continued struggles and unite all those that want to see a day where women are valued as they should be.

The L.A. event was organized by AF3IRM and Ovarian Psyco-Cycles and led by women-identified, feminists of color and open to all who were willing to voice their support for women’s struggles. Over 1,000 people gathered at the steps of City Hall and ended at Mariachi Plaza. Various domestic and international issues were spoken about throughout the route. Marchers were encouraged to create art, signs, clothes and chant about topics that they wanted to bring awareness too. Each stop coincided with issues women face today.

At the meeting point guest spoke about low-wage women workers and women resisting gentrification in the city of L.A. The second stop was at LAPD headquarters where police brutality was highlighted especially against black women and girls. Did you know there are about 64,000 missing black women and counting in the U.S? At the Federal Building they highlighted the U.S.’s role in the occupation, state-sponsored rape and genocide occurring in Palestine. In Iraq, hundreds of girls and women, some as young as nine and some in their 70s, have been arrested, abused, raped and tortured by U.S.-trained Iraqi police.

International Women’s Day | PHOTO: ANA PINES

At the Detention Center im/migrant women’s rights and struggles, including deportation, family separation, raids and reproductive justice were highlighted. You could see detainees waving from the barred windows up above. Migrant activist Socorro addressed the crowd, “In this moment we are here because we need to demonstrate that women are strong, because God made us this way, strong for the pain, that’s why we are here fighting, for all the things that have happened with immigration, with the deported mothers who have had to leave their children in this country, we are here to keep fighting, because this is a big war, we have won victories but not the war, and we will keep fighting the struggle.”

International Women’s Day | PHOTO: ANA PINES

They also spoke about trans rights and the current situation involving Nicoll Hernández-Polanco. Hernández-Polanco fled from Guatemala in search of asylum and is being held at the Florence Detention Center in Arizona with male detainees. She has been assaulted emotionally and physically since October 2014. Performances and additional speakers ended the event at Mariachi Plaza. Posters of missing children and women were laid out on the ground including one with the hashtag . Cinthia was only 13 when she disappeared in 2008 in the City of Juarez. She went out to get shoes for school and never returned. The male dominated law enforcement protects the kidnappers; they take no action in looking into the disappearances of over 2,000 girls and women. In Canada, there are at least 1,200 missing or murdered aboriginal women. From 2010-2014 at least 2,250 women were killed in El Salvador, while in Honduras, at least 4,000 women have been murdered since 2002, all because of their gender.

International Women’s Day | PHOTO: ANA PINES

How do so many women disappear without a trace? Their deaths don’t matter. Let’s not forget the 2.5 million trafficked persons globally at any given time with Asian and Pacific Islander women being the largest group trafficked in the United States.

These situations don’t occur because women are respected, valued or have equal rights. Everyone who has a mother, daughter, aunt, sister, friend, wife and a woman in their life needs to speak up!

You can follow Ana on Twitter: anapines1 or Facebook: anaapines

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Made in God’s image Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:40:56 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

When Jesus was led to the wilderness for 40 days, we see him wresting with his demons – his demons of doubts, his fear of his calling perhaps. Jesus had just been baptized, confirmed as God’s Holy child, and then felt compelled to go to the desert, the wilderness, where he faced his fears anxieties and doubts. And then Mark lets us in on how Jesus allowed his higher thoughts – his higher angels to minister to him words of encouragement to combat the negative thoughts and temptations he was facing. And at the end, we see Jesus coming out of the wilderness experience empowered and encouraged and ready to begin his important work.

Scripture not only shows Jesus summoning his better angels to help him overcome his doubts and fears, but it also shows that victory over any devastating self-doubt is possible for us too. When we are tempted to give up or give in, we can go to that quiet place within and come out ready to embrace all of our potential and live into our calling.

So, where do these demons of self-doubt come from? How did we get so accustomed to hearing and saying, “The devil made me do it!”

For many of us, they come from the Genesis 2 passage. I grew up being taught that only two people were ever created good enough, but they chose to disobey God (and the way it was told was that the woman chose to disobey and then persuaded her man to join her in disobedience, so really, their “fall from perfection” was her fault). And so they gave up their goodness and passed on their wickedness to all of their descendents all the way down to us; and so we were told that we were born bad; now that’s not to confuse you with born to be bad!

This morning I’d like to relook at this Creation story in Genesis 2 by pointing out eight points from Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins that have been too often overlooked by traditional interpretations.

First, God needs us. God created a garden and then needed a gardener to tend it. God needs us. We are the gardeners, the helpers, the co-workers. Our hands are God’s hands. We are the way that God touches the world. We are that important.

Second, snakes don’t talk. Have you ever seen or heard a talking snake? Why do people think that one did at one time? Let’s examine this a bit further; not only do snakes not talk, but people probably wouldn’t talk to snakes even if they were feeling chatty. I don’t know about you, if I see a snake, I go the other direction. And if I were to hear a snake talking, I’d probably pee my pants and go to the nearest psychiatric hospital!

Now, animals talk in fables. So do plants. I mean who doesn’t love Nemo and all of the talking fish? In fiction, plants and animals are given human qualities, and many times it’s to teach us a lesson. Why didn’t I believe as a kid that when I was hearing about a talking snake that I was hearing a fable? Once I know this, I can learn the lessons that this animal-given-human-qualities is trying to teach me.

Third, the snake is just a snake. It’s not a monster; it’s not the devil. Not even an evil snake. In many cultures, serpents represent sexuality or wisdom or power. The serpent in the Garden of Eden isn’t even being dishonest. In fact, it was God in the story who says that if you eat the fruit you’ll die. And nobody died. The snake is just a snake.

Fourth, there is no fall. The word “fall” is never used here. The lesson of the story is not that people fell from perfection, never to return to it again. Do we make mistakes? Yes. Do we sometimes behave in ways that have dire consequences? Yes. But I don’t believe it’s because we are born bad, or it’s a result of the sins of Adam and Eve so we have someone to blame. We are still growing; we are still learning. We do what we can to embrace and express more goodness and to become more like Christ (our example). That is our goal.

Fifth, there is no body shame. The couple is naked – outside – and there is no shame. Maybe it’s because they didn’t have mirrors or scales or magazines with air brushed models on the cover; they’re simply naked and not ashamed. They had to learn shame. Shame isn’t their natural state. Their bodies are good. They are good. They learn shame; they learn modesty and integrate into cultural norms where in some cultures the bodies are naughty. There is no body shame.

Sixth, no one in the story is bad, and, no one in the story is perfect (except God). The fruit will make them know good from evil, but no one in the story is evil nor is anyone the cause of evil. The only mention of evil is the knowledge of it; and that knowledge comes from a tree that God made.

Seventh, there is no marriage. I don’t believe this is a story showing that only opposite gender attraction is acceptable. Adam represents men and Eve represents women, but I don’t think they represent the only way to be in relationship. Yes, it’s a very common way, but it’s not the only way. I don’t see anywhere here where there is a marriage certificate or even a mention of a marriage ceremony.

And finally, sin is never mentioned in the story. Could taking a bite out of a piece of fruit really be the downfall of all humanity for all time? I like what Rev. Watkins says, “The implied sexism of the traditional interpretation suggests that the original sin was that a woman didn’t do as she was told. I wonder who benefited most from that interpretation. Do you think that interpretation first came from a woman, or from a man who truly respected women? When considering traditional interpretations, we should always ask, ‘Who has benefited and who has been excluded or oppressed by this interpretation? Whose voice has been left out?’”

I think the phrase, “The devil made me do it” is just an excuse; it’s finding someone to blame so that we don’t have to take responsibility for our own actions.

Like children, we are born in innocence, and as we grow, we learn and we become curious and we eat bugs and dirt and touch hot stoves and fall off our bikes and test limits and suffer the consequences and lose our innocence. We learn modesty and caution and good from evil.

In looking at the creation story, I believe that when God created everything God said, “It is good!” Now, you can choose to believe whatever you want to believe about this creation story. I’m not trying to change your mind, but I certainly want to offer this viewpoint for you to consider.

God looks at women and calls them very good.

God looks at people of all religions and calls them very good.

God looks at transgender people and calls them very good.

God looks at straight people and calls them very good.

God looks at gays and lesbians and calls them very good.

God looks at you and calls you very good!

Just like our theme from Pride says, “You are Fabulous, Unique, Strong, Amazing, Wonderful … ‘cause God makes no mistakes!”

We are made in God’s image. We are part of God’s good creation. Demonic self-doubt and fear has no place in our lives; so let’s give it up for Lent and replace it with God’s amazing grace and love! Amen

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