Friday, January 30, 2009

The Human Factor

I'm passing along a quote from an excelent blog called "Friends of Jake"( IT is a contributer to the blog and was recently married in CA before Proposition 8 was passed in California:

" I cried today. Stupid. I was at my dentist's (he's a friend and came to our wedding) and he cheerfully said, "How's married life treating you?" and I replied, waaay too seriously, "good for as long as it lasts," and then he wanted to know about the court case, and if we'd heard whether our marriage would last, and when we would KNOW, and how we are doing, etc etc and I had to go through it all again.I walked out to the car afterwards and got in and cried tears of anger and frustration--not at my dear dentist, but at feeling I'm living betwixt and between, unresolved, at being A Thing whose fate is decided by courts and how the PropH8 people took my euphoric feeling that finally I was a Real Married Person with a real place in society, like everyone else, and they threw me back into the gutter and kicked me back into being an unwanted outsider.And then I dried my eyes and went to work and tried, yet again, to get past it."

Too many times we don't realize who we hurt when we send others to the fringes of society because they are different. We forget what the evangelion, the "good news" that the term evangelist comes from really is. If my more secular friends will bear with me, I'd like to expound on something as an example of what Jesus risked in his life and ministry...

Twice in the Gospels, both in Mark 5 and Luke 8, we are told of the story of Jesus and the "woman who had been suffering from hemmorages for 12 years". While I had heard this story as a young pup, I always focused on the miracle of healing. I never concidered the plight of the poor woman.

This woman's "hemmorages" are more than likely related to her menstrual cycle, and Leviticus 15 states that not only was she "unclean" but anyone or anything that came in contact with her was also unclean. Now put yourself in her shoes for a moment. There you are, having been less than a person for 12 years. You have been cast to the fringes because of something that is not your fault, and yet people are convinced your sins made you this way. No one will accept you, love you or even speak to you out of fear of becoming "unclean" themselves. You are not a person, not a member of the community. Sound familiar?

IT's plight unfortunately is not an isolated incident. Like the woman mentioned above, she has been thrown to the wayside. However, it isn't because of a disease or ailment. She and her love, and millions of others, are treated as less than human simply because of who they are. And yet we treat them in the same way the woman above was. As less than human. Is this what Christ wants?

In the story, simply touching Jesus heals the woman. The scripture says that she felt it "inside" that she was healed. We should be offering this same healing. Not of changing someone's orientation, but of healing the wounds that WE have inflicted. Rev Ed Bacon of All Saints, Pasedena started this with his radical words on Oprah. The Dioces of New Hampshire started this by electing V. Gene Robinson as their bishop. Our own small church in Bentonville started this by accepting all people and their children. This is the message of the Gospel. This is the "evangelion" that we are to proclaim! The term "evangelist" derives from this greek word. So by anlogy, to "evangelize" is to spread this good news, best described by the Dean of the Episcopal Cathederal in San Diego, "Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you are welcome here. Whether you are passing through, or this is the beginning of a longer relationship, welcome. You are today part of our family."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Storm's Over

And we were one of the few houses to have power throughout. In Northwest Arkansas, they are saying over 100,000 people are without power, and some may not get it back on for weeks. They're calling it the worst ice storm in our history, which is saying something. Rogers wound up with around an inch of ice, and Springdale, our neighbor to the south received almost two inches. Thank you all for your prayers! I'll try to post pics from the storm later...

Update: Here are some pics I nabbed from the Arkansas Times... Like I said, ice is pretty, but I'd rather look at pictures...

Update on Act 1 in Arkansas

Apparently, the Arkansas ACLU chapter has decided not to follow through with their lawsuit to have Act 1 recinded. Their official response is that as of yet no one has been harmed by the law. In one of the cases they were reviewing, the 39 year old grandmother and her parter petitioned the courts for custody of her baby granddaughter. The granddaughter was in foster care because of a complacent young mother and her abusive boyfriend. The grandmother was awarded temporary custody of the baby. The Arkansas court said that since the grandmother lives in Oklahoma, they could petition the court in Oklahoma for adoption at a later date. Heck of a nice work-around if you ask me.

While I am happy that the baby is now out of the foster care system and with a family member that will love and take care of her, I am still angry about this law. I would like to personally take a copy to Jerry Cox and his Arkansas Family Council and suggest some very unchristian and probably anatomically imposible things they can do with it. The whole thing was a thinly (ceran wrap) veiled attempt to discriminate against homosexual couples. Even though the law does not state anything about homosexuality, it was promoted in all the conservative churches in Northwest Arkansas as a way to "keep homosexuals from adopting."

That puts a kink in mine and my Mrs. plans for our children. If the worst should happen to us, we want two of our friends to have custody of Spud and the future Sprout. We want them raised Episcopalian, and our friends are two of the best candidates right now. Problem is, they're gay and have been together for 13 years, so Act 1 could kick in. Even if it doesn't, my family could sue for custody and might just get it if the act is applied to guardianship. It really chapps my hide that the choice of who raises our kids if the worst should happen is taken away from us in order to keep kids safe from gay cooties.

I think if I hear one more stuffed shirt with a mail order ordination harp about the "gay agenda" I'm going to scream. The "gay agenda" is that they want to be treated like everyone else and not as second class citizens. If anything, I think there is an "anti-gay agenda" that is much more insidious and a lot more dangerous.

Update: Pulled this from a 1-17-09 posting on the Dallas Voice:

The ACLU last week withdrew its request for a temporary restraining order to suspend the law on behalf of a plaintiff who wanted to adopt her granddaughter. The woman, Sheila Cole, 39, of Tulsa, Okla., was granted temporary custody of her granddaughter by a judge this week. Cole lives with her lesbian partner in Tulsa, Okla. In the lawsuit, the families claim that the act’s language was misleading to voters and that it violates their constitutional rights.

In a brief filed with the court, McDaniel argued that adopting or fostering children is not a constitutionally protected right. “No constitutional right is violated by Act 1, if a plaintiff who has no right to adopt or foster chooses to maintain their relationship,” McDaniel’s office said (
emphasis mine).

If this isn't the biggest load of horse dung I've seen in a bit, don't know what is. So in the best interest of the child, we have to break up the stable home of a loving couple that would be married if not for that assinine ammendment to the Arkansas constitution. A broken home is in the best interest of a child! Sorry, I have to raise the BS flag here.

Times may be a changin' in most of the country, but here in Arkansas, it's business as usual.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why Am I Still Here?

Ok, so far we've seen two patient today, half our doctors called in due to weather, and the roads are getting slicker by the minute. This is about as exciting as it gets.

Mrs. Hillbilly says we still have power at the house. Funny how even with a gas furnace, you still need electricity to work the fan. We have a fireplace in the living room, so if the power does go out, we'll just block it off from the rest of the house, light a fire and cook on the propane camp stove. And the fridge and freezer are well stocked, extra bags of ice and two coolers on standby for the stuff that I don't want to set outside to freeze... we should be fine. The hard part will be keeping Spud (pictured) occupied without the background noise. That and no heated waterbed for a few days if we lose power.

Yesterday it took me an hour and a half to get home, when it usually only takes me 30 minutes. Today will probably be just as bad. I'd stay over at work, but I'm afraid of leaving a pregnant wife and baby home without me there to freeze with them. Misplaced muchismo maybe, but it just doesn't feel right.

That's the recent update. There are a total of 50,000 people without power, a few wrecks, and at least one fatality blamed on the storm according to the news. It could have been a lot worse.

Icy Update

Well, so far a few homes in Northwest Arkansas are without power, but otherwise we're weathering it ok. I am here at work because the VA's inclimate weather policy is, "You WILL be here." Such is the life of a medical clerk. But we're all faring rather well at the moment. The weather guessers say that it should quit by sometime tomorrow after we get more ice and then 1/2 to 3 inches of snow on top of it.

Thanks for keeping us in your prayers!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Paging Nanuk of the North...

Well gang, it looks like I'll be iced in for a bit... there's a nasty storm coming our direction. We should weather it ok, since I'm used to Arkansas' crazy weather, and the house is well stocked. However, if we lose power, my internet will be sporatic, as I'll be using my car's electrical outlet to power my notebook and internet connection (as long as we don't lose the phone).

I love the way things look after an ice storm, but I'd prefer to see the pictures than be in the real thing. Just sayin...

A Quick Prayer Request

My wife's little sister, who just turned 19 last year, up and joined the Marine Corps. She left for basic training last week. Having spent the majority of my time in the Navy with Marines, I know they are a hard bunch and not especially friendly to the womenfolk in their ranks. If you could mention her in your prayers today I'd greatly appreciate it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Common Worship vs. Common Belief

Forgive me for a little self reflection here, but I am feeling a bit introverted today. As people may have gathered from my previous post back in December, I am experiencing an emotional disconnect from my family. It really troubles me, because we are such a close knit bunch most of the time. Where their views are decidedly more conservative and Republican, my own views have progressively moved into a more liberal direction, especially over the past two years. Even our views on Christianity are now vastly different. I think I know the reason why, and it is the same disconnect that the Anglican Communion is having in its own ranks. The problem is the idea of "Common Worship vs. Common Belief".

The school of Common Belief is where most fundamentalist evangelicals (or fundangelicals) fall into. This school of thought believes that in order to be a Christian you have to believe certain things. The idea stems from the first eucamenical councils; when Constantine and Co. were trying to hammer out exactly what it meant to be a Christian. The problem is, no one stopped adding to it over the centuries. I have had people tell me that it is impossible to be a Christian and believe in the possibility of evolution, for example. The list has grown and grown until Christians now have a reputation of being sad or angry people who have a long list of "Thou Shalt's" and "Thou Shalt Not's". The idea projected is "unless you believe exactly how we believe, you can't be Christian." For this school of thought it is belief that is important.

The other school of thought, which I prescribe to, is that of Common Worship. It has been the hallmark of the Anglican Communion since it's inception. The way we see Christianity, or at least how I do, is that you believe in Christ as Lord, but where you go from there, and how you believe is between you and God. Our focus is on coming together as a community of believers, sharing in a common worship that has been passed down to us through the years. If you want to follow a strict regiment in your daily life, that is fine, but not necessary for salvation.

To my mind, this follows the ideals found in the scriptures much closer than any fundangelical view. When Jesus spoke of following him, he said, "Come to me all you are weary and heavy laiden and I will give you rest... for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Even in the Old Testament, God is constantly telling his people, "I don't want your offerings or your burnt sacrifices, I want YOU!" Christianity is about more than sin and redemption, it's about community and worship as well. How you or I believe in God is not what counts, but that we believe, and that we come together as a people.

One argument against the Common Worship view is that without these rules, people can fall into sin and, to use the fundangelical term, backslide into wickedness. In my mind, this is rediculous. To follow Christ, you have to be willing to do what he askes of us, which was simply put in the two greatest commands. Sure, we all stumble, but what is important is that we stand back up. Paul says in one of his letters that, "...there is no one who is righteous, no not one..." Though we are sinners, we are forgiven. Being forgiven does not make us perfect, or better than others. We will still have our moments of "weakness". What matters is that we do our best to keep moving on, to "...fight the good fight... run the good race..."

Common Worship allows for us to disagree with one another. We don't have to agree to come to the table together to share communion. You don't have to be Episcopalian, or Baptist, or Methodist, or Catholic, or Orthodox to sit in the pew next to me. What matters is that we are together worshiping God. Jesus tells us that, "...when two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst." Isn't that a beautiful thing to hear? Not, "Where two or three are gathered believing that homosexuality is a sin, evolution is a lie...", but simply being together in His name! What an amazing thing that is! Right now as you read this blog, whether you agree or not, He is here with us!

The Common Worship idea is one that I find the most fulfilling. It acknowledges that we all see God differently, read the scriptures differently, and serve Him differently. Common Worship allows for the transformative love of Christ to work within us; and through us into the lives of others as we come together as a people. It creates a relationship with our community and with the Living God that is based on love, and our desire to serve flows from that love. We follow Christ, not for mansions in Heaven, or treasures in the life to come, but because it is our heart's desire. It extends beyond seeing Christ in Heaven and seeing Christ in others. "...For such as you have done for the least of these, you have done for me." We are Christians, not because of a threat of Hellfire and Damnation, but because we want to help bring the Kingdom of God into our world.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Oh Baby!

Literally. At least we think so. Mrs. Hillbilly just took a home pregnancy test (probably the 7th in four months) and it says,"Yes +". So it looks like there may be a Sprout to run around with Spud come August or September! Holy schnikies! That's all I can type right now. Still in shock! Off to celebrate... who to call first... and you, dear readers are the first to hear the news!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Quite a Scare and Holy Schnikies!

Two diferent subjects on one posting. First I thought I'd share the minor heart attack the online college I am attending gave me. I opened my e-mail this morning to find a "Dear John" letter from CTU saying I had been withdrawn from the degree program. After I picked myself up off the floor from the shock, I made several calls to the college, some not quite so friendly, to find out that a computer on their campus had hiccuped, which caused the accidental disenrollment of 140+ students. The good news is that the error has been corrected with no harm done to my grades. Praise God!

In regards to the Innauguration coming up, and Bishop Robinson being invited to give an invocation Sunday. I am so proud and excited for him at the moment I can't contain myself! Woo Hoo!!

Now I am not one of the knee-jerk folk that seem to believe that Bishop Robinson walks on water and should be canonized immediately. However, St. Gene is a remarkable man, who comes across as very humble and unassuming. The fact that he will be giving the invocation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is, I think, a wonderful touch, and a bit ironic.

It also gives, I hope, enough of a balance to placate those who are still miffed at the Rick Warren scandal. Personally, I don't know enough about Pastor Warren to give an oppinion. I do know that he is one of the more liberal of the Southern Baptist variety, which may not be much, but is a start. The SBC has been run by ultra conservative fundangelicals for at least 18 years, it will take quite a while to bring them back to the 20th century. He and I are at least in agreement that helping the poor and needy should be more of a priority of the Church.

I am still hopeful for the future. Quaint though it may seem, I think we are in for a rough ride, but out of it we will come out stronger and more united than before. In order for our country to move ahead, we all have to work together. That means temporarilly holding your nose and offering a reconcilliatory hand to the Fundangelicals in order to move on to the most imperative issues right now... helping those that are hurting The people who have been forced to the margins in this economy as well as those who have always been there. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. It is going to take working together with folk we wouldn't normally associate with to lift up those who can not lift themselves. I've said it before, we all helped create this mess, it's going to take all of us to clean it up.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I Said I Would

"You know, you'll never finish college," my Dad said as we sat on the porch that morning. It was November 1994, and I had just dropped out of college at the University of Central Arkansas, after having to leave Hannibal-LaGrange College because of finances the year before.
"Yes I will," I answered.
I could see the hurt and disapointment in his eyes. I was his oldest son, and he was hoping for such great things from me. He had dropped out of high school to join the Navy during Vietnam, and no one before me had ever been close to going to college in his family. Now here I was, throwing away an opportunity that he never had...

Today I lived up to that promise. This was the official day of my graduation from Colorado Technical University Online. I know it is only an associates degree in General Studies from an online college, but right now, it could be a PhD in Physics from MIT to me. I have lived up to what I said I would so many years ago. The best part is that Dad is still around to see his son graduate, and be the first in our family to get a college degree. I called him to tell him that I graduated, with Honors, and he sounded so proud. True, it took me this long to finally do it, but I did it!

Now comes the really hard part, turning that associates degree into a batchelor's. I don't know for sure what I am going to do after that, maybe try to follow this to the end I originally envisioned with ordination, maybe just move further ahead in what I am doing for veterans now. I don't know. I do know though that I'm not done yet.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Here's More of What We're Up Against

And why progressive Christians need to be heard.

We progressives are guilty of not shouting loud enough in this state. Unfortunately, we either give up or move. Well I ain't moving just yet, and I ain't giving up either. As of today, I am declaring that I am a Christian and that I am:

1. For Same Sex Marriage.
2. For Adoption and Foster Care being done by any couples regardless of the couple's sexual orientation.
3. Against any government organization placing one religion, including my own, before another.
4. Against a litteral interpretation of the Bible as experienced in most churches in Arkansas.
5. Against the use of government funds to pay for religious activities.
6. Am Pro-Choice.
7. Am against the conflict in Iraq and refuse to bow to allegations that being against I am not "supporting the troops". As a former Navy Corpsman, I find this offensive.
8. Believe in a firm separation of Church and State that protects both government from religion and religion from government.

This is my stance, and I will not move.

Initiated Act 1 in Arkansas

I know that many bloggers right now are concentrating on California and Prop 8, but since I live in Arkansas, and not California, I thought I should concentrate on matters I can better affect.

In the last election cycle, Arkansans approved a measure from the Arkansas Family Council, headed by a Mr. Jerry Cox, which effectively bans any couples whom are not married from adopting or rendering foster care to children. Why did they feel this was necessary? It's a smoke and mirrors trick. A few years ago, the Arkansas State Supreme Court threw out a law that banned same sex couples from adopting or caring for foster children in Arkansas.

Arkansas also has an ammendment added to its constitution banning any form of legal status for same sex couples. A recent constitutional ammentment not only defines marriage as, "between one man and one woman", but also closes the door on any other civil unions. The exact ammendment reads as follows:

"SECTION 1: Marriage
Marriage consists only of the union of one man and one woman.

SECTION 2: Martial Status
Legal status for unmarried persons which is identical or substantially similar to marital status shall not be valid or recognized in Arkansas, except that the Legislature may recognize a common law marriage from another state between a man and a woman.

SECTION 3: Capacity, rights, obligations, privileges, and immunities.
The Legislature has the power to determine the capacity of persons to marry, subject to this amendment, and the legal rights, obligations, privileges, and immunities of marriage."

So since in Arkansas LGBT couples can not marry or enter into civil unions, we can draft a broad legislation stating that no unmarried couples can adopt or care for foster children, thus completely eliminating our children being exposed to "gay cooties".

Right now, the ACLU is filing an injunction calling the law unconstitutional and discriminatory. And they do have a case. Even though the law itself was drafted to be as inclusive as possible, its intentions were sent out to every church in Arkansas. I am praying that it is overturned, and that soon the constitutional ammendment will be as well.

So I am hoping that the Prop. 8 debate goes all the way to the US Supreme Court and is overturned. It will pave the way for Arkansans to repeal the nonsense laws on our own books and maybe move up into at least the 20th century.

I'll be following this vein for a bit, so y'all might want to strap in for a long debate. I want to look at this from both sides and possibly debunk some of the myths and outright lies that the Arkansas Family Council wants us to swallow.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year!!

Ok, I am officially refusing to let the depressing end of year stuff get me down! This is a new year, time for some optimism.

Even though: last Sunday our interim priest(ess?) gave a sermon based on the Day of Innocents which turned into a litany of massacres over the last 2000 years that left everyone feeling hopeless.

Even though: the stock market is rallying, but the bailout doesn't seem to be helping the big financial institutions.

Even though: for some reason Mad Priest has been on a tirade about circumcision and comparing it to female genital mutilation. Sorry, Sport, but cutting the overlapping skin off of your penis is NOT the same as cutting the clitoris off, not even in the same ballpark. Thanks for playing, though.

Even though: several liberal bloggers have been bemoaning Obama's choice of Rick Warren for giving the invocation at the inauguration. Gebus, people, not everyone is perfect.

Why am I so optimistic that this is going to be a good year?

1. Obama was elected. We have a fresh start in the White House and a historic first to boot! Granted, it's going to take a lot of work to undo 8 years of failed policies, but you have to start somewhere.

2. My baby boy is healthy and happy, and I have the joyful opportunity to watch him grow up!

3. I just finished the first leg of my journey toward discernment. I have to have a undergraduate degree before I can start the discernment process here, and I'm now halfway to that! That's worth celebrating!

4. It's a new year!

Remember, yesterday is a memory and tomorrow's a dream, so live in the NOW! This moment right here, right now! All things work to the greater good... someone once told me.