Tuesday, December 23, 2008

All I Really Want

After a false start or two, I've dived back into the dating pool. It's a bit like a job interview in many ways, trying to constantly sell yourself and close the deal. Lots of networking going on as well. Perhaps I should have letters of reference from my exes? I can only imagine what they would say! Good times!

On the other hand, I sense in myself a deep desire for happily ever after. Pick the best one and settle down cuz Lord knows I'm not gettin' any younger. Plus I'm lonely. And I'm not that great at playing "the swinging single" role. With this drive to decide, I have to wonder, am I settling down or just settling?

So in the spirit of Christmas "wish-lists" I've decided to make one of what I'm looking for in a partner, perhaps employing The Secret, to give me some clarity on the matter. Keep in mind they are in no particular order of importance and only a few of them are deal-breakers.

*a mature man: By mature I mean both age and experience. Not someone in university. Not someone "just out." Someone who knows the work it takes to be in a successful relationship.

*a healthy guy:In good shape. No smoking, drugs. Drinking isn't his life or the only way he can have fun.

*a spiritual soul: Someone who is in tune with the unseen, unexplained. Church is a big part of my life and has always been. Ideally I would like to share that with my mate.

*a familyman/the marrying kind: I've decided that the next time I get engaged, I want to be proposed to. I want someone to promise to care about my well-being through the ups and the downs. And children- I know how huge that is and how I would lose the lifestyle I now enjoy immensely. So why would I want kids? I'm not sure if my reasons (it would complete me, would be rewarding, would be contributing to my world) are altogether good ones. They all seem to be ego-centered. I like the idea of adoption because it's less about my needs and more about filling a need in society.
Also this person is going to have to be able to fit into my crazy family somehow. As I told a friend the other day- one doesn't just marry one's partner but the partner's family as well. For better or worse, those in-laws are a fact of life.

*a stable guy: I like the idea of equals, maybe not in salary but at least in self-sufficiency. I want the dichotomy where we take care of each other but could stand on our own if need be.

*a trustworthy person: This means monogamy. No that's not monotony as many would have you believe! I have come to understand the reason behind monogamy. When one is confined to single partner, there's greater attachment. It also creates security in the relationship. It really is less about sex than I thought. My partner should be someone who cherishes and values me and what we have so much that sex with someone else wouldn't be worth the risk of jeopardizing the relationship.

*attractive/chemistry: this is a toughie. Sometimes you just know. It's not so much physical, although that's part of it but also spiritual/personality. You just click.

*and last but not least love. Really that's probably the one that trumps the rest and matters most of all.

Merry Christmas everyone! I know the season's about giving not receiving but I do hope you get a little of what you wanted!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mr. Big Stuff- Who Do You Think You Are?

The other day I was at the gym working out when I was approached by someone from the YMCA staff. This had never happened before and has never happened since. The man had a Russian accent and combined with my iPod, it was necessary for me to say “Excuse me?’ He repeated the question “Are. you. feeling. it?” He seemed to be a pompous ass so I just said “um....SURE. I am FEELING it.” “Really?” he asked. “Yeah.” “Well if you want some help, let me know.” His manner was so condescending and patronizing I reacted defensively.

Thinking about this experience later I found my reaction so strange. Here was someone trying to help me and I got defensive. Why was that? It was because he hurt my ego. Not only could he have changed his approach to accommodate my ego but I should have been aware of my defensive reaction. This stranger’s opinion of me was not me!

Later I was writing a big long email to a friend who was going through a breakup at roughly the same time I was. In it I had all this advice about how she needed to change her thinking and reactions to others, blah, blah, blah. At the end, I read it over and realized I sounded like a conceited arsehole. Not the friend I was trying to be. My intentions were good but my methods were coming from this ego-centered place.

So lately I’ve been reflecting on my ego. Many times we do things out of concern or care and have the very best of intentions but still it feeds our ego when it comes right down to it. Recently I made a phone call on behalf of my ex who was having difficulty understanding someone’s accent. They told him there was a problem with his rental application but he didn’t understand what that problem was. So he asked me to help him. Because his situation was confidential, the woman refused to talk to me. Not only did I find her manner extremely brusque but I became upset to the point where I was literally shaking. I was trying to do something good. And she wouldn’t LET me! Again, my ego had completely taken over. I needed to defend it. Not only was my reaction to her unhelpful, but I had personalized a situation that had nothing to do with me!

I’ve come to realize that much of my negativity stems from ego-related feelings. For example, situations where I feel I’ve been wronged. The feeling of injustice overwhelms any sort of rational thought and I become angry. I 'm compelled to share the story with all my friends, who, in turn feed my ego by sympathizing with me. I personalize the situation to such a degree that I adopt this identity of victim/martyr, when in fact that’s not the “real” essence of me at all, just a role I’m playing.

My ego isn’t me either. When someone criticizes me or I choose to take a comment too seriously, this is because my ego is threatened. Being aware of this, my reactions to the outside world have become more rational and measured. I never understood what Jesus was talking about when He saidWhoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it, because what profit will a person have if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” After reading this Eckhart Tolle book, I suspect this has to do with our ego.

Another area where being "ego-aware" has helped me is in the transition I’ve been making from being part of a relationship to being single. We have had to divide our assets and possessions. Usually this is an area of conflict and it was so tempting to make it personal. But when I took a deep breath, focused on the present and then took my ego out of the equation, decision suddenly became clearer and impersonal. We both had the same goal. We were both on the same team (if you will). Reacting because of feelings of rejection, insecurity, unworthiness, jealousy wouldn’t help the situation. Besides, I was never really upset for the reason I initially thought I was upset. It's like that scene in "When Harry Met Sally" when Harry says that when couples break up they argue over the stupidest things like who gets the ugly coffee table. I love it when Marie (Carrie Fisher) turns to her partner and sweetly utters "I want you to know, that I will never want that wagon wheel coffee table."

So the question I'll leave you with today is a toughie. Ask yourself "Who Am I?" I have in the past indentified myself in a plethora of ways and yet none of these are the true essence of who I am. To quote Shakespeare, "A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet." When I admit that these labels are just that, and nothing more, then I am suddenly no better (or worse) than my fellow human beings.

Who am I? I think God was onto something when He just answered "I AM"

Monday, December 08, 2008

There's Only Now, There's Only Here

I’ve learned quite a lot from my weekly book club at MCCT. We worked our way, chapter by chapter, through Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. It wasn’t an easy read and there have been many challenging and new ideas. I’ve learned that not only am I not my ego but neither am I my past or my future. Unless I make this choice. Who I am truly exists only in the present and that is what I like to think of as true faith. I say this because the antithesis of faith is not doubt (as some would have us believe) but rather fear and anxiety. These emotions can not exist in the present.

Fear and anxiety, as Jesus noted when He said to mediate on the lilies in the field and the birds of the air, only exist in the future or the past. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Christ also modeled this focus on the present in His life. Note how he dealt with the present when he prayed “give us this day our daily bread.” The future is a conceptual place that we leave up to God to manage. (Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.) Also notice how he praised Mary (treasuring the moment) over Martha (worrying about the future).

As many of you know, I’ve been in Kansas with my family for the Thanksgiving holidays and I spent a great deal of time with both my nephew (almost a year old) and maternal grandmother. She’s not unlike a child these days due to Alzheimer’s disease. This time with them has made me reflect on how Jesus suggested we become “like little children” we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. ("I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.") As with everything else he said, this was meant to be taken metaphorically. My nephew and (now) my grandma mostly live in the present and it really changes how one operates. There is always a wonder, a surprise of first-time experiences.

Of course the advantage we as adults have over children is the gift of perspective. When my nephew is upset, it is the end of his world. He becomes very emotional. I could say my grandmother expresses her frustrations in much the same way. Then later, it’s all forgotten and they have moved on. Not only do we have the ability to judge life events through the filter of our experiences and perspective, but if we choose to be aware of our reactions, we can also choose to how to react.

Eckhart points out we only experience now, not future/past. Things only happen in the now. As the Bon Jovi song goes "It's my life, it's now or never." This is why physical activity, dancing and music are some of my favourite activities. To do them really well, one must be present. During my recent breakup, being present, dealing with the reality of what is (instead of what should be, or could of been or was) really made all the difference. We can learn from our past without obessing or focusing on it because it's a moot issue. And as far as the future goes, it doesn't exist beyond thought (which ironically can only be thought about in the present).

So I'm encouraging you on your day today to take time to "smell the roses." Meditate. Breathe. Experience the now. Listen with your whole being. Be present.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Weep Not For the Memories

Last weekend I had a nice time with friends in Koreatown. We went to my favourite restaurant and then on to norebang (private karaoke) and sang to our hearts' content! So fun.

The only bittersweet part was the very noticeable absence of the person formerly known as my partner, the only actual Korean. He always had special songs he always sang and he always ordered for us and did the table BBQ grilling. This time I had to step in and do it, which was fine but I did miss him. Perhaps making new memories where old existed before is akin to taking your dog out to urinate over old smells from other dogs. To have a future, the past can't be in your present.

I do miss him, or rather the idea of him in the roles he used to play in my life. So instead of denying or trying to ignore these feelings of loss, I'm taking a page from Judith Voirst's "The Tenth Good Thing About Barney." In this book, the main character mourns the loss of his pet by listing ten good things that he liked about the deceased. And since this is Remembrance Day, I thought it might be appropriate to remember....

1. Weatherman- He always knew when it would snow or rain and when it would be warm or cold. So helpful as I never pay any attention to that sort of thing!

2. Hairstylist- Not only did I get amazing haircuts and colour but he also would even style it for me sometimes. Plus he was always there to consult. Now I'm at a loss. Do I gel? wax? paste? Is this TOO spikey? symetrical? It's all too much.

3. Fashion Consultant- He had the gift of buying the perfect belt, jacket or T-shirt that would fit me perfectly and look great. He also was there to tell me which shirt looked better with which tie (it's all about the contrast) or what jeans to wear (and here I thought all jeans were created equal).

4. Tech guy- He was totally Inspector Gadget. You name it, he was all over it or could figure it out. If it wasn't for him, I still would be completely happy with my CD walkman. No MP3 and never an iPod!

5. Therapist- On most problems, he was good about listening and acting interested what I had to say. Even if it wasn't in his area of interest he would try and ask a few questions. I really appreciated that space to vent.

6. Travel companion - We really worked well out on the road. He loved driving and could keep his cool under pressure being more used to heavier traffic than I was. It was easy to make plans and find places to eat.

7. Cook- He was an amazing cook. If I was sick or if it was my birthday, he would make me miyuk guk. I'll have to try and make it myself now. :)

8. Gift wrapper-If you are scoffing at this it's because you never saw a gift he wrapped. Seriously it would be a work of art. He would mould flowers and leaves or would layer different colours of paper so it would show different contrasts. Really breath-taking.

9. Memory- There are a lot of things about Korea that Icould remember because he would jog my memory or help me out with a word or two. Most of those memories involved him as well so it will be hard to remember things by myself.

10. Companion- Just hanging around, sharing the same space. We were comfortable with the silences and he let me read and write. He was also very cool about letting me follow my own interests such as church or dancing. I appreciated that.

Of course there are more but ten always seems like a nice even number of which to make a list. Sorry if this seems morbid, using the past tense and being so personal but going through this separation/transition (they say) is right up there along with death of a spouse so it's a little like mourning. Actually it is the loss of the idea I had of the future. This has been really cleansing for me and perhaps it may help others, I dunno.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Express Yourself!

AS you may have guessed from the dirth of images posted, Danifesto is in love with the written word. So when the opportunity to attend Writing Outside the Margins came up, I was very excited to check it out!

The most surprising event of the day was that I came away without any additions to my grossly overstocked personal library. There was a time that I hungrily snatched up any queer lit I could get my hands on and read voraciously about this magical world that I wanted to inhabit so desperately. Now I actually am living in a dynamic queer community, the need to read about it has subsided somewhat and I've come to the realization that not all queer lit is created equal!

I was most interested to see the headliner John Cameron Mitchell, whose work on the musical/movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch I've always admired. JCM was everything I had hoped for-insightful, witty and articulate. However he didn't leave me as breathless as Michelle Tea who read delightfully from her latest work. She was quirky, funny and I utterly fell for her charms. I also really liked the characters Zoe Whittall set in Toronto and was surprised how devastated I was at the sudden end of her story. And finally the spoken word of Kinnie Star had me grinning from ear to ear! It was quite the awesome day despite the sudden spontaneous shower!

Given my overwhelming love for these queer women writers, I have to wonder why none of the men affected me in quite the same way. After all, shouldn't I be able to relate more to them? Perhaps the sound of a women's voice reading is more pleasing, my mother always having been the one to read to me as a child. Or perhaps the women I had an affinity for were merely better writers! At any rate, I had an amazing time and big love to Xtra and the Church-Wellesley BIA for sponsoring such a worthy event!

Two days later, still riding on a "lit high," my friend Ron and I attended an amazing screening of the documentary "An Independent Mind." This movie was about the issue of free speech, a more layered issue than I originally had thought. The panel discussion following really got me thinking. Is this freedom absolute? Are all opinions protected? When we say that all expression is good, it begs the question; when does expression cause harm? (incitement to violence, propaganda, national security leaks, child pornography) Is it necessary to show the evidential harms? Or can limits be preventative? Does censorship of expression ever deliver what is promised?

What I wanted to ask (and didn't get a chance and therefore will do so here) were two things:
1) When the government uses the media as a tool of power in order to manipulate its population in a certain desired direction, how do we solve the problem of planted reporters in press conferences? Or on press "fact-finding" junkets?
2) How has the conglomeration of media hurt our access to a diversity of voices and what can we do to foster small independent media sources?

Toronto is such a fabulous place for a reader such as myself! Due to company from overseas I was unable to take part in Word on the Street but I do have plans to attend the International Festival of Authors AND check out the annual Trinity College Booksale! Until that time, I'm enjoying my weekly book club that meets at MCC to discuss A New Earth! Happy reading everyone!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Alone Again...Naturally?

After being part of a set for the last six years, I am now acclimating myself to spending more time alone. Being a "singleton" is slightly less of an issue in the gaybourhood than mainstream society. There is still some reluctance on the part of a couple to befriend a single person. Then you have the guy at a party who refers to his partner repeatedly to make it clear the conversation is just that. People prefer to invite couples for outings or potluck dinners at their homes. It makes for an even number I suppose and no one feels "left-out."

So I've been putting myself "out there...on my own." For over a year now, I've attended church alone and while at first it was awkward, now I kind of enjoy it. I've also made myself go to a movie and eat in a restaurant alone. (Although the latter was with a book so perhaps that was cheating?) Even harder was going to the Beach Ball (at Hanlan's Point) and Buskerfest by myself but I did it and even managed to enjoy myself.

John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig, Shortbus) had some interesting observations on being alone during his recent talk at Writing Outside the Margins. He posed this question: Why is it that, when it's infinately easier and less problematic to be alone, do humans tend to gravitate into relationships that are, by nature, complicated and fraught with difficulty and conflict? JCM said that this topic was something he was very interested in exploring in his next project.

I find this question quite relevant as well as compelling. As leery as I am to get involved with someone else after having been so devastatingly disappointed, I do find that I am interested in seeing "who's out there." I suppose it's due to my optimistic nature that I still have hope for an authentic relationship. One that's beyond the needing and wanting and is more about simply being present with each other.

The story of Adam and Eve actually gives me some guidance here which is surprising considering the number of times people have referenced this story in order to support their judgement of my nature. The problem when reading the Bible with a fundamental, literal approach is that one misses the lesson or deeper truth behind it all. To me the story of Adam and Even is about how God created a companion for Adam so he would not be alone. This was the primary purpose, not procreation, although that command did come later. (God also commanded that they care for the Earth and everything in it but one doesn't see the religious right jumping on in to support that!) So it would seem that God wants us to have companionship, be it romantic or plutonic in nature.

However I'm left with these unresolved questions. When do you know it's time to date again? How long should one "play the field?" Is a self-imposed solitude something that God desires of me? After pouring so much energy into a new life alone, will I be wasting it all by starting something with a guy? Ponderous Dan. Really ponderous!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dancin' In the Rain?

I received an email this morning that expressed surprise at my lack of hostility over recent events. Aren't you angry? How can you still be so accommodating after all of this has happened? I've actually had quite a few people say the same thing to me and I thought this would be a good space to address these questions.

The message today at my church was totally in accordance with my life philosophy based on what I've learned and what I truly believe. The quality of our life is not determined by how we live but how we handle the endings in our life. It's not how we weather the storm but rather learning how to dance in the rain.

The pastor today shared a cartoon of a boy who was nailing up a sign to a tree that said "LOST: pet catepillar" while a butterfly tellingly flew past him. I love attending funerals where the focus is not on the loss of life but a celebration and thanksgiving for the time we had with that person and the life well-led. So inspiring. So many times we immerse ourselves so much in mourning something we have lost, we miss appreciating the beauty of change.

The Bible supports this viewpoint in the parable of the two sons. If this text is read with a fundamental, literal interpretation, one sadly misses the beautiful metaphor that Jesus actually was intending to teach with. Clearly, one of the messages here is that God celebrates the transitions in our lives. I personally believe we should do the same as well.

To clarify, I don't believe in a "Pollyanna" outlook in life. There is great value in recognizing the challenges we face, in other words,"calling a spade a spade." But in identifying, let us be careful we are not identified BY them. These external things are influencers, not determiners.

So while this may very well be the end of the world as I know it, I (choose to) feel fine! Hugs to you all for your continued support and encouragement. I hope I have and will do the same!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Time Makes You Bolder

As many of you know, Danifesto is observing two milestones this year. One landmark is turning 35, halfway to the big 4-0! The other relates to the relationship I've had with the person I met six years ago in Korea. Both anniversaries offered a valuable opportunity to reassess and take stock. After discussion with my partner, we have, with both regret and respect, decided to part ways.
The discussion started out with observations I made that led me to come to the same conclusion Miranda did in Sex and the City: "He's just not that into you." When this was confirmed, the discussion ended with something very similar to what Carrie said to Alexandr at the end of the series:
"I'm looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can't-live-without-each-other love. And I don't think that love is here in this expensive suite in this lovely hotel in Paris."

There's more to say of course but there's really nothing more boring that hearing someone rehash everything that went wrong in mind-numbing detail. Rather I think I'll just close with the following. From Dreamgirls of course, what else?

We didn't make forever.
We each got to go our separate way,
And now we're standing here, helpless,
Looking for something to say.
We've been together a long time.
We never thought it would end.
We were always so close to each other;
You were always my friend.
And it's hard to say good-bye, my love.
Hard to see you cry, my love.
Hard to open up that door.
You're not sure what you're going for.
We didn't want this to happen,
But we shouldn't feel sad.
We had a good life together.
Just remember,
all the times we had.
You know I'll always love you
You know I always care
But no matter how far I may go
In my heart
You'll always be there
And it's hard to say good-bye, my love.
Hard to see you cry, my love.
Hard to open up that door.
When you're not sure what you're going for.
But we've gotta grow,
We've gotta try,
Though it's hard, so hard
We have to say good-bye
Though it's hard, so hard
We have to say good-bye
We didn't make forever.
But I will always love you.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Who Wrote the Book of Love?

(taken from the BBC News feed) I liked how this gave both points of view in a succinct way.
Confused how two groups of church-goers can have such conflicting views about whether it's OK to be gay?
Both sides of the debate about homosexuality in the church, which threatens to split the worldwide Anglican church, hold their views sincerely and after much study. So how can their views be so contradictory?
The Bible makes very few mentions of homosexuality - lesbianism isn't mentioned at all in the Old Testament - and as the examples below show, interpretations of the verses that do exist differ hugely.
Following each of the verses below is a brief illustration of what a hardline pro- and anti-gay position might be. (Most Christians hold views somewhere in between these two stances.)

An illustration of the division can be seen by what either side might say about the friendship in the Old Testament between David and Jonathan. One verse reads: "I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; dear and delightful you were to me; your love for me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women."
PRO-GAY: A pro-gay position might be that this is a clear indication that King David had a gay relationship, and to pretend otherwise is naive.
ANTI-GAY: An anti-gay opinion might be that the friendship between the two men was exactly that - a very close and loyal allegiance.

Similarly, the tale of Sodom is often debated. In it, Lot has two angels staying in his house. The men of Sodom surrounded the house. "They called to Lot and asked him where the men were who had entered his house that night. 'Bring them out,' they shouted, 'so that we might have intercourse with them.'"
To protect his visitors from an act which Lot describes as "wicked", he offers the crowd his two virgin daughters instead. The crowd are not satisfied and break the door down - the angels then make the intruders blind and Sodom is eventually destroyed by "fire and brimstone".
ANTI-GAY: An anti-gay argument might say this story demonstrates the immorality of homosexuality, as has been accepted for generations, hence the term sodomy. Elsewhere in Genesis, God says of the men: "Their sin is very grave." It's an example of behaviour degenerating.
PRO-GAY: Of course the men's behaviour was wicked, but it was wicked because it's a tale of sexual assault and rape. When Jesus mentions Sodom, hundreds of years later, it appears to be in a context of a discussion of hospitality, rather than one of sexual morality.

There are several verses in the Bible which are similarly contested - there are however a much smaller number of seemingly clear statements. The most famous of them is probably from Leviticus: "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; that is an abomination."
ANTI-GAY: An anti-gay position would be that this line is unambiguous. It is also repeated elsewhere in the book. The speaker of the words is God, so this is an explicit indication that homosexuality is wrong in God's eyes. It was one of the sins that justified God in giving the land of Canaan to the Israelites
PRO-GAY: A pro-gay argument might say that other verses in the same book forbid a wide range of sexual activities, including having sex with a woman who is having her period. This is an indication that the passage embodies specific cultural values rather than God's law.

There is some debate about how relevant rules in the Old Testament are to Christians. Some would say they are binding, since Jesus said he did not come to abolish the old laws. Others would say that Jesus set Christians free from the old laws, highlighting instead that people should love God and their neighbour.

Jesus himself says nothing explicitly about homosexuality. There are though two statements by him which have been interpreted as having a bearing on the subject.
"[A] man shall leave his father and mother, and be made one with his wife; and the two shall become one flesh."
ANTI-GAY: This indicates Jesus saw heterosexual relations as the proper way of behaving.
PRO-GAY: Jesus is actually talking about the sanctity of heterosexual marriage

Later in the same conversation, after Jesus has spoken about divorce, the disciples say to him it is better not to marry at all. Jesus says: "That is something which not everyone can accept, but only those for whom God has appointed it. For while some are incapable of marriage because they were born so, or made so by men, there are others who have themselves renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let those accept it who can."
PRO-GAY: This shows that Jesus is more concerned with people looking after their own relationship with God, than with enforcement of rules. The reference to being "born so" indicates that heterosexual marriage is fine for those who are heterosexual, but it's OK to be different. Again and again Jesus reaches out to those on the margins of society, like prostitutes and tax collectors, to include them.
ANTI-GAY: Jesus here is actually talking about people who were born incapable of having children, or people who were castrated - not about gays. He is actually saying that marriage and chastity are both within God's purpose. Jesus does appeal to the sinners, but once he has called them, he tells them to go and sin no more.

The letters of St Paul provide the other traditional support for the position that homosexuality is sinful. He writes: "God has given [people who worship false gods] up to shameful passions. Their women have exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and their men in turn, giving up natural relations with women burn with lust for one another; males behave indecently with males and paid in their own persons the fitting wage of such perversion."
Paul later writes: "Make no mistake: no fornicator or idolator, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers of drunkards of slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God."
PRO-GAY: A pro-gay position might be that the word Paul uses for homosexual here could alternatively be translated as "male prostitute". In any case, Paul's writings are clearly of his time, and there are plenty of other verses which people have no difficulty in ignoring - for instance: "a woman brings shame on her head if she prays or prophesies bare-headed; it is as bad as if her head were shaved." This should be viewed like that.
ANTI-GAY: Anti-gay argument might say this line is crystal clear in establishing that Christianity and homosexuality are incompatible. Paul is actually quite clearly referring to homosexual behaviour, and includes lesbianism. You can't just pretend that St Paul, who did so much to influence our understanding of Jesus, didn't know what he was talking about. He's clear that homosexuality is an offence against God and against people's own bodies.

Part of the reason the views diverge so much is because Christians think of the Bible differently. Some see it as literally the word of God, divine inspiration which humans should not question. Others see it rather as a book which is a witness to God's message, but one which was written by humans and thus has flaws.
Trying to find common ground between the two positions is no simple matter - one of the reasons that Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is having such a tricky job keeping everyone on board.
Quotations are taken from the New English Bible.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

And It Feels Like Home

It's summer in "T-dot" and that means Danifesto has been making the most of it! Toronto has lots of festivals in the summertime (one of the biggest of course being Pride). I love walking through our 'hood, seeing the Filipino men clustered around little tables playing card games, the blankets laden with "treasures" outside Food for Less , and the fruit and vegetable stand where everything is sold for a "toonie."

As you many (or may not) have noticed in my previous posts, lately I've been making church attendance more of a priority in my life. After being extremely active in the small town church in Kansas, I moved to Korea and sporatically attended a variety of churches. My main issue at the time was that I didn't feel like I was able to bring my whole self to the worship service. Most English-speaking churches in Seoul were/are fairly conservative. Talking this over with a Korean friend of mine, he said something that stuck with me. After hearing my litany of issues, he replied "Well that may be true, but you know who you are."

At the time it seemed really condescending but later that statement kept rolling around in my head. (Perhaps God was speaking through him to get to me?) Who I am is a person who goes to church and has most of his life. My father was a minister (ABC-USA) and now is a chaplain at a hospital in Kansas. So all my developmental years were spent immersed in the church, its music, its rituals, its seasons and holidays. Most of my childhood memories revolve around church-related events (Vacation Bible School, camp, men's breakfasts, sunrise services, Christmas plays, potluck dinners, candlelight vigils, sing-a-longs, Maundy Thursday services, Sunday school).

This is why going back to church on a regular weekly basis has meant so much to me. First of all, it's a church that's "a house of prayer for all people" (This is written on the front under the pipe organ- taken from Isaiah 56:7). Everyone is welcomed, not just tolerated. Also, there is no creed that you are required to believe in. They have bedrock beliefs that you are asked to affirm (be aware of) but I was surprised to discover that not everyone agrees with them. It's been a challenge for me to interact with others like this because I excel at making distinctions between myself and others. I had assumed that one's church should agree with everything you believe in and vice versa. But I see now that there's no room for growth in this paradigm- on my part nor in the church's. I liked the metaphor of a mountain that has many paths leading up to the top. The paths may start out far apart but all end up in the same place.

The demographics of my church are also interesting. According to the minister (a former Baptist who went to an Anglican seminary), the majority of church members are former Roman Catholics. The second largest group are former United Church of Christ members. These two major groups were followed by Anglicans (16%) and those we term "unchurched" (6%). Intriguingly enough however, now these last two groups have switched places with a rise in people who have no previous church experience. Over 30 ethnic backgrounds are represented with over 20 countries reported as a place of birth. More than 20 different languages are spoken. Surprisingly, given the origins of this church, the population of the church that identify as heterosexual is 15% and growing.

I've been asked why this church is experiencing growth (an average Sunday attendance of almost 600 with 4K at the Christmas Eve service). I would guess this would be due to the attractiveness of progressive (liberal) theology. Additionally the worship style is both traditional yet dynamic at the same time. There numerous active groups committed to social justice, helping the poor, sick, the church upkeep and worship etc. I think the main reason that this church is so popular is word of mouth. It's a place that people are proud of and enjoy telling others about. New people come to see what it's all about and feel a sense of home and belonging.

Last month, when the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto celebrated it's thirty-fifth anniversary, it seemed somehow fitting that soon I would be celebrating the same number of years. I thank God for sending me to this place and hope that both of us will continue to grow old together!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I Wonder As I Wander

I'm a big advocate of life-long learning and I'm thankful that I've learned so many things over the years. I look forward to continue learning as I grow and evolve. However I have come across things that I just don't get. Here's a list of a few.

*Stupid Book Jackets-That say nothing about the content of the book. Like I'm going to take it home based on some newspaper saying "Amazing tour de force by literary luminary John Doe!!!"

*Cover Charges (for clubs)- It's been explained to me that this was to make up for those who don't buy alcohol. Okay fine. Charge the price of two drinks and give drink tickets in return at the door. But to pay twenty bucks just for the privilege of getting in and then drinks on top of that? Don't get that!

*Baggy Pants- If you have to walk up the subway stairs clutching your pants with one hand to hold them up chances are they are TOO BIG. Invest in a belt or buy pants that fit you!

*TTC Monthly Metro Pass- Instead of spending thousands of dollars to produce a new and unique plastic card every month, why not just have ONE?? The transit rider can just recharge it monthly at an automated system that accepts debit and credit. The end. Less work for TTC employees, less line-ups, better all around. Better yet, switch to the "pay as you go" system that Seoul transit has!

*Mother and Father's Day- I liked that in Korea they just had Parents' Day and called it good! You can honour them individually on their birthdays people! Sooo unnecessary!

*Airline Industry- I don't get this at all! How can the SAME EXACT FLIGHT to the SAME destination cost $69 on one airline and over $200 on another. And by tomorrow, it's all changed! Is it like the stock market? Or like meterology? Astrology? Help me out here!

*Oil Industry- When we have domestic oil in Kansas and in many other states, why are we paying $3/gallon to schelp gas over from the Middle East? In Canada, they have their own gas as well. Give people jobs here at home instead of Saudi Arabia. I have an idea they'll manage without our business....

*Marriage Initiatives- Basic civil rights are not limited commodities. How can one couple getting married after a fifty year relationship "threaten" the marriage of anyone else? Did giving women the right to vote "threaten" the voting rights of men? Interracial marriage? And yet whole denominations are splitting over this non-issue.

*Mosquitoes and chiggers- If these critters were removed from the planet, would the food chain be affected at all? What's the point here? Cockroaches, I get. They at least serve a purpose!

*Circumcision- Male and female both. Why would one cut part of a sex organ off for religious or asthetic reasons? The hygenic reason falls flat when one takes into consideration that people shower daily these days....

*Plastic bags-When stores give a plastic bag for ONE ITEM. What's the point? At least ask me first. Once I declined a bag and the lady MADE ME TAKE ONE ANYWAY!

*Litterbugs- People who just drop trash on the ground or floor. I was taking our garbage to the garbage chute just today and someone had dropped an empty packet of gum by the elevators. I don't get it! Is this a special skill (to pick up after one's self) or they just can't be bothered?

*Dirty toilet seats- At the risk of being a traitor to my gender, what's the deal here? Raise the seat. Pee. Lower the seat. Leaving urine all over the seat for the next schmuck to wipe off is just rude! Manners guys! They're free!

Okay so that's the end of my little rants. What are some of yours?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Secret To Life?

Well I found the secret to life, I found the secret to life, I'm okay when everything is not okay (Tori Amos-Upside Down)

I believe I've mentioned my penchant for winning free stuff before. For example this week I won two free movie passes to My Blueberry Nights along with the soundtrack.

One of the free items I won was a copy of the book The Secret. Like a previous book I've blogged about, I would never have read this of my own volition. However, it was free and more importantly, small enough to carry in my bag to and from work. (The reason I've not yet read The Poisonwood Bible is because the size is so daunting!)

At any rate, I've been reading The Secret and must say I've been pleasantly surprised. Not without criticism of course but there are many ideas that I can readily identify with.

The first is the power of positive thinking. Growing up, I was immersed with the philosophy of Norman Vincent Peale- a prolific writer and founder of the magazine Guideposts. Everything related to the power of positive thinking. This was linked to faith, prayer, miracles and the mysterious ways of God.

Also in The Secret they actually use the Bible as a reference for what they term "The Creative Process"- (Step 1: Ask, Step 2: Believe, Step 3: Receive) It's based on Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24. These verses basically say to have faith that you will receive what you ask God for.

Another idea I really relate to is an attitude of gratitude. Any long-term readers of Danifesto will know that I have come back to this idea of gratefulness and grace time after time. The Secret encourages this attitude by suggesting a variety of creative ways to give thanks (although it never says directly to "whom") from a gratitude rock (in your pocket to remind you) to morning rituals (to start your day off positively).

The practice of visualizing also resonates with me. This really clicked with Tae Kwon Do. I would see something demonstrated, rehearse it in my mind and then carry it out. Maybe not perfect the first time but in my mind it would be! This practice soon transferred to my dance classes and eventually Tai Chi. I had to actually imagine the kinestic feeling of doing the move being introduced. I noticed when I wasn't given time to visualize that I didn't do well at all. Additionally if a new move was presented in a way that seemed really challenging/overwhelming my initial reaction would be "Oh I'm going to have problems" which was usually the case. There is a reason why we call these "self-fullfilling prophecies."

I do have some lingering questions about The Secret that trouble me. First of all I resent the suggestion that people are at the "wrong place and the wrong time" because of negative thinking. Do the authors of this book have the audacity to suggest that the victims of the Chinese and Burmese disasters were not victims at all but actually responsible because of their mass, group negative thinking?

Also what if two people are asking for the same thing? Or two different things that are mutually exclusive? Using The Secret, does the one who believes more get it? Or do they both cancel each other out with all their positive imagery?

And finally, can't we all recall times of bitter disappointment? Times when we truly, honestly believed with all our hearts, souls and minds that something would turn out differently only to have our spirits crushed? This reminds me of problems I have with faith healing- that if you REALLY believe and have faith that God WILL heal you of cancer, MS, or homosexuality to name a few. And that if you aren't healed it's due to lack of faith.

Has anyone else read the book or watched the movie? What do you think? Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Share!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

No Day But Today

I'm not sure why I bothered to get a CD player, MP3 player or an Ipod. I seem to have a plethora of tunes stored in my head, ready to play at a moment's notice!

One of these songs, "No Day But Today," popped into my head while listening to a sermon from my minister. The sermon title was "How to Have Life and Have it More Abundantly." It was based on the scripture passage...... The pastor suggested five things to do: 1) Deal with the unhealthy choices that separate you from the authentic person you are 2) Commit to a worthy cause 3) Care for others 4) Getting outside your own problems 5) Commit to your own spiritual growth and 6) Sharing this message with others.

Then he said something so interesting I had to write it down. "The most important person in your life is the person in front of you at this moment." He told about a friend of his that had terminal cancer and how precious life was to him.

I had a flashback to the movie Rent where Mimi sings to Rodger "I live this moment as my last." Although it sounds cliche, the present really is a present. That's one of the reasons I enjoy activities like swing dancing or tai chi. You must be truly present to do well. You really can't be thinking of other things. If you start to worry and obsess, then you anticipate what will happen next and usually you'll be wrong.

There was a scene from the drama "Six Feet Under" that I'm reminded of here. A mourner asks one of the morticians "Why do we have to die?" After a short pause he replied, "To give life meaning." The unknown amount of our mortal life necessitates that we make every moment count.

My friend Mandy once gave me one of the nicest compliments. I was wondering why so many people wanted to attend our Korean farewell party. She told me "When you are with someone, you make them feel special."

So today I'd like to encourage you to live this moment as your last. In your dealings with others, be really present. And live your life abundantly! Carpe diem!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Remember the Love

All through the Bible there are instances of God speaking to people (believers and nonbelievers alike) and yet it seems that, in these troubled times, when someone makes this claim, we tend to question their sanity or alterior motive. Is it because we think God has said all that needs to be said? That there is nothing new to be revealed?

I suspect it has more to do with the fact we aren't listening (much) anymore. We talk at each other, not to each other almost non-stop all day long. And when we remember, we talk at God as well. I feel we are saying less and less and listening even less than that.

Many of you have noticed and noted that Danifesto has been silent the past month or so. This is because I've been listening- to you in your blogs, emails and phone calls as well as listening to the silences and quiet. I have been determined to not add to the fray just for the sake of hearing myself.

Last Sunday I actually heard God speaking to me through a song in church. For quite some time I've been mourning the loss of a dear friend. Corresponding with his mother helped me but I feel I've turned a point after listening to the choir sing this song during our morning service (a clip).

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.
525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life?
How about love? How about love? How about love? Measure in love.
Seasons of love.
525,600 minutes! 525,000 journeys to plan.
525,600 minutes - how can you measure the life of a woman or man?
In truths that she learned, or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned, or the way that she died.
It’s time now to sing out, tho' the story never ends
Let's celebrate remember a year in the life of friends.
Remember the love! Remember the love!
Remember the love! Measure in love.
Seasons of love! Seasons of love.

It was God saying to me, "Mourn no more for the moments that were lost and will never come again. Don't keep focusing on the way that he died. Celebrate instead the moments of love you were given. Remember the love." This message impacted me so profoundly that tears were streaming down my cheeks long after the last note had been sung.

And so, in closing, I wanted you to hear what I heard- Measure your life and the life of others in love. Have a great day!
"Life isn't about the breaths we take, it's about the moments that take our breath away." (source)"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

(This Song's Just) Six Words Long

One of my collegues read this article in the Toronto Star and suggested I try it with my writing class. Being gifted with verbosity, I've often struggled with how to say more by writing less. This is why I find haikus and children's literature so fascinating!
So when given the opportunity to write my life story in only six words, I jumped at the chance!

As with all good writers, I had to read what everyone else had done to get an idea of what worked and what didn't work.
People often went for lists. Tea. Riesling. Pinot. Zinfandel. Creemore. Horlicks. (Jamie Drummond, Sommelier, Jamie Kennedy Kitchens)
Others had two short sentences. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, wrote: "Me see world. Me write stories."
However, what attracted me most were the one-liners that brilliantly said it all, headline-style. Battled injustice wherever I saw it. (Michel Ladouceur, Kingston)

So here's mine. Sadly I couldn't just have one BUT had to have two. Enjoy!

Kansas boy becomes man in Korea.

Search for peace, joy and love discontinued.

Share your story. If you dare! :)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Never Quite Enough

For a long time I've been struggling with a faith question and I think I've finally worked it out (for myself). Before in this blog I've wondered whether we are good people who sometimes make bad mistakes or bad people who try to make good choices. This conflict stemmed from a paradox found in the Bible. We were created in God's wonderous image and yet we all are sinners (thanks to Adam and Eve), therefore unworthy of God's love. Yet through the grace of God (due to the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ), we have been adopted into the family of God. In my mind, it came down to two options: Either we were unworthy sinners or God's shining images and worthy.

This dilema was resolved for me when I considered a new idea. What if it's not exclusively one or the other but both? Furthermore, while at the same time admitting I'm a fallible human being, I choose to focus on seeing myself as God sees me? Sort of like those optical illusions that are two pictures at once?

Constantly viewing myself as a sinner has been detrimental in my efforts to be closer to God. Responses like, "Lord, I'm not worthy to receive you but only say the words and I shall be healed," and hearing numerous sermons about the many sins I was guilty of (in either thought or deed) led me to believe I would never be good enough for God. I will fail and fail again. Is it any wonder then why so many gay Christians give up and quit the church or give up and quit life? However if I choose to see myself as the essence of love, joy and peace, I can rise above the self-loathing unworthiness and be able to smile at the world and proclaim "I am a beautiful, marvelous, dare I say, fabulous creation of God."

To you, this discovery many seem pretty obvious, but it took reading a self-help book to get it through my head. I wasn't happy because I didn't believe I was worthy of happiness. I thought happiness took hard work and sacrifice. That, to have a good life, I must fill my life with good things.

Instead, the author stated that anyone and everyone could be happy if they chose happiness. In spite of influencers (positive and negative) all around me, I can choose, each day, to be happy now, in this moment. It's not about "bettering myself" through products, exercise, new clothes, work, affirmations or pleasures. It's about accessing the peace, love and joy that dwell within me to shine through me to rest of the world.

There is a trite saying that applies here: "Let God and Let God." I actually appreciate the simplicity of that imperative statement (Who's a grammar teacher?). The following song has always been a favourite of mine and now I can see how it really applies to my life.

When the weight of all my dreams
Is resting heavy on my head,
And the thoughtful words of health and hope
Have all been nicely said.
But I'm still hurting,
Wondering if Ill ever be
The one I think I am.
I think I am.
Then you gently re-remind me
That you've made me from the first,
And the more I try to be the best
The more I get the worst.
And I realize the good in me,
Is only there because of who you are.
Who you are...
And all I ever have to be
Is what you've made me.
Any more or less would be a step
Out of your plan.
As you daily recreate me,
Help me always keep in mind
That I only have to do
What I can find.
And all I ever have to be
All I have to be
All I ever have to be
Is what you've made me.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Do You Think I'm Satisfied?

I tried to stay ahead, I tried to stay on top,
I tried to play the part, But somehow I forgot,
Just what I did it for, And why I wanted more,
This type of modern life - Is it for me?
This type of modern life - Is it for free?
Listening to this song during last week's Madonnarama party at fly got me thinking about all the conditions I have put on enjoying happiness now. Judgements like "I'm not good enough." always results in "I should do more", "I must try harder," and "I ought to get everything right."

The book I just finished reading suggested that I make a "musterbation" list. This is a list of all the restrictions on happiness that I have invented for myself. Never one to turn down an opportunity to make a list, I jumped at the chance! I found the product quite enlightening as you will see...

Danifesto's Musterbation List!

To be happy I must move out of my parents' house/to Korea/to Canada.

To be happy I must get a boyfriend/move in/get engaged/get married.

To be happy I must be in a relationship/a better one/a better one/a long-term one/ with someone who isn't a dork/ with someone smarter/cuter/hotter/faithful/funny/a better one....

To be happy I must look amazingly fabulous at all times/especially for this job interview/ date/party

I will be happy when I finish high school/ university/ student teaching.

To be happy I must pay off my student loans/the loan from my parents/my car loan.

To be happy I must get a car/ buy property/ get a house.

To be happy I must be taller/ bigger here/ smaller there/ more hair here/but less hair there/ have six pack abs!

To be happy I must have a job/a better job/ a better paying job / a job I can be out at.

To be happy I must go to church every Sunday/ at a church that's gay friendly/ that isn't too far away/ with good music/ that has services at the time I can get my butt out of bed.

To be happy I must get approval from my parents.

To be happy I must have a cat/ plants/ a child/ children.

To be happy I must have all my worldly belongings under one roof, in one country.

To be happy I must move to a more desirable location/ with TTC access/ in my spending range/ inclusive of all utilities.

To be happy I must be loved/ more/ in the way that I want/ better/ more!

To be happy I must have every episode of Sex in the City/ Six Feet Under/Tales of a City.

To be happy I must be well-read and informed on all subjects/ have read all the good books/ all the books my friends have read/ all the books I should have read.

This list clearly could go on and on. What I've learned from making this list is that after achieving any of these goals, I tend to make new ones, thus delaying my happiness for later. What I'm realizing is that happiness is free, without restrictions or conditions. I really can, if I choose, be happy right now.

How about you? What's on your "musterbation" list?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Shiny Happy People

For a long time, I've thought of happiness much like the song in the title. Not something that serious, intellectual people practiced. Contentment, yes. Even joy. But happiness, no. So shallow and superficial.

Maybe it's all just semantics though. How do I define happiness for me? Do I define myself as a happy person? Or do I choose to define myself by the challenges and struggles I face in life?

In the book I'm reading, the author noticed that his Stress Recovery group always began negatively. Each person took turns reporting the stress they had the past week. Those with the most drama were held in higher esteem as they got more attention and more time to talk. One day he decided to mix things up. He challenged the group to share with each individual in the room, one different thing that gave them happiness in the past week. Immediately people had objections. "That would be about twenty different things!" one woman panicked. However he persisted and people in the group rose to the challenge.

It made a world of difference to the group dynamic. Instead of defining themselves by their stress, members started defining themselves by what gave them joy. Things they were grateful for. What made them happy.

Recognizing an opportunity to make yet another list, I got out a piece of paper while my students were taking their grammar tests Friday. Not sure if I could do twenty, I numbered my paper to ten. Surely I could squeeze out ten. After starting such a daunting task, not only did I get ten but easily got twenty and thensome! I hesitate posting my list because it seems like bragging but why is being happy something to be ashamed of? So here goes:

One caveat: these things did not cause me to be happy. One of the truths I've learned is that nothing can make me happy or unhappy. "Circumstances and situations do colour life, but you have been given the mind to choose what the colour shall be." This is where those "rose-coloured glasses" come in handy, eh?

Without further ado, here's my week!
1) Paid holiday- the first celebration of Ontario's Family Day!
2) Relaxing at a Korean spa (jimjilbang)
3) Enjoyed watching "Rent," "Tales of the City" and "Noah's Arc."
4) Had great avocado and sushi roll at a great new Korean restaurant (Soban) on Yonge/Gloucester.
5) Great workout at the gym Tuesday followed by a tai chi class
6) dinner with coworker and AT Thursday night in Koreatown.
7) Sunny days plural!
8) Found my brother on Facebook!
9) chatted on gmail with my cousin. laughed a lot.
10) coffee Sunday with friend Mark at Java Jive
11) Reading three Sandman novels.
12) Great nap Tuesday after work!
13) my BF taking care of me while I was sick.
14) very affirming student evaluation comments
15) great time with friends at Madonnarama at fly
16) no credit card balance this month for the first time in a long time!
17) (homemade) Christmas card from dear university friend with cute pictures of her kids.
18) A free ticket to "And Furthermore They Bite!" at the Toronto Symphony with my friend and her delightful four-year old.
19) getting salmon bibimap for dinner at home!
20) watching a video clip in church today of my minister receiving the Order of Canada and singing "O Canada!" afterwards. Especially the bit about "glorious and free."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

If You're Happy and You Know It

As if one isn't enough, I've joined yet another book club! This one meets only after church during the Lenten season. I was interested because observing Lent isn't a tradition I grew up with. Plus I'm hoping this will be a way for me to meet people in the the church. My only problem with this book club is ironically the book!

I'm even embarrassed to reveal the title! "Happiness Now!" Exclamation Mark! It just begs to be mocked. As I rule, I generally shy from crossing the fiction/non-fiction divide and I would place "self-help/personal growth" at the very depths of non-fiction. It's sooooo not my thing. It reminds me too much of Charlotte in "Sex in the City" walking down the aisle of a bookstore getting increasingly depressed. Or like Marie in "When Harry Met Sally" when she leans over and murmurs to Sally, "Someone is staring at you in "personal growth."

It's not that I'm against happiness per se. I like to be positive and find contentment in life. I'm just leery of the pursuit of happiness (yes I know it's unAmerican). I'm reminded of my close friend who was always trying to find happiness. In the end he gave up hope and ended his life. He just couldn't find any joy in life.

Also I have to wonder- is it selfish to want to be happy? To want "it all"? Or should I be content and grateful for what I already have? My mother always told me that happiness is a choice and we control our own emotions. (She also told me when I came out that she would rather me be "good than happy"- so does this mean it's sinful/wrong to be happy?) And if happiness is indeed merely a state of mind, something within to be discovered, does this contentment in turn breed complacency?

And is happiness solely an internal thing? When I made a list of situations when I felt happy, I was either with family or friends or I was in service to others. Conversely, situations that cause unhappiness are also external as well. I pose this question: what if one can't find happiness internally, on their own?

I actually don't think there is anything wrong with receiving outside help like counseling or medication. Some people use music or art to get to a happy place. Others use sex, drugs (legal or illegal) to get to a state of happiness. It boggles my mind to think of so many unhappy people in the world searching for external solutions for something so internal.

Which brings me back to the God who isn't outside but is inside of me. Reminding me that I am worthy of loving. Reminding me that I am a beautiful creation, made in His image, not broken or in need of repair. And that's pretty amazing, when you stop to think about it.

So who knows? Maybe happiness can be now! Stay tuned!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yes We Can!

I rarely post video clips on here. However this was one of the more creative ventures I've seen in a long time. It's such a postive message I couldn't help sharing this with you! The US has so much untapped potential. Change is here, if we want it.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I Am God's Special Creation

I love my church. I love love it. Today to proclaim Black History Month, we had an amazing member of our church talk about her life experiences as a young black immigrant woman in Canada. She concluded with a Marianne Williamson quotation that Nelson Mandela used in his 1994 Inaugural Speech. Check it out!

Our Greatest Fear
Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant,gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Isn't that amazing!? Such a refreshing perspective!
For our special music we had this talented performer sing first Somewhere Over the Rainbow and then Gloria Gaynor's "I Am What I Am." It brought the house down. Standing ovation. Tears all around me. It blew everyone away. I'm including it here with the change that he made in the lyrics. It's my hope that these messages will encourage, inspire and challenge you as they have done the same to me!
I am what I am
I am God's own special creation
So come take a look
Give me the hook
Or the ovation
It's my world
That I want to have a little pride
My world
And it's not a place I have to hide in
Life's not worth a damn
Till I can say "I am what I am "
I am what I am
I don't want praise
I don't want pity
I bang my own drum
Some think it's noise
I think it's pretty
And so what if I love each sparkle and each bangle?
Why not see things from a different angle ?
Your life is a sham
Till you can shout out
I am what I am!
And what I am needs no excuses
I deal my own deck
Sometimes the aces, sometimes the deuces
It's one life and there's no return and no deposit
One life so it's time to open up your closet
Life's not worth a damn till you can shout out
I am what I am
I am useful
I am I am
I am true
I am somebody
I am as good as you
Yes I am

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Can There Be Miracles?

Making our bed on a Sunday morning, I was pondering this question while listening to the Mariah Carey song on our CD player. I recalled my Old Testament class professor saying that there were two main periods of miracles: one in the time of Moses and one in the time of Jesus. It made me sad to hear that because it meant that the time of miracles is over.

Obviously because of Christmas and my new nephew's birth, I was marveling how miraculous birth really is. In a way, miracles like birth and new life mean hope for us. Hope that things can be different than they are. A new dawn. A fresh new year in which to live.

Prior to this, I had been feeling in need of spiritual rebirth. I didn't feel like I was growing at all. Remembering a wall-hanging my Great-Aunt had on her wall ("If it feels like God is far away, guess who moved?"), I decided to go to church without my partner. Since he wasn't coming with me, I decided to try the Metropolitan Community Church.

Previously, I had tried to go to an MCC service when I was living in Kansas. I planned it all out and drove half an hour into the city of Wichita. Unfortunately they were on summer hours so when I arrived, the service wasn't being held at all! This time around I was more successful after a very brief streetcar ride down College & Gerrard Streets. I was amazed to find myself in a beautiful old church with a U-shaped wood balcony, filled to capacity.

Many things stand out to me about that first service. One memory is of the special music. This woman sang "Feels Like Home." I had never heard this song before and, put in a religious context, all the efforts to restain my tears since the start of the service, failed me miserably. Especially the final line, "It feels like I'm all the way back where I belong." Torrents of tears.

The second memory was a line from the sermon that Rev. Hawkes gave. He held up the Bible and said something about how many people have been hurt by the words inside this book and have chosen to have nothing to do with it or what it says. He said that this was a tragedy since there were so many good lessons we could get from it. An example he pointed out was the story of Jesus walking on water. To a fundamentalist, this would merely be a story about how Jesus had authority over even Nature. But to Rev. Hawkes, it illustrated how miracles don't happen while you are still in the boat. It's only when you take a risk and step out of your comfort zone, that's when God starts to do amazing things with your life.

That's when I realized (in an admittedly hokey way) that my whole life, up to this point, has been a miracle. My parents tried for five years to conceive me and then, on a single income from a small rural parish, somehow managed to feed and clothe me. Through work and scholarships I graduated from university owing only $5K in student loans (which were forgiven by the government by teaching in a low-income school district). I traveled the world and have many incredible friends. Coming to terms with my sexuality, I had strong family support without which I would have been like many other GBLT people who suffer great emotional trauma. Against the odds, my partner and I were able to immigrate to a country that offers us equal protection under the law.

Reflecting on this journey and facing the year ahead, I'm reminded of a song by the duo "Mary Mary." I just can't give up now. I've come too far from where I started from. Nobody told me the road would be easy and I don't believe He brought me this far to leave me.

Last Sunday I returned to the same church and ended up registering for the membership class. And on this visit, I remembered to pack the travel tissues!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Beautiful Boy

Danifesto has been preoccupied with several things lately and regretfully hasn't been able to blog about them. One of the preoccupations is a new addition to my family! But to tell the story properly, I really should begin back last February. What follows is a chat from a conversation with thatjoliegirl on the 22nd.

me: I was going to tell you that last night I dreamed of a large fish. I somehow had it for a pet.
Jolie: Wow!
me: I put it in this tank. Realized where the lid went it was dirty with scum so I was cleaning/scrubbing it.
Jolie: Wow, cleaning in your dreams. That's something.
me: Then I saw the fish at the bottom. Thought I had killed it but he was avoiding the soap
Jolie: Awesome! I love dreams.
me: So (I know! now I'm dreaming about cleaning. Such is my life)
Jolie: I might have given you the fish dream.
me: I woke up trying to think about how to scoop him out without getting all that soap scum on him.
Jolie: In glass class, I was thinking about making you a glass tile with a fish on it. But then I thought it would be too hard, so I nixed it.
me: AT(my partner) says in Korea when people dream about big animals or fruit this means someone is going to have a baby. oh wow. that's interesting about the jewelry.
Jolie: REALLY! Not jewelry. Glass tile.
me: So we are pulling for..... (my sister in law) oh my bad.
Jolie: Maybe you dreamt about... (friend in common).
me: I asked about that. It's supposed to be someone in your family.
Jolie: Oh. So I think I found a new boyfriend for you. He's on American Idol.
me: for example, his father knew about AT's nephew before his sister knew because of a fish dream. oh really? tell me who he is and I'll YouTube him.
Jolie: http://www/ video has been since removed) Wow!
me: doh! I love you. You know this right?
Jolie: Weird about the nephew.
me: you rock so hard! okay watching.

Later from an email written May 8th to thatjoliegirl:
Hey how are you? Didnt hear from you yesterday which was okay because I actually BLOGGED. Yes shocking I know. I have two posted and another one half-done. Yay me! So I think D&M are pregnant. evidence one: He wanted to make sure that I was free Friday so all of us (Mom and Dad are there for mother's day) could discuss "Christmas"-what the heck? I said that and he kind of backed off on it and just said we needed to talk and wanted to make sure I was available. Evidence two: Miranda called me BACK to ask when our wedding date was going to be. Counting nine months from now that would be February. I didn't even know they were trying. Anyway that's all. I could be totally wrong. It was just a feeling I had. I'm just saying now. Perfect morning today! Breakfast and transit and everything!D.

I got the planned call (mentioned above) on May 13th to tell me that indeed, my brother and his wife were expecting a baby. I went back and asked AT if a fish meant a boy or a girl and he said definately a boy. I told this to my brother who scoffed until he called back months later with the ultrasound results; a boy!

Now I've blogged previously about my thoughts on dreams, so I will resist redelving. However, suffice to say, when little Joshua Matthew came into the world in December, it was so magical for me! While holding my nephew during my Kansas Christmas trip, I thought about how exciting it must have been when Jesus was born! Predictions and prophecies abounding there! At any rate, welcome to the world Joshua! You are so loved!