Saturday, June 30, 2007

What's Your Blog Rated?

Here is an interesting thing to do for your blog to find out what it is rated. Some blogs are crass and others are inspiring- go here to put in your blog and find out what is should be rated (as determined by some preset conditions). Mine is rated PG-13 but that's only because my Mom reads the thing. You may remember what it used to be like with I first started it. :)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Guess the Context

I am thinking up some interesting and fun things to put on this blog on Fridays. It seems so many bloggers have fun things they put up on their sites to include Friday Picture of the Day, A View from Your Window, and Weekly Updates of unique news stories.

While I haven't decided what I am doing to do, here is one idea I am thinking about. I'd share some funny newstory and you, dear reader, get to guess the context and the story. Let me give you an example:

When Romney's eldest son, Tagg, and his four brothers complained about the brown runoff down the back windshield, their father quietly pulled the car over, borrowed a gas station hose and sprayed down both the dog and the kennel before returning to the road.

Go here to get the context.

A History of the Food Stamp Program

I invited you to take a few minutes to learn about our nation's food stamp program. Understanding the poor and the plight of those who almost have enough. This video is a proud moment in American history where our nation's leaders saw a need and addressed it through compassion rather than through the politics of exclusion and nationalistic pride.

To me, this was and continues to be one of our country's shining moments with the creation of this social program.

A special thanks to Aaron Krager over at Faithfully Liberal for this post.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Something to Lighten Your Day

One of my favorite feel good movies is Billy Elliot, the true story of a kid from a coal mining town, who takes up ballet dancing and is later accepted into the Royal Ballet School in London. If you haven't seen it, let me encourage you to go and rent it today.

Here is a scene from the movie.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My 1996

In 1996, I moved to New York City after being released from active duty serving in the Bosnian Conflict. I had been stationed at San Vito Air Station, Italy, a small reactivated radar station serving special forces troops of NATO who were sent both to Bosnia to help with relief efforts as well as help forcibly negotiate certain troubles in Europe. After my tour had ended and after my own negotiation for a seminary in New York, I moved there 'bright-eyed and bushy-tailed'.

I moved to NYC, the most magical place on earth, or so it seemed to me (and still does). What I didn't personally know about NYC was that it was in the throes of pain and death as countless men were dying of AIDS in what some survivors have called a holocaust of gruesome death and decay. While I know a few survivors (I may actually know more than just a few), there really is no way that I can fully appreciate the horror that they experienced in their 1996. In some way, I guess it is like racism- while I can sympathize with African Americans and other people of color, unless I am a person of color, I can never fully internalize and know what they experience--no matter how hard I try.

When it comes to living with AIDS, the horror they feel and experience is beyong my ability to comprehend-- they deal with the shame, the immeasurable fear, and the medical drugs that wreck their bodies. And this is only those who have the HIV virus after 1996. What horror was it like for those before then when having HIV meant certain death, a kind of death that eats you up from the inside out? Andrew Sullivan wrote an article called 1996 in which he believes that date should have its own armistice day in which the HIV cocktails were developed and saved a people (my own people, mind you) from death and destruction. Sure, having HIV today is no picnic but with the advent of the coctails, AIDS went from being a plague to a disease, and Sullivan believes that is cause to celebrate. Sullivan, as you might imagine, has his critics. There are those who contend that we shouldn't celebrate anything and they have a point. AIDS isn't over and in some places, even in developed nations, it is on the rise again. But Sullivan articulates a respite that we can't and shouldn't ignore. You can also read a brief post about Sullivan's article by going here.

Of course, he means only those who live in developed nations. In nations that cannot afford the cocktail regime, they continue to live the plague pre-1996. Everything that happened in the USA before 1996 is what people in Africa and China are experiencing every day. In these places they still use AZT (chemotherapy in a pill that destroys all the infected cells, not just the bad ones).

Let me invite you to read Sullivan's article and feel the horror, if one can actually feel something like that in a written word. Perhaps it'll give us a glimpse into the minds of survirors as well as get a taste for their disdain for the 'powers that be' whether those powers are in the White House or in the local congregation or Temple.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Synod Gathering 2007

This year was the first time that I have ever attended the bi-annual meeting of my denomination. Called Synod, it meets in various cities across America. This year it met in Hartford, CT for an entire week (and actually it is still going on now). Most folks who aren't delegates go Friday through Sunday, whereas delegates stay from Thursday until the following Tuesday.

At this gathering, I was fortunate to hear Bill Moyers give the opening address as 13,000+ attendees met in Hartford's Civic Center. It was the largest such gathering of Synod, probably because it was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the denomination, it met on the east coast where the majority of UCC churches are, and perhaps because Barack Obama, a UCCer himself was to speak (and did).

I loved Bill Moyers speech about faith and values and the need to not let others define who we are. I also enjoyed his wit and intellectualism. I also got to hear Walter Brueggemann the following day as he spoke about our history and the struggle within the denomination between the liberals and conservsatives (yes, the UCC has its own conservatives). Brueggemann sought to bring balance to both sides of the issue by encouraging a more open dialog. Being a retired professor of Old Testament and the writer of perhaps the most widely used OT history book in seminaries, his wisdom and patience was evident to those of us who are perhaps a bit nervous and definitely not patient.

I heard Barack Obama speak and enjoyed his testimony and declaration of faith. Having met Jesus through the UCC's Trinity Church in Chicago, his speech drew much applause as well as an edification of our collective faith. I was (and remain) a bit skeptical to have a Presidential candidate candidating at a denominational gathering; but most folks present felt his speech was worthwhile given the current President's use of his faith in office. Obama presented an alternative interpretation to Jesus' Good News. He also critiqued some evangelical zeal that puts a questionable emphasis on how some political folks interpret what they think Jesus felt was important.

You can go here to read his speech.

You can go here to watch Obama's campaigning speech as well as Moyer's speech.

Personally I would rather have heard from more speakers of faith rather than a candidating presidential nominee; not because I don't like him (because I do like Obama, even if he's a little unpolished). A gathering of faithful men and women should encourage deep commitment in one's faith journey and not be a part of someone else's White House bid. I say this even though I find Obama's faith (or at least the one he presents to us, with politicians, one never knows if they really believe what they say, right?). Interestingly Jeremiah Wright, the pastor at Trinity UCC, introduced Obama via a taped introduction. Surely that adds to Obama's support, but I am still uncertain if giving him a political platform at our bi-annual meeting was appropriate.

What I very much enjoyed about my first Synod experience was all the friends I ran into and the new ones that I made. Practically every UCC minister I knew was there. I met former seminary classmates there. And, I ran into many folks from my previous pastorate including the new pastor (who is also a friend of mine).

Oh, and one more thing I enjoyed was the 14,000 dozen cookies that were baked and given out at the gathering. Yes, you read that right: 14,000 dozen cookies. Is that incredible or what?! And they were available all throughout the event, passed around during the events and speeches. I hope they will always do that. To help illustrate how much I love cookies, in the foyer of my living room I have a sign that reads, "Life's Short, Eat Cookies."

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Last Friday I became the proud new owner (or, as a church member says, "A proud new father just in time for Father's Day,") of a 3 1/2 year old golden retriever/cocker spaniel mix dog named Maggie.

It has taken her some time to get used to her new environment and it's taken me sometime getting used to getting up at 6:00am to walk her (I don't have a fence in my backyard). Walking her 3-4 times a day was at first annoying and is now rather pleasant. And picking up the poo in those small doggie bags isn't as gross as I thought it would be.

She has a good temperament, is friendly to everyone, and is good company. The only downside is her barking. I am going to read up on the dog whisperer to see how I can put a stop to that. Do any of you have any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Love Story

I have no idea where this story originated but it is an interesting read.


A long time ago, before the world was created and humans set foot on it for the first time, virtues and vices wandered bored, not knowing what to do.

One day, they were all gathered and bored more than ever when Ingenious had an idea: Why don't we play hide and seek? And all of them liked the idea, and immediately the mad Madness shouted: I want to count, I want to count and since no one else was crazy to seek for Madness, Madness leaned on a tree and started to count, 1, 2, 3. And as Madness counted, the vices and virtues went hiding.

Tenderness hung on the horn of the moon; Treason in a pile of garbage; Fondness cur led up between the clouds; Lie said he would hide under a stone but he lied and hid at the bottom of the lake; Passion went to the center of the earth; Avarice entered a sack that he ended up breaking....

And Madness continued to count, 79,80, 81,82. All the vices and virtues were already hidden by then, except for Love, whom as undecided as he is, did not know where to hide. And this should not surprise us because we all know how difficult it is to hide Love.

And Madness was already at 95, 96, 97 and just at the moment when she arrived at hundred, Love jumped into a rosebush and there he hid out. And Madness shouted "I'm coming! I'm coming!" and as she turned, the first one she saw was Laziness, thrown to her feet because he didn't have any energy to hide.

Then she saw Tenderness in the horn of the Moon, and Lie at the bottom of the lake, and Passion in the center of the earth... Discovering them one by one, finding all of them but one. Madness was getting desperate, unable to find the last missing one, until Envy, envious for having been discovered, whispered to Madness: "You are lacking Love, and he is hiding in the rosebush."

And Madness took a wooden pitchfork, and stabbed at the rosebush, and stabbed and stabbed, till a heartbreaking shout made her stop. And, after the shout, Love came out covering his face with his hands, and from between his fingers run two threads of blood, out of his eyes.

Madness anxious to find Love had took out Love's eyes with the pitchfork. What have I done?, what have I done? - she shouted. I have left you blind! How can I repair it? And Love answered, you can't restore my eyes. But if you want to do something for me, you could be my guide.

From that day on, Love is blind and is always accompanied by Madness.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

One Heck of a Truism

The New York Times published some graduation speech excerpts over the weekend. A hat tip to Daily Kos for posting it. Here is my favorite:

"You’ve been told during your high school years and your college years that you are now about to enter the real world, and you’ve been wondering what it’s like. Let me tell you that the real world is not college. The real world is not high school. The real world, it turns out, is much more like junior high. You are going to encounter, for the rest of your life, the same petty jealousies, the same irrational juvenile behavior, the same uncertainty that you encountered during your adolescent years. That is your burden. We all share it with you. We wish you well."

---Tom Brokaw at Skidmore College

Scathing Response

Wayne Besen, the director of Truth Wins Out, an organization that challenges ex-gay propoganda, writes a scathing response to Jerusalem's new law banning any assembly that offends religious sensibilities or may be deemed a threat to public order. Specifically, Jerusalem is two votes from passing their new law to ban Gay Pride in Jerusalem. (The vote for the bill is not expected to be taken until after this year's Jerusalem Gay Pride.) Besen contends that Israel's political system, which is very much like our own, where the right to protest and hold public assemblies challenging anything from politics to religion, that Israel's agreement to such a law could have a dramatic backlash with unintended consequences.

In the same way, it is like our own assemblies where we gather to protest one thing or another. Can you imagine a political system that banned a protest that would be deemed offensive to someone? With the wrong people in power, anarchy would thrive. And the prisons would be filled with political 'Nelson Mandella-like dissidents'. Or, as a wisened Oklahoma grandparent might say, "They're cutting off their nose despite their face."

Besen goes even further in his lamblast by suggesting an even greater threat:

If the ultra-Orthodox think for one second that American and European Jews have any intention of supporting the Jewish version of Iran, they’ve got another thing coming. It is inexcusable that people, who have felt the sting of persecution, now mimic the tyrants who drove them to the shelter of Israel.

Go here to read his entire article.

A Great Sermon

The new pastor at Broadway United Church of Christ, the Rev. James Campbell, preached one fine sermon last week. You can read it by going here. It's a .PDF file.

The sermon is about trusting your gut and he interpreted Jesus' story about raising the young man into a touching account of both Jesus trusting his gut when confronted with the sadness and situation of the widow who lost both her husband and young son.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

So True

Two Amazing Videos

Let's say that your day is going okay, not spectacular, just okay. Or, let's assume that your day is really crappy and your attitude is annoying your patmates. Well then, do I have the cure for you! Check out these two videos over at Towleroad's blog. The first one is a Billy Elliot-style success story and the second is an opera singer who doesn't know he can sing and works in a car parts store. The videos are from Britian's Got Talent, a television show that highlights various people's talents (and not just for their singing).

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Gay Bomb?

Just imagine. You're in a war, surrounded by the enemy and all hope seems lost. Being the platoon leader, your men turn to you for strength, courage, and resolve. With the enemy surrounding you and you know they don't take any prisoners, you know it's the end. You call your men over and tell them how proud of them you are. You tell them that they have sacrificed their lives for their country and our country was built on the blood of such youn......

"Kaaaa-BOOM!!!" the sound rips apart the air and suddenly everything turns pink.

"That's strange," you say to yourself. 'Is that the Village People's Macho Macho Man playing in the background?'"

And suddenly the enemy drops their rifles and they start kissing each other. On the mouth. While taking off their uniforms because they must.

You think to yourself in stunned amazement, "What in the hell just happened?!"

"Oh, we're saved! That must be the new gay bomb," says the young and eternally cute young soldier who plucks his eyebrows every morning and the scary thing is that you have noticed and thinks it makes him look better.

Okay, so what am I talking about? The Pentegon has confirmed that in 1994 it was considering making a bomb, that when detonated would cause the enemy to turn gay and have uncontrollable gay sex with each other leaving them unable to fight. Instead, they'd be singing showtunes, dancing with their shirts off, and have humping each other all the time.

You think I am kidding? Go here and be amazed.

Unfortunately what the military didn't understand is that it already has gay men and women serving in its service and they don't all have sex all the time and behave like eternal club kids. They actually perform and sustain the services like they've always done with professionalism, integrity, and hard work.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Falwell Replacement Already?!

The Rev. Jerry Falwell probably isn't even cold yet and there has arisen a new proponent of the 'God is removing God's protective curtain over America because of them homosexuals.' And to be quite honest, I am rather stunned by who it is: The Rev. Dr. John MacArthur.

John MacArthur is a prolific writer, pastor, and college and seminary president, who one would think is beyond such tribal interpretations of an angry God looking to smite the disobedient. And yet, here he is. I found a sermon post about his sermon in which James Dobson (Focus on the Family) gives support to MacArthur's belief that "he wouldn't be surprised" that a major city would be destroyed. And who does he blame? He blames them lesbians.

Here is the post:

On the June 4 edition of his Focus on the Family radio show, Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson broadcast a sermon by John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, titled "A Nation Abandoned by God." In the sermon, MacArthur said America had forsaken God and engendered the "wrath of abandonment" as a result. MacArthur declared: "You know a society has been abandoned by God when it celebrates lesbian sex." MacArthur further argued that as a result of America's abandonment, the destruction of a major U.S. city "could happen" and that "God would be just in any calamity he brought upon us."

DOBSON: Some of our listeners are not going to agree with what he [MacArthur] has to say, but it's going to make you think, and it's also going to be somewhat disturbing. And I happen to agree with what John MacArthur was saying on this day, and I want to thank him and his team and Woodman Valley Chapel for allowing us to share this message. It needs to be heard, especially at this time in our nation.

Go here to read the post. Go here to read the post source and listen to Dobson.

When Yesterday was Young

I just read a post concerning that 'Man of the bush,' no not George, this is a completely different kind of bush. I am referring to George Michael. (Ba-dum dum dum!)

Okay, so George was quoted as explaining why the media is 'out to get him'. It isn't because of his drug use, falling asleep as the wheel while intoxicated, or even his extracurricular activities in said foliage. No, it's because all men are jealous of him because he gets to shirk parental responsibilities.

Here is his story:

He said, "I think at the end of it all I represent something profoundly different for society.

"I have grown up surrounded by people who think that sex, drugs and rock n' roll is compatible with a working life while being married with children. During the 1980s, my generation and the one after me, found that was impossible.

"Me, I don't want any children, I don't want responsibility. I am gay, I smoke weed and I do exactly what I want in my life because of my talent. I represent an ideal which others have had to let go and they blame me for that. Especially men."

You can read the original post here.

Actually, I am amazed at how he went from Number 1 hottie, to well.. ahem.. looking older than his 43 years of life. Sure, he's had one incredibly ride, but daaaaaaaaang, he sure looks a lot older for the wear, right?

Honestly, I think he's an amazing talent. He always has been one. When he gets his life in order (and surely he will), he'll have one heck of a story to tell. He might not ever look as young or sexy as he was, but his music will always be.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Laserjet Printer for $20?!

I recognize that most often, when a deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is. But help me out here, is this correct? In order to get it as this price, you'll need to do three things: 1) follow the link below, 2) put the printer in your online shopping cart, and 3) print out a separate rebate form (you'll see it when you click on the link at the top of the screen that gives you the directions. The latter is a mail-in rebate, which is usually like waiting 3 months for your rebate. Still.. a final price of $20 is tough to beat, right?

Go here to begin your link clicking experience.

Shameful Fundraising Tactics

Jim Wallis confronts Focus on the Family's claim that gay folks are responsible for the breakdown of the American family. Speaking directly to them, they concede and admit gay folks have nothing to do with it. In doing so, they show that their fundraising tactics are built on fear-mongering and lies.

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for this post.

"I had this conversation with Focus on the Family, and I said I agree with you that family breakdown is a huge crisis, a serious crisis. And I don't think the Left talks about that enough. My neighborhood is eighty percent single parent families. You can't overcome poverty with that, with eighty percent single parent families. But how do we reweave the bonds of marriage, family, extended family, and community, to put our arms around the kids? And it's not just in poor neighborhoods. Kids are falling through the cracks of fractured family in all classes and neighborhoods.

So I said to them, I want to rebuild family life and relationships, but explain to me how gay and lesbian people are the ones responsible for all that? which is what their fund-raising strategy suggests. And after about an hour and a half they conceded the point.

They said, Okay Jim, we concede that family breakdown is caused much more by heterosexual dysfunction than by homosexuals. But then they said, We can't vouch for our fundraising department, which says a lot, I think" - Jim Wallis,

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bullied 15 Year Old Boy Commits Suicide

Bullying really does have ramifications for kids who cannot or do not know how to handle it. Regardless of our sexual orientations, bullying instills a level of fear in a person that can distort their reality. Unfortunately the kid in this story was also drunk, his distorted reality manifested itself in his horrible resolution to end the bullying. Here is the story:

A boy of 15 lay down in front of a train to commit suicide after being teased at school about his sexuality, an inquest was told yesterday.

Moments before he died, Jonathan Reynolds sent harrowing text messages to his family telling that them they were not to blame for what was about to happen. A passer-by saw him holding the mobile as he lay down on the tracks in front of a train travelling at 85mph (136km/h) through Pencoed railway station near Bridgend, South Wales.

In his last text message sent to his father, Mark, and his 14-year-old sister, Samantha, the teenager wrote: “Tell everyone that this is for anybody who eva said anything bad about me, see I do have feelings too. Blame the people who were horrible and injust 2 me. This is because of them, I am human just like them.

“I hope they rot in hell 4 what they made me do. They know who they are.”

He added: “None of you blame urself mum, dad, Sam and the rest of my family. This is not because of you.”

A postmortem examination showed that Jonathan, who achieved a grade A in his GCSE Welsh oral exam on the day he died, had a blood-alcohol level three and a half times the legal limit for driving.

The inquest jury sitting at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates’ Court was told that Jonathan, a pupil at Bryntirion Comprehensive School, had argued on the phone with two friends, Saphra Hayes and Nicola Kennett, on the evening he died.

Both girls told police that they ended their conversations with Jonathan on good terms. His mother, Caroline, told the inquest that she believed that the arguments had been a “catalyst” for his actions. She said: “He was, to all intents and purposes, in for the night, and then following a few angry phone calls he changed his mind and went out.”

South Wales Police investigated Jonathan’s death because of the nature of his final text message, but Detective Inspector Russell Warwick said: “There were no issues that constituted criminality.”

Although Jonathan had not complained of being bullied at school, Detective Chief Inspector Sandra England, of the British Transport Police, said that weeks earlier he had confided to a friend that he was gay.

The friend, Aimee Murray, told Ms England that Jonathan had been teased about his sexuality by a number of boys at school. She also said that he had been using concealer on his face because of acne.

Thomas Coleman, from Pencoed, was walking his two dogs with his wife near the railway station at 8.25pm when he saw Jonathan on the line.

Mr Coleman said: “He had a mobile in his hand. I called out and said, ‘Get off the track’. He looked at me and just put his head back down and I saw him walking across the track. I was walking across the bridge and he was walking across the track and he seemed to lie down and the train came.”

William Roberts, the driver of the train from Cardiff to Carmarthen, saw Jonathan jump down from the station platform on to the track. There was no possibility of avoiding him as the train’s stopping distance at 85mph was nearly three quarters of a mile. Mr Roberts said: “I started to blow the horn. He was walking across the line right across the track and just lay down on the line.”

Dr Alan Rees, a pathologist, concluded that Jonathan died of multiple injuries. The jury returned an open verdict.

Towelroad quotes this story from the Times UK.

It sure is easy to love this guy

CHICAGO , IL-- U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today released the following statement to commemorate Pride Month.

"Pride Month is a reminder that while we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do."

"Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."

"It's time to turn the page on the bitterness and bigotry that fill so much of today's LGBT rights debate. The rights of all Americans should be protected -- whether it's at work or anyplace else. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" needs to be repealed because patriotism and a sense of duty should be the key tests for military service, not sexual orientation. Civil unions should give gay couples full rights. And those who commit hate crimes should be punished no matter whether those crimes are committed on account of race, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation."

"This Pride Month, let's make our founding promise of equality a reality for every American."

Friday, June 01, 2007

Striking Difference, Eh?

When it comes to our expressions of love, it is difficult to imagine a more striking contrast.

Would this Scare the bejezus out of you?