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My Brush with Fame & Scandal

I call this blog a Gay Spirit Diary. My goal is to integrate sex, love and faith in God, ideally through Christian same-sex marriage. I’m (slowly) writing a book about it, and here I explore some ideas — which is all a bit of buildup to telling you about my chat this afternoon with a famous Gay porn star of the ’80s and ’90s, Jim Bentley.

If sex, love and faith can be integrated, Bentley is as good a place to start as any. I have no idea of his religion; he may not have any. But he’s a nice guy, intelligent and cute. He’s retired from the biz now after a prolific 20-year career, living in the 805 and at last report raising figs. How biblical.

Any number of Christian commentators (heterosexuals all) will tell you that pornography is the root of all evil, and sometimes they’re right; sometimes it’s exploitive, maybe most of the time. But I lived through the AIDS crisis, baby, and porn kept a lot of Gay men alive. So it can’t be all bad. Self-love is always better than promiscuous, destructive sex.

If Jesus were around now and living in Southern California, no doubt he’d have a few porn stars as buddies; he always went where the need was greatest and the people were most real.

Jim Bentley, whose real name is James Bending II, is not someone I ever fantasized about. Yet he impressed me the first time I saw him; he’s smart. He gives off a good vibe. He’s someone you’d want to know outside the studio or the dirty bookstore. He’s sexually uninhibited, and that’s sometimes a sign of an integrated personality. He had wonderful grandparents who raised him, and somehow that shows onscreen.

We talked on the phone today because he’s written a book, which got a very favorable review in the Bay Area Reporter, a San Francisco Gay newspaper. I wanted to order the book, because I want to know more about that personality I’ve seen on video; what makes him a whole human being, when most porn stars are as deep as a sheet of paper?

I suspect he’s that outstanding, although you never know what you’re going to get in any porn clip. Usually it’s the product of a director who has no idea what he’s doing; thus we expect very little of the actors, much less that they actually show some pride in themselves.

Jim Bentley always brought class to his shoots. That’s why I learned his name.

Fact is, “cute” is a dime a dozen in pornland, and so are big dicks; they’re commodities, like soybeans or sorghum. But here was this boy who consistently stood out; he likes sex but there’s more to him, and you can see that onscreen.

He has a website, which is here. To buy the book you call his number, and he answers. He immediately put me at ease. He told me what to do to obtain the book, which is available by PayPal. If you don’t do PayPal (and I don’t), just write him an e-mail. He signs all his books.

I like that, and as an author I do the same thing. Every paying customer deserves a personal thanks.

The odd thing is that I’ve never particularly responded to his body. Never fantasized, “Gee, I want to boink Jim Bentley.” No doubt it would be fun, but I’ve always been more interested in the rest of the story; his background, his history, how he lives now in his young middle age.

His natural hair color is brown, but the day he went blond, he became a star. He’s the ideal smooth boy, with a slim athletic build. I guess he has a big dick, too, but I never really paid that much attention. What I noticed was how much he loves sex, and how open he was with his personality.

You don’t see that in porn; what you see is the closed personality, the fake, the whore who does whatever the director says so he gets paid and rehired, no matter how stupid the director.

Jim Bentley was different; a clip I saw today showed him in a tuxedo, slapping ass with a hunky brunet (J.T. Sloan). Bentley was “elegant,” the director said; in porn terms what does that mean?

More than a tuxedo, I’d say. It meant he was fully there, in the moment, having sex — which is what my fictional characters Jamie and Kent, who love each other, aspire to.

I’ve always been more interested in Bentley the man than Bentley the porn star. Personality outweighs dick size, buds, it’s the biggest turnon of all.

Here’s what I think about Gay marriage and morality. I have to take a breath here before I push on, so that God will guide my fingers and my thoughts.

We have, in the Song of Songs, wonderful imagery of marriage as a glorious gift of God.

O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the covert of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.

Song of Solomon 2:14

There is nothing wrong with appreciating Jim Bentley’s face — or any of the rest of him.

The big challenge is really simple, whether it is possible that two men or two women who love each other have a moral equivalence with a woman and man who love each other. Is it love that prevails, or heterosexuality?

God is love, after all, so what are we to make of Jim Bentley and his lover?

Well, you can figure out what I think; love prevails over heterosexuality, not in my terms but God’s. This is my belief.

Of course I could be wrong, but God is love, and Jamie falls for Kent, it can’t be helped. He falls head over heels for Kent.

Ought they not to be married?

My point about Jim Bentley is this, he’s someone you could fall in love with, and take home to mother, and stand up in church with, and care for as much 40 years from now as you do today.

That is the value of his open and loving personality.

His book, I’m sure, is full of sexual exploits and nude photos, but what I really want to see is the rest of him, the brain, the heart and soul. I want to know the boy who became a proud man.

I want to know how he did it, and how to replicate that for the rest of Gay men who are living unfulfilled lives.

I think we do pretty well as a people, oppressed and murdered in half the world; but spiritually, we’re still pretty hard up.

We need to know that God loves our love — even if that’s Jim Bentley, a foggy picture on a computer screen. God loves love.

I hope to get Mr. Bending’s book, to find out what makes him tick, and to show something of how a Gay boy who grew up in Fresno, the product of a broken home, still managed to come out unscathed after stardom.

Sex, love and God are all of one piece; that’s the Song of Songs, the Song of Joshua and the Song of Bentley.++

Uganda: Citizens Required to Inform on Gay Neighbors

Gay Uganda

What Gay Uganda looks like, when he's being himself.

A bill introduced last month in the Ugandan parliament would require citizens to turn in the names of suspected LGBT people so the government can put them to death. I kid you not.

Having Gay sex in Uganda is already a capital crime. I kid you not—the death penalty.

Ugandan LGBT activists have asked supporters in the international community to protest at Ugandan diplomatic missions around the world a week from today, Nov. 9.

I’ve been contacted about this by an activist-friend in Chicago. There are no definite plans at this time, nor any word on actions at the Ugandan embassy in Washington.

I have suggested to my friend the response I consider most appropriate. It’s in the pulled quote below.

Meanwhile I’m watching in amazed disbelief the reaction of The Episcopal Church to this news. They want Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to ride to the rescue of Ugandan Gay people.

Not a snowball’s chance in hell—no one would believe Rowan if he tried—but he’s not going to try.

Yet here are Episcopalians thinking he’s s’posedta Do Something.

How foolish can you get? How naive?

Uganda is one of the most Christian countries on earth (officially anyway). Some 40% of Ugandans are Catholic, 35% Anglican, 5% Muslim, and most of the rest follow native religions.

Considering that the pope is the world’s leading Gay-basher, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine has bankrolled that state’s referendum tomorrow for a “people’s veto” of the new Gay marriage law—a diocesan staffer is Yes on 1’s campaign manager, and parishes have actually passed the plate at Mass for donations to save Maine from queers—what do you suppose is the position of Ugandan Catholics on the bill to require every citizen of the country to turn informer?

The Anglicans are with them every step of the way to Stamp Out Homos Once and For All. (That’s where the Archbishop of Canterbury’s supposed to come in, to tell them not to—the same Archbishop who convened a thousand Anglican bishops last year for a theological tea party, except for the Gay bishop of New Hampshire, who wasn’t invited.)

Yet my church, the most progressive of American mainlines, actually thinks that writing e-mails to England is going to save Lesbos and queerboys in Uganda.

The blog Episcopal Café posted an item today about the proposed law, “The challenge Uganda is presenting to the (Anglican) Communion,” which has prompted 10 comments so far, all from opponents of the bill. A few people, some of the church’s better minds, are teeth-gnashing a bit over this extreme example of unchristian Christianity. But their proposed action, e-mails to Lambeth Palace in London, is like asking a slave-trader to weigh his conscience before proceeding. Slave-traders weighed their boats and totted up the profits.

It’s a pathetic display of gutless liberalism. Propose an action, as I did to my friend Brent in Chicago, that would actually get the attention of the Ugandan government, and the Episcopal conversation ceases.

No wonder we’re still apologizing for our complicity in slavery 150 years later. We didn’t lift a finger for the slaves way back when, and we’re not lifting a finger for black-skinned queers today.

Don’t take my word for it; go to the Gay Uganda blog. See for yourself.

Here’s what I wrote on Episcopal Café. It went over like a lead balloon.

Sexual Minorities Uganda, a GLBT activist group, has issued a call for international protests at Ugandan diplomatic missions a week from today, Nov. 9.

In response, some interest is stirring in Chicago, but Uganda doesn’t have a working consulate there. I don’t know if there is action planned in DC.

I think it’s foolish to expect anything out of Rowan. He lost his moral authority years ago. The last thing he’s going to do is to stir the Gay pot.

Ditto with TEC. A hundred bishops went to Lambeth, but the Gay one had cooties. This is a job for the laypeople.

+++

My suggestion: go to Starbucks or Whole Foods and dump Ugandan coffee for the cameras. THAT will get attention in Kampala like nothing else.

(Pay for what you dump, of course.)

Dumping Ugandan coffee would be, well, impolite. Un-Episcopalian. Civilly disobedient perhaps. Attention-getting. A bit gauche, actually. We like the nice people at Starbucks, you see, and Whole Foods too.

But boycott Ugandan coffee and the president will hear about it; that’s why I suggested that method.

Uganda is so poor economically (rich in other ways, and please bear that in mind) that the Kampala government is trying its damnedest to open the country to development, open up to tourism, and recover from Idi Ah-Mean. Uganda wants to sell product—if only so the profits can line the military’s pockets. Threaten their coffee crop and they’ll be on it like flies on poop.

Amidst a massive national paranoia about the dangers of queerdom (which, of course, diverts attention from what’s actually wrong with Uganda), the only way to hit these people is with dollars.

That’s what they expect wicked Americans to do, yet it’s never occured to them we might go after their coffee crop. It’s one of the few ways they make money.

But Episkies think that’s, like, rude or somethin’. Not the Middle Ground we think we’re famous for. (No one else thinks we’re famous for anything.) We must work through channels, you see; so let’s give Rowan what-for, as if he has any influence whatsoever on Uganda, and as if he would exercise it even if he did.

The esteemed Archbishop is under strict orders from the Crown: “Do not allow the Anglican Communion to break up while we are alive.”

I don’t blame the Queen at all for that. But I do blame Rowan. He is the Neville Chamberlain of church politics, an appeaser constantly outflanked by ruthless men.

Never, ever, ever appoint a theologian as Archbishop of Canterbury. Appoint a church politician who’s ready for the slings and arrows; get a professional. Rowan Williams is an amateur, cowardly, intimidated.

My message to Episcopalians: Never put your hopes in this guy, who’s stabbed you in the back repeatedly.

If the dialogue on Episcopal Café is any indication, “the most progressive mainline church” can’t even dump a cup of Ugandan coffee in protest.

What would it cost, two bucks?++

Episcopal Church Announces Special Outreach to Roman Catholics

Welcome

“All of the pageantry—none of the guilt!”
— Robin Williams

Dear Catholic Friends,

You may have heard recently that the Pope has announced a new “ordinariate” that allows Anglicans and Episcopalians to become Catholics while keeping their Prayer Books, hymns and married priests.

(Is there a special office at the Vatican that comes up with words like “ordinariate”? After all this time they still can’t speak English?)

We want you to know that the Episcopal Church has a much easier portal for Catholics to become Episcopalians: it’s called the front door. Just come on in!

The Episcopal Church receives more Catholic converts than it sends to Rome. Why?

• Mass on Sunday, same as always. Free bread and wine!

• We elect our priests and bishops. They serve us, we don’t serve them, except as fellow Christians deserving our love and support.

• The People govern the Church. We don’t do pronouncements from on high.

• Wonderful music—our congregations like to sing!

• No known pedophile problems. No $100 million victim settlements or diocesan bankruptcies.

• We have a culture of openness, not of secrecy. We expect money to be accounted for.

• You don’t check your brain at the door. We don’t tell you how to think or how to vote.

• Confession aims to be transformative, not legalistic.

• We believe God calls men and women equally. Men don’t tell women what to do.

• Plenty of opportunities for mission and service, peace and justice, caring for Creation.

• We don’t preach shame to anyone, including our Gay sons and daughters.

• We’re all about spiritual growth through the sacraments, prayer, meditation and work.

• Jesus was infallible. Mortals are not.

Come join us. Feel good about coming to church again!

For the nearest Episcopal Church by Zip Code, click here.++

ORDINATION_BISHOP_MICHEAL_EUCHARIST

Finding the Right Dog

Luke

(Many updates below; see the comments.)

Here’s a classified ad in a nearby newspaper:

Rat Terrier – 3 yrs. old, female, housebroken. Great dog, but we have a baby. 219-XXX-XXXX

Subclassification: Absolutely Free
First Rundate: 10/08/2009

And here’s an ad on Petfinder:

Luke
Fox Terrier
Young, M
Humane Society of Indianapolis

Hi, my name is Luke and I didn’t have the best start in life, so I’m pretty scared right now. I don’t take very long to warm up, though, and when I do, I’m super sweet. So if you can give me lots of love and help me build my confidence I’ll be your best bud. I’m only about a year old, and my adoption fee is $105. Please visit our friendly adoption counselors to ask about taking me home today.

Luke is up-to-date with routine shots, house trained and spayed/neutered.

Luke is shown in the photo up top. Not the cutest guy I ever saw, but he’ll do.

I wrote earlier about falling in love with a dog while Peter was here visiting in June. We met a friend who has an older fox terrier, and it was love at first sight. I grew up with fox terriers, but I hadn’t seen one in decades; the breed lost all popularity after World War II, but before that it was the quintessential Midwestern farm dog, useful and with a good personality. When my dad went to pick out a dog for us kids, he got what he knew, a fox terrier. We had three or four of them over the years.

Once I became an adult I’ve never had a dog. I was always a renter, and it’s hard to find landlords who accomodate pets. But now I own a house, and I’m home all day, and the old terrier Peter and I met was just a joy — sweet, not yippy or aggressive, just a nice little guy. (Size matters; I don’t want a big dog. I only weigh 125 myself, and I figure a 25-pound dog is my upper limit. I want a dog who fits my size.)

Well, I’ve been on the lookout since that day; I’ve been to do the dog pound in this county and the next one. I even thought about a beagle, but the one I visited was a little too big and way too noisy. As we approached the kennel, the animal control officer said, “He’ll be the first one you hear as we start to go in,” and sure enough he was.

I’ve read the want ads, I’ve gone online. I’ve searched on Petfinder.com a couple dozen times. I’m skeptical of all the “rescue” and “shelter” outfits they list; a lot of them sound like businesses to me, and “don’t call or come here, e-mail us and we’ll send you an application, then if we decide you’re good enough your animal costs 300 bucks.” At my local pound you just show up, pick the dog you like the best and take him home, he’s free. The county wants to get rid of the animals it has custody of, not make adoption difficult. They set up incentives, not barriers.

But there aren’t many fox terriers at the dog pound anymore, so if that’s what I have to have (and it is, although rat terriers look and act much the same and I’d be very happy with one), I probably have to travel. Then the money becomes an issue. Should I drive four hours to look at a dog I may not feel good about, if he’s even still there by the time I arrive?

Finally, one more complication which I didn’t anticipate. Apparently I’m a gender bigot. I want a male dog, not a female. How misogynist, how Gay!

My parents’ litter was three boys, no girls. The terriers my dad got for us were always male, because he didn’t want a female having half a dozen puppies behind the garage. (We had a cat once who delivered behind the hot water heater. Warm and private, I suppose.) A lot fewer people got their pets spayed or neutered back then; Bob Barker hadn’t made it a crusade yet, though he was on TV already when I was a kid.

Once we did end up with a female dog when I was 16 and had just started driving. I took her two towns over to the nearest vet so she could get spayed, and on the way she got sick in the car. Of course I told the doctor all about it, he checked her out, she seemed okay, he took her to the operating room — and came back a half hour later and said she died on the table. He was all apologetic, but you can’t bring them back once they’re gone, and just like that, no more dog.

You can see where all this is leading; a conditioned preference for calling, “Here boy!” and not girl.

I feel a little guilty about it, but then again it’s my house and my dog. Of the two ads above, I’d rather drive 100 miles to Indianapolis and pay 100 bucks to the humane society than call someone in my own area code who’s giving away a girl for free. I’m Gay, I don’t know nothin’ about no grrlz.

As long as I’m coming clean, I had one more bad experience as a kid: being around an unspayed female in heat. Goodness, what a sound, half-moan, half-yowl, being in the same house with her for five minutes made me want to get the hell out. “She’ll get over it in a month or so,” the human told me. Jeez, a whole friggin’ month of that? I’d rather have a male humping my leg than listen to a month of misery.

So even if I’m All Wrong, my Petfinder search term now specifies male. I guess I’m getting old and set in my ways. I know lots of pet owners, including Gay guys, who love their female dogs, find them less trouble and all that; I don’t care. The important thing is taking in an animal that needs a home. I’m not taking in a St. Bernard or German Shepherd or pit bull, or anything else that can knock me over. And I’m not taking in no grrlz.

Although isn’t Lucy, the rat terrier below, just the cutest thing you ever saw?++

Dog.LucyRatTerrier.MichaelGeary.494

Hey Kids, Let’s Bring Down Civilization!

FondlyDoWeHope.FerventlyDoWePray.RussellJenkins.RaviniaFest.9.17

The most bizarre accusation hurled at the Gay and Lesbian rights movement is that if we succeed, we will destroy society.

Well gee, sounds kinda serious. Destroying society? Gay people have the power to do all that?

Uh, no. But the bigots do aim to scare you to death, so out with the big guns. Sodom and Gomorrah! God Himself (oh really?) destroyed them for their sins!

That weird little Old Testament story, reprinted in the Koran, purports to explain why of all human sins, homosexuality is the worst of the worst. The whole city was set on fire!

Oh really? What kind of a God would do that?

And is that God anything like our God, the suffering servant?

The people who want to destroy the Episcopal Church are trying their best to stage a big, loud argument over the nature of God. Many are passionate followers of the Calvinist heresy, while others are devotees of the Romanist heresy—you know, “I’m infallible.”

What a freaking joke, like the pope’s shit don’t stink.

Somehow heteros have convinced themselves (some of them, not all), that civilization itself depends on Straight people; “If we let Gay people get as nasty as we are, the human race will disappear!”

Fat chance, buster. The one and only commandment of God human beings have ever obeyed is “be fruitful and multiply.”

God didn’t have to command it, they do it anyway.

In 40 years we will add 2,000,000,000 human beings, all of them wanting cars and A/C and the internet; a new China, a new India in 40 years.

Global warming? God did not command that we destroy the planet to “subdue it.” It’s about to subdue us.

The heterosexual supremacists and home-schooling insurance agents are funded by rich old white guys like Howard Ahmanson, Jr., a “reconstructionist” who wants the United States government to be remade according to the Rushdoony model of neo-fascism so that Gay people are stoned to death, capitalism becomes the state religion and those with capital win, while those without don’t.

Episcopalians don’t know what hit them.

They wonder, Why did our church become such a target? They rightly claim, “We’re insignificant!” And yet we’re not.

We’re the church of George Washington and half the presidents; the most prestigious church historically, though not any more.

We’re also inextricably linked to the Church and Queen of England, and if they can bring down that broad, they can bring down anyone.

It’s sad really that Episcopalians remain so fully in denial that they can’t see what’s happening to their Church. A few do, but most don’t; they think it’s some kind of fight over Gay rights or somethin’.

LGBT folks are just the scapegoats, the red meat for the ravenous. The motivation for the base. Gay people will destroy civilization!

Meanwhile Bill T. Jones is readying a new dance for the Ravinia Festival, commemorating the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln.

Mr. Jones never takes commissions, but this one he accepted; as an African-American he grew up feeling that Mr. Lincoln was the one Caucasian he was allowed to love. So he’s put together a dance which will premiere Sept. 17 at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago.

Bill T. Jones is openly Gay. With his late partner Arnie Zane, he established a dance company that’s often regarded as one of the most innovative among current choreographers.

(“Well of course, ballet! Everyone knows they’re queer!”)

It’s modern dance actually, but okay, you made your point. Some professional dancers are Gay.

Does dance build up civilization or destroy it?

One would think that a Gay choreographer would ipso facto destroy civilization; but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Choreography expands the repertoire of bodies in motion; that is, dancers, who are traditionally held in high esteem by every ethnic group and Indian tribe there ever was.

And Mr. Jones’ subject? A. Lincoln, a civilization-destroyer if ever there was one.

Somehow all these accusations don’t connect up.

So it just might be the case that the Big Charge (“civilization destroyers!”) is a Big Lie.

I don’t believe God ever destroyed a single city.

I do think God seeks to redeem them all—and they all need redemption.

Is God a destroyer or a redeemer? That’s a question the Episcopal Church has faced and answered.

Mr. Ahmanson does not like the reply—but it is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven.

Sorry, Howard.

Either you sell everything you have and give it to the poor, or you ain’t in.

Sorry, Howard. We didn’t make the rules here, but we’ve all got to abide by them. I’ve got a needle if you care to try.

Here’s the current state of the Episcopal Church. A bunch of rich bigots have decided to take it down, principally because it no longer supports unfettered capitalism and greed. It calls greed one of the seven deadly sins, and that pisses them off.

They have located any number of bishops, priests and pseudo-theologians who agree that God’s the kind of guy who destroys whole cities because of homosexuality.

(Many of us believe that God’s not a guy at all. A Father, yes, but not a guy, much less one who blows up cities that piss him off.)

These bishops, priests and pseudo-theologians—all anxious to become bishops and archbishops and VIPs, so they multiply like rabbits—have learned that the one thing that riles up the base more than anything else is the idea of Gay equality. So they flog it like nothing else—like Muslims in Sudan, if a woman wears pants.

(I am very grateful for moderate and liberal Muslims who note that the Prophet never said a single dang word about women in pants.)

Meanwhile the Reconstructionist bishops, priests and pseudo-theologians have created more acronymic organizations (AAC, ACA, ACNA, CANA, AMiA, the list is endless) to try to pull together something that works to convince the Anglican non-pope, who is scared to death of presiding over the breakup of the Anglican Communion, that they have actual command over the bigot convention.

This is hard work, because some of them ordain women and others don’t, and some think God dictated the King James Bible and the 1928 (or 1662) Book of Common Prayer, and others don’t; and it’s all one great big mess.

Meanwhile, they constantly tell each other the Episcopal Church is dying, when in fact it’s doing better than ever, now that they’re out of it.

I don’t know that Bill T. Jones is an Episcopalian, but he’s creating, not destroying. Duh?

Gay and Lesbian marriage doesn’t change any other marriage in Iowa, Spain, New Hampshire, the Netherlands, Massachusetts or anywhere else. The sky is not falling; it’s still there. Just look up; it’s still there.

There will always be people who want to follow Leonidas K. Polk, the “fighting bishop” who seldom fought in the U.S. Civil War; as Jesus said, “The right wing is always with you.” It’s one of those calamities of life we cannot avoid. There will always be people more interested in their own enrichment than anything else.

But the early Christian Church held goods in common, and no amount of free-marketeering can change that. God is not a capitalist.

God’s not a fascist who seeks to stone people to death for not conforming.

God is a Lover; and yes, I think ultimately a Master, who seeks willing servants—but that’s all voluntary, a matter of spiritual surrender to One who loves us.

Bishop Leonidas Polk, the biggest slave-owner in Maury County, Tennessee, thought he had a God-given right to slave labor from Black men and women; then he found out he was wrong.

Sorry, Howard; send your camel through this needle. With God all things are possible.++

LeonidasPolk.MatthewBrady.401

Leonidas Polk, slaveowner, with his hand on a big book. (Matthew Brady)

Tears Streaming Down His Face

I got an e-mail today, at a time when I was feeling really low. A man in Ohio found something that I wrote helpful as he reconnects with God.

It’s on my website dailyoffice.org, called On the Gay Issue: Pray.

I wrote it two and a half years ago, in January 2007, and as you can imagine I really haven’t looked at it since.

Every now and then I’ll get an e-mail about it; most people like it, but occasionally I’ll hear from a conservative who thinks I’m sposedta repent and all that. Sometimes I can’t tell that they’ve actually read it, they just have a knee-jerk reaction.

So today I got this fellow’s e-mail, and I was reluctant to open it at first, in case it was more bad news. But it wasn’t, it was very good news.

He explained that he’s only recently returned to church a couple of years ago (about the time I wrote my essay), and was fairly oblivious to the ecclesiastical politics concerning LGBTs, being much more concerned (and properly so) with his own salvation; that is, returning to his relationship with God. That’s what consumed him, not all the internet yammering in the Episcopal Church, the schisms and resolutions and votes. He came back to church because he needed to.

But over those couple of years, as he got a little more acclimated, he began to be aware of the Big Controversy, and to wonder about it. The people he was in touch with, the friends he met, were pretty torn up about “losing their church” to the godless heretic queers. He grew troubled and confused; the church where he felt safe wasn’t feeling safe to his friends.

You can imagine, he was in a vulnerable spot. “The truth” was moving on him, not staying in the same reliable place. That’s scary.

Was it not truth at all? Is there a new truth now? What’s going on?

See, here was a man who was not inclined to pay attention to Gay stuff, but his friends and touchstones were in distress. How could he help them, when he was still a spiritual babe in arms?

Then, something happened, to bring him back to his childhood parish in Pennsylvania. A family member had commissioned an icon, which was going to be dedicated to his mother’s memory, and to the women’s choir she was a part of. Thus he went back home.

It’s quite a beautiful icon; imagine having this dedicated to your mother and her friends in the women’s choir. (My mom sang in the choir too for many years.)

St._Cecilia_2008

While he was there, he wanted to ask his nephew the priest about all this Gay stuff; though with its being such a family occasion, he knew not to spoil the party. He would ask his question later, once he got back to Ohio.

But then it happened that the nephew-priest answered his questions, by preaching on the Gospel of the Day: Year B, Proper 14.

Should Gay people be excluded from the Church? Or, more practically, given the presence of Gay people in the Church, should Bible-believing, faithful people leave the Episcopal Church because of them?

Keep in mind how vulnerable this guy was, as the nephew-priest read the following in the Gospel procession:

John 6:37-51 (NRSV)

Jesus said, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Then the young nephew preached on this Word, and my correspondent knew what he should do; that he should include, not exclude.

You can imagine, this changed the man’s life. There he was, in his old childhood home, with an icon to his mother, the choir singing, an ordained nephew full of faith and inside the Episcopal Church; he went through a conversion experience—and I don’t care how much you despise Pat Robertson, a conversion is something to respect, even cherish on this man’s behalf.

What he was converted to was the Gospel of love in Jesus Christ.

Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.

In fact it was Jesus’s mission to hold tight to every soul God gave him; to not lose even one.

Well: this all happened two weeks ago, and it left my correspondent in a still-vulnerable place, but surer than he had been before. He still had his friends back in Ohio wailing and gnashing their teeth (I exaggerate probably) over the Gay people. Try and put yourself in their place; they sincerely believe that faith in Jesus requires excluding the Gay people. They do not pray about this (“God, what if I’m wrong?”) as I recommend, they take it as a given; it’s what they’ve always believed, what they’ve been taught, etc. They are trying to be as faithful to God as they know how, just like the deposed Bishop of Pittsburgh I addressed in my open letter. Notice, these faithful folks never ask God if they could be wrong; they assume they’re right, which is how human prejudice sometimes gets blessed as righteousness. Or: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

My correspondent went back to Ohio and had to face these people—without the backup of his nephew-priest. Our guy was on his own.

It happens, he wrote me, that he’s often used dailyoffice.org to help him pray when he’s traveling; and somehow he turned to the site again today, where he found my little letter. Mind you, it’s been posted online for two and a half years, but he never saw it before, until the time he needed it.

He wrote to thank me for it with tears streaming down his face, in utter shock at how God always supplies what he needs, when he needs it.

In the same way that he wanted guidance from his nephew-priest, but it wasn’t the time to ask, he got the guidance anyway.

When he needed to remember his two-week-old learning, “include, not exclude,” he got it from something I wrote, without even a clue that he’d someday need this.

I’m a great one for managing to forget my small revelations from God; most of us are, I suspect. They end up overwhelming us with love and beauty, and being mortals we can’t really stand that; so we forget, and go back to the same lousy habits we had before. The same thing is frequently described in the Old Testament; when a person suddenly encounters God they find they can’t even look at him. They prostrate themselves, and not just for worship but to hide somehow. We can’t bear to look at God, so we shut our eyes, even though God isn’t so scary, and doesn’t mind being seen. Isn’t that why he came?

So I can understand my correspondent forgetting what he knew; I do the same thing. What’s miraculous is that God knows all about our reluctance to face him, and puts us in the way of finding what we need, when we need it, without having to confront the full Divinity head-on. A little essay, been there all along, but now the Ohioan found it.

(Take a deep breath here for the conclusion.)

I wasn’t feeling so good when this e-mail arrived; worthless, I said. But I’m not, am I? Not by a long shot.

And God has told me this many times before but I just can’t pay attention.

If it seems strange to you that Correspondent and I are getting messages from God, it shouldn’t; God does this all the time. God is profligate in his loving, promiscuous almost; goes around touching souls constantly. A hundred thousand times a day, a million; who can count? You’d have to be God to count ’em all.

It is somehow in the nature of God to reveal himself/herself in a million little touches every day. All we have to do is pay attention and be open; God loves to talk to us, no matter what shape we’re in. God’s the biggest yakker there ever was, if we won’t turn away and hide.

But it isn’t just talk, either, it’s touching, like Correspondent was touched, and like I was because of him.

Y’know, sometimes I ponder atheists, who have such a problem “believing in God” because they’ve decided not to. I wonder why they don’t perceive what to me is the most obvious thing in the world. I mean, God’s so everywhere I’m constantly tripping over him. So why don’t they?

Well, God doesn’t go where she’s not wanted. This leaves her more time to trip me up just for fun.

The God I know, that I perceive and try to attend to, is gentle and loving to the Nth degree. Never angry, not judgmental, forgiving 70 times 7; not even greatly disappointed when we prove our mortality once again. That’s what she expects of us, and we never let her down.

Always hopeful, always inviting; ready to catch us should we fall.

Why I get to perceive God and someone else does not is one of those mysteries that will never be explained in this life; Calvin couldn’t explain it and in fact got it all wrong. It’s about grace, honey; amazing grace.

When Correspondent wrote me through his tears, I just felt happy for him, to be given such a gift, because he was open enough to receive it. God loves giving presents!

Considering that my words were somehow the means of Correspondent’s grace, I can barely handle it. Of course I’m proud, but God knows what a wreck I am and let me be the means anyway!

That’s what God is like. She doesn’t care what kind of a wreck you are, free hugs anyway.

I wanted to tell Correspondent about some new music on the site; “new” meaning J.S. Bach, “Sheep May Safely Graze.” It’s a wonderful little ditty, the perfect ending to this post, so have a listen yourself; what I’m saying here in words, Johann got the gift to write in notes a lot better than I can.

God knows exactly where you’ve been, and loves you dearly anyway.++

Bach-hausmann

Glad About Glads

gladiolus

The gladiolus I planted in June are just starting to blossom. So far I have a blue and a yellow one, and another bud-stalk has formed, seemingly overnight.

I bought mixed bulbs at the local grocery, 20 for $4. That’s 20¢ apiece, for late summer flowers – to me, a huge bargain. But I’ve never grown them before, so of course I was anxious about how they’d come out.

I planted them in very rocky soil, and then waited to see whether they’d survive. Weeks went by without even a shoot. Did I plant them upside down?

And then one day, there they were. So I planted another box of them after Peter left; they say you should stagger your plantings, because once they bloom they won’t be around for long.

By the time these fade, the others should be coming along. My goodness, what an improvement over the mess I had last year.

Live and learn; experience is the best teacher.

The other day I finally solved my cultivating problem; I bought a $6 hoe, not a $106 digging machine that would sit in my garage gathering dust 364 days a year. I’m okay with doing everything by hand while I’m still young enough. People buy too many gardening machines they seldom use.

I have seven evergreen bushes, mature ones, in front and on the east side; by the end of summer they start to get pretty straggly. Come September it’s time to trim them back; I have old-fashioned clippers like my grandparents did, not a hedge-trimmer. With a machine I might get the job done in less than an hour, instead of the two days it takes me to trim them by hand—but what do I do with the trimmer once I’m done? It just doesn’t seem cost-effective to me to buy one. Prices at Lowe’s range from $30-$110, but the cheap model isn’t even UL certified; if you want that, you’re up to $50 for a Black and Decker. If I amortize the $50 model for the 10 years I plan to be alive, it’s five bucks a year for a product I use one day a year. I suppose it’s worth it, but there’s one other consideration; the joy of going to bed that night exhausted because I worked my body. I’m all for labor-saving devices, but physical exertion is good for us. Not only do I feel alive in ways I don’t routinely feel, I get the satisfaction, even the pride, of a job well done. I go to sleep with a smile on my face, knowing what I accomplished because I can feel it in my body.

Would you buy a $50 breadmaker, but only use it once a year? How about a $300 stand mixer that gathers dust and takes up space on the kitchen counter? I just don’t like the idea of buying a machine you only use once a year.

Mind you I don’t have a leaf-blower either, and I’ve got huge trees; I put out 40 giant bags of fallen leaves every October. Do I like raking? Hell no, but I love sleeping.

My Unca Deed, who’s about 85 now, still farms 1000 acres of corn and soybeans. Been doing it all his life, will never stop until the day they find him keeled over in the dirt. He loves his life. He’s done well for himself, although the money was never his biggest concern; for for 50 years, five full decades, the price of corn never rose, while the price of everything else did. If he was in it for the money he’d have quit long ago. But he didn’t, and why? Because he wants to be outdoors, growing things.

Once his nieces and nephews tried getting Unca Deed to consider farming more comfortably, instead of having the sun beat down on him all day. “Tractors have got air-conditioned cabs now, Unca Deed. You don’t have to be hot and dirty all the time. Since the cab’s enclosed, you can get a radio in there and listen to the Cubs games.” Well, being an open-minded kind of guy and a lifelong Cubs fan, not to mention respectful when the “kids” (we’re all 50) come together as a group to say, “We’re worried about you,” Deed decided he’d try it; why not? Maybe the kids were right. They drove him to the implement store so he could try out the big, shiny new tractor; the salesman showed him all the features, a GPS that gets satellite signals to tell you right where you are, the internet keeps you right in touch with the latest info about soil types and seed suppliers and up-to-the-minute data from the USDA, plus the commodity markets! “Didja ever think of that, huh? A farmer needs to know the latest prices, the yield forecasts, even the micro-weather.” Deed listened raptly to the man.

And didn’t last an hour in the air-conditioning. He tried to break it to the kids, “It just don’t feel right, farmin’ without bein’ in the sun.”

He felt like he was indoors in that fancy souped-up cab with the AC and the micro-weather. He didn’t want to be indoors, he wanted to be outdoors. He wanted to farm like God intended, where a man earns his bread by the sweat of his brow and is proud of himself.

The kids were sorely disappointed, but they learned not to mess with what works. The man’s 85, he has a right to die in the dirt if he wants to.

Unca Deed’s been hospitalized twice in the past year, but each time it didn’t amount to much, and he was back the next day. I pray for him constantly, that he gets to live and die doing what he’s good at.

Why buy a fancy new tractor if the old one still works, and you’d only use the AC once a year? Who needs a GPS when you already know exactly where you are?

—-

The tomatoes are now coming on strong. I planted mine a little bit late, but there’s no sign of the dreaded blight that’s killed tomato plants up and down the East and Midwest, and today I picked a couple of big ones, sandwich sized. It will be time to start freezing and canning soon; I’ve got ten on the counter, a slicer in the fridge and a big bowl of pasta salad I’m working through.

For God so loved the world he gave us August in Indiana.++

tomatoes