Saturday, November 29, 2008

Conflict and Consensus

A time for war and a time for peace…

                        Ecclesiastes 3.8

Whoa There, Christian Soldiers!

After retiring to Florida, my parents joined a nearby megachurch with everything they wanted: dynamic worship, solid preaching, opportunities to serve, terrific people, etc. When next I visited and attended service with them, I saw all they liked about the church. But before I got settled in my seat, I also saw something seriously disturbing. With no formal call to worship, the church sailed into a song I’d never heard. The music, loud like The Who and influenced by U2, sounded cool until I caught the lyrics clamoring to rise up against Satan’s armies and take back the land. I said to my father, “This is a war song! These people are angry!”

Later, we discussed it. It seems I’d been off Fundamentalism’s grid so long I missed its promotion from underdog to warrior. Despite their measured tone, my parents were emphatic in their conviction believers are engaged in epic warfare. This wasn’t Christian soldiers marching as to war. It was actual war. “You taught me the point is winning souls, not skirmishes,” I said. They replied, “The world’s out of control. Until sin is defeated, souls will be lost.” I countered, “Christ already defeated sin. You’re fighting an imaginary war!” Besides, the Bible says, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12.14; KJV) I asked them to explain this how combative stance revealed Christ’s love to the world. Mom changed the subject.

Know Your Enemy

God’s Word confirms a state of war exists between good and evil. But with increasing regularity, wide swaths of believers have misidentified the enemy. There’s no excuse for this, as Paul names our adversaries outright in Ephesians 6.12. They’re not flesh and blood, he says, but “rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” So why have Christians declared war on each other? If the world is out of control, shouldn’t we unite against spiritual wickedness run amok? Shouldn’t we call for peace within our walls? The discord weakening the church happens when you don’t know your enemy. We’re consuming all our time and energy on doctrinal conflicts when we’d be better served by building consensus—agreeing to disagree, if need be—to join the real battle with a solidified resolve.

Twice Defeated

Religious infighting leaves us twice defeated. It hands victory to the enemy and creates conflict between God and us. Isaiah 1 gives us a vivid picture of this. It shows God’s people and Him in a virtual standoff. They’ve abandoned His truth for their ideas and pounded each other into bloody pulp. “From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil,” Isaiah says. Blinded by arrogance and enslaved by tradition, they keep going through the motions, completely oblivious to how far they’ve strayed from their meaning. Finally, Isaiah steps aside so God can tell them how angry He is for Himself. “Your sacrifices—what are they to me?” He asks. “Who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? I cannot bear your evil assemblies. They have become a burden to me.” He tells them to shut down their controversies, cease their pious displays, and return to basics: “Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” Having got their attention, God lowers His voice. “Come now, let us reason together,” He says, offering to purify them of their sins. “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.”

We’re no better now than Israel was then. We’re engaged in too many imaginary battles on too many fronts while our real adversaries have a field day and our basic responsibilities go untended. It’s time to reason together—with one another and our God. He offers two options: resolve our conflicts and prosper or become casualties of war. It’s time to reach consensus. Because we live in wartime, it’s urgent we make time for peace.

"From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness--only wounds and welts." Isaiah 1.6

(Tomorrow: Arise)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Loving and Loathing

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to love, and a time to hate…

                        Ecclesiastes 3.1, 8

The Time Is Now

Before turning to the Advent season, let’s wrap up our study of Solomon’s “Seasons of Life,” starting where we left off with a real doozy—loving and loathing--that immediately asks, “Is there ever a time to hate anyone?” Just as quickly the answer comes back, unequivocally: “No!” Love’s time is now. It can’t wait, because the longer it’s withheld, the less of it there is. And if there’s one thing we need, it’s more love for one another. When Jesus declared His First and Great Commandment to love God with all of our heart, mind, and soul, He instantly attached another: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” stating it was equal to the First. Not loving people as they are—as beings made in God’s likeness, regardless how they’ve corrupted His image—is tantamount to not loving their Creator. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen,” 1 John 4.20 says. We can try all day and night to justify animosity toward people (or groups of people) who, quite frankly, have worked overtime to earn it. Yet it’s dangerously deceptive to believe it’s legitimately possible to hold hatred for others and love for God in our hearts simultaneously. They can’t occupy the same space.

Love for Sale

Genesis 3.1 tells us, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals,” making it the perfect guise for the Tempter. It’s incumbent on us to stay alert to his wiles, because he’s a superlative trickster. His ploys go beyond luring us into disobedience. He also dilutes truth’s importance and power. Since love is central to all we do, he seduces us into mistaking it for a feeling instead of a fact. He cheapens it as a commodity we buy into, rather than a reality we express. The love stories filling our heads, love songs hanging mid-air, and love clichés littering our language aren’t about love at all. They’re about emotions tied to love. Love doesn’t grow. It doesn’t mean never having to say you’re sorry. It can’t be fallen in or out of. Love just is, because God is and God is love. Feelings wax and wane, but love remains constant. It’s inextricably rooted in our beings to reflect of our Maker. As Romans 5.5 tells us, “God has poured out his love into our hearts.” Therefore, love isn’t ours to give or take. It’s God’s and He placed it in us so wherever we are, His reality is manifested by love. Feeling love instead of being love mucks everything up by concealing God’s presence from others and us.

Sinners, Sin, and Side Effects

Those of us old enough to remember Anita Bryant—former Miss America, modestly talented singing star, and pitch-person for orange juice and rental cars—recall her trying to smooth over her uncharitable opposition to a Florida gay rights initiative with this: “As a born-again Christian, I love the sinner, but I hate the sin.” How cleverly convenient is that? Her lopsided argument caught fire and spread across intolerant pulpits everywhere. Had someone paused to square it against Christ’s teaching of love, though, two things would have made ashes of the wildfire straightaway. First, not once did Jesus expand His commandment to love to include separating the person from his/her behavior. Indeed, He never referred to those we must love as sinners at all, but neighbors and enemies. And second, Jesus adamantly denied our rights to condemn another or his/her sin. “If you judge,” He said, “you’ll be judged by the same standards.” Look no further than Ms. Bryant for proof. Her loving fans found her bigotry so hateful they vanished. She crashed while those she claimed to love (conditionally) soared ahead.

Getting back to Solomon, when if ever does the “time to hate” arrive? After taking the right to hate anyone or his/her sin off the table, we’re left with sin’s enormous damages—poverty, inequality, grief, fear, disease, and innumerable other evils. Whether globally or individually, hate times come when we identify side effects of iniquity. Extreme caution and delicacy in what we think, do, and say become necessary. Loving people despite their behavior while hating its consequences calls for tolerance without indulgence, acceptance without approval. We love our neighbors and enemies no matter what they think or do, but we loathe the evil of their actions. Times to hate demand demonstrations of love. It sounds ironic. But it’s not.

Hate-on-hate crime.

(Tomorrow: Conflict and Consensus)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank God for You!

Thank God for you, brothers [and sisters] loved by the Lord.

                        2 Thessalonians 2.13

Today, as I thank God for His blessings, I'm reminded they aren't confined to when we’re on our knees or seated in pews. They keep coming, hour after hour, minute by minute, at surprising times, from surprising places, in surprising ways. Often what begins small and appears fairly routine blossoms into something so altogether extraordinary, powerful, and magnificent it could only come by the grace and goodness of God.

Straight-Friendly stands among the most astonishing gifts I’ve ever received, one of the most truly amazing of my life. It started as a tiny idea born of mounting awareness I should do whatever I could, no matter how small, to reach out to my GLBT and other forsaken brothers and sisters in Christ. Short-sightedness (actually, myopia) led me to envision cranking out somewhat glib, predictable pep talks encouraging random readers who stumbled on the blog to hold fast to their faith and answer religious rejection with unconditional love.

Then, one by one, you started showing up and everything changed. Given my naïve vision, I’m embarrassed to admit how dumbfounded—and thrilled—I was by your enthusiastic embrace. I never expected the wealth of knowledge, friendship, and inspiration you generously bless me with day after day. Nor could I have possibly imagined the beautiful spectrum of believers God would send—gay, straight, women, men, younger, older, Catholic, Protestant, married, single, and between, from big cities and rural towns, on every continent… the list goes on and on.

Oh, the riches you’ve brought to me and my home! You’ve touched my heart and life on so many levels. You’ve opened my mind, made me smile, brought tears to my eyes, and nurtured my faith in ways you most likely never realized. I am eternally grateful to all of you and if I knew all your names, I’d mention you individually. Seen or unseen, however, known or unknown makes no difference in the end. We are all the same, reflections of God’s love and goodness, beneficiaries of His grace, and rightful heirs to His promise of reconciliation.

Most important, I thank God for every one of you, my brothers and sisters. While I will never “meet” everyone here at Straight-Friendly, He knows who and where you are, and will return the blessings you’ve so freely given here.

Our God is an awesome God. In the very short time I’ve been at this, not a day has passed without at least one of you proving that. I pray He rewards every one of you with untold joy, peace, and love for your kindness and generosity to me—and one another. I have every confidence He will.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Generating Thanks

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

                        2 Corinthians 9.12

It’s Beyond Me!

God showers us with gifts so we can give to others, serving as channels for His goodness and love. His blessings cascade, flowing through us to those around us. When selfishness and insecurity convince us to cling to what we’ve received, we create bottlenecks. Our lives become less dynamic; our spirits sink into stagnation. More over, we impede the flow of His loving-kindness. It’s imperative we acknowledge God’s investment, involvement, and intervention in our circumstances. And it’s vital to our wellbeing that we always return to say “thank you.” Yet we can’t assume anything we’ve been given was meant for us alone. When we consider the richness He pours into us, our proper response is, “It’s beyond me!” Not only is His unfailing generosity more than we could ask or imagine, it’s more than we can contain. It goes beyond us, meeting others’ needs and generating thanks from them. “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD,” Psalm 92.1 (KJV) says. Hoarding our blessings instead of passing them on deprives other people’s chances to experience the goodness of God and the goodness of gratitude.

A Cheerful Giver

This concept arises in a bit of housekeeping Paul undertakes in 2 Corinthians 9. He writes ahead that he’s arriving with several Macedonians, whom he’s regaled about the Corinthians’ generosity. Yet he’s also wary of things going awry when he shows up. So he informs them he’s sending an advance team to ensure their gift is ready and befits their reputation. In verse 7, he stresses they should give what they’re willing and able, “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” But if they give gladly, he says in verse 11, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” Put another way, he tells them, “Happily pass your blessings to me and I’ll happily pass them along to others, who will benefit and be grateful by receiving them.” If you do this, he says, God will increase your abundance, enabling you to give all the more.

Paul’s transparency leaves no doubt he’s teaching, rather than issuing an ordinance that demands compliance. He’s capitalizing on the moment to offer useful information. To be sure, he’s basing his advice on Jesus’s sowing-reaping principle. But his objective is explaining the principle and what it produces in practice so the Corinthians will give gladly. Our takeaway from his lesson is straightforward. It’s as much about the giving as the gift. Should we pass our blessings along reluctantly or obligingly, their value to us erodes. If we give cheerfully, however, we please God and He returns our favor by entrusting us with more to give.

Repay It Forward

“How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?” asks Psalm 116.12. Paul’s lesson answers the question beautifully. God grants us His goodness so we can repay it forward. We receive His blessings, take what we need from them, express our gratitude, and then keep our hearts, eyes, and ears open to find another who needs what we’ve been given. There are always—and always will be—more blessings for us to enjoy. Lamentations 3.22-23 tells us God’s mercies are new every morning. The more pleased we are to share all that we have with others—not just out of our pockets and off our shelves, but out of our hearts—the more He’s pleased. The more we pass along, the more He provides us to pass long. The more blessings we give, the more thanks He receives. Today and tomorrow, as we contemplate all we’ve been given, it’s not a bad idea to scan our list of blessings for those we cheerfully can pass along. What has God given us that someone else can be thankful for?

God's blessings cascade from us to others, meeting their needs and generating thanks.

(Tomorrow: Thank God for You)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

                        Romans 1.21

Too Smart

We don’t know if there are liabilities of being too wise or too aware, since the wisest and most aware of us have, without exception, used their talents for good. But we’ve all seen and suffered the abuses of being too smart, whether in our personal lives—sometimes at our own hands—or in larger arenas like politics, religion, and mass media. Knowledge alone can be dangerous, as Adam and Eve learned all too well. Knowing a little drives desire to know more, a good thing as long as we check pride and prejudices that creep into gained knowledge. Unfortunately, it's often the case we defend unjust attitudes and beliefs by presuming we’re better informed than those who take issue with us. Ecclesiastes 7.12 says, “The advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.” Knowledge not tempered by wisdom yields no profit. If anything, it produces disastrous results. We see this in Romans 1, as Paul unleashes a scathing attack on an apostate segment of ancient society that fell victim to being too smart.

Exchanging Truth for Lies

Homophobic modern Christians open Romans 1 and find a tantalizing treasure of knowledge to defend their opinions that GLBT believers are unacceptable to God and His church. But the irony of this is generally overlooked, as the arrogance and discrimination of their blindered reading is no different than the behaviors Paul rails against. They’re too smart to see passing over some plainly indicated facts to pounce on others ultimately reveals how little they know.

Paul lays the table with a general assumption that God’s existence is obvious. Since creation, he says, “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (v20). But some chose to ignore the obvious, thinking themselves too smart to accept such a basic concept. They neither glorified nor thanked God, Paul writes, adding: “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” (v22) and created idolatrous belief systems that “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (v25). One exchange led to another, with indulgence in pagan rites and customs encouraging heterosexuals to exchange “natural relations for unnatural ones” (v26).

Overriding sexual orientations God instilled in their beings before birth was what Paul found so horrifying, not the sexual activities it triggered, as antigay Christians suspect and, therefore, expect everyone to believe. If anything, Romans 1 presents the Bible’s strongest argument that remaining true to our native sexuality is a prerequisite for worshiping and serving our Creator. Exchanging the truth of who we are—who we were created to be—to embrace religiously imposed lies about our identity constitutes idolatry. It places more importance on what we presume to know about God—or what we prefer to know about us—than what God makes obvious to all. And, as we read further, Paul makes clear this road leads to “every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity” (v29), which he then itemizes in shocking detail. He closes with a stunning observation: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (v32). Condoning wicked ideas and actions, either our own or others’, is the litmus test that proves there’s nothing dumber than being too smart.

Be Grateful

Not a moment should pass or thought enter our minds that questions God’s supreme, obvious authority. He created each of us—regardless of gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation—to glorify Him in a manner specific to our making. Rather than deviate from His plan, we honor it with lives of integrity and honesty. Refashioning how we’re made in conformity to a religiously approved image is no different than carving stone idols; it shifts the focus of worship from the Creator to the creature. However others look at us, we know we’re created in God’s image and likeness. (If people don't like what they see, we should urge them to take their complaints to the One we were made to reflect.) When we get too smart to accept such a basic notion, we fail to glorify God and become ingrates, opening ourselves to all sorts of futile thoughts that darken our hearts. During this Thanksgiving season, let’s not forget to be grateful for the obvious. Our list of things we’re thankful for should also include us. Using myself as an example, I must remember to thank God that I’m gay, white, and male—not because it makes me better than anyone else He created, but because that’s how He chose to express Himself in me.


Too smart to see how little they know. (Note the misused Romans 1.24 quote in the big guy's right hand...)

(Tomorrow: Generating Thanks)

Playlist: Thanksgiving Gospel

Most of you know about my passion for black gospel music. Here’s a playlist of favorites that get a lot of play this time of year. They run full gamut, from mainstream-friendly “pop” tastes to what iTunes would classify as “deep cuts.” (Don't be misled by the similar titles.) If you’re looking for some fresh Thanksgiving rhythms and rhymes, this may help you get started. And, as with every playlist, if you’ve got favorites to add the list (of every genre), let us know! 

1.    Take a Little Time – Andrae Crouch & The Disciples

2.    It’s Good to Give to Give Thanks – West Angeles Mass Choir

3.    Grateful – Hezekiah Walker & The Love Fellowship Choir

4.    Thank You Lord (He Did It All) – John P. Kee and New Life Community Choir

5.    Thank You Lord – Daryl Coley, featuring The New Generation Singers

6.    You’ve Been So Good – Martha Munizzi

7.    Thank You – Richard Smallwood

8.    Thank You Lord – Rev. Clay Evans & AARC Mass Choir

9.    Think of His Goodness to You – The Thomas Whitfield Chorale

10. Thank You – Rev. Milton Brunson & The Thompson Community Choir

11. Medley: Lord, I Thank You & I’m So Glad the Lord Saved Me – West Angeles Mass Choir

12. Be Grateful – Walter Hawkins & Love Center Choir

13. Thank You – Walt Whitman & The Soul Children of Chicago

14. Thank You – Yolanda Adams

15. Thank You – Walter Hawkins & Love Center Choir

Monday, November 24, 2008

He's Good

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

                        Psalm 107.1

Think About It

The great gospel hymn, “Think of His Goodness,” opens with this: “When waves of affliction sweep over the soul/And sunlight is hidden from view/If ever you’re tempted to fret or complain/Just think of His goodness to you.” It’s a bracing expansion on Psalm 107’s opening. God is good to us. That’s reason enough to give Him thanks. Overlaying that with the hymn taps into a powerful aspect of thanksgiving we often disregard. Moments of despair, alienation, and anxiety are prime times to thank God for His goodness. When there’s nothing top of mind to thank God for, it asks us to search the past for examples where He proved His goodness in the end. Thinking about past goodness leads to thanking God for present goodness. We may not see or feel it, but experience teaches us it’s there and we’re grateful for it—and grateful we know it.

Not Optional

Just as headaches make us reach for aspirin, soul-aches prompt us to reach for thanksgiving. It’s the best antidote for whatever ails us. Paul was so convinced of this he made the pastoral decision that thanksgiving wasn’t optional, not a “nice to do” or a “need to do,” but a “must do.” “Give thanks in all circumstances,” he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5.18, “for this is God’s will for you.” Whether things are fine or not so fine, God intends us to be thankful. He wills this for our benefit, not His. He already knows He’s good without us telling Him.

By casting thankfulness as obedience to God’s will, Paul implies an operational principle is in effect. It’s slightly complicated and takes a minute or two to unravel, but it greatly improves our insight about why we must respect thanksgiving as imperative and profitable for us. God’s sole purpose in expecting us to thank Him is our harvesting the good that grows when we turn from our situations to consider His goodness. Therefore, asking we give Him thanks in all things is in itself proof of His goodness, another gift we should thank Him for.

Before and Behind

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever,” Psalm 107.1 says. God loves us because He’s good and He’s good to us because He’s love. It’s a closed system, an infinite cycle. Jeremiah 31.3 reads, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’” Since we live facing forward, “everlasting love” invites us to look ahead and see God’s love—and, therefore, His goodness—never ends. Here, however, He speaks of the past. He’s always loved us, always been good to us. There was never a moment of decision about this. Before the beginning, His love and goodness existed.

In many ways, it’s harder to imagine that God’s goodness and love have no origin than their having no endpoint. Yet just as they existed eternally before, they continue eternally behind. “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever,” David writes in Psalm 23. Infinite goodness and love sprawl out in front us. Wherever we go, they follow. We dwell eternally in them. Because they’ve always been and will always be, they always are. By comparison, thankless problems and fears are, at best, miniscule particles fleeting through time. A former pastor sometimes greeted us with, “God is good all the time,” and we answered, “All the time, He’s good!” That’s the meat in our thanks. All the other stuff is gravy.

Daily fears and struggles are fleeting, but God's goodness and love always were, always will be, and therefore always are. That's all the reason we need to give thanks.

(Tomorrow: Ingrates)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

One in Ten

He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

                        Luke 17.16 

Coming Back

Thanksgiving for me has no rivals among holidays (as opposed to “holy days”). Here in the States, we’ve overstuffed it with lavish feasts, store parades, football games, and gearing up to rise ridiculously early the next day to get a jump on the Christmas bargains. I wonder what George Washington, who declared the holiday, would think of this. On one level, he’d be aghast at the nonsense we’ve attached to it. But I also think he’d be pleased we’ve not abandoned the custom altogether. Buried somewhere beneath the turkeys and floats, the scrimmages and advertising, recognition still lives that there’s much to be thankful for.

Telling God “thank You” surpasses polite obligation. When done sincerely, it finishes the work His blessings start. It reawakens awareness we’d be nothing—and have nothing—without Him. “If the LORD had not been on our side,” Psalm 124 says, “we’d have been swept away.” We’re free to accept God’s blessings and go on our merry way, never returning to thank Him for being on our side. It makes no difference to Him. In Mark 5.45, Jesus says God sends sunshine and rain equally on the evil and the good—His favor, like His love, comes without condition. But coming back in gratitude makes an enormous difference for us as an act of faith, a confession of belief He can do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3.20) Thanksgiving makes faith happen and faith makes things happen. Luke 17 offers a superb example of this principle.

From a Distance

Jesus is traveling the border between Samaria and Galilee en route to Jerusalem when 10 lepers call to Him from a distance, begging His mercy. He hears them and instructs, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” They obey and Luke reports they're cleansed as they go. After one of them, a Samaritan, realizes what Jesus has done, he returns, rejoicing loudly, and falls at the Lord’s feet to offer thanks. Jesus asks, “What happened to the other nine? Weren’t they cleansed also? How is it that only one saw fit to stop and thank God for this—and he’s not even a Jew?” He pulls the grateful man to his feet, telling him, “Your faith has made you well.”

Though his account is brief—10 sentences in four verses—Luke packs it with information, starting with Jesus in the borderlands, well away from Jerusalem’s temple establishment. The lepers’ “unclean” status stops them from crossing the distance society has wedged between Him and them. Unwilling to let Him pass them by, they call to Jesus and He sees them where they are. Directing them to the priests, He ignores religious laws labeling people in their situation as unfit for worship and public threats. Essentially, he tells them to cross the socio-religious chasm for themselves. As they step out by faith, they’re transformed so that the priests and people accept them.

Getting to Jesus

Luke doesn’t confirm the other nine go to the priests. Most likely they do. But it's also possible they skip the temple to enjoy their inclusion in society. Either way, it’s not important. The Samaritan leper—an outsider twice over—earns Luke’s full attention. Two concluding events explain why. First, cleansing removes all boundaries between him and Jesus. Getting close to Christ matters more than priestly approval and public acceptance. Second, thanksgiving brings his blessing to fullness. Jesus raises him up, telling him not only is he cleansed. His act of faith has made completely well, inside and out.

While religious conformists gravitate to temples, Christ walks the borders. That’s where He’s found. Condemnation encourages us to believe we’re unclean, spiritually and socially unacceptable. Still, we can’t allow Jesus to pass without ministering to us. We call Him from a distance. He speaks to us where we are. He commands us to ignore fears of rejection and make the first move. Confidence in His word cleanses us of shame and scorn that mar our self-image. We see we’re like everyone else. That alone may be enough for 90 percent of us who, in the excitement of acceptance, don’t sacrifice the time to come back and thank Him. But one in 10 of us does, grasping the truth of what’s happened. Barriers between Christ and us don’t exist. Getting to Him matters most of all. Our gratitude is so overwhelming we throw ourselves at His feet. He lifts us up and makes us whole.

As we in the US approach Thanksgiving, I urge all of us here to reflect on how Christ has cleansed us from the stains of stigmatization and rejection. I pray we’ll stop what we’re doing, turn around, and fall before Him to say, “Thank You.” When we do that, I believe we'll receive healing we need, inside and out. Faith through thanksgiving transcends cleansing. It makes us whole.

(Tomorrow: He's Good)

One in 10 was here.

Personal Postscript: Passing It On

This week, Straight-Friendly was doubly honored when Sherry of A Feather Adrift and Fred of The Rev’s Rumbles passed The Superior Scribbler’s Award our way. Receiving such a prize from either of them would have been thrilling, given my admiration for each. But coming from both was overwhelming. The acute introspection and probing inquiry that are the stalwarts of Sherry’s blog—and their reflections in her comments here—are a constant inspiration. This is no less true of Fred’s vigilant attention to social, theological, and political issues and his courageous advocacy of GLBT equality. If you’ve not yet added them to your reading, you’re missing two of the most exciting, provocative writers we have out here in the blogosphere.

Now, it’s my turn to pass The Superior Scribbler’s Award on, which is the best aspect of winning, because it opens the door to recognize other friends, old and new, whom I’ve come to admire. But I first should explain how the award works.

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to this post, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

So, without further ado, I’m delighted to give The Superior Scribbler’s Award to:

  • Missy of Missy’s Big Fish Stories. If Missy thinks it’s worth writing about, she makes sure it’s worth reading. The beauty of her style and content come from her remarkable talent for combining cool intelligence, warm emotion, and an inimitably wry sense of humor in all she writes.
  • Fran of Franiam. In mind and spirit, Fran’s a sister I never had. But in cyberspace, she’s the Mother Superior of us all. Her deftly turned dispatches hum with the kind of vitality and earthy wisdom that holds an extraordinary diversity of readers in endless fascination.
  • Leonardo of Eruptions at the Foot of the Volcano. Leonardo’s fervor fuels every word he writes about his twin passions: global GLBT equality and his faith, often focusing his searchlight through the prism of his treasured Anglican tradition.
  • John of Open a Window. John gives us a marvelous gift as he writes his way through coming out to himself, his family and friends, and his God. Reading him is like picking up Pilgrim’s Progress. Along with everyone listed here, he’s a regular S-F reader/commenter and I’m so grateful he’s allowed to join him on his journey.
  • Davis of Audacious Deviant. While he posts less often than many bloggers, Davis’s exquisitely chosen words and illustrations speak volumes. If there’s such a thing as a “holy” blog, this is it. When I’m there, it’s as if I’m in a magnificent cathedral filled with enthralling images that bring life to even more enthralling ideas--just as it should be.