Global Warming: Revelation 1 – 2

The First Vision of Christ. Seven Stars for Seven Lampstands. To Ephesus. To Smyrna. To Pergamum. To Thyatira.

“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later…”
Revelation 1:19 (NIV)

Global warming used to be this hot button topic in the stratosphere of abortion or gay marriage. I remember a time when taking a stance on it could spell controversy. Thought global warming was some true-to-life phenomenon in the mid-90s? Almost assuredly, you were labeled as some sort of liberal hippie – or worse, an environmentalist – hell bent on destroying the economy with some unnecessary laws.

It was Thanksgiving of my 16th year when I came out. Not as gay, oh no, I held onto that one for a long, long time. No, I came out as a global warming believer. I was shocked my parents felt strongly the other way about it. My father had taken me camping every year of my life, and he had always taught us to be extraordinarily careful with the environment. Only use dead trees as hiking sticks. Leave no trace of our tracks. Never disturb nature. And yet here I was, arguing with them about whether human activity had any effect of on the efficacy of the global ecosystem. It seemed so ridiculous.

On the eve of high school, I spent a weeklong vacation in Atlanta with my aunt and uncle. They were extraordinarily liberal in comparison to my parents and completely non-religious. It is a wonder my parents let me stay with them at all. On my last night of the trip as we prepared to go to sleep before my early flight the next morning, my aunt wanted to know why my mother was so fervent in her disbelief about global warming. This was in the mid-2000s, and the science had begun to meet up with the hunches of the masses. She just could not believe that Christians (as a majority) thought global warming was a myth.

Then I told her about Noah and how God promised with the rainbow to never subject his people to a massive flood ever again (the most likely result of global warming back in those times). Also, many believers in global warming thought that inaction would mean the death of humanity in catastrophic fashion. Christians, I told her, could never believe that. There was a book called Revelation that detailed exactly how it would unfold. There would be horsemen of the apocalypse and ancient broken seals. The antichrist would rule the world, and then Jesus would come back to destroy him.

No global warming. No giant flood. No weird weather patterns. Their reason for disbelief was simple. It wasn’t in the Bible.

We have reached the End folks. Here is the last book of the Bible, the one that filled me with the most anxiety growing up (but more on that later). In the last two weeks of this blog, we will explore exactly how the End is laid out in the Bible.

To start, it is fairly tame.

John has a vision of Jesus, who says, “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches.” (1:10) With that, we get the frame for the book. This is meant to be a warning to all who read it – a vision from John to be delivered to the rest of the church.

Let’s see what it says, shall we?

Moms: 1 Thessalonians 1 – 3

Good Work Thessalonica.

Instead, we were like young children among you.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.
1 Thessalonians 1:7-8 (NIV)

It started in kindergarten. “Can I go to the bathroom, Mom?” Even at ages five and six, my classmates knew I had committed the ultimate embarrassing faux pas. You see, my Mom didn’t work in my classroom – I had just called my teacher “Mom.”

My face fell as the laughs came on, and she knelt before me in order to hedge off any impending tears. “I take it as a compliment,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite things to hear.” I was instantly relieved when she said that. Her approval meant more to me than that of my classmates, so as long as she remained on my side, I was good.

I have frequently been “adopted” by nearby mothers, beginning all the way back in toddler-hood. In Middle School, my friend Briana and I used to spend our lunches hanging out in Mrs. Nelson’s office – that is, the office of our assistant principal. We’d chat about the goings on in school, or sometimes even just sit there in silence while studying. We even ingratiated ourselves until she let us perform the morning announcements and prayer. She just loved us.

We were also major dorks.

High School brought in a few more Moms – from school and church – but the wider audience meant differing results. I started dating, and the moms of my girlfriends either loved or hated me (those feeling the latter are probably thrilled to hear of my coming out). I had a tall and dominating presence, even though I initially presented as quiet (and got louder and louder the more comfortable I became). I don’t know – some Moms didn’t trust me, sure that I had ulterior motives. Others thought I was a good kid.

No ulterior motives. I hope time (and this blog – and the fact that I’m super gay – just kidding, a normal amount of gay) has proved that.

Now, I have several Moms. I am living with the family of one of them right now actually, tucked away in an immediate suburb of Atlanta. When I feel sick, she offers me an assortment of treatment options, and when I am hungry, she starts heating up foods without even asking me. I taught her son improv for several years, and our formal relationship burgeoned into a personal one over some time. When I came out of the closet, she was there – complete with conversations and support. I even drove with her to Plains, GA, about a month ago to meet the former President Jimmy Carter.

I have other Moms here, too. One funded a short film I wrote and tells everyone I am her son’s adopted brother. She’s a lesbian, and we bond over queer shit. Then another, her son starred in my short film. We text when we’re bored and pop into each other’s head, and we even talk on the phone to catch up, which I hate doing normally but not with her. Beyond that, I have a whole gaggle of Moms from the theater company I associate with – they even call themselves the Drama Mamas. One housed me after a surgery. Another took me in after a horrible panic attack. They all have been there for me in my extreme times of need.

My Mom – my actual birth Mom that is – has never been threatened by it. She often says that she feels grateful for them, for keeping me safe and warm away from home. When all the drama happened after I came out, someone told me that I needed to “make my own family.” I have mentioned that on this blog before. It is true – since I have come out, these Moms have been unbelievably supportive. Most affirm my lifestyle, while some may disagree but  never talk about it. I suppose if one was outright in her disapproval, well then, she wouldn’t be one of my Moms. That would be a difficult hurdle to leap, although not impossible. More likely than not she would just… fade away eventually.

But not my real Mom. Things have been tough, but we have fought to remain relevant in each other’s lives. I feel sad about it often, about how much easier this would be if I just… liked women. I often use it as an excuse… if this was a choice, would I really choose something so obviously against my closest allies?

But we fight and we fight and we fight. We fight for each other and with each other. That’s just what Moms and Sons do.

Insurance: Romans 7 – 8

“For What I Want to Do I Do Not Do.”

“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”
Romans 7:6 (NIV)

I chose to be baptized around 16-years-old. The thought occurred to me when some gentle prodding from my mother lined up with a baptism announcement in our church pamphlet that read: “Want to make it official?” I was a sparkling example of Christianity already – I think – I mean, I always showed up for missions’ trips and volunteered when necessary. It just seemed like the logical next step. My parents had my older sister baptized as an infant – a sort of spiritual insurance policy – but then they abandoned the ritual for my brother and me. They had changed their minds about the whole thing. It needed to be a conscious decision on our parts. She would not hold our hands through this.

I couldn’t just jump in a pool and take a dunk; my church required those willing to take the plunge to work through a six-week course, all centered around the biblical importance of baptism. As I understood it, the purpose of it all was two-fold. First, it was a public declaration of faith, sort of like a wedding ceremony between you and Jesus. Second, it cemented our intention to remain a loyal follower of God.

But there seemed to be a third purpose, unspoken and implicit, that encouraged each of the eight participants in the class. We wanted the insurance policy – the same one my mother took out for my sister at infancy. Paul sums it up nicely:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:38-39)

That is exactly what I wanted. I demanded a guarantee that no matter the source, nothing would rip me away from my faith.

My parents their invoked this sincerely-held belief when I came out of the closet. It was her proof – in addition to my love of football and a long-held crush on Jane Fonda – that I was not gay. I had prayed the prayer. I had delivered my testimony. A pastor had dunked me into the body of the river after I had announced my intention to be baptized.

I had checked the boxes. I was covered, right?

Paul discusses the “death of the law.” He speaks in convoluted terms at times, laying out arguments for Christianity that sound more like riddles than tenets. For example, when explaining the relationship between sin and the law, he says:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.” (7:15)

I don’t know about you, but it took me about four times reading that to even unfurl all the “dos.” And even then, it made little sense to me. Why would the act of doing evil, as the third sentence asserts, lead to the conclusion that the law is good?

Do I have to understand this to believe in God?

I thought all I needed was to check boxes?

The One Way: Acts 18 – 19

Corinth. A Schism. Further Travels. A New Baptism. Demons Retaliate.

“But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them.”
Acts 19:9a (NIV)

Paul hits a rough patch in his ministry that perfectly symbolizes the state of the modern church. In Ephesus, he encounters some disciples of John the Baptist’s, asking if they have received the Holy Spirit. They haven’t, not even aware of who this being is – then Paul realizes the fault. They were baptized by John the Baptist, not in the name of Jesus Christ. Paul dunks them, and they accept the Holy Spirit.

This comes directly after a schism between him and his fellow disciples. We learn that Silas and Timothy antagonize Paul, leading him to abandon them to preach alone in Corinth for a year and a half.

There is but One Way – salvation thru Jesus Christ. Disagreements in theology mean schism.

We have seen a ton of churches split over the years (and a great amount of this blog has been dedicated to the little disagreements that have resulted in separate sects). Some disagree about what exactly “The Way” is; others argue about rules and regulations, the most relevant to this site being LGBT-acceptance. In many ways, this epitomizes the conflict between liberalism and conservatism. The former believes in “Many Ways” – that the less judgment on the journeys people take, the better. The latter wants something closer to “One Way,” a moralistic pathway for everyone to follow.

I empathize and understand both. Life can be a simple joy if everyone agrees on the same moral ground, but with increasing connectivity, a person’s individual idiosyncrasies are broadcast. Difference was not tolerated in an age long ago, because people could not understand what a “homosexual” or a “feminist” looked like from afar. It was not until a person in their house, or in their neighborhood, or state, on a friend on Facebook announced it. Then, empathy kicked in.

Is there One Way? Yes and no and maybe. Jesus is a key factor. He may be the only factor. But the Way to him? Is there only One Way?

Yes and no and maybe.

Paul runs into some more issues on the road. A group of citizens begin panicking over a public conflict, involving one of the most sincerely revered deities in the area:

The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. (19:32)

So a riot breaks out within the walls of a theater over the divinity of the goddess Artemis. People are shouting and throwing things, causing violence, and most of the people did not even know why they were there?

This is my concern: that many jump in without any knowledge. They go the way of Christianity, because it was told to them. When I first started writing this blog, my mother took heart in the fact that I had already given my heart to Jesus, and salvation was a one-way street. I prayed the prayer at 6-years-old. A decade later, I was baptized in a warm lake amongst others my age.

But it always felt like a riot, and I had jumped in with everyone else.

And it’s well worth the effort to see what exactly I stand for – especially after another decade to ruminate.

Travels, Pt 1 : Act 16 – 17

Derbe. Lystra. Macedonia. Philippi. Thessalonica. Berea. Athens.

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
Acts 16:31 (NIV)

I tend to wander between jobs. I do the math to figure out what makes sense: 300 miles a day (average drive distance) times how many days I have off (trip length) divided by two (way there, way back). That’s how I decide my location. I bought my car four years ago with 60,000 miles, and I have put 25,000 a year on it since. That feels good to me, but not enough. During those years, I have managed to hit 49 out of 50 states – Hawaii excluded. Sometimes I bring a companion – sometimes I go it alone.

What do I do when alone on the road?

I talk to everyone. I listen to all the little stories.

I have settled on a few generalizations about this country, both positive and negative. This country is beautiful and vast, and it blows me away how much of America is unpopulated. Alaska is the most mesmerizing state but God help anyone living there when the sun is up all day and night. I slept an hour in four days while there in the summer. Nebraska is like a giant cracker, and driving across it will test the limits of your boredom. Utah is an enigma, as it has the most diverse and staggering landscape (desert, mountains, hills, pasture, cities) and yet the most uniform population (old school conservative). In almost every rural area I visit, someone knows someone who knows someone who has gotten into meth. Gossip is everywhere – I spent a week in a small town of about 1,000, and everyone had an opinion about every other person. Have you ever thought about moving to getting away from the “drama?” I guarantee that is a foolhardy idea.

I have also learned some things about myself. Deserts give me anxiety. Mountains in the distance remind me of C. S. Lewis for some reason. I talk to myself – out loud – way more than I would like to admit, and at some point in every trip, I point to it as proof I am going insane. I don’t do well driving at night on highways, because I always end up leaning forward to see the stars, and always almost crash. Life needs balance, I have realized. I should never straight up wander, and I also shouldn’t make too much of a plan. Find a place for that night, and maybe the next, and then don’t think about the rest. That keeps me at an appropriate amount of knowing and unknowing.

I stop and take a picture of every wind turbine field I see. They fascinate me in their utilitarian nature. They remind me of 1984 and Brave New World.

I cry every time “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” comes on the radio. I also cry whenever something makes me nostalgic; for this latter reason, I avoid road trips in the autumn. I think I would spend the whole time crying.

People are generally good, and I know that. In most towns, someone will invite me to dinner or to spend the night, and I have accepted those offers enough times to make my mother anxious every time I go off wandering. People will tell you anything if you listen intently. A middle-aged woman invited me over for dinner after chatting with me in a grocery store, and when I arrived at her house, I discovered that she was caring for her ailing father on his deathbed. She made pork chops, but he wouldn’t eat it. She blended it with some mashed potatoes, and he kept it down. I slept on her sunken couch, listening to his heart monitor beep at disturbing long intervals.

I wrote her a letter a couple days later, to say thank you. He had died a day after I left.

I always take note of abandoned churches. I see a ton of foreclosed buildings, with punched out windows and drizzling grime, but for some reason, the only ones I remember are the churches. I think this proves that I obsess over religion, and it may not be healthy. I find local Christian radio stations and mock them, and then immediately afterwards, I feel guilty. This also points to my obsession.

Paul goes on some travels. Let’s look at that tomorrow.

New Revelations: Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:1-13 Luke 9:28-36

The Transfiguration.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here…”

Mark 9:5 (NIV)

My mother has a rule not to discuss her life before she came to Christ. The generalized (and assumed-to-be watered-down) version of events is that she ran a tumultuous childhood until her father died. She dropped out of college, looking for a religion or ideology to call home – and she tried them all. Then, she met my father, and once they gave birth to my sister, the pressure to pass on a healthy legacy overtook both of them. They became involved in a church and wah-lah, here I am with my extraordinarily devout parents. My brother and I used to beg my mother to “give us the goods,” that is, to tell us all the dirt and sins and mistakes of her life, but she would and has also continued to balk at this. “You don’t need to know about my life before Christ,” she says. “It’s something I just do not like to think about anymore.”

My father’s childhood was similarly veiled while I was growing up, but one day, an odd mood struck him. We walked across the street to our neighborhood pizza joint and plopped down in one of the booths. And when I shoved the first bite of pizza in my mouth, he said, “You can ask me whatever you want.” There was always one area of intrigue about my Dad’s past: his first marriage before my mother. He agreed to tell the story.

See he met his first wife during high school, sweethearts throughout, and they immediately married post-graduation. And in lieu of any sort of college education, he joined the army, unaware that the Vietnam War was secretly revving up in the background. When news came down from his station sergeant, they all knew the inevitable – all these boys were going to be shipped off to Vietnam, the first boots on the ground for what would surely be a long and brutal fight.

He prepared to go. He made his peace.

And then, with just a few weeks until deployment, he sauntered into his home, opened the door to his bedroom, and found his sergeant in bed with his wife. They jumped up, mortified, but he just closed the door behind him. He slept on a friend’s couch. And then, when he reported for duty the next morning, this sergeant called him into his office to give him an update on his deployment. Vietnam was no longer on the table, and instead, they were sending him to Alaska. Now, that dark, cold assignment is usually saved for the worst men in the bunch, but my father had a thought that perhaps this was his way of making amends.

I slept with your wife. So no war for you.

Jesus reveals himself to Peter, John, and James during an event he dubs the “transfiguration.” They go up to the top of a mountain, where Jesus appears to be the brightest white imaginable. Then, Moses and Elijah step down and join them, and the disciples fall to the floor prostrate. Finally, a cloud envelops all of them, and the voice of God is heard… affirming Jesus’ stature as His son and encouraging them to believe.

This is a profound moment for the disciples, as they finally experience first hand the awesome power of Jesus and his divine connection to God. Suddenly, they get it.  They have a new perspective on this man that they have been following for years now, all because he revealed his true nature.

And I have to say, when my father told me about his past, I understood him – and it only added to my adoration of his stature.

Family Ties: Mark 3:7-35, Luke 6:12-26

Jesus Crowded. The Twelve Appointed. Detractors Emerge.

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Mark 3:20-21 (NIV)

Who wouldn’t chase after a man who could heal all ailments with the mere touch of a hand?

So Jesus is extraordinarily popular. We have already seen that desperate followers will go so far as lowering their disabled brother from the rafters of the ceiling, just for a moment of the Messiah’s time.

Not all appreciate Jesus’ newly acquired celebrity status, particularly his “family.” Up until now, the only family we know of is Mary, his mother, and Joseph, his sort of father, and since this passage is particularly vague, we truly have no idea who exactly Mark refers to. Here’s what we do know: Jesus barricades himself inside of a house with his disciples, and his family does not appreciate the crowd that followers him around. They go to “take charge of him,” telling him in particularly impolite terms that he must stop the charade (the exact phrase: “He is out of his mind”). Not the most encouraging words from “family.”

I fully came out as queer to my family about a year ago. My reason for the qualifier “fully” is that I believe I actually came out much early, when I told my parents that I had been in a longish relationship with a man. They believed this was merely just an “art school phase.”

Either way, I cemented my status later, and it devastated them. I had heard many horrorifying coming out stories. I briefly dated a man who after coming out to his father, was immediately sent halfway around the world to live with his mother; it was his father’s belief that only she could “fix the damage” within him. For every gay individual I meet with a particularly negative experience, I know another with a complete non-experience; so many gay people go years without telling their family for fear of such a response. And even for every one of those, I meet yet another who has completely supportive parents – ones who “knew all along” or “could not care less who they love.”

My family fell right in the middle. Non-supportive but also non-reactionary. They “do not agree with the lifestyle” but love me “no matter what.”

What do I do with that? A lesbian friend of mine said that this blog felt like a love letter to my parents. I found that ironic considering they viewed it as narcissistic nonsense at best (and deceptive and cruel at worst). She told me that it was time to create my own family – one that was fully supportive of me – with my close friends. Others told me to latch on, to not give up, to accept them for who they are, to love my parents unconditionally. Initially, I gave them an ultimatum – accept this or leave me alone. I balked shortly thereafter – I just couldn’t stomach it.

How does Jesus react to his family calling him insane?

The crowd informs him that his mother and brothers are outside waiting for him. Jesus tersely asks, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (3:33) He then looks around the room, declaring his mother and brothers are already sitting next to him, because “whoever does God’s will” is his family (3:35).

Jesus made his own family when his was unsupportive. But I cannot think that these situations are parallel.

Adolescent, Abandoned: Luke 2:22-52

Jesus Visits the Temple.

After three days they found [Jesus] in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Luke 2:36-37 (NIV)

My father abandoned me in a Dick’s Sporting Goods store when I was eight-years-old. He disappeared. It took me about ten minutes to realize. I cried and then sprinted out into the parking lot. His car was gone. A young couple found me balled up on the macadam, wailing.

None of that story is true, but that was how it felt to me in the moment.

In reality, my father and I had gone into a Dick’s Sporting Good store during a family outing to the mall. My mother had split off with my sister to a different store, which required them to drive over there (it was a very big mall). My dad sauntered down the golf aisle, telling me to stay put while I stared at the camping gear. After a few moments, I turned around forgetting his instructions, and panicked. Without searching the store, I flew out as quickly as possible to find our car, but it was gone. Not because my father had abandoned me, but rather, because my mother and sister had taken the car and parked it elsewhere. But I was eight and alone and hell, do you blame me for overreacting?

As this happened, I recall going over the story of young Jesus at the Temple in my head. We do not get much in the way of information about Jesus’ upbringing; it’s glossed over much in the same way that the Lion King just jumps over all of Simba’s time as a teen lion in the jungle (until we got Lion King 1 ½ that is). For Passover, Joseph and Mary take Jesus to their busy temple in Jerusalem. After the event ends, Jesus secretly stays behind while his family trudges on back towards home. After a day of travel, they realize their mistake and rush back to find him, only to discover that he has been happily bopping around the with the priests and holy men. When they ask him about it, he replies simply, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (2:49)

Many Christian boys and girls know how to call upon this story in order to reverse-justify some rebellious behavior. “Why did you run away?” “JESUS RAN AWAY AND IT WAS NO BIG DEAL.” That strategy rarely worked.

More importantly, this is Jesus’ first example of bending the rules in order to adhere to a more logical approach. Technically speaking, Jesus disobeyed his parents by choosing to stay behind without them, and he must have understood the worry that such an action would cause them. But we all know Jesus is blameless, so this cannot be seen as a sinful action. He bent the rules for a good reason – in order to seek out God more fully and begin his ministry on Earth.

Interesting… The “rules” are already starting to find some exceptions…

Finally, here’s a picture of adolescent Simba:


(War on) Christmas: Matthew 1:18 – 2, Luke 2:1-21

The Birth of Jesus. Gifts of the Magi. Flight to Egypt.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
Luke 2:10 (NIV) 

Christmas was never a religious holiday to me for one major reason: presents. No child is going to give a crap about celebrating the day Jesus was born when presents are at stake. My mother always made a big deal out of the holiday – her entire family would come over on Christmas Eve for a near all day affair. First, antipasto; then, wine and dinner and television. Finally, presents. My father tried to institute an “open one gift every 15 minutes” rule that never flew. He also always hid one of his presents so that he was the last one to open his gift – a cruel way to twist the knife in our sides once post-present depression set in. After all the drink and food and presents were done, the extended family dispersed until no one but the five of us were left. Then, on Christmas morning, we ate brunch and saw a movie – depending on the year, most likely an entry in the Lord of the Rings series. That was Christmas.

Easter felt religious to me. We got up super early and went to church – wearing suits and dresses. Sure we got candy, but that was hardly worth getting up at 7 am on a weekend. Then, there was the script: “He is risen,” and the reply, “He is risen indeed.” No anticipation necessary for Easter – just pre-emptive exhaustion. It never felt even remotely celebratory – much more solemn and revered. Take that anecdote for what it is.

Some religious pundits (read: the Fox News Channel) have mentioned a “War on Christmas” in recent years – it even has its own Wikipedia page. I am sure the majority of you are familiar with this fight, but for the uninitiated, the gist is that we as a culture are secularizing something that ought to be left wholly religious. This all feeds into a larger argument about our religious nature as a country – namely if we are at our core values are a “Christian nation.” As someone who grew up in a Christian household that revered this holiday, I have trouble remotely identifying with this supposed “war.” I knew intellectually the Christ-based importance imbued onto this day, but none of it felt even remotely spiritual to me. In fact, the emotion I most commonly associate with Christmas is nostalgia.

Who knew that the “War on Christmas” began all the way back at the first one?

King Herod rules right at the time of Jesus’ birth. When the Magi come through town in order to tend to the new Messiah, Herod catches word, calling on them secretly to keep him updated on Jesus’ whereabouts. They ignore this command at the warning of an angel and travel back home via a different route. Meanwhile, Herod issues a decree to have all baby boys born under the age of two to be executed, and the baby Jesus and his family flee to Egypt to escape his death grip.

Now THAT’S a war on Christmas, ladies and gentlemen. A round of applause please. These silly liberals just try to remove Christmas ties and pray around festivus poles, but they are wusses compared to the tyrannical King Herod. He actually did something. He killed thousands of babies for no reason, just to stop Christmas.

I did not go home for Christmas this year. No one did anything wrong – there were no arguments or dramatic hair pulling. I just needed a small respite after coming out. A “holiday from the Holidays.” This hit my parents hard. The tradition of Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without all of us together. I agreed. It would be a change on Christmas. But for a few moments, it felt like a “war.”

Let me be clear, there is no “War on Christmas.” There is a “Change on Christmas.” Some people don’t associate this day with religiosity, because we as a culture have already secularized it.

Scoot over Christians, other people have celebrations as well. What a war.

Call me when they start burning the nativities in effigy.

Here is a link to one of Bill O’Reilly’s segments on the “War on Christmas.”

Life Lessons: Zechariah 1 – 10

“Return to me,” declares the Lord Almighty, “and I will return to you.”
Zechariah 1:3b (NIV)

My mother had several all-encompassing mantras that applied to any given situation. Mothers are good for that, especially Italian, short, raised Catholic now Protestant, tough mothers.

Tornados always scared me growing up – it turned into an obsessive fear after some time. From May to August every year, my eyes were glued to the extended forecast on the Weather Channel. If storms lurked in distance, I spent the next week prepping for the occurrence, checking updates, watching radar, waiting, apprehending. A particular bad set of storms hit one evening. No one else took it seriously. I hid under the kitchen table. My mother crawled under with me, shivering and sweating, and told me that it was time to start wearing deodorant. I looked at her through my worry and asked why. She said:

Because cleanliness is next to godliness.

I thought she had made that up.

Another one: I rarely lied, out of fear of the wrath of the gods (my parents). My mother had a borderline psychic intuition that made any secret a time bomb. My first kiss was my sophomore year, to a young Asian girl from my art elective class. I walked her home. We kissed awkwardly. Then, I skipped on home with a giant smile on my face. I pranced straight into my living room – my mother looked at me dead in the eyes and said, you kissed a girl, didn’t you? I freaked out, shouting accusations and defenses. She laughed and playfully said:

Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

Don’t lie, even if it’s out of embarrassment. Yep.
My parents never cursed. We were not supposed to curse – a stark and never-broken rule in our household. But that confused me one day when my mother told me:

When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.
What does that mean? I asked.
I think that’s clear, she replied.
I thought we weren’t supposed to curse.
Another mantra: A well-placed curse gets the point across.

Life lessons from the 1950s apparently.

Zechariah goes about establishing a new norm for the Jewish people, post-exile. The days of Nebuchadnezzar are over; the Israelites have returned to their homeland. And now, we have a new prophet who is tasked with informing these fallen men and women of where they have been and where they are going now.

He gives us this to munch on:

“These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord.
Zechariah 8:16-17 (NIV)

I do not mean to imply that the “Law” is gone as we have come to know it, but this is certainly a shift in the paradigm. These are guidelines to living a sound and healthy life – an encapsulated way to end the Old Testament. A loving God, happy with His followers. Maybe it means…

But before I can say it, I can hear my mother saying:

Do not mistake a loving God with a relativist God.

The end comes tomorrow.