Category Archives: Blog

A Prayer-Poem for Non-Violence

By Darlene Darlington Wagner

Dear Eternal Mother (or Father),
How does your peaceableness manifest
In sentiment, thought, deed, and spoken word?
Across these aspects of existence
Which peace-building arts would you instruct
Me in? A person's haste I recompense
With deference, a person's anger I
Toil to reward with calm compassion.
Yet, how shall I respond to arrogance,
Cold ridicule, or power-lust-propelled
Brutality? (Any suggestions here? I'm not quite a true pacifist!)
This world now trembles in
Her weariness of fiery blasts and blood-sopped
Bodies rending and insulting her
Life-nurturing skin. A new, invincible
Peace, whose practitioners fall never to
Vindictive wrath's allure, nor break ranks for
Just cause by forceful means, must claim all lost
In strife, must give sight to those blind by rage,
And heal the earth of hatred's scars at last!
Sweet, Gentle Goddess, whose touch eases hurts
Within, calms discord separating hearts,
And promises to heal earth's wounds and rifts,
To your unbounded Spirit bind me tight!

Should States Recognize Same-Sex Marriage?

By Ansley Kasha

By definition love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. Love is a concept that everyone knows about. How would you feel if all of a sudden your right to love was taken away? Empty? Alone? This is how approximately 8.8 million people feel all the time. Gay marriage is a touchy subject to discuss because it deals with religion as well as personal values. Although in American society people as a whole are not in favor of gay marriage, I strongly believe in the right to marry the same sex. I can understand why people would be against same-sex marriage, but do they understand why I would be for it?

Let’s take religion to start off with. Someone once anonymously stated on an online article, “I always thought the freedom of religion implied to the right from religion as well.” If this were to be true, is it right for the country to take away someone’s right to love based strictly on their beliefs? What if someone is a different religion other than Christian and doesn’t go by the Bible? How does being atheist fit into all of this? All of these are significant points to consider. What about the fact that state and religion are supposed to stay separate? If state and religion were actually separate, I bet more than six states would approve of gay marriage.

Morals also play a part of this ongoing argument. The way you were brought up affects your view on this. Your religion, how your parents were raised, and the type of household structure you were brought up in can affect your opinion on this issue. I was raised to accept everyone for who are. If they had disabilities, you accept them and learn to live a lifestyle that accommodates their needs. How is gay marriage any different? The way you feel about other people is just a part of who you are, just like disabilities. If someone wouldn’t look down on another person with a handicap, why would they look down on someone who is in love with the same sex?

Naturally people are going to disagree with my point of view. But if I were to ask someone who has a different viewpoint than me why gay marriage shouldn’t be legalized, what would their argument be? Does not legalizing gay marriage come down to feeling uncomfortable? Is it something people aren’t used to and therefore it is presented as wrong? But when you think about it, isn’t that how everything new works?

I believe that same-sex marriage should be made legal everywhere because it is simply just love. When you think about it, who is really hurting? How is it going to affect you in a negative way? Same-sex marriage, whether between men or women, is just a form of love. Maybe it is different from what you are used to, but when it comes down to it, it is all just the same thing. It’s just a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

By Deacon Bob Shaw

Let me ask you a question… wouldn’t you agree that within the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities there has always been a fascination with the movie “The Wizard of Oz”? This Halloween many queer folks will dress up as their favorite character (and it’s not always Dorothy.) As a matter of fact, a phrase that our community uses to discreetly find out if another person belongs to our community comes indirectly from this movie. Have you ever been asked “are you a friend of Dorothy’s?”

For those of you hiding under a rock and don’t know about this incredible movie, let me tell you a little bit about it. This movie came out in 1939 and follows the adventures of Dorothy, a young Kansas farm girl as she is magically transported to the fantastic Land of Oz by a tornado. It is a timeless classic, which appeals to audiences of all ages and sexual orientations. Through its lovable characters and beautiful music, this classic contains within it a wonderful message. All of the main characters - the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and Dorothy all set out to find the almighty, the all powerful “Wizard of Oz,” who they believe can provide for their needs. Sounds like you and me when we reach out to God for our needs, doesn’t it? The Scarecrow wants a brain, the Tin Man wants a heart, the Cowardly Lion wants some courage, and young Dorothy just wants to go home.

Dorothy’s wish is kind of ironic. You see, before the tornado hits that disrupts her life, Dorothy finds herself wishing she could get away from home. She doesn’t like her situation there. The song that blossoms from that experience is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Listen to the words….and sing along if you like. *smile*

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

Some day I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?

We all have dreamed about life on the other side of the “Rainbow.” Why, God, oh why can’t I get there? After all, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, isn’t it? Dorothy’s song came at a time in her life when she was unhappy, a time when the road that she and her little dog Toto were traveling, became a very bumpy and hard road to ride.

Noah knew what it was like to travel a bumpy road. His story begins with God’s deep sorrow over what humankind had become. We read in Genesis:

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”

Sometimes I wonder how God feel’s about the world that we live in today. I can’t help but believe that God’s heart grieves over what God sees. I often find myself concerned over the things I see, hear, and read both in the news and in the world around me. I see children who are starving. I see the world contemplating war and worrying about whether other countries will use weapons of mass destruction or not. I see people that are forced to live on the street. I see people dying of AIDS and their families not loving them simply because they chose to love someone of the same sex. These are just a few of the things that cause my heart to grieve. If my heart, a human heart that is capable of sin grieves over these things, I have to believe that God looks down upon humanity and God’s heart cries out in pain!

During the days of Noah God became so upset with the wickedness of the world that God decided to literally destroy the world and everything in it. Yet in the midst of all the wickedness, in the midst of all the turmoil, in the midst of all the fear, in the midst of everything going on, God saw Noah. Genesis 6:8 says:

“But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD.”

God told Noah that there was going to be a flood so big that it would destroy everything on the earth. God also told Noah to build an ark and provided Noah with specific instructions on how the ark was to be built and what all was to be on it when the floods came. Can you imagine if God came to you and told you the world will be flooded in a month? If God gave you blueprints for this vast ship and instructions to fill that ship with one of each type of plant and animal that exists on this earth would you build that ship and gather all the items God requested? Would you have the faith to believe that what God told you is about to happen to the earth is true?

Noah had that faith. Noah built the ark and filled it as God told him to do. Noah and his family probably had to deal with a lot of ridicule from those around them as they prepared for this huge event. Imagine the reactions your neighbors and the community around you would have if you were building such a huge vessel and that you were preparing for the end of the world. They’d think you were crazy! There had to be times when Noah wanted to throw in the towel and just give up. Noah probably wondered why God would want to destroy the world and why God chose him and his family to start the human race over again.

Have you ever had God call you to do something? Whether it be so simple as to help others around you with food, money, shelter, a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on, or to follow a higher calling to the ministry? Let me tell you a story. A few years back I was wandering along lost. I had a good job, shelter over my head, my faithful companion Max at my side. I didn’t know where my life was going and felt no sense of purpose. I had also been diagnosed as HIV+ a little over a year earlier, so I was still coming to terms with that. I was wading along in water that was way over my head and I felt I would eventually drown.

One day during this period in my life I had lunch with Pastor Paul. We were talking about how my life felt so stagnant. One of the questions Paul asked me was “what has brought me joy and happiness in the past?” The first thing that that jumped up in my mind was all the way back in high school. I would volunteer at the local hospital to entertain the children that were there. I’d dress up as a clown and do magic tricks for the kids. Seeing the joy on their faces was so rewarding! Here these kids were in pain and in a place they didn’t want to be and I was able to help them forget where they were, even it if was just for a little while.

Other examples I gave him centered around helping others. Pastor Paul then asked me if I had ever considered becoming a deacon. Now mind you, I hadn’t been going to church all that long and I grew up Methodist. We don’t have deacons! So I didn’t really know what being a deacon was all about. Paul told me a little bit about what a deacon does and asked me to pray about it and to specifically ask God to show me my calling.

Of course asking God about your calling is easy, listening to what God has to say and following it is another story! All throughout the deacon training I was constantly asking “Why God? Why Me?” I attended church in my youth. But during my teen years through the early twenties I was not active in church. Once I went into the Army I realized I was gay. When I went to Desert Storm I feared for my life and turned to my inner faith to make it through. John 3:16 was particularly comforting for me. After all, in my heart I knew I was one of the whosoevers mentioned in this verse. Once I moved to Atlanta and got out of the military I had checked out some local churches, but I felt that although they were somewhat welcoming, they thought my being gay was a sin. I knew that wasn’t so, how could it be a sin to love another person? So I just stayed out of church and clung desperately to the fact that I was one of the whosoevers deep down in my heart.

I had little church knowledge and knew virtually nothing about the bible. So I kept asking why God would call me? There were other people much more qualified, in my mind anyway, to be a deacon. Why did God want me to do that? I continued with the deacon training, questioning my calling the whole time. During one period that I was extremely low I almost pulled out of the program. I just couldn’t believe I was worthy of doing God’s will in this way. But then God nudged me to let me know I was doing the right thing, I was following the right road. You see, I needed to get a haircut one day and I knew this person at a Supercuts that gave a good crewcut (this was before I did it on my own). I went there and was told it would be a 30-minute wait to see this person.

Little did I know God planned it that way. You see, there was a HUGE Christian store right next door in the strip mall. So I wandered next door to check it out. In the back of the store there was a music section with listening stations and a lot of different Christian music. I saw that one of the CD’s that you could listen to had this drop dead gorgeous man on the cover. I had seen his picture and this album before in catalogs I had received in the mail, so I picked up the headsets and hit the play button. His music had a rather catchy rhythm to it. I stood there and listened to about 30 seconds of each of the first few songs and liked what I heard. Then I got to track five. Again I listened, but this time I listened to the whole song and I cried as I listened to the words. That song is “For the Sake of the Call” by Steven Curtis Chapman. All along I had doubted God’s call to me and my worthiness to serve God. God got me to listen to this song to let me know everything was going to be all right, I was following God’s plan, and this was God’s way to let me know not to worry about it.

The point of my story is to let you know to follow where God leads you. Don’t doubt it or ask why God wants you do it. There is a much bigger picture that only God can see. Know in your heart that you are doing God’s will and it is good. You saw in Genesis that Noah didn’t doubt God, he built the ark. He didn’t understand everything that was happening, but he had faith that God knew the big picture. The Bible says of Noah that “he did all that God commanded him.”

Chapter 7 of Genesis begins by the LORD saying to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation.” Once Noah had the ark finished and all packed up, the rains came for forty days and forty nights. The floods came and every living thing upon the earth was destroyed. The only things that survived were in that ark, as God told Noah.

Once the rains stopped, Noah sent out a dove that returned with an olive branch in its mouth. This signified that the waters were receding and that land was near. And what happened next? God established a covenant with Noah that a flood would never again destroy the world. The sign of this covenant is a sign that you and I can still see in the sky today after it rains – a rainbow.

“When the rainbow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:16-17 NRSV)

What could all of this mean to us a few thousands years afterwards? We all will experience stormy waters in our lives at one time or another. But Noah showed us that if we are faithful to God, if we do all that God has commanded us to do, if we simply place our lives in God’s hands and put all our trust in God, then God will lead us gently to a safe place.

Every time we see a rainbow in the sky, it is God’s reminder to all humankind that God is in charge of everything. And that God loves us. And brothers and sisters in Christ, if God is in charge of everything, no matter how rough the storm becomes, no matter how high the waters rise, no matter how lonely you or I may feel, no matter how hopeless the immediate future may seem, God will always cause our ark to come to rest in a safe place.

Our God is a mighty God!
Our God is an awesome God!
Our God is a forgiving God!
Our God is a loving God!

And our God is right here RIGHT NOW waiting for us to place our lives in God’s hands.

God Bless.

Because AIDS Isn't Over Yet

By Deacon Bob Shaw

Come! Let us walk in the light of God!

In this way the prophet Isaiah encouraged the Jewish nation thousands of years ago to find the light of God's love and to claim it and to walk in it.

Today we mark two occasions that require us, too, to walk in the light of God.

First, we commemorate World AIDS Day -– where we remember those who have died during this modern-day holocaust before it was their time. I call it a holocaust because we have lost some of the best, most talented, most intellectual, and most loving people that the world would ever know... to the AIDS holocaust.

Yet the one thing to remember is that ALL communities have suffered from this holocaust. Imagine the possibilities if the people who died were still alive. Let’s not forget the voices, dances, songs, talents, skills and love that have been consumed from our community due to this devastation. Today we remember the love they shared, the friendships they formed and the marks they left on society. Today we lift up those who continue to live with HIV or AIDS, as they continue the battle of their lives. Today we honor the friends, families and volunteers who work so hard to assist us through this trying time. Today we praise God for the scientists and researchers who work so many hours to win this fight. God's love and compassion shines a light into the gloom and the darkness, the shame and the stigma, which many have tried to associate with this disease.

Let’s not forget the work ahead of us. We are in the midst of a long journey. I want to particularly recognize those brothers and sisters (including transgender people) out there who are living with HIV or AIDS and are doing so publicly. Their courage, grace and stamina fuels some of us to do what we sometimes get worn down from doing – the work to save our community. Thank you for all that you do and the lessons you continue to teach the many of us.

Second, we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, the season in our church year which prepares us to receive God's ultimate light -- the Christ child on Christmas morning, the One who grew up to say, "I am the light of the world."

"Advent" is the four-week period leading up to Christmas. It is similar to "Lent," the six-week period prior to Easter. Both seasons are seasons of hope, seasons of waiting, seasons of preparing ourselves inwardly and outwardly to experience God in a new way.

During Advent we prepare for God's getting closer to humanity which occurred through Jesus, who became Christ for our world. In looking toward the birth of Jesus, we look toward a time when all that Jesus represents can be reborn in our world -- elements of hope, of peace, of love, and of joy. These are what the four candles in the Advent wreath represent.

The scriptures of Old Testament, particularly the Book of Isaiah, are often used during Advent because the earliest Christians believed that in Jesus they had met the Hebrew Messiah -- God's Anointed One, who would bring righteousness to the earth and create a fresh start for everyone. Many of the Old Testament scriptures are seen as prophecies that some Christians believe by faith were fulfilled in the person of Jesus. Our Old Testament reading today from Isaiah is one of those scriptures that has been associated with Jesus for generations.

By faith, Christians have believed the start of the Christian Church was being prophesized when Isaiah talked about the mountain of God's house being established as the highest of the mountains, with all people streaming to it. Christians have prayed that God's grace and God's light would lead them to be a house for ALL people. They have believed that Jesus, who welcomed all people to himself, was the beacon of that light of God -- a lighthouse, if you will, which attracts those who wander or lose their way. One of the most famous quotes of Jesus is when he clears the temple and says, "Don't you know that my house shall be a house of prayer for ALL people?"

What a shame that the mainline churches have not put its actions where its words are. What a shame that, even though these words are read in thousands of churches around the world today, many of these churches are STILL NOT houses for ALL people. What a shame that many types of people are not welcome in those houses of God. What a shame that they try to prevent God's light from shining on people with AIDS, people who are gay or lesbian, differently-abled people, poor people, transgender people, and, frequently, women who wish to be a part of the church rather than keeping silent. Funny how it’s more like a private club than the all-inclusive place that God speaks about.

As we ponder these words today, I hope that we will meditate on whether WE, Gentle Spirit Christian Church, are really being Christ's lighthouse. Are we a house of God for ALL people, or just those who look or act or believe a certain way? Can we really “walk our talk?”

I hope that we will use today as a day of introspection, not just to think about AIDS and our reaction to it, but as a day to renew our vision as a place where all people might find the light of God's love. I urge us all to think what kind of place we want to be. And I hope that our thinking will result in our wanting to use this advent season -- this season of preparation -- as a time to prepare this house of God to be a house for all people.

The early Christians believed that in the figure of Jesus Christ they had met the One who could make Isaiah's vision come true. There was something so dynamic and loving and compassionate about this Jesus that they were convinced that in him they had met God. They called him Messiah, God's Anointed One, because they believed that by modeling his example they could make all of these things come true.

If we really regard the example of Jesus as instructive of how God wants us to behave and to live our lives, then we HAVE met the Christ. Remember, if you’ve done something to the least, you’ve done it to me” We can meet the Christ in our daily actions with the world around us. Christmas is not just a time for shopping and giving gifts and eating festive meals. Christmas is about welcoming the Christ Spirit into our lives.

If, when Advent and Christmas are over, our lives are no different -- if they do not reflect in a tangible way the coming of Christ, the love, hope, peace, joy, and compassion that Christ emulated for us -- then Christmas has not really happened at all. We have just gone through the motions. We have been just like the hypocrites that Jesus criticized and condemned over and over again during his earthly life.

Today I want to tell you about one of the incredible losses that we, as a community, have lost to AIDS. His name was Brandon Ross Abernathy. I met him during one of the lowest points in my life after I was diagnosed as being HIV-positive. The first few months for me was very rough. The only person I told was the guy I was dating. My roommate at the time, who was a good friend, didn’t find out until years later. It was a very tough time for me. For at least six months I did nothing out of fear. This was pre-internet days at the time. Those of us who were computer geeks communicated through bulletin boards. I was a member of an Atlanta based gay bulletin board called Graffiti and I put a message in an area for discussing HIV. It was my way to anonymously reach for help. My screen name would not be placed with the message so I felt safe in not revealing my dirty little secret. Many, many people added their comments to my posting.

All of them were encouraging, and full of love and hope. More than one recommended me to go Operation Survive! It was a program that AIDS Survival Project hosted for those people that are newly diagnosed with HIV, or are affected in any other way (whether they have a partner with it or are in the health care field, etc.) I got my courage up and signed up for this weekend long program.

It was there that I met Brandon Abernathy. Early on in the weekend they broke down the 50 some odd people that were attending the workshop into sub-groups. There was one stipulation. You couldn’t know anyone else in the group. As it turns out I ended up in the group that Brandon led. This group would end up meeting several times during the weekend. It was a place for each person inside the group to share how HIV had affected their lives and how the weekend was affecting them. In order to break the ice some Brandon told us his story. He was bisexual. Kicked out of his house at 15 years old and living on the streets. There he got heavily involved in drugs and prostitution. Later, when his life started coming together he met an incredible woman who he married. It was during this marriage that he found out he was HIV-positive. She couldn’t handle it and left him. The year was 1985. Back then very little was known about HIV. Doctors just watched their patients die and had no way of treating them. Within two years Brandon was diagnosed with full blown AIDS. It was sometime around then that he met his life partner, Cleve, who survives him today.

Over the years Brandon had several brushes with death (three to be exact; the fourth time death finally got him). Each time new drugs and a great deal of faith got him through. At the end of his life Brandon said “I can’t explain why I’m here medically. I do have a positive attitude and I’m also searching for a higher spiritual health.”

Brandon’s story was incredible. Here was someone that despite the odds being against him, had made it so far. I went through Operation Survive! almost six years ago. Brandon changed my life with his story. He showed me that despite having a disease that will ultimately kill you, you can live your life full of hope, of peace, of love, and of joy. It literally changed my life.

I started volunteering at AIDS Survival Project. There I got to work with Brandon during Operation Survive! (which changed its name to Thrive!). Brandon lived his life as Jesus wants us, as a people, to live ours. Love your neighbor. Love your God. These are the two greatest commandments. Brandon, both through his friends and his activism, showed his love for everyone around him. Brandon’s strong desire to find his spiritual higher being and his encouragement of others to do the same followed Jesus’ command also.

Are we ready to do the same? It sounds so easy, but it’s not always that way. In the end the rewards are great though! One way to find to live this life is through the prayer of Jabez. Those of us who went on the church retreat this year found out how. We take the time each day to say this prayer (or the Lord’s prayer or ACTS) and focus on the words and let them deeply infiltrate our being. We then go throughout the day living these words. The rewards that each of us has been receiving is incredible.

There is so much hypocrisy in the world today; even in our community.

I know many gay folks who refuse to acknowledge that AIDS exists, and certainly not in THEIR world! AIDS only happens to sluts, or drug users… not to "nice," normal gay people like them! So when that turns out to be untrue it’s a big shock to their worlds. It certainly was to mine.

Both the gay and straight community end up being hypocritical when they write the obituary that says that Deacon Bob died of a "long illness" or "cancer." How many people have gone to their graves without allowing the word AIDS to be uttered in their presence?!

One of the saddest things about the AIDS crisis is that many have used it as a means of further victimizing and ghettoizing and demonizing gay people. We hear ads for charitable organizations that say they are raising money for babies with AIDS -- the "innocent victims" of this disease. Let’s think this through to a logical conclusion. They are implicitly stating that those who are not babies who have this disease are non-innocent, willing, active victims who brought on their trouble. Who in their right mind wants a disease with so much stigma attached to it? Let alone ANY disease that would kill them?

Or what about when folks say, "AIDS is not a gay disease"? Well, no, it isn't. But let's carry that thought to its logical conclusion. If it were a gay disease, then what? Would that segment of the world population be somehow expendable? What if we said that we shouldn't treat or research sickle-cell anemia because it's a black disease or ovarian cancer because it's a woman's disease? Why is one group more expendable or redeemable than another?

I say these things because as I look toward the day of the year when we tangibly say Christ is born. I wish that people will begin to see that we are ALL in this together.

No person, church or organization is better than another. God does not hear one person's or one church's prayer more than another's.

God says “The day is coming when my mountain will be greater than all the other mountains. Every one will stream to it because it will be a place of prayer for ALL people.”

No more human made separations. No more fighting. No more war.

That is what will happen when we finally allow Christ to be born.

My sisters and brothers, this Advent season, meditate in your hearts and souls as to how YOU can help Christ to be born this year. How can YOU empower and embody the gifts of Hope, Love, Peace, and Joy that surround the coming of Christ, the coming of Compassion?

Part of it means getting our priorities in order.

How can we bicker or name-call or ignore one another when people out there are DYING without knowing of the love, peace, joy, hope, and compassion which our loving God shows on this earth every day that Christ is born in our gestures and our words and our activities?

As we commemorate World AIDS Day and the First Sunday of Advent, let us try to figure out how we in our individual lives can help Christ to be born so that others really know that this birth has happened, that this Christ really lives.

As we prepare outwardly for Christmas, let us also prepare inwardly the homes of our hearts -- because that is where Christmas will really take place. THAT is where Christ will really be born.

AMEN!

Sowing the Seeds of Love

By Deacon Bob Shaw

There was a business consultant who decided to landscape his grounds. He hired a woman with a doctorate in horticulture who was extremely knowledgeable. Because the business consultant was very busy and traveled a lot, he kept emphasizing to her the need to create his garden in a way that would require little or no maintenance on his part. He insisted on automatic sprinklers and other labor-saving devices.

Finally she stopped and said, “There’s one thing you need to deal with before we go any further. If there’s no gardener, then there is no garden!”

There are no labor-saving devices for growing a garden of spiritual virtue. Becoming a person of spiritual fruitfulness requires time, attention and care. How many of us are like that business consultant? We’re very busy during the week and get caught up in work and social activities and don’t spend the time we need to work on our spiritual growth? Then we come into church on Sunday for a re-charge, feeding off the energy of those around us. How many times during the week are you running really low on your spiritual food by Wednesday or Thursday and do nothing about it?

One thing that is needed in all of these situations is God. Whether God is providing the rain from Heaven to water the earth making it bud and flourish. Whether God is placing people together to form relationships that lead to life-long commitments. Whether God is giving us the words to speak to our fellow people that allow the Holy Spirit to plant seeds in the lives of those we encounter. Whatever the seed we're talking about, God has full control of it.

And just what are those Seeds? They are the Word of God.

In the Gospel lesson, we hear the parable of the sower and the different soils that the seeds have been scattered upon. Within our lives, we encounter each of these soils daily. Ideally, the only soil that should be in our lives is the good soil that produces abundantly what was sown. Life isn’t that easy. It is only when we take the soil that is given us, cultivate it, fertilize it, and properly nourish it that the soil produces a good harvest. That doesn't always happen in our lives because we allow ot her things to come in and control our lives.

Take the soil next to the road and the birds that came along and ate the seeds. We sometimes associate with people that don't live their lives according to God's Will. Perhaps these are people that take God’s Word away from our heart. Perhaps these people are involved in bad things and they get you to join or follow them. You know what they're doing is wrong, but you associate with them anyway. Whatever it is, these people cause you to doubt what God has planted in your life. How many times are we these people? Running around doing things that snatch away seeds from others?

As for the seeds that fell on rocky soil and grew up and withered away. It seems more and more we rely on ourselves to get the job done right instead of trusting God to provide for us. Do we help our fellow neighbor with whatever their need is? Or do we run around bragging to others about the help we provided? Do we take these things that we need to get done and lift them to God in prayer? God’s Word does not sink in deeply for these people and when the time of testing their faith comes, they fall short.

Finally, the thorny soil. This would represent our daily worries. People we care about, our finances, the weather, health, travel, you name it and we worry about it…. we’re human after all! It doesn't matter how much we worry about these things because we're not going to be able to change the outcome. Remember Y2K? God must be laughing at us about that one. We worried a lot, spent gobs and gobs of money, and worried some more on top of it all. And in the end it all was for naught. January 1, 2000 came and went with barely a whimper. God provided in our time of need. When we worry so much and place our trust in things other than God, we allow the things of this world to choke the seeds within us instead of allowing our faith to grow.

"Still other seeds fall on good soil where they produced an abundant crop." What a comfort to know that in the midst of everything around us there still in good soil within us. That good soil continues to be nourished when we hear God's Word, when we pray and when we turn our worries and cares over to God.

Jesus admonishes us to take our time and sow everywhere. But why do that? Why waste our time and energy sowing in places where you don’t know whether or not it will bear fruit? Why not just sow the soil that you know will get you the best harvest? Jesus throughout the gospel encourages his followers, telling them that much of their work will be wasted effort and promising them that God will bring forth results far exceeding their expectations. You’ve seen how our ministry has grown over the last few years. And Whosoever, who would’ve dreamed it would become as big as it has? Put your faith in God. Sow those seeds everywhere! You’ll be surprised where those seeds start popping up and taking root.

This is why Christ came to this earth. He knew that there was no way we could ever make the soil within us good enough to produce any crop, so Christ lived the perfect life that we couldn't. He took upon Himself all of the sin that is around us daily. On the Cross, He shed His blood in order to purify the soil within us to make it good. Not only for that time, but also for all times to come. Christ rose from the dead in order to continue to cultivate, to plow, and fertilize our lives in the manner that is best for us.

So what can you do to “sow those seeds?” One thing is to Pray in the morning folks! When you first get up….you’ve heard Pastor Paul talk about it before and I am again now because I’ve seen the results. I no longer feel spiritually drained by mid-week. Try to say your prayer when you first get up while your mind is still very open and the world hasn’t come crashing in yet. For some, like me, it might not be the very first thing out of your head. Some are thinking of using the bathroom, taking a shower, getting that first cup of coffee, smoking a cigarette or walking the dog. The earlier in the day you say this prayer, the better. Don’t let life catch up with you and take your focus off of God.

Face it; everyday you face hundreds of choices. Every morning when we wake up, our whole day is a myriad of challenges, and we become the sum total of the choices that we make. Sometimes it’s hard to make the right choices, and if you don’t, you suffer the consequences. So every morning when you get up say, “God, help me to make the right choices today.” I feel the difference saying that prayer makes.

Another way to “sow your seeds” is to follow Christ’s example of love. Matthew writes in Chapter 22 "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND." And “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” Jesus stresses that these are the two greatest commandments of them all. Go out and be kind to your neighbor, your co-worker, your friends and strangers you come into contact with. Treat others the way you want them to treat you.

Take the time in your everyday life to do your sowing. Whether it’s saying a prayer in the morning, praying during the day for those around you and for your fellow churchgoers, committing a random act of kindness to a stranger or just biting your tongue and not lashing out at someone who has committed a wrong against you.

Whatever the situation is, go and sow the seeds of love everywhere. God will take those seeds and multiply them in such a way that your life will be richly blessed.

"Some Are Welcome": When the Church Gets it Spectacularly Wrong

Before I came to Gentle Spirit Christian Church, I spent a few months church shopping. My criterion for a good church was a place that I would feel totally comfortable. "I'll know it when I see it," I told myself. I visited many churches around this area, both mainstream and predominantly gay and lesbian. I never found a church that made me feel totally comfortable until I walked into this church. True, I already knew Paul very well and there were other people in the church that were already friends of mine. But, a large majority of you didn't know me at all. But that didn't stop any of you from giving me a big hug and welcoming me into this church. It's the reason I've stayed. I saw what I was looking for a church that welcomed anyone who walked through the door and not just with a visitor's packet of information. No, you welcomed me with a hug, a smile and a genuine concern for my well being.

This is what church is all about a welcome place for anyone who comes in. It's a lesson many churches would do well to learn. It's a lesson the church has had to relearn through the centuries. It's a lesson we, as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians, are called to teach the church.

Recently, the United Methodist Church reconfirmed its position on gays and lesbians in the church. At their General Conference in May they renewed their statement that, "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." They, along with most other major denominations, do not welcome us in their churches. Oh, we're welcome to come and sit in the pew, give our money to the church, and support them in other ways. We are not, however, welcome in most denominations to become any part of the leadership, serve as deacons, or heaven forbid, be ordained into the ministry. Why? Because "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." One of the critics of Whosoever sums it up another way "there is no place in the church for gays and lesbians." Think on that line for a minute. "There is NO place in the church for gays and lesbians."

On the Whosoever mailing list, a reader brought up an excellent point. "Why stay?" Why should gays and lesbians even care if the church ever opens its doors to us? We have our own places to worship free from denominational condemnation. Why is it so important for the church to open its doors and ultimately accept gays and lesbians openly? Good question.

Martin Luther King Jr. in his book "Strength to Love" answers that question eloquently:

Many continue to knock on the door of the church at midnight, even after the church has so bitterly disappointed them, because they know the bread of life is there.

That's why it's so important to open the doors of the church to gays and lesbians. Because the bread of life is there! The church's function has always been to give the bread of life to all that seek it.

The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender believer understands what Karl Barth meant when he wrote that the church's duty is "to bid people hope, and thus to mediate to them the promise that they need." Barth further insists the church must "confess solidarity at every point with people" and "show ourselves to be their companions and friends without worrying about their garb or mask, and we make their cause our own."

Instead, the church too often looks at the garb or the mask, and insists in a change of clothing or a removal of the mask before the doors will open. Barth counsels churches to remain open to all because "those who hunger and thirst after righteousness those who, however mistakenly or strangely or impotently, ask after and seek the right and dignity of humanity, have God on their side and will be satisfied ä we cannot separate this from them not matter what name they bear or what kind of people they are."

In the case of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians, the church turns a deaf ear to Barth's words. They are not interested in welcoming the gay, lesbian, bi or transgender believer, nor in giving them the right and dignity of humanity. They think such believers are mistaken, strange and not truly seeking righteousness. Instead, too many churches seek to separate the humanity from such believers, telling them they must abandon a large part of their identity, their sexuality, to share in the ultimate hope of glory with God.

The church is wrong when it treats people this way. That's not just my take on it but it's the Bible's message as well. The Bible clearly shows God calling the church to be more inclusive even as far back as ancient Israel.

The Torah, or the Pentateuch as we know it, is very explicit about who and who cannot come into the temple to worship. Deuteronomy 23:1-4 makes it quite clear:

"He whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off shall not enter the assembly of the LORD. No bastard shall enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD. No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none belonging to them shall enter the assembly of the LORD for ever because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came forth out of Egypt"

Seems pretty clear. No eunuchs, no sons of unwed mothers, and no foreigners, especially Ammonites or Moabites since they refused to help the Israelites on their flight from Egypt. Okay, so maybe the church can close its doors on some people. As my fundamentalist friends are wont to say, "it's there in the Bible, so it must be true." Fine then, the Bible says these people are excluded from the church ä so if exclusions can be made then, they can certainly be made now. The church has biblical justification for refusing certain people entrance into this sacred institution. The Bible is the final authority, so I suppose we should just give up our fight. The Bible has justified the exclusion of some people, and the Bible or God never changes its mind.

Or does it?

Let's move forward a few hundred years in the history of the Israelites. In 586 Jerusalem was captured by the Babylonians and most of the Jews were exiled into Babylon. Many expected their exile to be short and planned for the day when they could soon return to Jerusalem. Several prophets, including Jeremiah, warned the people to settle in because the exile would be a long one. Jeremiah was right. It wasn't until 70 years later, after the Persians had defeated the Babylonians, that the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem.

Now remember, I said "most" of the Jews were exiled to Babylon not everyone was sent away. Some Jews were left in Israel, mainly farmers and peasant workers, but some community leaders were allowed to remain. Now, they've got a problem. Exiles are returning, but since they've been gone 70 years, these are not the exiles that were sent away ... these are the children of the exiles. These children were born in Babylon. They were not born in Israel. These children are ä foreigners! And as such they are NOT allowed in the temple! Deuteronomy is quite clear on this point no foreigners are allowed in the temple ä it's for Israelites only! If the Jews had General Conferences every four years maybe they would have drafted a statement saying, "Foreigners and eunuchs are incompatible with the teachings of the Torah." The more bellicose critics would have proclaimed, "Foreigners and eunuchs have no place in the temple."

What were the people to do? These exiles were returning with the explicit purpose of rebuilding the temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians! But, how could they rebuild a temple they couldn't worship in? The Torah was plain there was no mistaking its edict against foreigners.

It falls to the prophet Isaiah to settle the dispute. What does Isaiah say?

3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, "The LORD will surely separate me from his people"; and let not the eunuch say, "Behold, I am a dry tree." 4 For thus says the LORD: "To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5 I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off. 6 "And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, every one who keeps the sabbath, and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant-- 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8 Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered."

Oh, my God! I'm amazed Isaiah wasn't stoned on the spot. How dare he open the temple not only to foreigners ä but to eunuchs as well! Hasn't he read the Torah? Doesn't he know God expressly forbids these people from entering the church? What happened to the infallibility of the law? Has it been tossed out just for the convenience of the returning exiles?

No, I believe what is happening here is that God is reminding the people that the bread of life is for everyone! "My house shall be called a house of prayer for ALL peoples." No law can separate people from God even if that law is perceived as being a divine edict.

Moving even further ahead in history, we find Jesus' disciples faced with a similar dilemma. After Jesus has been crucified, the disciples go about the work of spreading Jesus' message. This has been their edict. They've been told to "make disciples of all the nations." [Matthew 27:19]

However, in Acts, we see the disciples discriminating somewhat in who will receive the message. Instead of teaching to "all the nations" they take their message to Jews only. But one night, Peter has a dream. God shows him food that is ritually unclean and tells him to eat it. Peter refuses. Peter is a good Jew. He could never eat unclean foods. Peter is so stubborn, in fact, that God has to show him this dream three times. Each time Peter refuses to eat the food, calling it unclean or common, until finally God tells Peter, "What God has cleansed you must not call common."

What did Peter do after this dream? He did the unthinkable. He did an act so shocking it brought a sharp rebuke from the other apostles. What did he do? He preached the gospel to the Gentiles. Gentiles! These were the people most hated by the Jews. Telling a Gentile back then about God's love was almost as horrible as giving God's word of hope to a queer today! How could Peter do that? Didn't he know that God hated the Gentiles? Didn't he know they were filthy pagans who cared not one whit for the law? How could he so blatantly disregard the word of God on this? How could he just go out and change how things are done? How dare he! Didn't Peter know that "being a Gentile is not compatible with Christian teaching?" Didn't he know that "Gentiles have no place in the church?" Peter must have missed the General Conference edict.

Instead, Peter listened to God, who gave him a new revelation preach to the Gentiles they, too, are God's children. The bread of life is in the church, and it's for everyone! There are no exceptions. There is a place in the church for everyone.

Theologian Fred Craddock states, "Wherever and whenever, for whatever the reason, anyone is not welcome to sit at table with you, to eat with you, then you do not have church."

My friends, we are sorely missing churches today. I can name many churches in this city alone where we would not be welcome to sit at a table and eat with other people who call themselves Christians. They would deny the bread of life to us both literally and figuratively. Why? Simply because of who we love.

But for my friends who cling so desperately to the Bible as the infallible word of God, this is a tough lesson! The church has changed over the centuries. A once exclusive church has changed to welcome eunuchs, foreigners and even Gentiles! For those who cling to the Bible as the word of God, the precedent has been set ä the church must change. Indeed, the church is called to change! The church must be open to new revelations new ways of seeing itself. It must ever be reminded of its sacred commission, to give the bread of life to everyone, without exception. That's not my message ä that's the Bible's message, and it seems fairly clear to me.

Jesus makes this message of inclusion clear when he talks to the Pharisees in Matthew. They too had closed their churches and had become stingy with the bread of life. Jesus condemns these exclusionary practices and even says, "Look, I'm not coming back until you bless anyone who comes to you in my name!" How much clearer can Jesus be?

Indeed, God had sent prophets telling the Pharisees to open their doors. The prophets, the people who brought a new word, a new revelation, to the Pharisees were murdered and persecuted! It's a scene we see replayed today as Soulforce protestors were persecuted and spiritually murdered at the UMC General Conference. These were the prophets who stood outside the assembly, and those who stood on the floor of that gathering and proclaimed the message that the church must open its doors to everyone! Jesus predicted what would and did happen! The church leaders persecuted the prophets. They were arrested and taken from the assembly. This is nothing more than spiritual murder.

How many more spiritual murders do today's churches commit? Every time a fundamentalist preacher, a modern day Pharisee, stands in the pulpit and condemns homosexuals, he kills us! Churches that routinely exclude us, churches that close their doors on us, churches that refuse to give the bread of life to gays and lesbians are committing spiritual murder.

It was with great sadness that I read this week that the Southern Baptists the denomination of my childhood voted to ban women from the pulpit and renewed their exclusion of homosexuals from their churches. The Convention said scripture is clear that only men can be pastors. The new SBC president went so far as to say that women who felt called to ministry were "mistaken." I suppose the prophetess Deborah was mistaken when she prophesied in the Old Testament. I guess Esther was mistaken when she saved the Jews from certain death. I suppose Mother Theresa was mistaken when she heard her call to take care of the sick and poor in India. Hear again the words of Karl Barth, "those who, however mistakenly or strangely or impotently, ask after and seek the right and dignity of humanity, have God on their side and will be satisfied." Deborah, Esther and Mother Theresa may have, in the Baptist opinion, sought their right or dignity of humanity mistakenly, but God was on their side and they were satisfied! We too, are dismissed as "mistakenly" seeking after the right and dignity of humanity. I tell you today, God is on our side and we will be satisfied. Isaiah, in an assurance from God, answers the Baptists loud and clear:

"my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people."

All people that means women, that means gays and lesbians and bisexuals and transgender people and straight people of every race of every heritage. It begs the question: What part of "whosoever" don't the Southern Baptists and the Methodists and other churches that practice exclusion, understand?

Brothers and sisters, the church must change. Soulforce protestors are not the only ones called to prophesy to the church. We, too, are the prophets Jesus talks about. We have been sent to the churches with a message of inclusion! So many of our brothers and sisters die spiritually because they believe God does not love them. We've got to be on the front lines of the battle to stop that kind of spiritual violence! We've got get out the new revelation we must spread the word the bread of life is here and it's for everyone! This is a house of prayer for all the people! Let our resolution be: "Excluding anyone from the church is incompatible with Christian teaching." Or more simply: "Everyone has a place in the church."

After the Methodist vote to reconfirm it's position that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" a Methodist minister talked with her church board about the possibility of becoming a reconciling congregation and formally welcoming gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The board's response was typical. They were not ready to do that right now it wouldn't be good for the church at this time. So, the measure was voted down.

The next Sunday when the congregation gathered they noticed the signboard had been changed from the usual, "All are welcome" to "Some are welcome."

This, my friends, is why we at Gentle Spirit Christian Church and others like us continue to knock on the door of the church at midnight. It is not because we are masochists staying in a club that does not want us and has been clear that our presence is unwelcome. Instead, we knock at the door of a church that has so bitterly disappointed us because we know deep within our souls, we know that the church doors must be open to everyone, without exception because the bread of life is within the church! That bread belongs to everyone who seeks to et of it. Who are they indeed, who are we to deny anyone who comes in the name of the Lord?

Better Heresy of Doctrine Than Heresy of Heart

Better heresy of doctrine than heresy of heart.

-- John Greenleaf Whittier

Thomas Carlyle said, "A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge." On this point I believe Jesus and Carlyle are in agreement. Jesus told his disciples that "what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart." If our hearts are not loving, if we are not following the path of love that our hearts desire, then the utterances of our mouth will be nothing but pure evil, pure hate, pure deceit. When we cultivate a loving heart we find knowledge -- not just knowledge of the world but, more importantly, knowledge of ourselves.

I had a revelation of this fact about a year ago as I was lying, quite naked and vulnerable, on a massage therapist's table. The therapist was massaging an area of my upper chest when she remarked about how tight I was in that region. She then explained to me the concept in Chinese medicine that the body is divided into seven chakras or power points. The point she was massaging is called the Heart Chakra. Since it was tight she said, "That means you're not following your heart." I immediately burst into tears. Those simple words, said in passing by my massage therapist, hit home with me. It made me realize that more than anything else I need to honor what's in my heart. I cannot live in any way that is contrary to what I know in my heart to be God's will for my life.

John Greenleaf Whittier gives us the title of this sermon. "Better heresy of doctrine than heresy of heart." Each of us here tonight knows this saying to be true. Each of us, because we are sitting in a church as openly GLBT people, alongside our straight allies, knows that we are doctrinal heretics. But we also know that being doctrinal heretics is better than hiding, denying our true selves, and living a lie that doctrine would have us to live.

We've heard all the doctrines before. There are doctrines that tell us we are "intrinsically disordered." There are doctrines that tell us we are "abominations." There are doctrines telling us we are unloved by God unless we change our sexuality. All these doctrines are a heresy of our hearts, because, in our hearts we know better. We know the doctrines are wrong. In our hearts, we know there is no disorder in our sexuality. In our hearts, we know we are blessings to God. In our hearts, we know God loves us no matter what. To choose heresy of doctrine over heresy of heart is what we do when we realize that we are God's children, beloved and blessed, just as we are as GLBT people ä no matter what the doctrines might say to the contrary.

Just as we have so honestly rejected doctrine in the face of our God-given andGod-blessed sexuality, so should we also be honest about other doctrines that do not speak to our heart. Don't be afraid to examine your faith or your beliefs. If doctrines do not speak to your heart, do not hesitate to discard them. Doctrines were developed centuries ago to assist people in learning more about God and how to worship God. Just because doctrines are old does not make them true for all eternity. If doctrines of yesterday cause your heart to stumble today take Whittier's advice and commit a heresy of doctrine before you commit a heresy of heart.

But, maybe that begs the question how do we know what is in our hearts? How do we cultivate that heart of love that will express itself in the words that we speak? How do we discover what path our hearts should tread?

Buddhist monk, Jack Kornfield, in his book "A Path with Heart" gives us a starting place in answering that question. Above all, he advises, any path we choose should "have heart." Think deeply about the path your life is on right now. Is it a path that fills your heart with joy and anticipation of each new day? Or is it a path that fills your heart with dread as each new day begins? If your heart feels heavy as you go through each day ä then the path you've chosen isn't one with heart. My massage therapist would probably find your heart chakra very tight.

Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also. That sounds wonderful, but there's a warning there, too. Think carefully. What do you treasure? Do you treasure your partner, your job, your house, your car ä money? Wherever our treasure is our hearts will be there. But are we treasuring the right things? If we treasure relationships over God, or money over God, or any material thing over God, our hearts are treasuring the wrong things. Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37 that we must "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment." Listen to that verse carefully. We're told that we must love God not only with our minds and our souls but also with our hearts! If our treasure is God there will our hearts be also.

This is the key to finding that path with heart. First we must discover what it is our heart treasures. If our heart treasures anything above God then we are in danger of being on a path without heart. The path worth pursuing is a path with heart. A path with heart has God as its center as its ultimate treasure where our hearts "sanctify Christ as Lord."

Don't worry that your path may seem very different from someone else's path. We are not all called to walk the same path. Even if we all keep God as the center of that path, our paths may look very different, even contradictory to someone else's path. That doesn't matter let no one tell you you're on the wrong path if you know in your heart that you are where God has led you to be! No one can map out your path but you and God. If your heart treasures God above all else then your path will be made clear.

So we must then begin a process of letting go. This is our first step on our spiritual path. We must let go of false treasures. Let go of our heart's desire for relationships, money, cars, houses and jobs. I say this is a process ä and often it is a long process a daily process of reorienting ourselves to God. But we must dedicate ourselves to walking this path with heart.

It's difficult in our busy lives to even think about beginning a process of letting go. With so many activities filling our daily calendars, how can we even think of letting go of the material stuff that consumes us? How do we find the time in our busyness to stop and consider whether we're even on the right path to begin with? And do we really want to let go at all? Isn't it, after all, the things around us that make us important, that fill us with a sense of self?

Yes, often it is the things around us that make us important, but that's the point it shouldn't be like that. What makes us important is our heart and what it treasures. If it treasures things, our spiritual path is empty, heartless. If it treasures God above everything, then and only then, can our paths full of heart.

I have very recently begun the practice of meditation. I am still a novice at this practice easily distracted by the daily chores of living but so far it's been interesting to spend 10 or 20 minutes each morning simply sitting and breathing ä realizing the fullness of life and contemplating my heart and its path.

Finding time to be still in our busy lives is important if we are to truly locate that path that our heart longs to be on. Many may feel that even taking the time to do so is a waste of time time that could be spent doing something more outwardly productive. Maybe but I've found that those outwardly productive things still get done even if I spend time in meditation. As the old saying goes, rarely do people come to the end of their lives and wish they had spent more time at work. Instead, we tend to ask -- Did we live well? Did we spend enough time with our friends and family? Did we love well?

Our spiritual practice our goal of finding that path with a heart begins when we stop to take inventory of how precious our lives are, and whether we're spending our time wisely. Kornfield recommends a simple meditation for this that I'd like us all to take a minute to do.

If we want to discover how to live well, we must reflect on our lives. I'd like everyone to close their eyes and just reflect on this moment in their lives and then think back. Cast your memory back across your whole life and bring to mind two good deeds that you have done, two things that you did that were good. They need not be grandiose; let whatever wants to arise show itself. In picturing and remembering these good deeds, also become aware of how these memories affect your consciousness, how they transform the feelings and state of the heart and mind, as you see them.

"In Buddhist practice, one is urged to consider how to live well by reflecting on one's death. The traditional meditation for this purpose is to sit quietly and sense the tentativeness of life. After reading this paragraph, close your eyes and feel the mortality of this human body that you have been given. Death is certain for all of us -- only the time of death is yet to be discovered. Imagine yourself to be at the end of your life -- next week or next year or next decade, some time in the future. Now cast your memory back across your whole life and bring to mind two good deeds that you have done, two things that you did that were good. They need not be grandiose; let whatever wants to arise show itself. In picturing and remembering these good deeds, also become aware of how these memories affect your consciousness, how they transform the feelings and state of the heart and mind, as you see them."

Let's take some time now to do this meditation. I'll admit this exercise was rather hard for me when I first read it. Of course, Whosoever immediately comes to mind. The magazine, by all accounts, has been a good deed and has helped hundreds of people that I know about and probably thousands that I don't know about. But, my other good deed that came to mind was very small ä it was the times I have lent money to friends in need without the expectation of ever having it paid back. In truth, I've been paid back many times over by God's blessings on my life. The money isn't important.

What were some of your deeds that arose? Would anyone like to quickly share just some of their thoughts? Just tell us a phrase that came to mind like mine would be "loaning money."

What this meditation shows us, Kornfield says is that, "the things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are the moments when we touch one another, when we are there in the most attentive or caring way. These moments of touching and being touched can become a foundation for a path with heart "

When we do these good deeds when we reach out to those around us without thought for our own good, our own comfort these are the moments when we have made God our treasure. These are the moments in which we have loved God with our hearts, not just our minds and our souls. These are the moments we should meditate on the moments we should seek to multiply as we continue on our spiritual journey.

You will find this spiritual path difficult because along the way there will be so many people who will try to dissuade you from following this path. More often than not I've found such people to be those of a more right-wing thinking who believe there is only one path that the heart must tread theirs of course. A path that strictly adheres to doctrines, no matter what the heart may say.

Those on the religious right tell us that by following our hearts we will end up in hell sentenced to eternal damnation. They've made up doctrines saying it's so! They've convinced a good many [too many!] of our GLBT brothers and sisters that it's true! They've held many of our brothers and sisters hostage with outdated doctrines and dogma.

They've made these people so afraid of God's wrath that they willingly commit heresy of heart to avoid any appearance of heresy of doctrine. We in the GLBT community are not innocent of these charges either. Even within many GLBT congregations, doctrines can become so strong that people will commit heresy of heart easily before they'll go against any doctrine the church or congregation teaches.

But, it is our hearts that God desires not our adherence to doctrines! The Psalmist invites God to "search me and know my heart." God knows our hearts God knows our paths [And, remember, not all of our paths are the same. We must respect each other's path for if it is a path with heart, they all lead to God.] Since God knows our hearts and our paths then we cannot find a place where God is not. We can run from the path with heart we can choose a life of trying to hide from God or we can stop now, and listen to what our hearts are telling us. Our hearts long for God ä for that path where God walks with us. Let no one tell you that you have no right to walk that path as the person you are. God knows your heart! God knows your path! If a doctrine of the church or a doctrine of society stands between you and your heart's path, remember "better heresy of doctrine than heresy of heart."