Murray and Mohamed: Team M & M

shirt tie

Last week I began to look for a part to full-time job. After submitting my resume to a number of places, I had an interview last Friday. As I was planning for the interview, I thought I had some nice skinny clothes in the deep recesses of my closet from 2006; leftovers from the last time I briefly lost a lot of weight.  When I went to the deep recesses of my closet, it turns out that those clothes were actually too big or too worn out to wear again … EIGHT years later! What was I thinking?

So I went shopping and couldn’t find crap.

Somewhat late into the evening I went to a kind of expensive men’s store. I was desperate. It was there that I met Murray and Mohamed. Yes, that is their real first names and they had to have been in their 60’s. Both looked dapper in their suits. Murray was a skinny man who looked like he would be the cool empathetic counselor/artistic type of Uncle. Mohamed was all business, small in frame, warm but very intentional eyes. Also, Mohamed had no problem upending everything to get me the exact right size.

They had a lot of folding to redo after I left.

BLOGGED spy museum

This photo was taken August 19th, 2003 at the Spy Museum in Washington DC. I was SO afraid of communism! (not) Can’t you tell?! I was told by a staffer that if I didn’t quit taking pictures I would be asked to leave the museum.

This was the start of my taking pictures in various DC venues and getting in trouble for breaking the rules. On one trip, I was told in no uncertain terms by Capitol Hill Police that if I took one more picture I would have my camera confiscated. I thought their tone was rude. I said, “I didn’t know I couldn’t take a picture in “the people’s” Senate building. The officer pointed to a plaque maybe three feet away that I hadn’t noticed. It said that flash photography would hurt the paintings. I turned beet red. #ShouldNoticeThatKindaStuff

Then one time I was wandering around trying to get an artsy weird angled pic of an American Flag outside some building. A police officer came up to me and brusquely said, “WHAT are you doing sir?” I thought that was a stupid question and I said, “Apparently I am trying to get a good picture of that flag.” I just kept on snapping pictures. He stood in front of me and blocked my view. “Sir, I am going to have to ask you to reconsider taking pictures here because it looks conspicuous. You are taking pictures of the Department of Justice Building. ” I didn’t realize it, and figured it out later, that I was taking pictures of the outside of John Ashcroft’s office (the Attorney General then). Since it was only a couple of years after 9/11, it wasn’t the best idea to be taking weird angle photos outside of the Attorney General’s office. I must have turned beet red again because the cop’s tone changed, “so you understand why I am asking you to stop?” #YesSir #Oopsy  I am still not sure that I didn’t have a right to take those pictures, but I agreed that it did look “conspicuous” so I stopped.

And that’s the story behind the photo :)

Responding To The Charge Of Apostasy

man tunnel light

Last week a religious activist went on a syndicated Christian radio talk-show and accused me of several acts against the church and God. Their response was a negative bias-driven summation of three posts: here, here, and here. The talk-show host agreed with him, and did not stop him when he charged me from afar to “repent of apostasy” and apologize for selling out and confusing the Body of Christ.

Neither of these folks contacted me about their charges before gossiping on a national radio program about my motivations for supporting civil gay marriage equality. As a result, I feel no need to break down the show and respond to every accusation. I obviously do not agree with their judgments or conclusions.

Gay Civil Marriage Equality? Yes

marriage certificate

A consistent question I got after my post last Tuesday asked if I was truly, explicitly, saying that I supported gay civil marriage equality. The short answer is yes.

Now for the long answer :)

I thought that my previous post should focus on my experience, my change in opinion concerning past public policy work, and apology. I also thought that my support of gay civil marriage equality was implied and obvious. Regardless, I planned to write this post after that one anyway. For those that want to read the first post for some background and more on my personal views of marriage, please click here.

Now for today’s topic …

In the past, I used to quote Francis Schaeffer to justify my public policy activism by saying (emphasis mine);

“True spirituality covers all of reality.” – A Christian Manifesto, Francis Schaeffer

Today, I still believe that is true. However, I have learned that cultural religious activism shouldn’t define my spirituality in public policy reality. In the past, I willingly adopted a set of talking points, and modified my testimony, to fit the conservative culture war’s methodology and end game … not the Great Commission. To be clear, I did this because I genuinely believed it was the right thing for our country. I was wrong, and that is why I apologized in last Tuesday’s post. I also apologized for my work in public policy (among other things) last year.

3 Relational Benefits of Grace

grace big

I need to start off by saying that the foremost benefit of God’s grace is in the atonement afforded through the finished work of Christ. His incarnation, going to the cross in our place, and rising from the dead transcends any “list.” It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway because I adore Him, Jesus is the most amazing thing about Grace. He, is the greatest benefit of having received God’s grace.

Now, to the rest of the post …

One relational benefit of grace is to meditate on the finished work of the cross with wonder, not shame or condemnation. This will deepen our relationship with God.

When we ask our Savior exactly why He went there for us specifically we will experience an outpouring of love from Him, not anger. It’s not difficult to imagine why He would go through all that for humanity with all the evil, sickness, and tragedy in the world. However, the atonement of Christ is also very specific for us as individuals. The Holy Spirit used this meditation as a new Christian to help me fall deeply in love with Him. Also, considering the cross is also not a quick “lesson learned” to check off of our spiritual enlightenment checklist. It is true that Jesus is no longer on the cross and doesn’t ask us to camp out there, but meditating on the personal meaning/application/significance of the Atonement will forever be relevant to us. There isn’t a time when this focus of meditation is not appropriate. Each time I consider what He has done, I fall deeper in love with Him.

Another relational benefit of grace is that now I am free from God’s law, I don’t have to live under the judgment of others.

Other’s judgments only have power when I allow them to have that power over me. In Christ, other’s curses do not have to go from their lips into my soul. Those bitter seeds die before they ever hit ground. Now, that I understand the loving favor of God toward me, I don’t need to try and manipulate favor with others. Of course I care and would like for people to like me :). But, truly, I don’t need others to “like” me in order for me to have a personal sense of worth or to love them. Their judgments don’t prevent me from seeking to see and love them as God does. Whether we agree or not, even on major issues, does not devalue either of us in the sight of God. That is what I choose to focus on.

Gay Marriage And Public Policy: Personal Reflection, Apology

rainbow flags

When it comes to gay marriage as a public policy issue, I was once very outspoken on the topic. From the 2003 to 2008 I lobbied for marriage amendments in Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, California, and on other national media platforms (interviews.) I went to Washington DC more than a few times and lobbied for the Federal Marriage Amendment on Capitol Hill. I also visited the Bush White House a couple of times and sat 20 feet away from when President Bush made a statement in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Because those experiences are not something I enjoy reflecting on lately, I have avoided writing this post. However, I can’t get away from it. If I was passionately willing to lobby for banning gay marriage at one point, I feel I should speak up on the topic if my views have changed.

To be clear, my view of marriage in a spiritual context has not changed. I believe the wedding union of husband and wife bears the image of God uniquely. Individually they bear His image equally and beautifully. Together they bear His image in a way that neither can do alone. I believe marriage between a husband and wife is transcendent; that Christ refers to the church as His Bride is stunning. One of my favorite meditations is to consider Christ and His Church in the symbolism of marriage.

What I am also trying to learn is how I can state my beliefs without being a jerk about it. I don’t have to contextualize my personal belief by insulting gay couples who have married or gay people wanting to get married. The beliefs that guide and direct my life also compel me to seek to be a blessing and friend to gay couples; to see God’s presence in their lives as individuals and as a couple.

I have also come to believe that trying to make our secular government impose my spiritual beliefs in this matter is not helpful or appropriate. Let me explain …

When Was The Last Time You Passed Out On Top Of A Bus?

So, When Was The Last Time You Passed

They were Fresno Grannies. I am sure they have probably been friends since grade school. They had that vibe. One was dressed in earth tones with salt and pepper hair pulled up into a loose bun. Her friend looked like Mrs. Claus (you know Santa’s wife) but in all blue and white. Her minimalist color scheme matched her eyes and hair respectively. She was very prim and put together. She also had her hair up in a tight bun. Earth-tone Grandma was talkative while Mrs. Claus had left the permafrost of the North pole and instead adopted a perma-grin.

Never stopped smiling … the same smile. She was so cute and while permagrins tend to be unnerving, her’s wasn’t.

We were at a conference put together by my former employer Exodus International and Focus on the Family called Love Won Out. It was a controversial conference that presented views concerning homosexuality and Christianity (many of those views have changed for me over the years). Regardless, I was there as an employee. I went to over 30 of these over the years, and all kinds of folks attended these events. To see a pair of older women walk through the doors was not uncommon. It was also not uncommon for people to ask me questions; my name tag let them know I worked with the conference.

Party Barge & Car Surfing In Daytona Beach (Memoir)

daytona beach

It was 1986. I was a senior in High School, and somehow I ended up with a group of guys at school sanding down an old short school bus. Two of them (brothers) had gotten the bus as a Spring Break present from their Dad. We gutted the thing, painted it black, and I painted, “Party Barge” on the sides. I also painted “Party Barge” on the little flip-out stop sign. It was no longer the iconic red and white flashing stop sign; it was now the solid black with gold Def Leppard-esque lettering “Party Barge” on it.

SO cool.

Surprisingly, my parents said I could go. However, like all the times before when I really wanted to do something, the night before they said I couldn’t go. They got mad because the boy’s father wanted them to sign a liability waiver for me to be in the Party Barge during spring break.

I don’t remember having a fit, but I do remember being incredibly angry. My parents relented at the last-minute (there is a lot to be written about that at a later date) and the next day the “Party Barge” crew headed to Pensacola.

Pensacola was boring. We thought MTV was there. They weren’t. However, we quickly traveled a million more miles to Daytona Beach where the MTV Spring Fest was actually happening.

It was wild.

I will never forget pulling up on the beach where there were practically naked young adults and crazy old people … EVERYWHERE! I was mesmerized.

My parents weren’t. I called them … eventually … to tell them we left Pensacola and were now in Daytona. To describe them as “not happy” is an understatement.

The Blessing of Aunt Ruby

elderly young hands

This was published in June on Dr. Kathy’s
blog
. I wanted to bring it here too. Kathy wrote this as an introduction:

Summer can be a time for rich memory making. Randy’s memories can inspire you to think about what memories you are and aren’t creating for your children. Sometimes, we’re so concerned with doing things for our children, that we don’t do enough with them. And, have you told them about your grandparents and those even older? Pull up a chair, grab a piece of pie, and talk. Speaking of pie, if there was a “food smart” it appears Randy’s Aunt Ruby and Great Granny Sallie Mae had it. Warning – you may be hungry after reading this. I’m craving a juicy peach – in or out of a pie. – Kathy

When my Great Aunt Ruby passed away in 2006 it was heart-breaking news. She was a sweet soul here on Earth, an blessing to our family, and I miss her.

Aunt Ruby married my Great Uncle Boochie (Boochie is a name of endearment) who was the son of my Great Grandmother Sallie Mae. They lived with Sallie Mae. Uncle Boochie was a police officer and died relatively young from a heart attack. My Aunt Ruby definitely was a modern example of the Biblical figure of Ruth. In the Bible Ruth stayed with Naomi, her mother-in-law, out of loyalty and in the humility of service even after her husband passed. Unlike Ruth, Aunt Ruby was never to re-marry. She stayed and lived with my Great Grandmother until Great Granny passed away. It was only then that Aunt Ruby moved out on her own.

Don’t Hesitate, Encourage – Thoughts On Robin Williams

robin williams

At first I wasn’t sure how to write about the passing of Robin Williams…. one more devastating loss (aren’t they all?) to suicide. I simply didn’t have the words till now. As a kid I remember thoroughly enjoying him on he Mork & Mindy show. I have loved him in almost all of his movies, especially Good Will Hunting and What Dreams May Come.

Yet, he is gone. By his own hand. As many have said, “He brought the world to laughter but today he brought the world to tears.”

Suicide is a nightmare. On my old blog I wrote about my friend of 23 years (someone I dated for a little while at the beginning of our friendship) Michael committed suicide in January of 2013. I was devastated for a while after finding out. I will never forget that morning and talking with my dear friend Amira. Today I still weep for Michael, time heals and brings perspective yet there is something about suicide that always wants to haunt and question.

The suicide of a friend/loved one is one of the worst “What if?” mind-scrambles there ever was/is/could be…