Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I am a unique child of God

I was an abused child. Emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, sexually, and physically. I'll leave the details to your imagination.

I developed a very strong, aggressive, 'butch' personality which solidified when I was twelve. I'm talking; carrying a switchblade knife and selling drugs at thirteen kind of butch. I was only 5'3" tall but was mean enough to back down people a foot taller just because I exuded 'mean'. No one wants to jump on some little guy that is going to keep going like the energizer bunny. There was no room for any compassion. You either met my criteria for 'tough' or you were useless. I wasn't evil, simply devoid of compassion.

In my late thirties that personality started showing cracks; the oak breaks where the willow bends. At one point I woke up and he was gone. I remembered most of my life as if I'd watched a video (and no, I didn't come to this realization after seeing 'fifty first dates'!). I didn't know how to drive or act. I had the emotional maturity of a nine or ten year old girl. I thought of him (my other personality) then and now as a twin brother who took the beatings while I was hidden under the table crying. After about two or three months he started coming back and eventually completely took back over. I went back to sleep. There were a few cracks through which I peeked over the next decade, but he was still firmly in control, which was fine with me.

About six years ago I woke up again. Literally. I woke up one morning and he was gone. I thought for the longest time that maybe he'd come back again, but he never did. Of the three or four times I've attempted suicide or have seriously considered it, the majority have been because I have been unable to accept myself; that I simply could not, and sometimes cannot, accept who I am. I could not sleep for three days that time six years ago when I woke up. I could not keep my thoughts off the gun cabinet. I did not wake up nor did I stay awake of free choice.

I had my own private ceremony for him a few years back, grieving over the loss of my brother. People ask how I know that I won't go back to sleep one day and not wake up again. You 'heal' DID by merging the personalities. I've done this. I learned to drive again on my own. I started cursing like a marine after about a year or so as one of his traits bubbled up to the surface but I curtailed that. I have merged from him what I am willing to accept into me, but on my terms. His characteristics do not define me, but I have allowed myself to grow with them.

During my life I never experienced what most ts women do; that sense of being in the wrong body. I just woke up in the wrong body, but when he was in charge, he was very very happy with his body. I've accepted most of my life now, although to be quite honest there are parts where I accept that I may have lost detail or have simply fabricated something out of childhood fear. I try to walk the path before me.

My sense of a 'fluctuating gender' is much different than the average persons because my personalities were so clearly defined, probably by both the trauma of my childhood and a certain level of mental illness. I've had psychiatrists and therapists tell me that what I have experienced is a lie. They don't believe me. DID means the two personalities are completely separate I'm told, so I must be something else. Well, yes, of course I'm something else! But I can only describe myself given the English language. If we meet we can try ASL or hug therapy or something. Until then English is the best I can do and what I've written above is as close to my reality as i can accomplish given the barriers of language. I always find the arrogance of professionals in the therapeutic industry to be laughable. As Bobbi said earlier, we aren't a binary species.

Because we are, as a culture, too ignorant to understand chaos theory we refuse to believe it. Mental health professionals refuse to believe that I can be completely unique, insisting on categorizing me into neat boxes. This is analogous to insisting that all trees must be look exactly like one of twelve prototypical trees. That all zebra stripes must be identical to one of eighteen 'model' zebras. 

I am a completely unique tool, forged of a unique blend of material and experience and formed and polished by God in His workshop. There can be only one!

I was not designed to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest. ― Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

The path does not define the traveler

I have realized that, as a transsexual woman, I have an incredibly unique perspective on the human condition. Those of us who have experienced life through both the scarlet fog of testosterone and the pink glow of estrogen know the human condition like no one else possibly could. I spent four years in a military academy and was a US Marine. I'm now a femmie girl hippy chic. I reloaded my own ammunition and competed in amateur pistol competitions. Now I'm a vegetarian who can't watch even PG-13 movies because there is too much violence!

At the risk of seeming vain... oh who am I fooling! I passed that line of demarcation some time back... I'm going to quote myself from a former post. Sometimes I say stuff that even I like!

The path does not define the traveler, rather the traveler experiences the path and allows herself to become whom God wishes her to be.

Robert M. Pirsig said; I've noticed that people who have never worked with steel have trouble seeing this... that the motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon. They associate metal with given shapes... pipes, rods, girders, tools, parts... all of them fixed and inviolable, and think of it as primarily physical. But a person who does machining or foundry work or forge work or welding sees "steel" as having no shape at all. Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if you are not.

I believe that we are the 'steel' in God's machine shop and foundry. My job is simply to be His hands and His eyes and to shape myself to His will. The paths we take, the experiences we accumulate; these are the tools and processes that He uses to cast, hammer, machine, and polish us into the shape He wishes us to be. 

A pair of tongs is not defined as the anvil on which they were forged; they are simply tongs. Neither am I defined by the paths on which I was forged. I am simply a child of God.

People who have never worked with steel have difficulty with this concept. I often hear people defining themselves as the many paths on which they have traveled who are seemingly unaware of who they are in the absence of those paths. Both a hammer and a pair of tongs takes the same path from forge to foundry, but they have very different purposes.

My job is to get out of God's way and let Him shape me to His purpose. The tools He has used to shape me have been transsexuality, addiction, prostitution, education, homosexuality, jail, the USMC, engineering school, mental institutions, treatment facilities, cults, and reading, to name a few. For me, being able to divorce who I am as a tool for His glory from how I have been formed into that tool is a significant step in allowing Him to put the finishing touches and polish on me as a child of God. If I hold on to the paths by which I was forged I am not allowing Him to buff me out to the sheen necessary to reflect His will. 

If I hold on to the baggage of the past how can I pack for the journey of the future? If I am so obsessed with the furnace and forge of my birth that I cannot face the task he sets before me, of what worth am I? 

It is of the deadliest temptation to slide into self reflection, to become a practitioner  of narcissism and navel gazing who refuses to face ahead while wallowing in self pity for my past. Of what good am I while doing so? I may pad the pockets of a therapist and the drug company who manufactures lithium and sertraline. I may line the coffers of the book publisher whose tomes assure me that I am right to feel harmed. But who am I helping, really?

Did Saul of Tarsus refuse Jesus' call (Acts 9) to carry His word to the gentiles? A man who I have (I believe justifiably) referred to as the Hermann Wilhelm Göring of biblical times, Paul could have refused God's call, wallowing instead in self pity for the horrors he then realized that he had committed. Instead, he answered Jesus' call and threw himself in front of proverbial bus after bus as a tool cast, forged, shaped, and polished in the horror of his own past.

A man apparently of small stature, poor eyesight, meek when in person, and unpopular, he could have bemoaned his lack of a perfect stature, sight, and personality, and could have felt pity on himself for his lack of friends and his use by God as a whip of cords to drive home His will. Instead, he wielded God's hammer forcefully on his fellows and other Christians, doing his best to help them find God's way. He referred to himself as the worst of sinners and said that good itself does not dwell in me. Still, He accepted that God had chosen him as a tool, let go of the baggage of his past, and carried the message to the best of his ability.

I am simply a child of God.

Morality is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness. - Immanuel Kant

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Scarlet 'T'

I'm a transsexual lesbian. Transsexuals are perhaps the last group of people that American society feels comfortable making rude jokes about. You'll hear 'tranny' jokes and remarks across the media where you used to hear 'black' jokes, 'blonde' jokes, 'Jew' jokes, etc. Add my 'T' to the 'L' and I've got two of the letters in LGBT pegged. My point is that I often find myself in a situation where either homosexuality or transsexuality is being denigrated and none of the offenders know that I am an 'offendee'.

I have three options here really, and note that I said 'I have', not 'you have'; I can only share what works for me.

1) I can vote with my feet. I have done that. I get up and walk out of the meeting, restaurant, helicopter (just checking to see if you're paying attention!), etc. I rarely take the option of martyring myself to strangers as it can often become just a way to embarrass them. Voting with my feet, removing myself from the source of offense is always an option.

This is the choice I will take most frequently with strangers whom I never expect to meet again. If I confront them it is likely they will simply get angry, and I have no desire to suffer for the ignorance of strangers.

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering - Yoda.

2) I can gently inform the offenders that I am an offendee; that I am one of said group. As a Christian who has been searching for both a home church and who has been looking around for a Celebrate Recovery group I've been around a lot of Christians, and they/we are notoriously un-Christlike. I have on occasion simply and quietly interjected into the conversation; "I'm gay", or "I'm a transsexual woman". 

I usually don't bother to follow up with what some might think is the obligatory scolding. I prefer to let them stew in their own guilt. Paul did speak out against malice, slander, and gossip. The normal reaction to this is quiet embarrassment on the part of the offenders. Later someone will approach me and apologize and ask questions and tell me how supportive they are. I always want to quote Martin Luther King, Jr. at this point; In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends, but I never do. 

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is the approach I will most often take with a group that I wish to be a part of. In every 12 step group and church I have attended I have made it clear that I am gay. I do not simultaneously make it clear that I am a transsexual as I quite honestly fear for my safety. Throwing yourself in front of buses for fun and profit is exciting, but you get to do it so infrequently (between hospital visits and all), that I try to be selective.

When I use this option I am also taking the stance that 'I may be the only bible these people ever read'. In other words I'm not trying to come off with judgment. I am trying to present the picture of someone that the group would not want to make fun of or cause emotional issues for. I am attempting to put a face to their bigotry. 

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi.

I did this when I was in rehab. I'd been there about ten days in a women's unit and no one knew that I am a transsexual woman. It was dormitory style living. I decided to out myself as a transsexual woman, first to the staff and then to the other residents. It ended up costing me the opportunity to go to a half way house because they all said they would judge me solely by the 'M' or 'F' on my drivers license. As I haven't had the (very expensive, painful, and dangerous) surgery required to change that gender marker, my admission cost me. But the staff was kind as were my friends. I think that I presented the picture of a transsexual who wishes only to be accepted for who she is, hopefully tearing down some of the stereotyping that society is so happy to perpetrate on us.

3) I have the option of simply ignoring the offense. This is not 'turning the other cheek' in my opinion. Turning the other cheek seems to me only to apply when the offender knows that you are an offendee. It is not an act of cowardice either, typically. 

I usually take this stance when I simply don't have enough respect for the offenders to care what they think or say. As Ron White so eloquently says; You can't fix stupid!

This is not to say that I will ignore the offense if it is directed at another. I have found that, where I may be reticent to out myself in isolation, my 'mommie' instincts flare up dramatically if someone else is the object of castigation and I find that I am much more willing to throw myself in front of the bus. You could say that I should walk around with a scarlet T on my blouse, constantly witnessing to the bigots and uneducated, but I have to have pockets of sanity.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jesus told the disciples to, shake the dust from your robes, in response to towns and people that would not accept their teaching. I think that it is sometimes obvious that there are people who will not; redneck uncle Joe who thinks Glenn Beck should run for president and that Fox news is actually news is an example. 

For people like him, I usually don't even try. However... if he is poisoning the minds of those who might be helped, I might just out myself so that he can shame himself upon the shore of my convictions.

"...our aim is not to defeat the white community, not to humiliate the white community, but to win the friendship of all of the persons who had perpetrated this system in the past, [and to] to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

4) I do not give myself the option to be angry. Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. If I find myself getting angry I go back to steps 1 or 2. If I simply do not want to either leave and no longer associate with this group or out myself to them, I take deep breaths, remember that He asked our Father to Forgive them for they know not what they do! while he was being killed in an excruciating fashion, and yet He still showed mercy. 

Yes, I am well aware of His temper! Still, I don't recall Him dwelling on it. The simple fact is that I cannot hold Him in my heart while holding anger or resentment for another person, place, event, or thing. I just can't. If I want to hold the anger or resentment I just can't let Him in. I can't even pray. If I decide to let Him trickle in and pray just a tiny bit, it comes in a flood!

There is no option 4) for me. I actually learned this as an atheist who was a (very, very) suicidal manic depressive. Two people angry at one another and not even involving me depresses me! I would think about something pretty or find something of beauty to focus on. I have literally jumped up and ran from a room. Channeling Jesus works better. 

Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the end, anger, resentment, fear, they are all violence, and you will note from my choice of quotes that I come up with a 'nay' vote in that respect. 

Only a philosophy of eternity, in the world today, could justify non-violence. - Albert Camus

Most importantly perhaps, I don't wear a scarlet T on my blouse because being a transsexual is not what defines me. If I introduce myself with labels or am asked by someone at a party what I do or on a first date to 'tell me about yourself' I'll talk about reading, writing, church, volunteer activities, human rights, the environment, my children and friends, etc. 

The topic of what I do for a living will never come up unless I'm asked; it does not define me. That I have an engineering degree and was in the USMC won't come up as neither do they define me. Similarly, transsexuality is only a path I had to walk to get to where I am.

The path does not define the traveler, rather the traveler experiences the path and allows herself to become whom God wishes her to be.

I was a stone bitch before I ever even wanted to transition. I am still capable of being just as 'stone'. I was an intellectual before; I still am. Sad movies made me cry; still do. 

I don't 'come out' as a transsexual woman unless there is good cause as it is so far down the list of 'things that define me' that I find lots and lots of other more interesting things to discuss first. 

I don't 'come out' as a transsexual woman unless there is good cause as discussing the movie "To Wong Fu..." is tiresome for me, because I do not know that 'tranny' you met in Des Moines, because I have no desire to discuss my genitalia with you, because I've never been to a 'drag show' nor do I desire to do so, I know not a single 'Show Tune', and I don't need wardrobe and makeup tips (I pull off a very nice 'Little Orphan Annie' meets Minnie Pearl by myself, thank you!).

I don't 'come out' as a transsexual woman unless there is good cause as don't want to be viewed through the prism of 'tranny porn' and gay rights parades where men and women are dressed in 'pole dancer' costumes and writhe their near nude bodies in exhibitionist ecstasy. Neither do I readily offer that I was abused as a child, physically beaten, emotionally and psychologically strangled, and raped. I don't introduce into the first moments of meeting someone at church, a party, or work, that I was a drug addict and prostitute; that I was a 'crack whore'.

Like most humans I have a facade that I put up in front of my emotions that allows me to maintain my composure and keep from running screaming into the darkest recess of the chaos that is in my mind. Anyone who doesn't do this is, at best, a sociopath. I get to choose what my facade looks like; which words and actions tilt the prism through which you view me.

Delusions are often functional. A mother’s opinions about her children’s beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth. - Robert Heinlein.

Once someone has gotten to know me, and if I feel that either our relationship will be strengthened by knowing more about me or their experience may be heightened by finding out that they know a former drug addict and whore, survivor of rape and child abuse, and transsexual woman, and that she's an ok person... then I'll consider coming out.

It's my story after all; my reality, and my sanity. 

...Much later I would remember these moments as I struggled to find a footing in the storm of madness ever present in my waking dreams, seeing all around me only a gossamer veil of sanity that seemed ever out of my reach, the timeless chaos of madness always beyond, the ephemeral solace of sanity fading slowly but inexorably into the distance, leaving only nightmares filled with darkness and my own screams with which to feed my mind.

Atheism and morality

I was an active atheist for most of my life. I realized that the only thing I would leave behind would be my works and my effect on people. I had no hope of being absolved of my trespasses. I could not treat someone ill and blame it on a myth or parable. I had to take completely responsibility for my every action. I based my life on chaos theory. Contrary to common thought, chaos theory does not say that small things are causal; it says that small things may contribute to larger things. Small things can change things in unexpected ways.

I used to tell this parable: What if there had been a kindly old Jewish couple who lived in Austria in the late 1800's and made soup and cookies for the three boys next door, who befriended the Hitler family? Could the world be different today simply due to a kindness; soup and cookies?

I am not saying this is how every atheist feels. I am saying that there is room on both extremes for people to do good, and room in the big fat middle for people to exercise their most horrible extremes. If you've ever watched parents in the animal kingdom with their young and with their partners you know that compassion is a common trait in all mammals, regardless of their ability to worship or acknowledge a deity.

The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there. - Robert M. Pirsig

Evil is simply; evil. There will be those who blame it on the ready availability of guns, pornography, alcohol, drugs, tootsie rolls, etc., but it's still just evil. The emperor threw Christians to the lions. Christians burned women at the stake. Who gets to have the last 'horror'? 

Atheists are no better and no worse at keeping 'morals', for acting in kindness and compassion, than are Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Quakers, Italians, Jews, or even people from Oklahoma   We all make a choice at some point in our lives either to throw caterpillars into the bed of ants and giggle as they squirm, or to watch the caterpillar in awe, marveling at the face of God. 

Blaming evil on words in a book is cowardly at best. Witness the massive and bewildering variety of Christian denominations. You can giggle madly and praise God when a person dies of aids, proclaiming that to be the will of God, and find a denomination that will revere your insanity. You can fatten up your stock portfolio and drive a hundred thousand dollar car and find a denomination that will praise your success and hold you up as an example of God's promise of success, praising you for spending a hundred dollars on a 'Christmas angel'. Or, you can find a denomination that accepts all, loves all, and denounces wealth and anger. Religion itself is broad enough to cover Mother Theresa and Teresa of Avila while burning Copernicus at the stake. 

Pull up your big girl panties; it is your choice to be either good or evil. Don't blame your evil on God, and don't be so pious as to not take credit for being a good person. We aren't little flesh and blood puppets, dangling by strings, driven by His every word. He tried that for forty years in the desert. It didn't work out.

Virtually every religion has at its core compassion. Non-Hebrew philosophers long before the birth of a man named Jesus waxed poetic about fairness and equality. 

Perhaps I am a heretic... no; I am a heretic... I believe that the capability for good or evil resides in all of us. Our connection to deity (spirituality) does not create this; it can only heighten and sharpen what is there. I have known people that are truly good. I have known those who are truly evil. I neither blame nor give credit to either condition on deity, on God, or on Christianity. To do otherwise would be to demean the Buddha.

The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha - which is to demean oneself. - Robert M. Pirsig

Elisheba Ruth
Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws. - Plato

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Why being right means that I am wrong.

A friend recently asked me for my opinion on the Book of Mormon. I have known a few Mormons in my life. They are a bit rare in my area, but I have befriended several in the past three or four decades and have always found them to be both gentle and kind. In several I have detected the malodorous presence of doubt. I find that I must be sympathetic to this; the deep south is the province of the evangelical Christian. Being Mormon here must be no less arduous than is being Muslim, atheist, or gay.

A few days later in my almost daily scrounging for books at thrift shops and on clearance aisles I found Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith. I needed a break from my intense study of the bible so I picked it up yesterday as I was on my way to a Drs. appointment, hoping that a brief sabbatical would bring me back to the book of Isaiah refreshed. I was pleasantly surprised at both how fascinating and how familiar I found the story of the man that Mormons refer to as the Prophet.

Raised in poverty and living an indigent lifestyle due to his fathers need to move around for work, Joseph Smith says that he was; born... of goodly parents who spared no pains to instruct me in the Christian religion. I would suspect that the King James Version may have been the sole book the family owned, and certainly the one most treasured. Teachings goes on to say that Joseph's parents recognized that some of the gospel principles taught by Jesus and His apostles were absent from contemporary churches... Though only a boy, Joseph was deeply concerned about his own standing before God and about the confusion among the various religious groups.

This background led Smith to ultimately found his own religion. While I have opinions and theories on why he did this and, perhaps, how, those opinions and theories are irrelevant to my topic. What interests me is the pattern by which most of us, being concerned about the confusion among the various religious groups, come to the opinion that all or most of them are wrong. 

I found in Smith a kindred spirit, both admiring and even perhaps envying his dedication to finding piety and truth in God's word. I understand completely his dismay at the seemingly meaningless variation of the views of God's word. Seeing my own thoughts so clearly written on the life of a man who ultimately took a path at odds with virtually every other Christian denomination forced me to look deeper into my own thoughts.

Follow me briefly while I endeavor to define a few terms:

What is religion?



Deity is what we call that for which we all yearn; the 'God shaped hole' in our soul, the need for something more. Call it Jesus, God, Father, Yahwey, Enlightenment, the Great Spirit, the Holy Ghost, or the Great Turtle; virtually all humans yearn for something that we cannot find in either ourselves or in relationships with others. This is deity.


Spirituality is how we define the way that we both commune and communicate with deity.  Meditation, prayer, silence, stillness, listening; we all have a way that works best for us, a means of becoming one with and understanding deity. Spirituality is our understanding of deity.


Religion is the codification of spirituality such that it may be shared with (or forced upon) others. Religion is the Bible, the Talmud, the Torah, the Koran, the Gnostic scrolls, the Essene scrolls, and the Hindu Song of the Lord. Religion is the tool by which we communicate first the spirituality of an individual, then the spirituality of a group.


Knowledge of deity

No one person can ever fully comprehend or understand deity. Deity is by definition greater than a mortal being. If any one mortal being could fully comprehend or understand deity, it would either not be deity or that mortal being would also be a deity (re: the Son of Man). 

The will of deity for the individual

Each individual has a unique path defined by her skills and experience, her intelligence, suffering, and characteristics such as humility and empathy, and her spirituality; her relationship with deity. No two people could be expected to ever have exactly the same directive, mission, goal, or objective from deity; as each of us is unique, no two of us could fulfill exactly the same requirements. Nor could any two people be expected to understand a directive, mission, goal, or objective in the same way even were they both given the same!

The parable of the blind men and an elephant

From Wikipedia:

The story of the blind men and an elephant originated in the Indian subcontinent from where it has widely diffused. It has been used to illustrate a range of truths and fallacies; broadly, the parable implies that one's subjective experience can be true, but that such experience is inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth. At various times the parable has provided insight into the relativism, opaqueness or inexpressible nature of truth, the behavior of experts in fields where there is a deficit or inaccessibility of information, the need for communication, and respect for different perspectives.

19th century Hindu mystic Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used this parable to discourage dogmatism:

A number of blind men came to an elephant. Somebody told them that it was an elephant. The blind men asked, ‘What is the elephant like?’ and they began to touch its body. One of them said: 'It is like a pillar.' This blind man had only touched its leg. Another man said, ‘The elephant is like a husking basket.’ This person had only touched its ears. Similarly, he who touched its trunk or its belly talked of it differently.

The common reaction to difference views is to proclaim that that one of the views must be correct, while the others are wrong. Our society is based on teaching children to strive for first place, the blue ribbon. At the Olympic ceremonies winners of the Gold medal stand triumphantly in the center and above the winners of the Silver and Bronze, who are often crying hysterically that each was only second or third best at her chosen sport in the entire world. Game shows have winners who make thousands or millions (re: Slum Dog Millionaire), and losers, from second-place loser down. You are either the winner, or you are a loser. You are either right, or you are wrong. 

While this philosophy may appear normal or perhaps even correct in the classical school of thought where f=ma and e=mc2, we only think we're smart. In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul says that; God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.

Like the blind men who each felt confident based on his observations, we like to pat ourselves on the backs confidently and believe that, since we can see and touch something it must be true. Yet mysteries abound, shaming both our strength and our wisdom.

We can't define the formula by which a zebra's stripes are both completely unique, with no two zebra ever having lived that has the same pattern, yet each pattern even in the absence of the shape of the animal is recognizable immediately as uniquely that of the zebra. We know that there is a formula. We know that it is probably in the DNA; a genetic sequence. But we can't define it. We don't know it's language. We know neither the grammar nor the syntax.

Some of, or perhaps solely, the oldest living things are trees. Bristlecone pines live to be over five thousand years old, thought to be older, for an individual life form, than any other living entity. During the course of millenia each tree persists through flood, famine, fire, ice, storms, and abuse of many kinds. There are no tree firemen, emergency rooms, doctors, or engineers. Each tree must survive the abuse of Time herself to live to the age of Methuselah. When damaged, rather than remove and replace the damaged component or part, the damage is isolated by a barrier zone which both prevents the spread of the injury and supports the structure around it. The damaged area becomes a part of the tree itself, allowed to remain with the whole, but limited in the damage it can inflict.

The damaged, or simply different, part is neither rejected nor does it become unlike a tree. It is contained within the tree itself, accepted as part of the whole for all the millenia that the tree lives. Paul recognized this natural phenomena in 1 Corinthians 12; The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.

Trees respond to wounding or injury in two ways: compartmentalization and the development of barrier zones (Shigo 1986).


When a tree is wounded, the injured tissue is not repaired and does not heal. Trees do not heal; they seal. If you look at an old wound, you will notice that it does not “heal” from the inside out, but eventually the tree covers the opening by forming specialized “callus” tissue around the edges of the wound. After wounding, new wood growing around the wound forms a protective boundary preventing the infection or decay from spreading into the new tissue. Thus, the tree responds to the injury by “compartmentalizing” or isolating the older, injured tissue with the gradual growth of new, healthy tissue.

Barrier Zones

Not only do trees try to close the damaged tissue from the outside, they also make the existing wood surrounding the wound unsuitable for spread of decay organisms. Although these processes are not well understood, the tree tries to avoid further injury by setting chemical and physical boundaries around the infected cells, reacting to the pathogen and confining the damage.

Life does not operate on the principles of math or science as we understand them. Life operates on a formula so simple that it can be contained within each cell among the trillion, trillion, trillion..., while defining beauty as elegant as the stripes of a zebra or an individual snowflake; yet so complex that it can define the life of a tree, the colors of a butterfly, or the song of a whale. 

Life is not binary. Life does not have the concept of right or wrong. Life is a ballet of variation, a dance so chaotic that it defies even the imagination while painting rainbows of beauty among us.

Why would the will of deity, the will of God, be any different? Why would we limit God to only the rewarding of Gold, Silver, or Bronze medals? 

There have always been those such as Joseph Smith who will seek to lay the label of right or wrong on the musings of others, and the labels of heretic or blasphemer on those with whom they disagree. The path is well blazed; our earliest writings from every culture seek to define right verses wrong, good verses evil, lawful verses unlawful. Our very society consists of red lights and green lights, with only a yellow light to warn that you are approaching a point of no return, but rarely any intermediate ground between extremes. 

I find myself distressingly eager to follow suit, to proclaim that I have figured it out. That I now understand. That I have the answer.

I have begun to question my own faith, not because I question my belief in deity, nor because I question my spirituality. I have begun to question my faith because I am becoming aware that I have based it on religion; the codification of someone else's spirituality. I do not mean that it is my intent to discard my bibles and start meditating while seeking deity without the influence or knowledge of others to guide me. I mean only that I find myself wanting to back away from the categorization of deity and spirituality as if they were a taxonomy of kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. I am not sure that I want to know how many angels may simultaneously dance on the head of a pin. I am not sure that I am meant to know. I am becoming more convinced that I do not even wish to engage in that line of rhetoric.

I have begun to question whether it is possible that both Joseph Smith and I can be correct in our understanding of deity, in our spirituality. Can the faith of the Methodists be just as true as the faith of the Baptists? Can Greek orthodoxy be no less true than Catholic? Can Mormons be just as righteous as Presbyterians? Can Buddhists know what Christians do not and can Christians share knowledge with Muslims? Could Jehovah's Witnesses and the Metropolitan Community Church understand the same truth? Can we all be blind, or are we simply myopic?

Can it be true both that it is not a sin for me to be gay, and that homosexuality is a sin? Can it be true both that it is a disgrace for a woman to speak in the church, and that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Can it be both that whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and that there are those who can piously say; I exhort you, be imitators of me.

In Romans 14 Paul admonishes us to; Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. 

He continues to make the thought more comprehensive; One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.

He makes the radical statements that; I am convinced... that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean... But whoever has doubts is condemned... and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

He summarizes with; Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. If your brother or sister is distressed [by what you do]... you are no longer acting in love... Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of [belief]... it is wrong for a person to [do] anything that causes someone else to stumble...

I have applied some selective editing to Paul's statements, but it has been primarily to consolidate his comments into categories and understand them as pertaining to and about more than just culinary issues. You may, of course, read them directly from your own bible and see them in the order intended by the apostle...

He includes an interesting remark; Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil.

Is he referring to the faith of the individual? Is he exhorting us to respect the spirituality of each person, and her right to her own communion with and understanding of deity? Reading much of Paul's writings you may not be able to draw this conclusion from his message here. But consider that he wrote the following two passages both in the same letter, 1 Corinthians:

  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

  What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.

Paul was quite capable of holding multiple opposing thoughts in his head simultaneously, or at least within a short span of time. I wonder if I should, rather than dislike him as an egomaniacal, homophobic, misogynist with psychotic tendencies; perhaps I should instead admire his insanity, his passion, and his dedication, accepting the thread of madness, the break from reality, that seemingly bonds us to a common refusal to accept both the extremes and the simplistic judgment of a traffic light.

Does Paul make the the lunacy of the Book of the Revelation of Saint John the Divine seem mundane by comparison? Was Paul's spiritual gift the ability to both see and have compassion for the extreme positions of the omnivore and the vegetarian, the prostitute and the pious, the priest and the plebeian? Should I pay more attention to Paul, or am I doing the equivalent of finding messages encoded in the letters running diagonally in the scripture, of hearing the voices of dead men by playing the music of the Beatles backwards?

Mystic Paramahamsa finishes his version of the parable of the blind men and the elephant with this:
In the same way, he who has seen the Lord in a particular way limits the Lord to that alone and thinks that He is nothing else.

What I have begun to understand and which I have written about here may impact my own studies and my own beliefs little. I still believe the best way for me to understand the word of God is through the filter of the words, actions, and meanings of Jesus of Nazareth. What is changing for me, and I think may lead to a new understanding of deity and of my own spirituality is the acceptance of others. And that may impact my own studies and my own beliefs dramatically.

I have always been willing to listen to the opinions of those with whom I did not agree. I have always maintained that, were I to make the effort to understand their perspective, their opinion, albeit right or wrong, would be of value to me. I have had trouble applying this same principle to my spirituality. The orthodoxy of the inerrant and infallible Bible has dogged even me, who has run the gamut from outspoken atheist to evangelical Christian. 

What I think may be the most profound change that this new awareness will impact upon me is the way I share my beliefs and my experience with others. If I, by what I eat, may cause another to sin, should I not eat what is set before me as Jesus admonishes the seventy in Luke before sending them out? Perhaps even if I am correct in my understanding of His word, I can be incorrect in sharing it with you if I do not do so with compassion for your beliefs and your spirituality.

What if my interpretation and understanding of His word are less important to my doing His will than are my acceptance and encouragement of the faith of others? What if I I can be a better servant of His word by encouraging my Mormon friend to refresh her own faith than I can were I to try and convert her to mine?

In John 13 Jesus tells us; By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

What if He really meant all that stuff He said?

Thursday, January 2, 2014


I've read a lot about suffering recently. I've experienced suffering. I still suffer, much as we all do. I have accepted God into my life and dedicated myself to doing His will. I want to understand why there is so much suffering.

In The Case For Faith, Lee Strobel relates a story from an interview; On my door is a cartoon of two turtles. One says, “Sometimes I would like to ask why God allows poverty, famine, and injustice when he could do something about it.” The other turtle says “I am afraid that God might ask me the same question.

I often use Hebrews 8 in my conversations and writing; 
I will put my laws in their minds
    and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more

1 Corinthians 3 comes up along with Hebrews 8:
Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?

Luke 17 follows immediately after:
The Kingdom of God is in your midst.

In the Old Testament God was with His people every day. He gave them hundreds of laws about how to act and He interfered daily in their lives. They resented Him and ignored Him because of it. They would obey the laws but seemed to miss the spirit, the intent of them; to glorify God. When Jesus came He brought the New Covenant. God still does touch us occasionally. He healed me. But God has essentially passed the baton to us.

We are the lucky ones. The addicts, alcoholics, manic depressives; those of us who struggle with demons that threaten to consume us. Most people go through life with enough money and the stuff it buys to be comfortable and to not need God in their lives. When I was finally able to pray while in treatment, I thanked Him for allowing me to take a path and to take up burdens that weakened me so much that I could hear Him. Before, I was so strong I thought I didn't need Him. My suffering was God's siren call.

I've never asked Him for anything since except for understanding of His will. As the 11th step states; I Sought through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry that out. Actually I have asked for one thing; I told Him to point me at the bus and I'd throw myself under it if that's what He needed, but I did ask for enough time so my kids would know that I got clean and got off the street before He needs me to go. That's all I care about really.

Without suffering I would have never known God. Without suffering we wouldn't get the chance to do His work and feel how wonderful it is to help one another. I know it could sound trite and self serving to say that you suffer so I can feel better about myself by helping you. I will admit that I do feel a twinge of guilt for the joy I receive when I help someone else.

Because God has left the Hebrew temple and has taken up residence in each of us, we get to do His work, experiencing His joy. Because of suffering, we get to help others. I would never have known the joy of helping other addicts had I not become one. I cannot even begin to imagine how this sets right all the suffering in the world, nor will I make the argument that it does. I can only speak to what God conveys to me; when I help others, I am doing His work, and when I help others I become more like Him.

Philip Yancey wrote that, in his research on suffering, he spoke with people all over the globe who were dedicated to service; I was prepared to honor and admire these servants, to uphold them as inspiring examples. I was not prepared to envy them.

I don't envy me. But I'd rather be me, now, the former addict and prostitute, than me, formerly, believing in nothing but cold, hard cash and that I was all alone in a huge universe. I wish that I could have gotten here by an easier path, but if I had, how would I understand those who have come by the harder path?

Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. - Martin Luther King Jr.