Monday, April 27, 2015

Another Day...



Another day, another half dollar.  That's always been my joke about our salaries, since we make about half what public school teachers make. Fifteen teaching days, two exam review days, and three half days of exams and this school year will be behind us. Push on, persevere, and get it done.
P.S. I have basically had a headache all weekend, it was worse yesterday.  By the time church was over, it was so bad, I had to have someone drive me home.  I'm hoping it will be better today.  Since I've been on the new medicines, the headaches have been coming about once a week, instead of everyday, and rarely last over 48 hours.  It's a major improvement, but this is why this post is relatively short.
P.S.S.  Some of you have written me emails over the last few days, please know that I will get them answered in the next day or so.  I truly do love hearing from y'all.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Beatitudes


"Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 
Blessed are the pure of heart, 
for they shall see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, 
for they shall be called children of God. 
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:3-10 
Jesus Christ gave us the eight Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in the Gospel of Matthew.   The Ten Commandments, given to Moses on Mount Sinai in the Old Testament Book of Exodus, related a series of "Thou shalt not" phrases, evils one must avoid in daily life on earth. In contrast, the message of Jesus is one of humility, charity, and brotherly love. He teaches transformation of the inner person. Jesus presented the Beatitudes in a positive sense, virtues in life which will ultimately lead to reward. Love becomes the motivation for the Christian. All of the Beatitudes promise us salvation - not in this world, but in the next. The Beatitudes initiate one of the main themes of Matthew's Gospel, that the Kingdom so long awaited in the Old Testament is not of this world, but of the next, the Kingdom of Heaven. 
While the Beatitudes of Jesus provide a way of life that promises salvation, they also provide peace in the midst of our trials and tribulations on this earth. 
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
"Poor in spirit" means to be humble. Humility is the realization that all your gifts and blessings come from the grace of God. To have poverty of spirit means to be completely empty and open to the Word of God. When we are an empty cup and devoid of pride, we are humble. Humility brings an openness and an inner peace, allowing one to do the will of God. He who humbles himself is able to accept our frail nature, to repent, and to allow the grace of God to lead us to Conversion. 
"Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
If we are humble and appreciate that all of our gifts and blessings come from God, we grow in love and gratitude for Jesus Christ our Savior. But this can only produce mourning and regret over our own sins and the sins of this world, for we have hurt the one who has been so good to us. One also mourns for the suffering of others. Mourning in this context is called a blessing, because mourning our fallen nature creates in us a desire to improve ourselves and to do what is right.
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
St. Gregory of Nyssa taught that the Beatitudes build one upon another. A humble person becomes meek, or becomes gentle and kind, and exhibits a docility of spirit, even in the face of adversity and hardship. A person that is meek is one that exhibits self-control. St. Augustine advised Christians to be meek in the face of the Lord, and not resist but be obedient to him.
"Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
Justice and righteousness indicate the fulfillment of God's will with your heart. It is not mere observance of the law (Matthew 5:20), but rather an expression of brotherly love (I John 3:10). A continuous desire for justice and moral perfection will lead one to a fulfillment of that desire - a transition and conversion to holiness. This is true for all the virtues - if you hunger and thirst for temperance, you will head towards the goal you have in mind. St. Augustine called the Beatitudes the ideal for every Christian life.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
Mercy is the loving disposition towards those who suffer distress. Love, compassion, and forgiveness towards one's neighbor will bring peace in your relationships. We say in the Lord's Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. As we are merciful to others, so our Heavenly Father will be merciful with us.  Jesus reminds us that whatever "you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to me (Matthew 25:31-46)." Paul calls for the obedience of faith in the beginning and end of his Letter to the Romans (1:5, 16:25-27).
"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God."
Moses (Exodus 33:20), John 1:18, and Paul (I Timothy 6:16) all say that no one can see God here on earth. But Jesus says the pure of heart shall see God.  To be pure of heart means to be free of all selfish intentions and self-seeking desires. What a beautiful goal.  How many times have any of us performed an act perfectly free of any personal gain? Such an act is pure love. An act of pure and selfless giving brings happiness to all. 
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."
Peacemakers not only live peaceful lives but also try to bring peace and friendship to others, and to preserve peace between God and man. St. Gregory of Nyssa calls a peacemaker a man who brings peace to another; but one cannot give another what one does not possess oneself. Hence the Lord wants you first to be yourself filled with the blessings of peace and then to communicate it to those who have need of it. By imitating God's love of man, the peacemakers become children of God. 
"Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, 
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
The biblical passage continues to elaborate: "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12). Jesus said many times that those who follow Him will be persecuted. "If they persecute me, they will persecute you" (John 15:20-21). 
The Beatitudes have always been one of my favorite passages in the Bible.  I think too many people do not heed the words of the Sermon on the Mount, but they should.  It is the core of Christ's teachings.  As humans we are far too often prideful, selfish, and even quick to anger, even if it is something that is only in our hearts and minds.  Therefore, the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes that introduce it, are difficult things for humanity to accomplish, but we can try.  We can do our best to be meek, giving, and loving, for those things are what are necessary for eternal life.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015

Talływackers, Woodpeckerz, and Roosters

 Move over, Hooters. A new Texas restaurant is all about the scantily-clad men. There have been rumors of an all male version of Hooters for years, but most of them, such as Woodpeckerz in New Orleans, turned out to be pranks.  However, the new restaurant in Dallas' Oak Lawn neighborhood (the gay section of Dallas) seems to be legitimate this time.
Tallywackers is a bar and restaurant slated to open in May in Dallas' Oak Lawn neighborhood, the Houston Chronicle reported. Based on promotional photos on Facebook, the all-male waitstaff will be dressed in not much more than pairs of tight briefs.  Although the restaurant is situated in a predominantly gay neighborhood, Tallywackers is a place for any and every customer. The restaurant is planning to cater to gay men and straight women.  
I wonder how many women will drag their husbands to Tallywackers because the food is "very good," like husbands drag their wives to Hooters.  I doubt many will do so.  I never understood the appeal of Hooters, but then again, I'm gay.  But quite honestly, there food just isn't that good, no matter what many men say.
A spokesperson for Tallywackers said its founder conceived of the idea "10 years ago while enjoying the business we all know and love known as "Hooters." The spokesperson told HuffPost:
He asked himself the same question we’ve all been asking for years, “Why isn’t there a male version for the opposite demographic?” After thorough planning and scouting for the perfect location we are excited to launch Tallywackers, a Bar, Restaurant, and Live Entertainment venue here in the heart of Dallas, Texas.
"While we are aiming towards the LGBT community as part of our audience, we are also expecting and welcome, a diverse clientele including women," a spokesperson told HuffPost. 
The menu will include dishes like pasta, pizza and hot dogs, and there will be live entertainment.  According to Eater Dallas, the restaurant will be making its debut in Oak Lawn May and will no doubt become a hotspot for bachelorette parties, girls’ nights and Sunday brunch with aunties. After the success of Magic Mike, it was only a matter of time for a sanctuary like this to open. A place where washboard abs and cheese fries could become one. If this "fine" dining establishment achieves success and more locations sprout up around the country, my future self might turn out to be one of their longtime customers. Let’s hope the hot wings are good, and there will soon be a location nearby.

P.S. Roosters was a suggested name I once saw for an all male version of Hooters.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

General Apathy



We have less than a month to go in school and I couldn't be happier (actually I could if Friday was the last day of school, or better yet today had been).  I began thinking about how students just don't care anymore.  Yes, there are a (very) select few who do, but so many just don't care.  Students don't listen.  Students show no respect to the teachers, and neither do the parents.  Teachers are blamed for the students failures.  Students don't care if the fail.  Some students go to school only because their parents make them, and if their parents aren't paying attention, then they just don't come to school at all.  Students think school is just one big social gathering instead of a place of learning.  Most years, I'd blame student apathy on it being close to the end of the school year, but this has been going on all year long.  The problem seems to get worse every year.
As I was thinking about the students, it made me think about other parts of society that just doesn't care anymore.  The parents of kids don't care anymore, and students get their attitude from their parents.  Most parents only seem to care about grades when it comes down to whether or not their child will be eligible to play a sport or not.  The student does nothing to improve their grades, but whine that the teacher is singling them out because the teacher doesn't like athletes or have a personal grudge against the student.  Parents rarely see how spoiled rotten their children are, how hateful their children's attitude is, or just how pure damn lazy their child is.  Instead the fault is with the teacher.  BULLSHIT!!!
But the problem isn't just with parents and students but with society as a whole.  In churches, ministers and deacons don't go see parishioners when they are in the hospital.  Neighbors don't check on one another anymore.  In the South, people would often go out of their way to be friendly, but you're lucky if someone holds a door open anymore.  Most times people will rush to beat you to the door and then do their best to make sure it closes before you get there.
Then we get to politicians.  Take for example the Alabama legislature.  Instead of spending money and passing a budget that makes sense, or even raise taxes when it is necessary, they decide to drastically cut the state budget.  Here are a few things the Alabama legislature is proposing to do:
-- As many as 25 Army National Guard armories would close and the National Air Guard wings in Birmingham and Montgomery would have diminished capabilities.
-- The loss of as many as 1,625 Army National Guard soldiers and 170 Air National Guard airmen.
-- The Environmental Protection Agency would take over water-related functions of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, resulting in 148 layoffs and delays and over-regulation that would hurt business.
-- The Department of Corrections would close Ventress Correctional Facility and Red Eagle Honor Farm, forcing relocation of 2,000 inmates, increasing prison overcrowding and eliminating 159 state jobs.
-- Courts would have to lay off more than 600 employees and probably close for two days a week.
-- State law enforcement would lose 99 state troopers, 25 investigators and eight Capitol police officers.
--Close 15 of the 22 state parks, and putting 600 state park employees out of a job.
-- Thirty-three of 78 stand-alone driver's license offices would close.
-- The Department of Human Resources would lose $190 million in federal funds, resulting in more than 15,000 children losing subsidized child care and more than 30,000 children losing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits.
Not to mention that the governor has cost the state millions of dollars by refusing to expand Medicaid and forcing thousands to be without any form of insurance, just because he and Alabama Republicans hate the president.  Why don't we first cut the $1.6 million salaries of the nine Alabama Supreme Court justices who don't even understand the laws they have sworn to uphold, and before they lay off 600 court employees, they need to cut the over $108 million in salaries for Alabama judges, who like to play willy nilly with the law, ignoring it when it suits their political agenda.  And let's not forget the over $6 million paid to probate judges who refuse to perform their duties (marriage certificates and wedding), not because the state constitution requires them to perform these duties, but because their "morals" (ahem, BIGOTRY & HOMOPHOBIA) tell them not to do so, even though higher federal courts have told them to do so.
Nobody seems to care anymore.  It's all about what they can get out of it, not how they can help others.  I was going over something for a test on Christianity for my world history students.  It's a passage from Matthew 25: 31-46:
31-33 “When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
     I was hungry and you fed me,
     I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
     I was homeless and you gave me a room,
     I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
     I was sick and you stopped to visit,
     I was in prison and you came to me.’
37-40 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
41-43 “Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—
     I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
     I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
     I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
     I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
     Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’
44 “Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’
45 “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’
46 “Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.”
I fear that many people int he world today are headed to eternal doom, but few to their eternal reward.  We've forgotten how to care about and for one another.  I still try to inspire my students and push them to do better.  I go next door to check on my neighbors, often taking them dinner, especially when I've cooked too much.  I hold the door open for other people.  By no means am I saying that I'm perfect.  I am far from it, but I try every day to live a better life.  Sometimes, I get so discouraged that I fail, but I pick myself (and the person I may have "knocked down") up and try again.  I still get discouraged by those who don't care,  the their are days when someone shows such great kindness, someone helps me with medical bills or a friend sends me a little gift or a card to brighten my day, and my faith in humanity is restored.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Turn the Internet Red #LoveCantWait


You may have noticed that my header and profile picture are now tinted red.  On April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Obergefell v Hodges, a case originating in Ohio. In January, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Obergefell along with three other cases from Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The arguments have been consolidated and the case has formally been named Obergefell.
The HRC is hoping to make lightning strike twice and to do so, they need our help. As we await the Supreme Court's decisions on two historic marriage equality cases, we have a great opportunity to turn the web red once again in the name of equality and love.


To demonstrate the incredible support for marriage equality, we’re asking everyone to make the red equal sign their social media profile picture once again -- NOW through decision day, whenever that is. 
Red
If you participated in our campaign to turn the Internet red for marriage equality back in March, you know how meaningful it was. Missed the March marriage madness? Now is your chance to show your support.
Update your profile picture with a red logo so your entire social network knows that you’re standing on the right side of history. Go to http://www.hrc.org/red to easily convert your Facebook or Twitter profile picture to a blended picture of your profile and the red marriage equality sign.  And then ask your friends and family to join you! And if you're sharing on Instagram, use the hashtag #time4marriage to participate in our marriage equality photo collage, Picturing Equality.
For the latest and breaking news from the Supreme Court, be sure to stay tuned to www.hrc.org/supremecourt.
The HRC will be launching brand new, innovative engagement tools throughout the month to help us show our support and connect with an expansive community of fair-minded Americans. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hard Times by Brandon Haynes

Hard Times
By Brandon Haynes
Growing up in hard times 
i'm always stuck with a struggle
Every since i can remember
i've been getting in trouble
If it wasn't skipping school
or running from them boys in blue
then i was beating up the dudes
that i sold the dope too
Thats not a lifestyle that i choose to go through.
Trying to make money on the streets
while other hustlers compete
they wanna run us off the block
but theres no way we will retreat
but thats just everyday street life
now pass the peace pipe
So i can just blaze
while i pray for better days
& try to think of clever ways
that i can make the chedder stay
This life is just not right
i'm in debt
& i cant stop smoking on these damn cigarettes
whats happened in the past has got me livin with regrets
but everybody has hard times so try not stress
Lord, i must confess im doing my best to proceed
but the devil will possess
& he's flexing on me
hes got me stuck
stuck between a rock and hard place 
so i'm slanging this cocaine
so i can come up like scareface
& it makes my heart ache 
that i stay stuck in this dark space
harsh days got me feeling like its time to part ways
I saw an article yesterday on Steve's "All Natural & More" blog talking about casual gay prostitution.  The article was originally in Fusion's online magazine.  In the article, Taryn Hillin writes about "The rise of the part-time gay prostitute."  The article inspired me to look for a poem about hustlers, and I found the one above, "Hard Times" by Brandon Haynes, which seemed to fit well with this article. (I left the punctuation and capitalization just as it was, as much as it pained me to want to edit it.)  The article itself can be found at http://fusion.net/story/107376/part-time-male-gay-sex-work/ or by clicking the link above to Steve's blog.  Here are a few excerpts from the article:
Over the past few years, more gay men have begun to sell sex on the side like it’s no big deal—and for these men, it’s not. The rise, according to researchers, can be traced to the explosion of social networking sites combined with a less-than-stable job market—along with increasingly permissive cultural views toward casual sex. 
“Previously, men had to go to an outdoor venue, work for an agency, or advertise in the back pages of magazines and phone books to sell sex, now they can do it right from their phone,” said Kevin Walby, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg and author of Touching Encounters: Sex, Work, and Male-for-Male Internet Escorting.
*****
While casual sex workers’ primary motivation is earning extra cash, many also see the work as having larger value. They see it as a form of care work, akin to being a therapist or masseuse. 
“The way that these guys approach what they do is not strictly commercial. They do feel like they’re helping people,” Walby told Fusion. “Whether it’s psychological or physical, they talk about their work like occupational therapy or nursing.” 
Several men we spoke with said much of the work involves touching, hugging, and baths. Most of the clients don’t have time for a relationship, don’t have a lot of options in the love department for physical reasons (weight, age, disability), or simply haven’t come out yet—making open intimacy difficult for them. 
With this in mind, Walby said society’s perception of sex work as shameful is dated. “It’s bizarre that we don’t include anything sexual in approaches to care or therapy,” he said—“that we divorce sexual touching from the notion of healing and caring.” 
Numerous studies have indeed shown the health benefits of intimacy and cuddling. For men who are unable to get it in their “real lives” and not bothered by the transactional nature of the encounter, paying a couple hundred dollars for sex or intimate behavior can help fill a painful void. 
*****
Men’s sex work does, of course, come with risks, but it tends to be safer than women’s sex work. “The risk profile for women and transgender workers is more complicated,” said Walby. For example, it’s pretty standard that female escorts will visit clients with bodyguards—active female prostitutes are 18 times more likely to be murdered than the general population. 
Walby, who has also researched female sex workers, said that while many women feel empowered by their work, they also tend to be more afraid of potential repercussions. “In my research the women were definitely more worried about violence and more worried about stigmatization—if word got out, they seemed to feel it would be more damaging for their lives than the men did.” 
*****
While these casual sex workers aren’t shouting about their work from the rooftops, the men we spoke with said they aren’t burdened by feelings of worry, guilt, or shame. True, they aren’t telling their mothers (too personal) or bosses (for fear of discrimination or other repercussions), but they’re open about the work with close friends.