Sunday, May 31, 2015

Plenty of Hard Times

 
 After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, ‘It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.’ And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.
 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. And they stayed there with the disciples for some time.

Acts 14:21-28 (NRSV) 
When I read today’s passage, I was powerfully drawn to the last sentence in verse 22, where Paul says, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” I found myself captured by this thought and needing to understand it better. I think each of us has been through numerous trials and tribulations, whether it is because of our sexuality or other issues in our life, such as my current job search.
The fact that Paul uses the word “must” really grabbed my attention. Paul doesn’t say that we “might” have to go through persecutions to enter the kingdom. He doesn’t even say “probably.” He says that it is a “must.” There is no way to enter into heaven, Paul says, unless we are willing to go through persecutions and be able to keep our faith while doing so.
What does “persecutions” mean? Paul and many apostles faced persecution, torture, and death for their belief. Most early Christians didn’t face that level of persecution, but all of them faced hardship in life — as do we. How we react to those hard times will determine whether we make it into the kingdom of God.
James tells us the same thing in James chapter 1 but takes it a step,further and tells us to rejoice in hard times:
 ...whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 
(James 1:2-8 [NRSV])
James tells us that we must look at the hardships of our life and "consider it nothing but joy." I know that sounds odd to most of us, but as I said last week, when God closes one door, i.e. we face a hardship, He is opening a new door for us. There are better things to come. And as James says, we must endure and we will be "lacking in nothing."
With the loss of my job, the frustration of the job search, or the everyday problems of being a gay man in the Deep South, I could get angry with God, grow cynical, and walk away from my faith, and many people do, especially with the reaction they receive from many people who call themselves Christians but then condemn others for what they perceive as wrong. Instead, I do my best to respond by drawing closer to God, knowing that through God I will find the strength not just to endure, but to prevail in the midst of hardship. If we lose faith and question the intent of God, then God knows that and He will not reward our lack of faith. Therefore, my faith gives me great comfort in times of stress and difficulty for I know that my faith will bring me closer to God.
One person's hardship may not be ours, but we all have our own hardships. How we react will make all the difference. “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” Instead of becoming discouraged, don’t view hardships as a sign that life has gone awry. Embrace them as learning opportunities for the soul and rejoice.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Moment of Zen: My Boyfriend



Last week, I had nothing that was Zen worthy.  I felt like my world had crashed down on me, but I am so grateful to have a wonderful, thoughtful, and caring man as my boyfriend.  When he told me to meet him last Saturday, I had no idea that he planned on surprising me with that trip up the mountain for dinner.  He's also been extremely supportive this week, even helping me with job applications.  I couldn't ask for a better man.
By the way, I used that picture because the guy looks as if he's trying to find a signal on his cellphone, well that is one of the nice things about that mountain retreat: no cell service (actually it's just very limited). However, it is nice that you don't have to worry about being disturbed.  It's like we are in our own little world together and none of the outside influences can bother us.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Big Thanks


  
I want to thank all of you for your love, support and prayers this last week.  Also, I want to thank you for your many great suggestions.  I've looked into mos tod them and have been preparing application materials for them.  Many of you have sent personal emails, and I promise that I will answer them as soon as I can, hopefully, sometime this weekend.  I have largely been concentrating on getting out applications this week.  When I had my job, I mostly used my school laptop for work, but now I'm using mine which is Windows 8, instead of Windows 7 like the one at school.  Let me just say, Microsoft has to come up with something better than Windows 8.  It is absolutely the most frustrating operating system that I have ever dealt with.  I'm afraid the next version might be worse.  As for browsers, I love Google Chrome, but for some reason it just won't work with my version of Windows 8, so I have to use internet explorer, which is so frustrating.  I do as much as I can on my iPad, but you cannot email multiple attachments in the same email.  If you can, I've yet to figure it out.
By the time I got to a stopping place yesterday, I had such a massive headache that I just went to bed.  If Macs were even remotely affordable, I might get one just to save on the headache of using Windows 8. Obviously, computer retailers know that Windows 7 is a superior operating system to Windows 8, because if you want a computer with Windows 7 instead of Windows 8, you almost end up paying twice as much.  I'll get it figured out and get applications sent out.  I've already sent out about a dozen.  There are a few of them that I would really love to have, so I'm praying and keeping my fingers crossed.
You know, this time last week, I had been planning on writing book reviews for most of my posts this week.  The book reviews though have needed up,on the backburner for the time being.  Maybe I can write some this weekend, since I need to schedule posts for next week because my boyfriend is taking me to New Orleans.  And speaking of my boyfriend, he did something incredibly sweet last Saturday.  He took me to dinner at the restaurant on the mountain that we'd gone to during spring break.  He said that it had been a happy place for us, and he thought I needed a happy place.  I'm so lucky to have this wonderful man in my life.
P.S. Sorry about this ranting and rambling post.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Reflections/Perceptions

 
All of this week, I have been applying for jobs. In academia, it's all about the curriculum vitae, and in the rest of the world it's more about the cover letter and resume. Therefore, I've had to retool my job application material. Sometimes that means turning my CV into a resume or retooling my CV for a specific job. The same goes for the cover letter. As a marketing friend of mine would say, I'm having to brand myself and create an image of not just who I am, but I also have to create an image, while being completely honest, of the person that someone will want to hire. This takes a lot of self searching on my part. I'm having to examine who I am and what direction I want my life to go.
When you look at yourself in a mirror, what you see depends on the quality of that mirror. Similarly, our mental images of ourselves help determine how we react to daily highs and lows of life. If we think of ourselves as worthwhile and valued, that quality will come across to other people. Molded by both internal and external forces, our self-image makes a huge difference in how we feel and act. Self-image is both a conscious and subconscious way of seeing ourselves. It is the emotional judgment we make about our self-worth. We form our self-image through interaction with others, taking into account their reactions to us and the ways they categorize us. Their responses are affected by their own distortions in worldview, however, so we don’t always get an accurate reflection of ourselves.
In the job search process, I've had to think a lot about how I would describe myself to a stranger. My answer largely depends on my mental image of myself. There is a problem with this. First, I think about how I am a very good historian and teacher. I know my material, and I know how to present it in an interesting way. (If I didn't have a track record of this, would you still be reading this blog?). This is the side of me that I have to present to a potential employer.
However, the loss of my job has greatly damaged my self confidence. If I were so good, then why did the school decide not to renew my contract? From talking to several people, I'm pretty sure I know why, but the question is: why me? There were some teachers who constantly were stirring up trouble, and teachers who barely taught at all, in fact were barely in their classroom. I was always in my classroom, and I refused to get involved in the petty bickering. Yet, I lost my job. This does not help ones self confidence. However, I have to find my self confidence when applying for jobs.
We can’t help but compare ourselves with others, much as we might try not to. We usually compare ourselves against the expectations of friends and family. Often society gives us roles and expectations, such as having a successful career or being a good husband. This contributes to how we see ourselves. This becomes even more complicated as a closeted gay man. We have ways that we are expected to be perceived. We assess ourselves continually.
A positive self-image leads to confidence and self-acceptance. A negative self-image leads to a sense of inferiority and even depression. Those who develop a mature and realistic self-image will not come undone by every critical comment. This is especially difficult when you're on a job hunt. Some jobs, you may know are long shots; others, you think should be a sure thing (or at least you should warrant an interview). Then you submit application after application and you get rejection after rejection, or even worse, silence. This job hunt has just begun, and I thank all of you for your suggestions. However, I've been on the job hunt for a permanent position in higher education for nearly seven years, so the job hunt isn't something new. This time though, I don’t have the luxury of having a job while applying for positions that I find ideal. I'm branching out and looking at non-teaching positions, and the thing is, this may have been what I've needed to do all along.
I'm taking a good look at myself, and doing my best to remain positive about what I see. Trust me, it's not always easy at times to be optimistic, and I have had a fair number of pessimistic moments this week. I will hold my head up high and continue the search.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

William Etty: Artist and Callipygian Enthusiast



callipygian:  adjective cal·li·pyg·ian \ˌka-lə-ˈpi-j(ē-)ən\ having beautifully shaped buttocks.
From Ancient Greek καλλίπυγος (kallípugos), from καλλι- (kalli-, “beautiful”) + πυγή (pugḗ, “buttocks”).

William Etty (1787-1849) is probably the most controversial artists of whom you have probably never heard.  A high-minded bachelor whose private life has defied all attempts to unearth smut, Etty was acclaimed in his day but eventually sidelined because of his defiance of moralizing, often hypocritical, critics. He was a shy man and remained a bachelor all his life, which at the time was practically a statement. There is no way to confirm Etty's sexual orientation since he's long dead and lived in a time when no one really identified as gay. However, the paintings may speak for themselves. He was a successful Royal Academy artist, but his work fell out of favor after his death. But while he was an active painter he was both admired and condemned for his detailed renderings of the naked human body, often focusing on the buttocks.
Critics felt he focused too much on the female buttocks, but if you Google Image search for his work, you find a surprisingly large number of male nudes, many with a focus on the male buttocks as well. Seems none of his contemporaries were interested in commenting on that, but it's obvious that Etty's was a butt man, no matter his orientation.
Whereas his contemporaries, like J.M.W. Turner changed how people saw art, Etty wanted to change what people saw. Etty broke the rules of decorum by painting humanly realistic nudes rather than idealized gods and goddesses. Most of the criticism questioned the appropriateness of Etty’s female nudes, while the male nudes quite often found praise as “heroic.” Tragically, the critics got personal in their comments, essentially charging Etty with deliberately trying to corrupt the viewing public. 
“He is a laborious draughtsman, and a beautiful colourist,” one critic began innocently enough, “but he [Etty] has not taste or chastity of mind enough to venture on the naked truth […] we fear that Mr. E will never turn from his wicked ways, and make himself fit for decent company.” “[T]he spectator can see in [Etty’s female nudes] nothing beyond the portrait of some poor girl who was necessitated to sacrifice the feelings of her sex for bread,” another critic accused. “Nudity is all that the artist has to show us, and when unassociated with anything like incident or sentiment, the spectacle is offensive.” Etty defended himself as an innocent lover of nature’s greatest creation—the human form. Even after evoking the Biblical phrase that “to the pure of heart all things are pure,” Etty’s explanations fell on deaf ears.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Doors opening, closing on us


Doors opening, closing on us
By Marge Piercy

Maybe there is more of the magical
in the idea of a door than in the door
itself. It’s always a matter of going
through into something else. But

while some doors lead to cathedrals
arching up overhead like stormy skies
and some to sumptuous auditoriums
and some to caves of nuclear monsters

most just yield a bathroom or a closet.
Still, the image of a door is liminal,
passing from one place into another
one state to the other, boundaries

and promises and threats. Inside
to outside, light into dark, dark into
light, cold into warm, known into
strange, safe into terror, wind

into stillness, silence into noise
or music. We slice our life into
segments by rituals, each a door
to a presumed new phase. We see

ourselves progressing from room
to room perhaps dragging our toys
along until the last door opens
and we pass at last into was.
About This Poem
“The poem actually started when I was thinking about the use of gates in the Yom Kippur service. I was thinking that doors are more concrete somehow as an image of going from one state or another, one era, one phase of one’s life to another—because you can’t see beyond a door when it’s shut. There can always be a surprise on the other side.”
—Marge Piercy
Marge Piercy is the author of Made in Detroit (Knopf, 2015). She lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts with her husband, Ira Wood.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Fire Is Lit


For the past five years, I have not really been happy.  I love teaching, but their were aspects of my job that I was really not happy with.  I was constantly frustrated with the students and their lack of ambition, and I think some of that had worn off on me.  I'd looked for other jobs, but if I am going to be truthful with myself, it was only a half-hearted effort.  I was comfortable with my job, even if I was unhappy.  Losing my job has lit a fire in me to search for better employment, employment that will be fulfilling, and employment that I can be proud of.  I am going to continue looking into teaching positions, but I am also turning to the museum sector and other areas where my degrees will be useful.  Maybe it is time for a new path.  Many of the museum jobs require a degree in history, and I have also had some training in public history.  Museums often look for someone who can be an educational resource, so they often look for someone who has educational experience.  It's a small glimmer of hope, but you can't get a job if you don't apply, so I am applying to as many places as I can.  If anyone has any suggestions or can offer any assistance in this endeavor, I'd be greatly appreciative.
If you've ever lost your job suddenly and without any type of prior warning, you probably know the emotional roller coaster that I have been going through the past few days: shock, anger, hopelessness, disappointment, but also hope for better things to come.  (By the way, I'm almost certain that I was let go so that they could make room for the new football coach. If that is the case, I am better off not being at a school that puts athletics so far above academics.) My post yesterday was about that hope, and I'm clinging to that for dear life.  I refuse to let depression overtake me again, and I will be more proactive in my life circumstances.  I'm going to make this a positive experience, even though my heart hurts right now with the feelings of betrayal from a school I'd poured my heart and soul into making a better place.
As Gloria Gaynor famously sang:
Do you think I'd crumble
Did you think I'd lay down and die?
No, not I, I will survive
Long as I know how to love
I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live
And all my love to give and I'll survive
I will survive
It may be taking all my strength not to fall apart, but I will survive.  I want to thank all of you for your love, support, and words of encouragement during this period of tribulation.
It’s easy to get bogged down in my own self pity and forget that today is Memorial Day and what it actually means but this day signifies so much that is important to the freedoms we have in this country and the freedoms we strive to expand upon.  Memorial Day is a solemn day of remembrance for everyone who has died serving in the American armed forces. The holiday, originally known as Decoration Day, started after the Civil War to honor the Union and Confederate dead.  
On this Memorial Day, I want us not only to remember the men and women who have died, but to especially remember those gay, lesbian, and bisexual veterans who died serving in silence in the times before the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  They served and died for a country that denied them their own freedoms, many in hope that one day their sacrifice would lead to greater freedoms in America.  Most of those gay, lesbian, and bisexual service men and women would be shocked to know that not only can gay people serve openly in the military but that they can be married to someone of the same sex and receive spousal benefits, or that the majority of states allow same-sex marriage and that we seem to be on the verge of it becoming legal nationwide. We cannot let their sacrifices be in vain, and we must continue the fight for a better and more free America.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

God's Doors

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. - Acts 16:6-10
The world is not always a kind place. It is filled with bitterness, hatred, and betrayal. Life is just not fair at times. At times like the last few days, it seems like there’s no way out of the situation I'm in. I pray and pray (day and night) asking God to open up the windows of opportunity for me, but what can I do when all the doors seems to be closed. I looked to God and the Bible for an answer. I found e beautiful passage above.
In the sixteenth chapter of Acts, Paul was on what many refer to as his second missionary journey. He and his companion Silas had traveled to Derbe and Lystra, where they were joined by Timothy. They then departed through Phrygia and Galatia. Luke says that while they were passing through this area they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word. When they came to Mysia, they wanted to turn to the northeast and take the gospel into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not allow them to go there either. While in the Mysian city of Troas, in a vision at night, Paul received the Macedonian Call.
“So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:8-10).
Determining that they had been called by God, they went to preach to the Macedonians. Paul was very successful on this journey. Several important and noteworthy churches were established; including churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus.
There are times when we pray and ask God for things. “God bless me with a job; give me that promotion at work; help me to pay my bills and etc”. We ask God for a lot of things. Most often, I ask God to guide me on the path that he has chosen for me. However, we never ask God to open doors He wants to be open and shut doors He wants to be closed.
Today, I’m looking for a job, which I've been doing for the past seven years. My last teaching job was never, in my mind, meant to be permanent. Other jobs I've applied for, I have been turned down for time and time again. With this latest setback, the loss my very flimsy safety net, I realized that God has something better in store for me. My plans are not always His plans.
Sometimes the things we pray for aren’t the things God has in store for us. Oftentimes, we pray for little things when God wants to bless us with bigger things. Sometimes we pray for God to bless us with the wrong things. I had to encourage myself and tell myself: when one door closes, another one opens, just as many of you and many others have told me in the past few days.
You may be going through a situation right now feeling as though nothing is working out for your good. You might want to give up and throw the towel in. I know in the past two days, I have certainly felt that way at times. I am hopeful one minute, hopeless the next. My emotions have been a roller coaster. I want to encourage you today, as I have done my best to encourage myself, so not to give up.
When God closes one door He opens up another. It could be that God wants me to have or be somewhere else in life. Or that God simply has another route for me to go down. Sometimes we have to hear no in order to get to where God wants us to be. Sometimes door closes not because God is against us, but simply because it’s used as a tool to guide us where God wants us to be.
When you feel as though you want to lose hope; don’t! You want to give up; don’t do it. Know that God is with you. This has done more for me these past few days than you could imagine. God is guiding and ordering our footsteps. He has a specific path just for us to travel down but sometimes as children wondering we lose track and go down the wrong path. I'm not for sure that this job I lost was not the wrong track for the past five years, but it has gained me the experience I needed in education. Because of this, God put road blocks in the wrong paths to get us going down the right path.
I am encouraged and know that God has the key to open every door; change every situation and open new windows of opportunities. Sometimes, road blocks are there to lead us to the path Jesus would have us go.  It may feel like your naked in a hallway of closed doors, but eventually, we will all come to an open one.
I am encouraged and know that God does everything for a reason; not for our downfall, but for our good and to His glory. The road blocks we face is simply God guiding us. Be encouraged in Jesus name knowing that when one door closes, another one opens. I want to leave you with the words to a song we will be singing in church tomorrow (I know this because I will be the song leader tomorrow, a job I do when our regular song leader is not there):
Farther Along
Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.
Refrain:
Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.
Sometimes I wonder why I must suffer,
Go in the rain, the cold, and the snow,
When there are many living in comfort,
Giving no heed to all I can do.
Refrain
Tempted and tried, how often we question
Why we must suffer year after year,
Being accused by those of our loved ones,
E’en though we’ve walked in God’s holy fear.
Refrain

Friday, May 22, 2015

Flabbergasted

There will be no Moment of Zen tomorrow.  I am not sure I will be posting for several days.  As I was leaving school today, I was called in to the principal's office and told that I no longer had a job.  I have no idea what I will do, except look for a new job.  There was no warning, no reprimands on my record, no hint of me not returning for next year.  I was simply told there had been complaints made, though no one can tell me what they were.  It is a mystery to me, and a mystery to all those who I've spoken with about the issue.

I can't stop crying, and I'm just in shock.

Hallelujah



I gave my final exam yesterday.  The kids are gone.  There is a little more paperwork to do today, and I have to attend graduation tonight.  Other than that, school is out for the summer.  I am so happy, and for the next few weeks, I'm going to spend as much time with my boyfriend as possible since he will be out of town most of the summer.  I am going to miss him so much.
By the way, my headache finally subsided.  Hopefully, it will continue to get better.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Short Post



This will be a short post.  Last night I had one of the worst headaches I've had in months.  Medicine and sleep didn't phase it all day yesterday.  I'm hoping it will be better today.
The good news is that I am giving my last exam today.  If they all pass the class, I will have no more students until August 12.  I still have a teacher workday tomorrow, but that's just taking care of some administrative loose ends.  I am so glad that this year is over.  I've had some of the worst students I've ever dealt with this year, and luckily, most of them are graduating tomorrow night.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Omar Currie: A Story of Courage



Three weeks ago, Omar Currie, a 25 year-old third grade teacher at Efland-Cheeks Elementary School in Efland, North Carolina, overheard some of his students calling one of their male classmates "gay" and "a woman." Instead of sending the bullies to the principal's office, Currie took a different approach: He read his class King & King, a children's fable by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland that features a same-sex romance.

Currie, who identifies as gay, said that he wanted to have an honest conversation with his students -- whom he affectionately refers to as his "kids" -- on how to treat people who may seem different.  Sometimes the best approach to dealing with our "kids," as I also refer to my students, is to give them a different perspective and a new way of looking at things.  I often play devils advocate with my kids when an issue of ignorance comes up in my classroom, but I deal with teenagers not third graders.  My kids have realized that I'm the school's liberal, and they are learning what provokes my sermons about their ignorance.  I try to be diplomatic at times, but often I end up getting angry, because I think they should have learned this much younger, which is why I find Mr. Currie such an inspiration.

According to Currie, there was a group of boys that had been referring to the child as a girl or a woman, saying "OK, woman," or "OK, girl.". He stepped in and addressed the issue, he said, but then it happened again. It was obvious that this particular child was being bullied and was very upset.  To address the issue, the following day, Currie read his class King & King, a picture book whose main character, a prince, must find a suitor to marry. After meeting with a succession of princesses and feeling no spark, the prince eventually falls in love with another prince. The two wed, becoming kings together, and the book ends with the two kings kissing.

When one student said that it made them uncomfortable, because they'd never seen two men marry each other, Currie said: "Well, it’s normal to feel uncomfortable when you feel something new, but what is the moral? The moral is to treat people well, no matter who they are."

Currie's decision was not without controversy. At least three parents filed formal complaints against him, leading to a meeting at the school last Friday to determine whether the book would be banned. About 200 people showed up to the meeting, with the majority of community members supporting Currie's decision.  "The experience was very overwhelming in terms of the amount of support I received," he said.

However, a number of parents said they were dismayed to find out that Currie had read King & King to his students.  "[You're] infiltrating young minds, indoctrinating children into a gay agenda and actively promoting homosexuality to steer our children in that direction," parent Lisa Baptist said at Friday's meeting, according to WRAL.

"The comments that were most difficult were the ones from parents and community members saying that my kids can't handle this conversation," said Currie. "These people are underestimating my kids. I know what they’re capable of, how intelligent they are and how passionate they are. To say my kids couldn’t have a conversation about bullying was very disgusting to me, quite honestly."

Currie said he knows all too well the pains of being bullied at school. He said the classroom should be a safe environment for all children.  "Every single day in middle school I was called a faggot," he said. "I was called that in front of teachers and no one ever stopped to address the problem. It gave me an understanding that it must be fixed immediately when it happens."  I think many of us faced similar circumstances.  Middle school and high school were hell to me.  I turned to my books and studies harder hoping to get far away as soon as I could, and education was going to be my ticket out.

The school board committee ultimately determined that the book would not be banned, but that in the future, teachers must inform parents about every book they plan to read for their class. I think the school board's decision is one of the most ludicrous I've heard of in a long time.  Why should a teacher have to inform parents of every book they read their kids.  It just adds more work to already overworked and under appreciated teachers.  Currie said he disagrees with the school board's decision, but appreciates the love and support he has received.  "Three weeks ago, after I read the book, it was a very lonely experience, because I felt like I was standing by myself," he said. "On Friday, it wasn’t just me standing up for what was right, it was all of us. That was powerful."

I wish all teachers cared about their kids the way Currie does, and I wish I were brave enough to be able to do the same thing if I were in his situation.  However, while teaching at a small private school may afford me great freedom in the classroom, it also keeps me in the closet and forced to deal with the politics of a small minded community.  Teachers like myself have to work with what we have and change minds in small incremental ways.  It's a slow process, but I do see minds changing, if ever so slightly. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Theories of Time and Space



Theories of Time and Space
By Natasha Trethewey

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one—
by—one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion—dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on a mangrove swamp—buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry—tome of memory
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph—who you were—
will be waiting when you return

I've never been further north on U.S. Highway 49 than Jackson, Mississippi, but I have driven the stretch from Jackson to its beginning in Gulfport, Mississippi, too many times to count.  North of Jackson at the junction of US 49 and U.S. Route 61, was where blues singer Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the Devil.  But it is Gulfport that I am more familiar with because it used to be a short drive down to the beach when I wanted to get away from the stresses of graduate school. I've walked those man-made beaches and taken the boat out to Ship Island to see Fort Massachusetts.  If you are ever in Gulfport, or on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for that matter, you'll probably be there for the casinos, but you really should go out to Ship Island and take a picnic lunch, explore the fort, and lounge on the beach on the south side of the island.  

The first time I went to Ship Island, I remember standing on top of Fort Massachusetts and feeling history come alive.  Having the only deep-water harbor between Mobile Bay and the Mississippi River, the island served as a vital anchorage for ships bearing explorers, colonists, sailors, soldiers, defenders and invaders. The French, Spanish, British, Confederate and Union flags have all flown over Ship Island.  French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville charted Ship Island on 10 February 1699, which he used as a base of operations in discovering the mouth of the Mississippi River. The island served as a point of immigration to French colonies in the New World.

In the War of 1812, Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane anchored between Ship Island and Cat Island with a fleet of fifty British warships and 7,500 soldiers in preparations for the Battle of New Orleans and the island was used as a launching point for British forces.  I remember standing on top of Fort Massachusetts and it was almost like I could see the fifty British warships as they prepared to attack New Orleans nearly 200 years before.  It was one of those magical moments historians sometimes have.  We are standing in a historical place and suddenly we are transported back to a significant moment.  The present world disappears and the world of the past emerges before your eyes.

"Everywhere you go will be somewhere you’ve never been."  So if you ever find yourself in Jackson, Mississippi, try heading down U.S Highway 49 through Hattiesburg and past the beautiful campus of the University of Southern Mississippi down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, hop on the boat out to Ship Island and let another world take you over. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

The End Is Nigh


No, I'm not predicting the apocalypse, but two other things are coming to an end this week.  One good; one bad.  The good news is that school ends on Thursday.  Monday is our last full day, and the rest of the week consist of half days for exams.  I'm so excited.  This has been one of the rougher school years, and I can't wait for it to be over.  However, my week with my boyfriend as I house sit is also coming to an end.  The owners of the house come back on Wednesday.  I will miss sharing a bed with my boyfriend at night.   So this week will be one of hose weeks where it's out with the bad, but also out with the good.  However, I do have a vacation coming up in a few weeks with my boyfriend that should be quite wonderful.
I hope you all have a wonderful week.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Message


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:1, 14
 A few weeks ago, I used a Biblical quote from The Message, a different translation of the Bible than I usually use.  Most often I use the English Standard Version, but I have always been partial to the King James Version.  I love to read the Bible in the KJV Elizabethan English, for its beauty, but it can be a bit difficult to fully comprehend at times unless you are an Elizabethan scholar.  It’s one of the reasons I love teaching my literature students Shakespeare. However, sometimes I want to read a version that gives a close word-for-word correspondence between the original languages and English. 
The Message was written by Eugene Peterson and to best understand this particular biblical translation, here is what Peterson himself said: "While I was teaching a class on Galatians, I began to realize that the adults in my class weren't feeling the vitality and directness that I sensed as I read and studied the New Testament in its original Greek. Writing straight from the original text, I began to attempt to bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original language. I knew that the early readers of the New Testament were captured and engaged by these writings and I wanted my congregation to be impacted in the same way. I hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn't read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become 'old hat.'"  Eugene Peterson recognized that the original sentence structure is very different from that of contemporary English. He decided to strive for the spirit of the original manuscripts—to express the rhythm of the voices, the flavor of the idiomatic expressions, the subtle connotations of meaning that are often lost in English translations.
Language changes. New words are formed. Old words take on new meaning. There is a need in every generation to keep the language of the gospel message current, fresh, and understandable—the way it was for its very first readers. That is what The Message seeks to accomplish for contemporary readers. It is a version for our time—designed to be read by contemporary people in the same way as the original koin Greek and Hebrew manuscripts were savored by people thousands of years ago.
Some biblical scholars have denounced The Message because they say that Peterson did not just translate the Bible but changed portions of it to fit his on biblical beliefs.  Other critics declare The Message to be not a paraphrase of what the Bible says, but more of a rendering of what Peterson would like it to say.  However, I would have to disagree.  Peterson captures the Word of God like no other translation I have ever read, but sometimes he does seem to be a bit too idiomatic.  The goal of The Message is to engage people in the reading process and help them understand what they read. This is not a study Bible, but rather ""a reading Bible."" The verse numbers, which are not in the original documents, were left out of the original print version to facilitate easy and enjoyable reading, but have since been added so that readers can compare biblical versions. The original books of the Bible were not written in formal language. The Message tries to recapture the Word in the words we use today.
Here are a few comparisons between the King James Version, the English Standard Version, and The Message:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:1, 14 (KJV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:1, 14 (ESV)
The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.  John 1:1, 14 (MSG)
In the instance of John 1:1, 14, there is not a great deal of difference, but I want to give a few more examples of passages where I think many modern translations have gone astray and Peterson has brought back the intent of the Word.
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (KJV)
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)
Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (MSG)
If you read the three different versions, you will see that modern translations, such as the ESV, translate arsenokoitai as homosexual, most true scholars realize that arsenokoitai was a word that was created by Paul, and we can be fairly certain that this is not the meaning that Paul wanted to convey. If he had, he would have used the word "paiderasste." That was the standard Greek term at the time for sexual activity between males. Add to that the fact that homosexuality was not a word or a concept of sexual orientation in ancient times, and there is no doubt that the modern translations of "clobber passages" are incorrect.  We can conclude that Paul probably meant something different than people who engaged in male-male adult sexual behavior, for which I think Peterson translates better than most.
There are numerous examples of translational differences, but I think that Peterson creates an imminently readable translation of the Bible.  I agree with Peterson that it is not a study Bible but a reading Bible.  I think that the most important aspect of Peterson’s translation is that he writes with the intent of the Word, and it makes it a beautiful translation, at least in parts.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Moment of Zen: Foreplay



I don't think this one needs further explanation. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Lying in Bed



As I was lying in bed waiting for boyfriend to join me, I was trying to figure out what to write, and I finally decided I had no ideas.  Then my boyfriend came to bed, and I completely lost interest in writing a blog post.  So please excuse me, I was a little bit busy last night.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Way to a Man's Heart...


The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  I really do believe this old adage.  Growing up, I loved to watch Mama and Grandmama cook.  I learned so much from them, and then I expanded my knowledge by Food Network and experimenting with different flavors.  By experimenting and learning what spices are best used with what and how t blend flavors, I can often eat a dish once and then replicate it.  My cooking skills is something that I take pride in, even though I know pride is one of the seven deadly sins.
I love cooking for others.  I have had the tremendous joy this week to be able to cook for my boyfriend.  We are getting to spend time with one another while I am house sitting.  My boyfriend makes me so happy.  I've been able to to cook each night for him, and he's so appreciative of my cooking.  It seems to make him happy, which is always my goal when I cook for someone.
I've hear all my life what a good husband I will make, but when I cook, I do so because I love it.  I truly do love to cook, and I love to experiment and am especially happy when trying something new pays off.  I don't know if any of you love cooking, but it's a wonderful pastime.  And most importantly, it makes other people happy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Thinking with Your Penis



Guys, have you ever noticed that when you have an erection that you think differently?  Maybe it's just me, but if I have a hard-on my mind can have some pretty dirty thoughts.  I find things I wouldn't normally find attractive/sexy, I find irresistible when I'm already turned on.  Urban Dictionary defines "thinking with your penis" as cognition which is tainted by horniness or when a man makes decisions intended to satisfy the short term goals of his penis and fails to consider the long term consequences.  So do you think with your penis?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Field in Spring



Field in Spring
By Susan Stewart

Your eye moving 
left to right across
the plowed lines
looking to touch down
on the first
shoots coming up 
like a frieze
from the dark where
pale roots
and wood-lice gorge
on mold.
Red haze atop
the far trees.
A two dot, then
a ten dot
ladybug. Within
the wind, a per-
pendicular breeze.
Hold a mirror,
horizontal,
to the rain. Now
the blurred repetition
of ruled lines, the faint
green, quickening,
the doubled tears.
Wake up.
The wind is not for seeing,
neither is the first
song, soon half- 
way gone,
and the figures,
the figures are not waiting.
To see what is
in motion you must move.

About This Poem
“This poem is from a series of studies of the same field in sequential seasons. Is there anyone in the northern hemisphere who isn’t trying, in these days, to read the signs of spring?”— Susan Stewart 
Susan Stewart is the author of numerous books of poems, including Red Rover (University of Chicago Press, 2008). She is a professor of English at Princeton University. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Crooked Man



Charles Beaumont wrote the short story "The Crooked Man," which presented a dystopian future wherein heterosexuality is stigmatized in the same way that homosexuality was in the 1950s. It depicts heterosexuals living as furtively as pre-Stonewall gays and lesbians. "The Crooked Man" was first rejected by Esquire magazine, which found it too controversial, and then published by Hugh Hefner, a young man from Chicago who had recently launched a magazine called Playboy. After letters of outrage at Beaumont's "The Crooked Man" poured in, Hefner addressed readers. "If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society," he wrote in response, "then the reverse was wrong, too."
"The Crooked Man" is really just a couple of scenes. A handsome young man named Jesse furtively ducks into a nightclub. He sits in a private booth, closes the beaded curtain around the booth, and dims the light. He is instantly hit-on by two separate men. The men have a code, fingers tapping across the stomach, to indicate that they want sex. Jesse turns them down. He is waiting for someone -- a woman named Mina.

Jesse is in love with Mina, but this future love between heterosexual couples is forbidden. Artificial insemination is the law, and the sexes are strictly segregated. Heterosexuals are considered perverts, and hunting them down is official government policy: "These sick people must be cured and made normal," announces the platform of the majority political party. Jesse has learned to "pass" in this culture. He learns how to walk gay, and turn down sexual advances -- which seem to happen constantly -- with tact.

Mina shows up. She is disguised, her flowing blonde hair tucked under a wig. Yet it's very difficult to hide the movement and expressions of a woman, and she and Jesse are found out. He is quickly removed to a government van, which will take him for surgery, re-education, the works.
Though Hefner is most famous for his numerous romantic exploits over the years, he has always been a proponent of sexual freedom: heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.  Even now, the twice-divorced 89-year-old entrepreneur says that gay marriage isn't hurting anyone.  "Without question, love in its various permutations is what we need more of in this world," he said. "The idea that the concept of marriage will be sullied by same-sex marriage is ridiculous. Heterosexuals haven't been doing that well at it on their own."  Hefner should know, he's been married three times already.