Friday, April 30, 2021

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Pic of the Day

Hope


Last night, president Biden gave his first speech before a joint session of Congress, even if it was a smaller crowd than usual. Since Biden became the nominee, I have seen hope in him. While I still wish Pete Buttigieg had been the nominee and was now president, I fully support President Biden. I believe in him. He’s not a perfect man and he admits that, but I do believe he is a genuinely good man. I’ve never felt this way about a president before in my 43 years on this earth. I think there have been presidents who were good men, but I’ve never felt a real hope in a president before Biden. I often find myself getting emotional when I hear him speak. He is what we need in this moment. I hope that parts of this speech will go down in history. I found it one of the most inspirational speeches I’ve heard in American political history. It was a speech of hope, unity, and progress.

The only faltering in my hope is members of the Republican Party. They know what needs to be done, but because it’s not their idea nor their administration, they oppose nearly all of Biden’s agenda. Most Republicans also have no issue with lying, which Senator Tim Scott did numerous times during his rebuttal. Scott claimed America is not racist, that Democrats blocked justice reform, and that Republicans have made voting easier in Georgia. These are so untrue, and it continues to show that Republicans have divorced themselves from truth and reality. It bothers me how much they want to block progress and freedom. In contrast to Biden’s speech, Scott’s speech was one of lies, division, and regression.

In other more personal news, today I am fully vaccinated. It has been two weeks since my second COVID vaccine. I will continue to wear my mask and social distance, but it feels like we are nearing the end of this horrible year. We are still at least several months away from something resembling a return to normalcy. I think it will be at least 2022 before we see real normalcy. If Biden’s opponent had won the election, I don’t think we’d be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel. With Biden, we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Also, I am having times of relatively no pain. I’m not totally pain-free yet, but I am seeing some improvement. For most of the day yesterday, I was feeling pretty good (even though I woke with a headache, it did get better), but by the evening, I was in pain again. I have hope that I am getting better. There is still some swelling that is still aggravating my trigeminal nerve, but the tooth socket is not hurting nearly as much. As I’ve said before, time will tell, but I am hopeful.

My virtual program for the museum yesterday seemed to go as well as could be expected. There was a bit of fumbling with the technology, but it was quickly fixed and things went smoothly. We did run over by about twenty minutes, but people seemed to have enjoyed it. Some even asked for more programs similar to what was presented yesterday, and I do have two in the works for fall. Hopefully, they will be hybrid virtual/in-person programs. Again, time will tell.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Pic of the Day

Programming Wednesday


Today is my last public program at the museum for this academic year. It’s a virtual program, which I hope will be one of the last of my virtual programs. I hope in the fall we can get back to in person programming, but we’ll just have to wait and see. I have a record number of people signed up for this program, so I hope it turns out well and without the technical issues of the last one. It will be a fun one like the last time, but I do plan for it to be a bit more structured than before. I’ve worked really hard to fix the issues we had last time, and I’m praying that I’ll be successful in presenting a smooth program.

In other news, I was feeling much better yesterday. Monday threw me for a loop, but the Tylenol seems to be helping with the pain. The headaches haven’t been as intense, but as I was going to bed last night, I did have a moderately bad headache. I just hope I’m feeling good today, and it all goes as planned. I really want this program to be a success, and I fear it won’t be if I am not feeling well.

Right now, my biggest dilemma is what to wear. I want to look nice, which would usually be dark colors for me, but I wore dark colors for the last program and I was told it made the setting too dark and I needed to wear something lighter or maybe more vibrant. After I get up this morning, I’ll figure out what I’m going to wear and hopefully it will show up good on camera. The lighting should be a bit better this time, so I’m hoping what I wear won’t matter as much. We’ll see. I know I obsess way too much about every little detail, but I just want things to go right and be able to anticipate any issues beforehand.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Pic of the Day

Fisherman

Fisherman
By Kurt Brown

 

A man spends his whole life fishing in himself

for something grand. It's like some lost lunker, big enough

to break all records. But he's only heard rumors, myths,

vague promises of wonder. He's only felt the shadow

of something enormous darken his life. Or has he?

Maybe it's the shadow of other fish, greater than his,

the shadow of other men's souls passing over him.

Each day he grabs his gear and makes his way

to the ocean. At least he's sure of that: or is he? Is it the ocean

or the little puddle of his tears? Is this his dinghy

or the frayed boards of his ego, scoured by storm?

He shoves off, feeling the land fall away under his boots.

Soon he's drifting under clouds, wind whispering blandishments

in his ears. It could be today: the water heaves

and settles like a chest. . . He's not far out.

It's all so pleasant, so comforting--the sunlight,

the waves. He'll go back soon, thinking: "Maybe tonight."

Night with its concealments, its shadow masking all other shadows.

Night with its privacies, its alluringly distant stars.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Pic of the Day

Shopping with Eye Candy

Saturday, I had to make a trip to Burlington. Last weekend, I had bought two shirts to be picked up at Kohl's. When I ordered them last weekend, both shirts were supposed available for same-day pick-up. However, when I got the notice that one of the shirts was available, the other was being shipped to the store. I was already in Burlington when I found out the other one was not actually available to be picked up. I was annoyed, but there wasn't much I could do. I picked up the first shirt and had to wait until this last Saturday to pick up the other one. I had really not planned on going to Burlington this weekend, but when I woke up Saturday, I was feeling a little better even if my mouth was still sore, so I decided to head to Burlington and get lunch, pick up my shirt, and get a few other things that I needed from the "big city."


I decided to have lunch at Chii's because I wanted to eat soup because of my mouth, and I really like their chicken enchilada soup. I was pleasantly surprised to see a hot young gay man as the host stand. Following him to my table let me get a good lock at his tight little butt. Even more of a pleasant surprise was that he sat me where I had a perfect view of his backside as he stood at the host stand. He was such a cutie, but too young for me. However, it made my lunch much more pleasant, especially considering I had to have gotten one of the worst waitresses there. So, I had lunch and then headed to Kohl's.


It seemed like all day as I was out and about, there were hot guys everywhere. Some of you may have experienced this, but it's fairly rare in Vermont. The guy who brought out my Kohl's order to my car was cute. Then there was a guy walking his dog at the mall who was hot and muscular. When I went into Target for a few things, it seemed like I was surrounded by hot guys everywhere. Basically, all the cute guys were out in full force Saturday. With all that eye candy, I'm surprised that my blood sugar didn't go up. Other things were up instead. Maybe I was just horny.

Some of you may also be wondering how I am feeling. My mouth is still very sore, and the tooth socket still continues to bleed a little here and there. The inner gum is much sorer than the outer gum. The swelling is still causing nerve pain on the right side of my head. Otherwise, I guess I am feeling okay. I do still believe that as the swelling goes down, I will have less nerve pain since the pressure on my trigeminal nerve should be relieved.

Because of the continued pain, I wish I did not have such a busy week. Today, I have a virtual museum tour for one of our alumni groups. I will spend tomorrow preparing the final touches for my presentation on Wednesday. Thursday I have to get my weekly COVID test, and thankfully, I am off on Friday. The good thing is that I will be fully vaccinated on Thursday. If I can just make it through this week, then hopefully, the tooth socket will have healed a bit more, and I will begin feeling better.

UPDATE: My day has not gone as planned. I woke up with a really bad headache with the right side of my head pounding. I took my headache medicine and went to work, hoping that it would get better. It only got worse. I got in touch with my boss and told him I needed to go home sick today because I was in too much pain. Therefore, the museum is closed today, and I am back home. My boss is going to come in and do the virtual tour then leave. He was supposed to be off today as was everyone but me. 

I called my oral surgeon’s office because my aunt who’s a dental assistant told me I should not still be in pain and I might have a dry socket. oral surgeon’s nurse told me to take some Tylenol, and if the pain didn’t improve today they’d have me come in tomorrow morning. I know a lot of people misuse prescription pain medicines, especially opioids, but dammit, sometimes they are needed. If my Anaprox isn’t helping, what the fuck do they think Tylenol will do? It just pisses me off that I have to remain in excruciating pain because people can’t take medication responsibly. I’ve never abused prescription painkillers, and I don’t plan to, even if I could get them prescribed.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Pic of the Day

What Is Faith?

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?

 —John 11:25-26 

The expression “just have faith, it will work out” is used by people to encourage and comfort someone facing serious problems or stressful situations. But just what is faith as described in the Bible, and does it really work? Faith is one of those words that is commonly used but not always understood. Some of that confusion comes from the many different ways the word faith is used in everyday conversation. The standard definition is: 

Faith: (noun) complete trust or confidence in someone or something; a strong belief in God or the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. 

One common way people use the word faith is to refer to belief in something despite lacking evidence. But that is not what the Bible means by faith. The closest that the Bible comes to offering an exact definition is Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Here we see that the central feature of faith—confidence or trust. In the Bible, the object of faith is God and his promises. Faith means putting your trust in God and having confidence that he will fulfill his promises.

 

The Franciscan friar and teacher Richard Rohr said, "My scientist friends have come up with things like 'principles of uncertainty' and dark holes. They're willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories, but many religious folks insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution, and clarity, while thinking that we are people of 'faith'! How strange that the very word 'faith' has come to mean its exact opposite."


Faith is more than intellectual agreement. Genuine biblical faith expresses itself in everyday life. James writes in James 2:17 that “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Faith works through love to produce tangible evidence of its existence in a person's life. James is telling us that we can claim to have faith, but if we do not act in a way faithful to Jesus’ teachings, then we do not really have faith. Galatians 5:6 says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” We often hear from the religious right, “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” when they refer to the LGBTQ+ community; however, are they genuinely loving the sinner if they are at the same time damning them to Hell? No, of course, they aren’t. It is a phrase they want to use to give themselves peace of mind for encouraging and propagating hate.

 

Put another way, the obedience that pleases God comes from faith, and that obedience is love. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-2, Paul says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  God’s “Greatest Gift” is described in 1 Corinthians 13, which is one of the most beautiful chapters of the Bible. The chapter ends with 1 Corinthians 13:13 saying, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

 

Romans 1:5 tells us, “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.” It is more than a mere sense of duty or obligation. There is all the difference in the world between helping someone out of the pleasure of doing so and one who buys them simply out of duty. It is also more than just mere words. A person must truly have love in your heart for all types of people. A person’s race, religion, gender identity, or sexuality cannot be a prerequisite for someone’s love. We must fight every day for those less fortunate. We cannot let those who are evil win just because they do awful things in the name of faith. We also cannot lose our faith because people do things in God’s name that are not in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ. We must keep our faith and love God and our fellow humans.

 

Faith is so important because it is how we have a relationship with God. Ephesians 2:8 states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Faith is how we receive the benefits of what Jesus has done for us. He lived a life of perfect obedience to God, died to pay the penalty for our sinful rebellion against God, and rose from the dead to defeat sin, death, and the devil. By putting our faith in him, we receive forgiveness for our sins and the gift of eternal life. Ephesians 3:16-17 says, “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love.”

 

Faith means relying completely on who Jesus is and what he has done to be made right with God. Genuine faith is more than just believing in God alone. It includes acting on that faith in one’s life by serving God and obeying His commandments. Remember that the lawyer/scribe asked Jesus in Matthew 22:36, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And Jesus answered:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Pic of the Day

Moment of Zen: Coca-Cola

There are two beverages that I love more than any other: Coca-Cola and Sweet Iced Tea. Some people love various alcoholic beverages, and though there are a few I like, there is nothing like an ice cold Coca-Cola or a glass of Sweet Iced Tea on a hot summer's day.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Pic of the Day

Still Recovering


I am still recovering from my tooth extraction. It's just as painful as I expected it to be. My face is swollen, and the whole right side of my face hurts. I took yesterday as a sick day because I knew I wouldn't do any work because of the pain I was in. I just needed a day to relax, and I was able to relax yesterday morning. However, the afternoon was a different story. I had to go to the store, get gas, go to the pharmacy, and get my weekly COVID test for the university. After doing all that, I got home basically in time to leave again for my neurology appointment. 

My neurologist was happy that they were able to extract the tooth. She told me that it would take some time to heal, and that time would tell if this was the issue or not. The swelling has to go down before I will know if the pressure on my trigeminal nerve is relieved or not. So, time will tell.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Pic of the Day

The Call

On Monday, I called the oral surgeon to give them the information my dentist told me, which he believed might allow them to forgo the consultation. It worked, and they gave me an earlier appointment for June 17 (the original had been July 20). When I talked to the receptionist, I told her that all I needed was 20 minutes to get there, so last-minute cancellations were okay. I told her that my boss would understand. She said there were some possibilities, but she’d have to get back to me.

Yesterday morning around 10 am, the oral surgeon’s office called and asked if I could be there at 11:45 am. She barely got out the question when I said, “I’ll take it.” I quickly took a shower, got dressed, and drove over there for the appointment. I was so relieved that they were taking out this tooth. I hate to lose a tooth, but there was no other option.

 

They brought me back and injected me with an anesthetic, and gave it ten minutes to work. He had to add more anesthesia to my palate, but he got me numbed up. My dentist had been afraid that the tooth would break if he tried to pull it and that the roots would be difficult to remove, especially since one root was curved. Sure enough, as soon as he rocked the tooth back and forth a few times and pulled, I heard a loud crack. The tooth broke. It didn’t faze the oral surgeon. He just reached in and removed the roots one by one, except for the curved root. That took a few minutes more, but he used some type of tool that he said caused the tooth to “roll,” and out it came. He packed it with gauze and sent me on my way.

 

He told me that it should not be too painful and that my usual pain medicine would take care of any pain. That has mostly been true. He also said that there should be no need for an antibiotic as everything came out cleanly, and there was no sign of infection there. I had a bit of trouble getting the site to stop bleeding. I changed the gauze and even used a tea bag (One of the main components of tea is tannic acid which aids in the forming blood clots, thus making tea bags an effective technique to stop bleeding.), but nothing seemed to help. I called the oral surgeon, and they said I shouldn’t worry. What I described didn’t seem too bad because there was no pooling of blood. It was most likely that each time I removed the gauze or tea bag, the clotting came out too. She said, relax and leave it alone. I did as I was told, and it finally stopped bleeding.

 

I really hope that this helps with the headaches. I am seeing my neurologist this afternoon. I had been scheduled last week, but she had a family emergency and had to reschedule the appointment for today. We will discuss the headaches and the tooth. I suspect she will have me monitor the headaches for a while, and then if this does relieve the pressure on my trigeminal nerve, she will take me off the medicines she has me on for trigeminal neuralgia. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this six-month nightmare is almost over.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Pic of the Day

 It looks like somebody has a boo-boo.

What Do You Do...?

What do you do when you have a tour of the museum scheduled, and no one shows up? On Monday night, we had an after-hours event planned for students to take a special tour of the museum. We were trying to get some students into the museum since we are basically only open for them. All semester, we have had a grand total of two visitors. Our actual numbers look much better to the administration because every time we walk up front to open or close the museum or go to the restroom, it counts us as visitors, but we are the only ones who know that. 

We organized a special event so students could register to come to the museum at night, have some food, and have a special tour. We ordered sliders (barbecue bacon cheddar, black and blue, and mushroom swiss burgers), chips, drinks, and brownies, all of which were advertised on the flyers. We set up a scheduling system for tours on Monday and Wednesday, with two tours each night. It was supposed to be a fun “Night at the Museum.” 

 

However, only one student actually signed up. We should have canceled on Friday when we still could cancel the food, but my coworkers decided to hope that more students would sign up over the weekend. I tried to tell them that they wouldn’t, and we’d be wasting a lot of food, but they wouldn’t listen to me. So, Monday rolled around. My coworker, who was supposed to be helping with the tour, came down with food poisoning, and I was left to do the tour on my own, which is fine since we only expected one student. I knew there would be a lot of food, so I invited my neighbor and friend who works in the library to come.

 

As it turned out, the one student never showed. My friend came, and we had a dinner of sliders and chips. Then we boxed up all of the food and put it in the refrigerator, and then I gave her the tour. We had a fun time, just the two of us. Even though she works next door in the library and had been in the museum numerous times, she’s never really gotten a tour of the museum. Both of us talk a lot, so time got away from us. As I was finishing the tour, I looked at my watch and realized three hours had passed. We both had fun, though, so it wasn’t a problem. However, I am still disappointed that no students came. We canceled the tours for tonight. No one had signed up for them anyway. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Pic of the Day

Winter to Spring

Winter to Spring
By Irvin W. Underhill

 

Did not I remember that my hair is grey

    With only a fringe of it left,

I’d follow your footsteps from wee break of day

    Till night was of moon-light bereft.

 

Your eyes wondrous fountains of joy and of youth

    Remind me of days long since flown,

My sweetheart, I led to the altar of truth,

    But then the gay spring was my own.

 

Now winter has come with its snow and its wind

    And made me as bare as its trees,

Oh, yes, I still love, but it’s only in mind,

    For I’m fast growing weak at the knees.

 

Your voice is as sweet as the song of a bird, 

    Your manners are those of the fawn,

I dream of you, darling,—oh, pardon, that word,

    From twilight to breaking of dawn.

 

Your name in this missive you’ll search for in vain,

    Nor mine at the finis, I’ll fling,

For winter must suffer the bliss and the pain 

In secret for loving the spring.

 

Here in Vermont, we are not quite out of winter yet. We are expecting 3-6 inches of snow tomorrow and possibly more snow on Thursday. Spring is coming though.

 

The Poet

Irvin W. Underhill was born in Port Clinton, Pennsylvania, on May 1, 1868. He is the author of Daddy’s Love and Other Poems (A.M.E. Book Concern, 1916).

Monday, April 19, 2021

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Practice Makes Perfect

Today, I will be working with my director to fix the technical difficulties we had in the last webinar. I am pretty sure that I have figured out the problem, and it wasn’t all because my director did not know what he was doing. Part of it was, but not all of it. However, I will not make the mistake again of assuming he knows what he’s doing, even when he says he does. I will practice with him and teach him how to work on all of the technical aspects of the webinar.

 

Once I deal with my director, I will work with my co-presenter to get this program a bit more organized. I have a week and a half to get all the kinks worked out, so I should be able to take care of all of it. I let my co-presenter last time take the lead in the discussion we had in the webinar; this one will be more structured so that we can discuss all of the points I want to be addressed. It won’t be easy to control him, but I think I can do it. When I was an oral historian, I learned how to keep people on track during an interview, and I can do it during a webinar. At least, I hope so.

 

I will spend the rest of the day working on emailing people with the registration link so that we can get more people registered. I need to send a link to our department and the list of people who registered for the last one. We had 48 people register for the last one, but only about 25 attended. Currently, we have 35 signed up, and I am hoping to get more registered. Hopefully, we will also have a better registered/attendance ratio.

 

Even our in-person events rarely have more than about 35-40 people, since that is the most that our conference room can hold for events. I hope that when we can have in-person programs again, we will be able to broadcast them as we have done with our webinars. We have been using Facebook Live to broadcast in-person events, but we have never been able to record with very good quality. I hope we can improve on that in the future so that no matter where someone is, they will be able to attend our programs.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Pic of the Day

Politics and the Destruction of Faith

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

—2 Peter 2:1–3

 

Conservative Christians are engaged in a desperate political effort to keep America the religious and traditional nation they believe it was decades ago. These very efforts are what are actually accelerating the changes that they are fighting against. Their divisive and hateful politics are driving people away from religion. According to a recent poll from Gallup, the proportion of Americans who consider themselves members of a church, synagogue, or mosque has dropped below 50 percent. It is the first time the number has fallen below 50 percent since Gallup first asked the question in 1937 when church membership was 73 percent.

 

In recent years, research data has shown a profound shift in the U.S. population away from religious institutions and toward general disaffiliation, a trend that analysts say could have significant implications for politics, business, and how Americans group themselves. In 2020, 47 percent of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque. The polling firm also found that the number of people who said religion was very important to them has fallen to 48 percent, a new low point in the polling since 2000. For some Americans, religious membership is seen as a relic of an older generation. Gallup’s data finds that church membership is strongly correlated with age: 66 percent of American adults born before 1946 belong to a church, compared with 58 percent of Baby Boomers, 50 percent of Generation X, and 36 percent of Millennials.

 

Tara Isabella Burton, author of Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World, attributes the national decline in religious affiliation to two major trends among younger Americans. First, she points to broader shifts suggesting a greater distrust of institutions, including police and pharmaceutical companies. Some Americans are disillusioned by the behavior of religious leaders, including the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal and the strong White evangelical alignment with the former twice impeached president. The other major trend Burton describes is how people are mixing and matching various religious traditions to create their own. Many people who don’t identify with a particular religious institution still say they believe in God, pray, or do things that tend to be associated with faith. Burton said younger generations that grew up with the Internet have a different kind of relationship with information, texts, and hierarchy.

 

Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, argued in a recent essay for the Atlantic that what was once religious belief has been replaced by political belief in many communities. On the political right, conservative Christians focus on Trump as a political savior rather than focusing on traditional questions of morality. Christians in the Republican Party are being less defined by their faith than by a set of more narrow concerns. In a new book Secular Surge: A New Fault Line in American Politics, political scientists David Campbell and Geoffrey Layman of the University of Notre Dame and John C. Green of the University of Akron argue that the religious right’s tight embrace of politics is essentially driving people away from religious affiliation into the arms of secularism.

 

Over the past several decades, Americans are increasingly likely to identify as having no particular religion. Pollsters call these people “nones,” and they have been growing at a phenomenal rate. According to the Pew Forum, more than a quarter of American adults say they have no religious affiliation. Thirty years ago, that number was about five percent. The trend seems to be for the “nones” to keep growing. The number of white evangelicals is also shrinking. The Pew Forum puts their size at about 16 percent of the population, down from 19 percent a decade ago, which seems to be the reason why white evangelicals were so enamored of Donald Trump. They felt he was protecting them from being overwhelmed by modern life. From their perspective, Trump being a bully was a feature, not a problem.

 

Campbell and Layman tested the thesis that the right’s willingness to conflate religion and politics was driving people away from faith in general. After asking people about their religious identity, they presented them with a single story where religion and politics were closely linked. Republicans had no problem with talking about God and politics in the same breath. But for Democrats, it was a major issue. When asked again about their religious affiliation, they were found to be 13 percentage points more likely to say they had no religious affiliation. In short, the very people who are pushing religion in politics the most are ensuring that more people are hostile toward religion. That’s a high price to pay for getting three Supreme Court justices.

 

The Republican Party and Evangelical Christians are choosing a form of Christianity that does not follow the teachings of Christ. They have wholly rejected the characteristics of a Christian that Jesus laid out for us in the Beatitudes. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” but Republicans and Evangelical Christians have repeatedly rejected social welfare programs to help the poor (the Gospel of Matthew refers to the downtrodden, while the Gospel of Matthew refers to those in poverty). Jesus also declared, “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” Yet, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have denied the reality of the virus and therefore have dismissed those who mourned the loss of over half a million Americans. They have derided those who wore masks and advocated for measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, rejecting Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.” 


Republicans and Evangelicals embraced a bully for president, disregarding Jesus’ teaching that, “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.” They have rejected time and again assistance to those in need, denying them Jesus’ promise, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” The religious right rejects those who believe in the actual teachings of Jesus that honor love and acceptance. Look at the comments on any progressive Christian's TikTok, and you’ll the hatred of those who advocate love, who Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” Republicans and Evangelicals preach divisiveness, ignoring the warnings of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” They feel that they are the persecuted when they are the persecutors, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Jesus warns us against people like the Republican Party and Evangelical Christians who teach hate disguised as religion. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:15–20), Jesus warns of false prophets:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

The Gospels address the same point of a false prophet predicting correctly the rise of people who will use religion against others. Jesus predicted the future appearance of false Christs and false prophets, affirming that they can perform great signs and miracles, for example, in the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13:5–7, 13:21–23) given on the Mount of Olives:

And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet…Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.

Many Democrats have been driven away from religion because of how conservatives have used against them. However, an aversion to religion is not solely a positive thing for Democrats. A significant block of Democratic voters, especially Black Democrats, are much more likely to be religious than white Democrats, 40 percent of whom are “nones.” If secular Democrats disparage religion generally, they also risk alienating believers who otherwise agree with them. There are Democrats well positioned to handle that problem. Chief among them is President Biden, a Catholic who attends Mass weekly. Another is Pete Buttigieg, who has made a point of talking about his faith. Biden and Buttigieg prove that progressives don’t have to cede religion to the Republican Party. However, we must remember what Peter said in 2 Peter 2:1–3:

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

For many Americans, right-wing Christians have given Christianity a bad name, enough to drive them from religion altogether. A strong counterbalance from progressive believers would show that the right doesn’t own religion enough to destroy it. We must follow what John said in the First Epistle of John. In 1 John 4:1–3, John warns those of the Christian faith to test every spirit because of these false prophets:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. 

We cannot allow the religious right to destroy Christ’s teachings. We must fight to reclaim Christianity as it was in the earliest days of the religion. The earliest Christians believed in fellowship and equality among all members. I will always believe that Jesus would have and probably did accept people of the LGBTQ+ community. Many parts of the Bible never made it into the version we see today, and through many translations, the Bible has been used as a tool of hatred and not love. This has driven so many away from their faith when the teachings of Christ should draw people into the faith, not be used to exclude those who don’t fit the narrowminded beliefs of those who use the Bible as a weapon instead of a tool.

 

There has always been a battle between good and evil, but Republicans, Evangelicals, and the religious right are blurring those lines. I believe that the battle today is a battle between love and hate, between acceptance and rejection, between inclusion and exclusion, and between equality and inequality. Let us fight for LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, INCLUSION, and EQUALITY of all. It is the only way to reclaim religion for God and keep it away from politicians and those who wish us harm.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Pic of the Day

Moment of Zen: Country Boys




I grew up surrounded by country boys, so my earliest crushes were all county boys, and I still have a thing for them. Most of the ones I knew didn’t wear cowboy hats but baseball caps, like the guys below.



BONUS: A country boy with a Jeep, two sexy things that just go together.


Friday, April 16, 2021

Pic of the Day

Vaccinated

I had my second dose of the Pfizer COVID vaccine yesterday. For the first few hours, things went well. My arm started getting sore several hours after taking it, and as I write this, I am feeling some body aches. None of the side effects are too bad at this point. Last night, I was just hoping that I would feel fine this morning for my dental appointment. I hope that I can make some headway with my dentist about getting an earlier appointment. I’ll just have to see. Otherwise, today is going to be a pretty chill day since I am off work.

To celebrate getting my second shot, I made myself a nice dinner. I went by the grocery store next to the drugstore where I got my vaccine to get dinner for last night. I got some Brussel sprouts, corn, the store’s house recipe seasoned boneless skinless chicken breast, and some frozen Mason Dixie cheddar chive biscuits. I had never tried their house recipe chicken breasts before, and they were delicious and a bit tangy. I had also never tried any of the Mason Dixie products, but the cheddar chive biscuits had a pleasant taste, though they are much fluffier when I make them from scratch. Overall, it was a delicious meal and an excellent way to celebrate being vaccinated.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Pic of the Day



Great view (from every angle, I’m sure)!

A Few Things: πŸ’‰ 🐾 🦷 🌨


πŸ’‰
Today’s the day. I’m getting my second COVID-19 vaccine. I’ve been told that the second shot is the one more likely to cause side effects, but so far, with the Pfizer vaccine which I’m getting, I’ve just heard that it made people sleepy. The Moderna vaccine seems to have a few more side effects. My dentist and his office took the Moderna and he said they all felt like they had a bad cold for a day or two, but only after the second shot. Then, they were fine. 

🐾
I could handle a few days of being sleepy, if Isabella will let me sleep. When she decides it is time for me to get up, she’s pretty damn insistent that I get out of bed. There’s no such thing as sleeping late with this cat, and it’s not like she wants to be fed. She has a feeder and a water fountain, so she never runs out of either. Normally, she just wants one of two things: my warm spot in the bed or attention. She can be a bit of an attention whore at times.

🦷
I’ll be working this morning, but I’m taking off this afternoon and I have tomorrow off for my regular “use it or lose it” vacation day Fridays. Even though I have tomorrow off, I’ll be up and ready early as I have an 8 am dental cleaning appointment. I really hope that I can convince my dentist to either talk to the oral surgeon to let them know the urgency of taking out this tooth or refer me to someone else who can get me in sooner. We’ll see.

🌨
Other than that, I have no plans for this weekend. We are expecting rain all day today, and snow most of tomorrow. The last forecast I saw said we could expect 3-6” of snow, but the weatherman said that the ground is warm enough that it is unlikely to stick. It is expected to be a heavy wet snow. I hope it’s not too bad when I get up early tomorrow morning. I was really hoping I was done with cleaning snow from my car.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Pic of the Day

Feeling Yucky

I wasn’t feeling great last night. I was just feeling kind of yucky. I had been working hard all day on a presentation I will be giving, and I was a bit worn out with a bit of a headache. I think I may be having some sinus trouble, as I have noticed some of the signs of sinus issues. I hope that’s all it was, but it just means that this post will be short today. I hope all of you are doing well.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Pic of the Day


Many thanks to The Closet Professor blog reader Rob, for sharing and suggesting this photo as a potential Pic of the Day.

After Graduate School


After Graduate School

By Valencia Robin

 

Needless to say I support the forsythia’s war

against the dull colored houses, the beagle 

deciphering the infinitely complicated universe

at the bottom of a fence post. I should be gussying up

my resume, I should be dusting off my protestant work ethic,

not walking around the neighborhood loving the peonies

and the lilac bushes, not heading up Shamrock

and spotting Lucia coming down the train tracks. Lucia

who just sold her first story and whose rent is going up,

too, Lucia who says she’s moving to South America to save money,

Lucia, cute twenty-something I wish wasn’t walking down train tracks

alone. I tell her about my niece teaching in China, about the waiter

who built a tiny house in Hawaii, how he saved up, how

he had to call the house a garage to get a building permit. 

Someone’s practicing the trumpet, someone’s frying bacon

and once again the wisteria across the street is trying to take over

the nation. Which could use a nice invasion, old growth trees

and sea turtles, every kind of bird marching 

on Washington. If I had something in my refrigerator,

if my house didn’t look like the woman who lives there

forgot to water the plants, I’d invite Lucia home, 

enjoy another hour of not thinking about not having a job, 

about not having a mother to move back in with.

I could pick Lucia’s brain about our circadian rhythms,

about this space between sunrise and sunset, 

ask if she’s ever managed to get inside it, the air, 

the sky ethereal as all get out—so close

and no ladder in sight.

 

 

About This Poem

“I wrote this poem while realizing how quickly my time in graduate school had sped by, and with it, much of the bravado I’d felt back when I was first quitting my job and leaving behind everything to be a poet. As scary as things got—and things got pretty scary—taking that leap saved my life.”—Valencia Robin

 

About the Poet

Valencia Robin is the recipient of a 2021 National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship. Her first collection of poems, Ridiculous Light (Persea Books, 2019), won Persea Books’ Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize. She is a co-director of the University of Virginia Young Writers Workshop.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Pic of the Day

Grindrs and Tinders and Growlrs, Oh My!

Dating apps, and really they are just hookup apps, suck! When you live in an area with very few gay people and no gay bars (not that any would be open right now anyway), dating apps are one of the few things to turn to in order to meet someone. Sadly, there seem to be only a few types of guys on these apps. There are the men who only want a hookup (most often they can’t host because they are cheating on someone), and all that ever happens with these guys is a suck and fuck and go, never to be heard from again.  

The one-night stand guys are bad enough, but then there are the scammers/catfishes. These guys are usually some guy at a computer in Africa, and they “fall in love” very quickly. They seem very sweet, but most often, their grammar is terrible. Some claim to be in the U.S. Army, often serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Others just live a thousand or so miles from you. They love to send pictures, which you can often reverse image search and find who they are really of, but some even make fake social media profiles using those pics to try to deceive you further and cover their trail. Eventually, they slip up, or they begin to ask for money. Whatever it is, they seem to fall in love with you very quickly declaring that you are his soul mate. I hate these people.

 

Then, there are the cheaters who are in a relationship with a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, or husband. They may not be just a one-night stand, though often they are. If they are with a woman, they are often bisexual or gay and in the closet. Years ago, back in Mississippi, I hooked up with a teacher. He kept talking about his kids the whole time. I thought he was talking about his students, as I always referred to my students as “my kids.” Then, mid blowjob, he mentioned his wife. It did not register with me at first. Honestly, I didn’t fully understand that’s what he said until we had finished, and he was leaving. I could be a bit naΓ―ve at times. That is the only time, to my knowledge, that I have ever hooked up with someone who was married. It was almost all worth it to run into him with his wife in Walgreens. The horror on his face was all the revenge I needed. I didn’t even act like I knew him, but it was obvious he recognized me. He hurriedly left the store with his wife.

 

Of course, there will always be the teasers. They want to lead you on. They get off on flirting and dirty talk, but they have no intention of ever meeting. This can be fun but also frustrating. You’re constantly led on, but nothing more ever happens. The worst is when they agree to meet and either cancel last minute or never show up. I’ve had this happen before too. We have probably all had this happen. Either they lose their nerve and never even go to meet you, or they get there, see you and turn around and leave.

 

In a small area, like where I live, you have another type, the ones who are always on the apps. You log on, and it’s the same guys over and over. You recognize all of them, and you know they are not compatible for one reason or another. Either they only want a very masculine guy, they want someone younger, older, or the same age, or they want a particular body type. I understand having a type, but jeez, give a guy a chance. You might find that you have more in common than you think. Even if it’s not going to be romantic, you could still be friends. Some guys will never give someone who doesn’t meet their ideal a chance.

 

Sadly, so few of the guys on these apps are looking for friends or a relationship. I have tried dating apps numerous times. On only three or four occasions have I met someone who wanted a relationship. For one reason or another, none of them ever worked out. Recently, I have tried the dating apps again, but it’s the same old shit. It’s all horndogs, scammers, cheaters, or teasers. Maybe some of the guys I’ve chatted with on these apps will turn out to be something, but I am not going to be overly optimistic. Honestly, is it too much to ask for a coffee date or to go out to dinner? I’d even be willing to go for a hike or something just to get to know a guy and meet him a few times before we jump into bed together. Is that so hard? I guess my title should have been, “Grindrs and Tinders and Growlrs, Oh Well!” It’s always worth a try.

 

P.S. I know we are in a pandemic, and options are limited until both parties are vaccinated, but this has been an issue for as long as meeting someone on the internet has been around.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Pic of the Day

Enjoy the Little Things

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

— Matthew 13:31-32

 

Canadian politician William Hamilton Merritt had a visualized for a bridge over the Niagara River. The result was the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge which stood from 1855 to 1897 across the Niagara River and was the world's first working railway suspension bridge. Merritt gained permission from the governments of Upper Canada and the State of New York to build the bridge, and two bridge companies were formed to build and jointly own the bridge. In autumn of 1847, the companies commissioned Charles Ellet Jr. to construct a bridge at a location, selected by the companies, along the Niagara River. They selected the narrowest point from shoreline to shoreline. The first obstacle was to create a line of communication, followed by a solid line in order to establish a link to the American side, since establishing a link by water was very dangerous. The width of the area of the gorge was 800 feet apart.

 

One idea was to fly a kite across the river to begin to lay the cable. A contest was held, with a five-dollar prize, to see who could fly a kite across the Niagara Gorge. A 16-year-old American boy named Homan Walsh won the contest on the second day of the competition flying his kite from the Canadian shoreline. All of the other boys tried from the American shore. On January 30, 1848, Homan flew a kite he named Union from one side of the gorge to the other. Someone on the opposite side caught the kite and tied a stronger string to the end of the kite string, and Holman pulled the new, thicker string back across the gorge. The process was repeated with an even stronger string, then a cord, then a thin rope, then a thicker rope, and eventually a steel cable, which crossed the expanse and was strong enough to support workers, tools, and materials. Finally, a sturdy bridge, over which trains and trucks could easily pass, was completed. And it all began with a 16-year-old boy and a string.

 

In Luke 16:10, Jesus says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Therefore, the little things you have are there to prepare you for bigger things. The key is to trust God while possessing the little things. Jesus told us the little things can make a significant impact on the big picture. For instance, in the parable of the mustard seed in Matthew 13:31–32, He explains, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” As you probably know, the mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds planted in the Middle East. But nurtured in the right conditions, it can grow into something resembling a small tree—even providing a haven for birds. Like the string that was the first building block for a mighty bridge, the tiny mustard seed can become an amazing plant.

 

In another parable found in Matthew 10:29-31, Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Mahalia Jackson sang "His Eye Is On The Sparrow." She chose that particular bird for a reason. She did not choose a great owl, the woodpecker, or even the robin. She chose one of the smallest birds to prove that if God could watch over something that small, surely, He would watch over us who are so much bigger. 

 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26) Do not dismiss the small things in your life. Small things will develop into a harvest of blessings when you allow God to use them for His glory. Faith is like that. Don’t underestimate the power of little things. Jesus took a little lunch from a little boy and fed thousands. With a little jawbone, Samson slew an army. David took a little stone and brought down a giant. With just a little faith, great things can be accomplished.