Azaleas are scattered all over my yard. They nestle under the shade of a large crepe myrtle tree on the northwest corner of the house and under the shade of a tall Savannah Holly tree on the southwest corner of the house. The azaleas under the Holly tree always look horrible. No matter how much acid I feed them or how well I keep them mulched, the leaves are never dark green as they should be and never as abundant, yet the damn things always bloom in the Spring.
The azaleas under the crepe myrtle look great. The leaves are lush and dark green. They appear to be the picture of health. In the spring they are usually covered with purple flowers, yet this year for the first time in 20 years they failed to bloom at all. I have not the slightest idea why.
|Azaleas in Bloom|
As it turned out yesterday morning was perfect day for the job at hand. The day was so wonderful I found myself much immersed in the love part of my love/hate relationship with the azaleas as I worked with them. The morning air was cool by south Texas standards this time of year and the skies were cloudy. Thunder rolled in the distance as I worked, but I had very little faith that it promised any rain. I was content to listen to it as I worked enjoying its rumbling roll in the cool morning air.
|Gardenias in a Crystal Dish|
I finished my task just as the morning was ending. I was covered in mulch and mud from my feet up to my waist. Even though the morning had been relatively cool, I was drenched in sweat as well from crawling around on my hands and knees all morning. I sat down under the covered patio to rest and to take a few minutes to just enjoy my garden. In spite of all the hard work that goes into it, it is a labor of love for the most part; and to be truthful, I'm not sure what I enjoy most, the work of building and maintaining it or just sitting and enjoying it. I do know for sure I spend more hours working in it than sitting and enjoying it, though I truly love both.
Just as I sat down, the skies opened and the rain I had not expected began to pour down. The slight breeze I had enjoyed all morning suddenly became a wind and it rushed through the huge trees which shade the back yard with the beautiful noise of rustling leaves and pouring rain. The smell of the rain danced into my nostrils. It was almost intoxicating.
I sat there and thought how lucky it was that just as I finished the fertilizing, the rains should come to soak it all into the roots of my garden plants. It was a fortuitous coincidence indeed.
But as I sat there thinking and enjoying the rain and the wind, feeling the welcome spray of the raindrops on my body when the winds whipped them under the roof of the patio from time to time, I found myself thinking it was not just fortuitous coincidence at all. It was a gift. A gift just for me, just as this solitary morning in my garden had been. A gift from the solar system, a gift of my own work and imagination to bring a vacant lot to be a beautiful garden or a gift of God. The source of such a gift is for the receiver to decide, but I choose to see it as a gift of God.
The day before had been a great day as well. My oldest friend and I had spent the day playing golf. The morning had been beautiful, and I felt the joy of being alive and free to spend the day with an old friend laughing at each other's slices and hooks of our golf game and celebrating each other's good hits of the ball when one did come along. It was a great morning and our play stretched into the afternoon before we finished the 18th hole. We're never in any hurry when we play. We're both retired and our hurrying days are over. We play at a leisurely pace allowing those who come up behind us to play through as we sit and enjoy critiquing their swings.
But the day that had held such joy ended on a less than joyful note when I received a late afternoon call from my oncologist. I had been in the day before for my regular tests. There had been a blip in one of them. He had told me the slight blip did not worry him and that we would watch it for a while and see how it went. But on the phone, he told me he had presented my case to his colleagues, and they felt a change in my therapy was appropriate. A change in therapy means excruciatingly painful tests and other invasive tests that are just a pain in the butt. Some of the literally a pain in the butt. It also means dealing with another set of side effects and worrying about whether or not the new therapy will be effective; and if so, for how long? After all, there is no cure. Only therapy to slow down and/or tempoarily impede the tumors.
The shock of the unexpected news had knocked me for a loop; but as is my nature, I had begun adjusting quickly, and the morning in the garden had been great for attitude adjustment. The right-on- time gift of the rain did nothing but help to seal my attitude adjustment. Who was I to complain? I am free to spend every morning in my garden, I am free to spend any morning I want playing golf with my buddy. Unlike my friends who are my age, I don't have to worry any longer with earning a living or working long hard hours in Houston, fighting traffic to get there and to get back home. It's not that I am not familiar with that world. I am very familiar with it. As a guy who married at age 18 and worked full time to get through college while taking a full course load and graduating in 4 years, I know the hard realities of work. I also know the value of work as a guy who worked hard enough, planned enough and was lucky enough to retire at an early age at a time when many people more than old enough to retire at the usual age are having to continue working because of the poor economy. I have, as I always say, led the most blessed of lives.
As I sat on the patio listening to the rain and the wind, I couldn't help but review my life. I grew up with a father who believed in and knew the value of hard work. Not being privileged to even complete high school, my father had depended on hard work to make it into the middle class and he had succeeded in doing just that in the Texas oil and gas industry. If hard work worked for him, he thought hard work and a college education should certainly work for me and my brothers. By the time I was 14, I was working for a paycheck. I graduated from high school at 17, entered college and married my high school sweetheart at the end of my Freshman year of college.
I knew the value of work, but I had no idea at all what I wanted to do with my life. I had never, unlike many of my friends, had the burning desire to be anything in particular. I did want to be successful in something. That was the only thing I knew for sure.
After college, I tried various things. One of them I liked, but it was nothing that would bring me the financial success I wanted to achieve in life for the benefit of myself and my family. Another of the things I tried, I hated and soon found it would not bring the financial success I desired either. The third thing I tried would have brought me the financial success I wanted, but not the life I wanted. I was stuck. What to do? Looking back, I can't believe what I did. It was the biggest gamble I ever took in my life and in the lives of my family. In the early 70's I packed my wife and two young children into the car. Packed a U-Haul trailer pulled behind the car and drove to Houston to find the life I desired, not even knowing exactly what that might be.
It took two years and another couple of false starts to find what life really had in store for me. Even when I found it, I didn't know I had found it. At first, it was just an opportunity. But soon it became much much more. I fit in well. So well that within 18 months I had gone from a new hire to a management position. My wife was also doing well in the boom town which was Houston in the 1970's. Money, which had always been short for us, was no longer a problem. A whole new world was opening up for us. Soon we moved out of the apartment into our first house and then a bigger house and then an even bigger house that we built the way we wanted where my garden began to take shape. We were blessed beyond measure.
It's not that there were not bad times in our lives. There were. Shortly after our wedding, my wife lost her Dad. My Mom, who had always been such an important part of my life, passed away shortly before the birth of our first child. She had been so happy to hear the child was on the way, but she was not to live to see the birth. We almost lost that first child at birth. But blessed by an alert doctor who knew exactly what needed to be done and knew that he couldn't do it, but knew who could, our first born was saved.
My Dad and her mother died at much too young an age and we found ourselves alone in the world except for each other and our children. And of course, always in the background of my life was the problem of my sexuality. It was a part of me that was kept bottled up deep inside me and shared with no one, not even my wife, especially not with my wife.
In those early years, it was pretty easy to deal with really. It would flare up like some dread disease and cause me great discomfort, and then I would fight it down and life would return to normal. I was simply so busy and had so many competing responsibilities in those early years, I didn't have the luxury of time to deal with the issue much less exercise it.
What I did have was a great marriage, a great family and a great career, all of which, I loved. My wife and I were truly in love, and god did we love! She could, and did, shake my world with our love making on a regular basis. I loved it, but in a way it confused me more. With love like that, why did I feel I needed more? Why was there still a dark part of me that would not be satisfied?
By the time we were 43 years of age, the last child was out of the house; and both kids were on their own and doing well in their own lives. My wife had, with a great deal of dedication and work completed her education which had been interrupted by our marriage and was well on her way to success in her chosen career. I was at the peak of my career and accountable to no one on a regular basis. My success had bought me the right to do the job as I saw fit; and for the most part, the job was mine to define and carry out. Those were great days. The hours were as long and hard as ever, but the difference was that I was well compensated and time was mine to flex. I could basically set my own schedule so long as the job and make sure it was done. I made sure the people around me were people who could do that with minimal supervision from me.
With more time at my disposal, and fewer burdens always at hand, the monkey on my back, my sexuality, began to make increasing demands. As I have documented before in this blog, it caused me a great deal of pain. But then, just as I felt I could take it no longer a whole new world opened for me when my first adult buddy entered my life. As I have also mentioned in earlier blog pieces, I came to see my whole life had been preparation for meeting him and helping him to deal with his own monster. At first I was so involved with dealing with the issues that were trying to destroy his life, I failed to see that dealing with him and his issues was changing my life for the better by helping me to deal with my own issues and my own lack of understanding of those issues.
The conflict between my sexuality and my faith began to disappear as I came to realize God was guiding and directing me in ways I would have theretofore thought impossible in helping me to help my buddy. It became very clear to me God was not mad at me or angry at me for being what I am. Neither was he angry with my buddy for being what he is.
And there was another thing. My buddy was struggling to identify and accept his homosexuality. Having a front row seat to observe his struggle and to participate in it, I came to see, for the first time, the answers to who and what I am. While I was not heterosexual, I was not homosexual either. I came to see that I am a bisexual man. That label, even though labels are hated by so many men, gave me a sense of peace in my life I had never had. I knew then why in spite of all my wife gave me, I wanted more. And I learned through personal experience that having all I needed for the first time in my life made me not only a different person but a better person. For the first time, in a life that had always been blessed, yet tortured, I was living in peace in every aspect of my life. I was living and loving it.
In the years that followed other men who needed help somehow came my way on a regular basis. The BisexualBuddies Group was born and followed several years later by this blog. The numbers of men and their wives I came into contact with increased sometimes to the point that I was almost overwhelmed.
It was John F. Kennedy who once said, "Here on earth, God's work must truly be our own." I say it most humbly, but I see the last nearly 20 years as my small contribution to God's work. And it is God's work that we live in a time when equal rights and increased acceptance for gay people are becoming a new norm. It is God's work that gay men and women are coming quickly to be seen as just a normal part of the human condition. It is God's work that society is coming to see these men and women have much to contribute to society; and in deed, always have in spite of the prejudices they have endured. I am proud to have played a small part in this revolution of ideals. I am proud to count my gay and bisexual friends as true friends. I am elated to see what they are accomplishing in their individual and collective lives. I'm living and I'm loving it.
As a Christian, I see God work in the lives of other Christians to cause them to open the doors of their churches and their individual lives to Christian gay and lesbian people. I have not the slightest doubt God is smiling over this renissance of understanding.
I admit I have less and less tolerance for my fundamental Christian brothers and sisters who continue to adamently resist the renissance God Himself is leading for the benefit of gay and lesbian people. These vocal minorities are probably the sons and daughters of the same Christians who resisted the idea that black people were human beings and not an inferior race condemned to slavery by the word of God they (Christian fundamentalists) so willfully misinterpreted. The willful misinterpretation of God's word continues today as it relates to homosexuals. This week the world was subjected to a viral video of a 4 year old boy singing in chruch, "ain't no homo gonna go to heaven," while the adults shouted and clapped in ferver born of madness and misplaced religious zeal (click here to see the video). I feel sorry for these Christians that they have no understanding whatsoever that they are the ones who dispease God. But in another way I take great joy in their perverse demonstrations. Their very zeal, their constant outcries against a world they see as going to Hell is assurance to me that God is in control as he has always been and that these so called Christians are mainly upset because they see the writing on the wall. Their cause, their beliefs are already defeated. They are already pissing into the wind. Impartial polls already confirm that the majority of Americans, including American Christians, have no religious or secular problems with gay men and women having full rights in American society. I'm living in interesting times and I am loving it.
Later this summer, my wife and I will travel to Europe for the wedding of a gay friend of mine. He is one of the Christian men who crossed my path. When we met, he was hopeless and resigned to a life he didn't want to live. Just by being his Christian friend and offering him some interpretations of the Bible by well known Christian writers, he came to see for the first time that fundamental Christians have no lock on the likes and dislikes of God or the thoughts of God. Today he's a happy man looking forward to a life he never dreamed possible. I'm a living part of that and I am loving it.
In fact, the only thing I'm not loving these days is those who do not have the courage to even think new possibilities. Another gay friend of mine is in a relationship with a fundamental Christian man. This young man is truly in a box. He cannot be heterosexual because he is homosexual, but neither can he reconcile his faith with his sexuality. He is miserable. Happiness is not even on the horizon for him. He is totally captive to the absurdities of his upbringing in a fundamental Christian home. Even though he is college educated and intelligent, he sees any straying from the word of God, as taught to him by his fundamentalist father, as an attack upon his father. I have made an attempt to talk to him, but he is offended and angered by the suggestion of any view of God that does not include judgmentalism on God's part. He denies entirely any possibility that Grace could be bestowed on him as an actively homoseual man. He thinks perhaps he would be alright if he just thought as a homosexual man but did not act as a homosexual man. He's too young to remember it was former President Jimmy Carter who pointed out to the world that the Bible says to think something is the same as to do it.
I am deeply saddened by such men. There are tens of thousands of them who have closed their minds, closed their ears and doomed themselves to a life of bitterness, anger and pain when it doesn't have to be. Their intractability has doomed them to living life's they hate and lives that are full of emotional pain.
It confounds me more on an intellectual level I think than it does on a religious level. There are just about as many views of God as there are people alive on the earth. That is a fact that is easily observable. With this being true, how could anyone think that a God worthy of the title would stake everyone's very soul on one particular view of God being correct; and thus, condemn the vast majority of His own creation to an eternal Hell? The very idea is ludicrous. It would be the same as a human father of 12 children slitting the throats of the 11 he found less favor with than the 12th. None of us can imagine a human father doing such a thing, but we have no problem at all attributing that capability to a God that is supposed to transcend us in every way. How utterly ignorant are Christians who believe and cling to such views of God! Yet, I'm still living and loving life, because I know people in general are simply becoming too well educated to hold such views for too much longer.
People will either change their view of God to a more benevolent one or they will simply cease to believe in God altogether. Speaking as a moderate Christian, I honestly think the world would be better off filled with atheists than it would to be filled with fundamental Christians. Atheists rarely think of themselves as somehow chosen people, and they rarely try to live other people's lives for them. They rarely try to force their view of God or the lack of God on anyone else. Most of them do not believe in God, yet they live by a moral code, they contribute greatly to society and they don't foster hate towards those who are not atheists.
Over the years, I have come to believe it really does not matter to God how one sees Him or if one believes in Him with only the wish he could have faith. In the end, all will be well. But that is the problem. The end is a ways off for many of us and there is room enough and time enough for a great deal of pain and heartache in most of our lives. That is a rub we create for ourselves when we refuse to think for ourselves, the fault is not in the nature of God.
Someone once said, "I've been rich and I've been poor. Rich is better." Well, I've lived in pain and self hate. I've lived with feeling my bisexuality a burden. I now live in peace and with a sense of loving life even with its problems. I live now seeing my bisexuality as a gift. I can assure you, seeing it as a gift is better than seeing it as a curse. You should try it. What have you to loose? Not your soul, I'm convinced of it.
One's sexuality should be one of the principal spices of his life. It should be a joyous thing! It should not be something that causes pain or hurt or fear of eternal damnation. I am able to enjoy, truly enjoy, a day in my garden because I am secure in myself and in my view of things larger than myself. It is not that I have not had bad things happen in my life. It is instead that I am happy and secure in my life, and I can look back and readily see the blessings of living and loving life rather than dwelling on the difficulties of life. Everyone has the opportunity to do the same. One needs only to seize the day.