Office of the Governor Rick Perry – [Press Release] Gov. Perry Declares August 6th Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation’s Challenges

“Given the trials that beset our nation and world, from the global economic downturn to natural disasters, the lingering danger of terrorism and continued debasement of our culture, I believe it is time to convene the leaders from each of our United States in a day of prayer and fasting, like that described in the book of Joel,” Gov. Perry said. “I urge all Americans of faith to pray on that day for the healing of our country, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of enduring values as our guiding force.”

Governor Rick Perry

Office of the Governor Rick Perry – [Press Release] Gov. Perry Declares August 6th Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation’s Challenges.

Gender In, Gender Out?

From the perspective of having worked with a para-church group that has ministered to free people from the cycle of homosexuality, I would like to address a concern of mine…

Recently I saw a huge sign outside a mega-church that offered a “Biblical” approach to gender. The wording was directed at teenagers. Though seemingly innocuous this is a type of inferred legalism.

When a Church or seminar group puts the word “Biblical” in front of its messaging it is clearly inferring that this is the domain of Christians, that this is what a Christian in this subset must do or be.  GIGO-300x249

But desired male and female “characteristics” or conformism should never be taught as gilded pages of Scripture lifted out and fashioned into tablets of “Biblical” mandates. One may say that these approaches are just “guidelines” but the word “Biblical” in front of something conveys the idea of de facto Sola Scriptura truth.

As mentioned, in the past I have been around and served in a para-church ministry based on what was termed “gender symbolism issues” (a cautious reference to Carl Jung). The speaker’s main thrust was to employ an admixture of psychology terms, quotes of the Inklings and of Scripture with the application of soul-healing prayer. It all sounded good to me at the time.

Within this context seminar leaders and counselors urged attendees to pray and ask God for the “True Masculine” and the “True Feminine.” But, these prayers, of course, will not be answered because there is no such thing. The best a man or woman can ever become is being Spirit-filled. It was out this time that I came to realize how insidious this kind of psycho-spirituality was.

It is not hard to understand the Christian Church trying to stabilize the culture surrounding it. But, in this case, it is doing so by adding unnecessary “traditions” onto the message of the Gospel. By placing added strictures and burdens regarding the masculine and the feminine, the Christian Church removes itself from the Gospel and becomes, in a sense, the fashion police.

Recall the early Christian Churches of Jerusalem and Galatia which demanded that new Christians follow the strict tradition “soaked” Law along with the teachings of Jesus? Today’s church in similar manner, as I see it, is seeking to propagate men and women of the “Biblically” masculine or feminine tradition. It would appear that the Christian church is in the process of “canonizing” romantic notions of what they consider to be masculine and feminine qualities.

As a former student of Moody Bible Institute and over the course of a lifetime having read through the Bible several times I have yet to find any description of “Biblical” manhood or womanhood.

What is written are what characteristics a man likes about a woman (see Song of Solomon and Proverbs 31) and what characteristics a woman likes about a man (see Song of Solomon). None of these “characteristics” – physical and pragmatic – carry the moral weight of the Ten Commandments. These “characteristics” should never be used to propagate more sons and daughters of the “Biblically” masculine and feminine.

I believe that the Church with regard to its “genderfication” of males and females has become a stumbling block for the weak.

There are those in the church who are perfectly comfortable conveying the macho role that men play in on TV. And there are some in the church who base gender roles on the corn-fed lyrics of country music. There are women’s conferences about “Biblical” womanhood based on Proverbs 31. And there are many more instances of role play.

I have no problem with role play. Role play is a given in relationships. But I have a problem with a rite of conventionality outside of conforming to the image of Christ. This statement may be too much for some people in the church, I understand.

Yet, the weak, the searching, may easily stumble when such stereotyping is placed askance to their faith.

One could say that Proverbs 31 was written by patrician authors who imagined the qualities of an ideal woman to be in relationship with or for King Solomon’s court. Proverbs 31 definitely speaks of a pragmatic woman and not of a physical woman, as does Song of Solomon. (Platonic men would later consider woman’s physical beauty a type of entrapment and something to avoid.)

But in this day and age Christian men also enact Proverbs 31, do they not? Should we delineate gender based on Proverbs 31? My answer is “No.”

Why create extra yokes called the “Biblical Masculine and Feminine” to be placed on people’s necks? Isn’t a “Biblical” manhood and womanhood referenced only at the conjunction of men and women? And, isn’t marriage of man and wife the nexus that is the positive anti-thesis to same-sex anomalies.

Now it is common knowledge that people do not like ambiguity. We demand black and white. We demand inerrancy. And, we demand “Biblically masculine and feminine” males and females. Our minds are wired to alert us to any differences to a norm. When a perceived threat to a norm occurs we seek to reconcile things as quickly as possible.

Any ambiguity comes off as a potential threat to our understanding of how life should be. As related to gender we tend to overemphasize male and female “roles” in order to reduce our anxiety over ambiguity. Here it is, I believe, that some of the fear of non-conformity has grown out the Christian Fundamentalist movement that was raised up in the early twentieth century against the threat of Liberal theologian’s textual infractions. The Conservative Christian world sought to tighten its reins on what is and isn’t “Biblical.” And in so doing it is also now putting a noose around each gender.

Yet, there is no gender typecasting or stereotyping in Scripture, only sacrosanct relationships established and reinforced. And, more importantly, the message of the Gospel offers everyone freedom from fear. This includes freedom from the fear of the ambiguous and the unknown, whether the fear is of material nature or of the fear of gender “status.”

We should not live with the fear of the not being able to follow the letter of the Law and especially as conjoined with the added impedance of “Biblical” gender.

The current falderal about “Biblical” manhood and womanhood are gooey sentimental and romantic notions mandated under the banner of the “Biblically” acceptable. Let’s not go there. Let’s not make the freedom and fun of romantic role play into religious rule pretense. Let’s be free to be men and women without the yoke of the man-made gender laws placed on our necks. And then, perhaps, homosexuals will then feel free to come home and find new hope under the roof of Christ-like relationships.

In my estimation the best how-to books to lead a Spirit-filled life are the Bible and My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Forget the OTC self-help books and seminars on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. You would be wasting your time and money. Worse, you would most likely seek to adapt to someone else’s notion of what it is to be a man or a woman. Run from this nonsense. GIGO.

~~~

"Jewish Wedding" by Jozef Israels (Dutch, 1824-1911)

“Jewish Wedding” by Jozef Israels (Dutch, 1824-1911)

The closest we come to “Biblical” manhood and “Biblical” womanhood in the Bible, as I read it, is within the Apostle Paul’s circular letter to the churches at and around Ephesus (Ephesians chapter 5). It is there that he instructs Christians as to how men and women should relate to each other and he does so with equanimity and, more importantly, in the context Christ and His Bride, the Church.

Paul’s circular letter should be read in the context of Ephesus being the protectorate of the Temple of Artemis aka Diana. “There was no other Greco-Roman metropolis in the Empire whose ‘body, soul and spirit’ could so belong to a particular deity as did Ephesus to her patron goddess Artemis.” (Oster 1990:1728) Many in the Greco-Roman world came to Ephesus take part in the seductive sexuality of Diana’s worship, worship which included prostitution. Adored as life givers women were given inordinate prominence. As such, they were placed above men.

Sadly, so many sermons and books and seminars parse out “wives submit to your husbands” and “husbands love your wives”.  As I see it, Paul wrote to these churches – churches situated in the context of the worship of the female deity Diana, and specifically this passage to promote a Kingdom view of women as opposed to the Artemis view. In the Spirit’s way, Paul let it be known that women were not to be placed on a pedestal as an idol or to be used– not as a Madonna or as a whore.

Paul writes to the Ephesian church outlining a Kingdom of God view of relationships. Husbands are to love their wives and not submit to prostitutes.  Wives are to submit to their husbands and not to those who would put them on a pedestal to worship or in a bed as a prostitute. Paul advances the true characteristics of Kingdom of God people: concomitant respect and love of husband and wife.

More than any pretense of “Biblical” gender teaching, the Scriptures order our relationships as it orders our loves: Love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.

Husbands who love their wives love their closest neighbor and are in fact submitting to the Lord within her.

Wives who submit to their husbands submit to their closest neighbor and do so out of love for the Lord within him.

This gamboling of submission and love resembles, I imagine, the relationships of the Trinity and Their dancing embrace.

Indulge me:

~~~~

Related:

Here’s what culture says:  27 Ways to Be a Modern Man

Added:

Scans prove there’s no such thing as a ‘male’ or ‘female’ brain

The Transgender Moment

Caution: Compassion Exposed!
After reading the following web article from Christianity Today…

The Transgender Moment
Evangelicals hope to respond with both moral authority and biblical compassion to gender identity disorder.
By John W. Kennedy

…I would like to take a Transgender Moment and reply with a few comments:
The words chosen for this article (compassion, gender identity disorder, mental malady, etc.) regarding trans~gender-ism are purposely segregationist both in their deceitful use and in their condescending tone. They certainly imply that there is a normal and moral barrier being breached by the trans-gendered (TG) individual. The implicit warning in this article is that THE CHURCH should be prepared for this ‘PROBLEM’. When Mr. Kennedy put the word Biblical in front of ‘compassion’ in his opening title, he knew what he was doing – fostering a position of “we are in a Biblically correct position to help you” and “you need our help” type of separatism in the hearts of all evangelical Christians who peruse Christianity Today (maybe while having their hair dyed an unnatural shade of blond. I say, why mess with creation?).

The words “moral authority” invoke a wrath of God type of dealing with the TG individual and needlessly, whether or not the word compassion is used, gathers up the storm clouds of anger and dissent over and around this person. Mr. Kennedy wants to draw a line in the sand (As I see it, this is fine because God has sand moving all of the time.) Who or what is this ‘moral authority’ he ascribes to? I assume the Bible ~ Sola Scriptura! Mr. Kennedy, in this rather weakly thought out article, is using the word Bible or Biblical as the wedge between them and the TG person.

The word “Biblical” often summons up a devious self ~righteousness into every one who reads this word. He wants the reader to believe that they are on good moral ground with him and others just like him who read his pulp magazine when he talks about the issue of trans-gender-ism. I would call the others like him “CT clones” (Christians Trans-morphed into Clones). But, I won’t get into name calling. At least not to the degree that Mr. Kennedy has, anyway. Mr. Kennedy, in his article, has used almost of all of the psychological terminology he could muster to leverage his ‘moral’ (?) authority and to posture the TG person as a person with a “Biblical’ sized disorder.

Trans-gender-ism is not a disorder, not in the sense that Mr. Kennedy wants to use it  ~ as a psychological and moral weakness. I understand that Mr. Kennedy wants the church to be scandalized by his article on trans-gender-ism. Where did the author of this article come up with the term “gender identity disorder” or GID? These words probably came from a psychology textbook, the DSM-IV manual, a Psychology Today article or perhaps via the internet. Now, apparently, these sources have become infallible (‘Sola Scripturian’) in their description of a TG person’s ‘disorder’ especially if theses sources serve to make an implication of sin and moral weakness, Mr. Kennedy. And, since when does a psychological profile of someone (an infallible profile in your estimation since it is the bedrock of your article) demand an inquest into its moral grounds? Is it in order that you may withhold your anticipated judgment with your parsimonious grace? Biblical moral authority is invoked but there are no grounds to do so.

Someone, at some point in time, wrote down a psychological profile of trans-genderism and saw it as an anomaly ~ a deviation (let the reader understand that I am using the word ‘deviation’ in the scientific sense and not the coined Biblical sense!) apart from other more prominent behaviors and understanding. Because some book gives trans-gender-ism a label called Gender Identity Disorder (GID) does not make trans-gender-ism a disorder and certainly does not make it into something sinful or something you need to ‘fix”. This label, GID, as I see it, only provides a handle to help people understand the issue ~ a person’s disconnect between their mind and their body. But now, this profiling is becoming ‘Biblically ordained’ by Mr. Kennedy’s article as a morally and a psychologically handicapped condition. Has anyone ever done a psychological profile on an Evangelical, fundamentalist Christian who wants to set boundaries on grace every chance they get? Wipe that smile off of your face!

As I see and as I understand gender confusion from the perspective of being a TG woman, the ultimate confusion does not lie prominently within the TG person but in the eyes of the person viewing them. This is the confusion Mr. Kennedy should prepare the church for. As I have seen in my fifty-one years in the Christian church and in my many years in “fix-it” counseling and healing prayer seminars, the fix or healing prescribed is only to make the person like “the rest of us” ~ their ‘prescriptions’ are made to only conform the TG person to what is generally understood and accepted.

Trans-gender-ism, by itself, has nothing to do with sin or sinfulness or psychological maladies as Mr. Kennedy would imply: I do not hate my father. I do not adore my mother. I do not envy women. I do not idolize women. I do not have a psychosis, a fixation, on women. I am not neurotic. I do not have an obsession of women nor do I have a phobia of maleness. I do not hate my body. I am not full of lust and I am not perverted nor am I in denial. I did not have birth trauma (See Frank Lake’s Clinical Theology). And, I do not have attachment issues or separation anxiety. I have understood, though, from the very beginning what gender I am. (Hmmm, this sounds like predestination!  Does DNA contain predestination?)  Beyond all this, it does take time for a trans-gendered person to understand why they are different and to come to terms with their gender.

In the article, Jerry Leach, director of Reality Resources, a ministry in Lexington, Kentucky says, “This is a psychological and emotional malady. It’s not like taking an appendix out.” Well, Mr. Leach, it’s more like having a C ~ section. C-sections are invasive and ‘unnatural’ procedures. Creation suggests the birth canal. Creation ‘pushes’ a woman into using the birth canal. Yet, there are times when this ‘un-creation like’ procedure is the only way to give birth to another human life or to save a human life. Now, would someone be diagnosed as having an emotional malady if he were to cut off his right hand because it made him sin? This is what Jesus taught. Or, would he be psychologically troubled if he became a eunuch for the Kingdom of God as the Apostle Paul writes about? This is Sola Scriptura fleshed out! Wake up!

(Yes, Mr. Kennedy, I will be taking estrogen the rest of my life. I will also be receiving communion every week for the rest of my life. I will also be confessing sin the rest of my life and I will be receiving absolution from sin the rest of my life. I will be reading my Bible the rest of my life. I will be praying the rest of my life. I will be worshipping God the rest of my life. I won’t be reading Christianity Today, though, the rest of my life.)

Why mess with God’s creation? Is it OK for a church building program to take over several acres of prime Creation and build a huge structure upon it? When a boy is circumcised or a young girl’s ears are pierced or a woman’s hair dyed or teeth whitened or air polluted or when cats and dogs are castrated or . . .? What is happening to creation? Are we meant to subdue creation for our own well-being and benefit? And from this, a TG person has the same unction to change into wholeness as does a repentant sinner who wants to become a saint.

The title of Mr. Kennedy’s article, The Transgender Moment, can be taken in two different ways, as he already knew. He is either asserting that trans-gender-ism, perhaps a fad in his eyes, perhaps not viable, will vanish just like all other fads (e.g., WWJD). In this case he is being dismissive and condescending. Or, he is asserting that the evangelical church will quickly stomp out its existence (or at least its access to ‘their’ church) with its ‘higher-ground-than-the-TG person’ rhetoric. In this case, he is promoting crucifixion. (It should be noted that Jesus had His “moment” on this earth, too.)

Here from the article  is Mr. Kennedy’s smug and schmoozing closing sound bite to the Evangelical church:
“The challenge before conservative evangelicals is persuading trans-gendered people, their families, and faith-based advocates that gender identity disorder is not beyond the reach of God’s grace, compassionate church-based care, and professional help.” (Are you saying that TG people should be accepted into ‘your’ church so that you can then put them within the crosshairs of your pseudo-psychology-‘professional’ preaching and your Biblical compassion (whatever that means)?

I am a Christian TG woman. I attend a Christian, sola-scriptura based church. I take communion every week. Because of these things and my belief in Scripture’s truth, I do not practice homosexuality nor do I promote it in any way shape or form. I fully accept a God-given (Sola Scriptura) binary gender distinction –male and female. I am female. I am not beyond God’s grace whatsoever or outside of its boundaries (even though you want to set its boundaries)! I do not accept cheap grace (as described by Dietrich Bonhoeffer). I live a quiet and peaceable life. I do not want to stand out. True Trans-gender-ism is not a Mardi-Gras parade. It is a person, a human being. And, I do not believe in adding any new Civil Rights laws unless, you incite uncivil behavior against me. I also believe that it would be malevolent journalism to insinuate that trans-gender-ism is equal with homosexuality, bi-sexuality, cross dressing or trans-sexuality. These activities are sexual adaptations (Biblical ‘deviations’) and life style choices, life choices which have become sexualized.

If someone were to ask me why I don’t go back and be what I was before my change (i.e, ‘normal’) my answer would be the same as that of the character Hazel Motes in his answer to Mrs. Flood at the end of the novel Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor. Mrs. Flood asked Mr. Motes why he doesn’t go back to preaching after he had blinded himself with lye.  Motes replied “I don’t have time.”

Like Mr. Motes I now stare in wonder at the mystery of the gospel. And though my flesh is ‘disfigured’  in the sight of the world, the ‘eyes’ of my spirit are now able to see.

I want you to see God’s grace in a new way and not through the myopic lenses of those who would hold court over me, those who view grace only as it accords with ‘normal’.

 Finally, I do not accept a binary compassion (a ‘them – us’ type of compassion) Mr. Kennedy. The journey to wholeness is difficult for everyone on that road. So, compassion all around.

****

 

Related Posts:

 A Naturalized Woman

What’s Biblical About It? Is there such a thing as Biblical Masculinity and Femininity?

*****
Chicago Tribune Article:
New Science on Gender, Hormones and the Brain
New evidence shows how hormones wire the minds of men and women to see the world differently
By Ronald Kotulak, science reporter

****

Apart from such well-known irreversible“ organizing” effects of sex hormones on the developing brain, the possibility of a direct action of genetic factors on sexual differentiation of the brain should not be ruled out .

 From the following limited research study:

MTF Female Neuron Numbers in Limbic

Sisterhood of the Traveling Ya-Ya

Dreams serve to help us resolve day-to-day problems while we sleep. Upon waking, dreams most often vanish into cerebral thin air while the effect of the dream, the mind’s resolution, goes on with the person into their day. It is also known that vivid dreaming will often happen during periods of personal emotional upheaval and stress. They have for me. One dream in particular stands out. I am living it.

In 1995 I struggled with the issue of gender-dysphoria. I had struggled with this issue since my early childhood. But that year, the question had become the pea in the princess’s bed: I could no longer sleep, eat or work properly. I was deeply unsettled about the matter. Being in a relationship with someone at that time made the issue all the more acute. When I finally did sleep I had many dreams. One dream stands out as being clearly prophetic in all of its symbolism.

The dream: I am standing at the end of a long dark tunnel, a tunnel deep underground. My sense is that I have been on a subway train for a long ride. I get off the train and was face the exit. Looking up (since I am way below street level) I see light coming through a long rectangular opening. I start walking up the slightly pitched exit ramp towards the light. As I walk I notice, appearing directly in front of me, a tall chest of drawers. I open the top drawer and inside there are women’s things and jewelry. I close the drawer. I feel good.

The closer I walk to the entrance, the better I feel. At last I stand at the large rectangular opening. The dark tunnel is behind me and a bright sunny day is out in front of me. I see tall buildings and behind them I see Lake Michigan. I see myself working in trenches along the shore of Lake Michigan. Unlike the tunnel I just came from, the trenches are open to the blue sky and warm sunshine. I sense that I am extremely happy working in these trenches. I feel a sense of peace. Then I see myself lying in a lounge chair on a sandy Chicago beach. I am looking out at the water, a great open expanse before me. My journey has ended and I have reached my final destination.

This dream, of course, is rich with symbolism. Carl Jung would call it an “archetypal dream” – it is mythic and grand, completely vivid. Within the dream I seek to integrate my feminine and masculine qualities – the anima and animus. Compared to my life at hand, it was the impossible dream.

This dream occurred during a time in the 90’s when I attended a church in the Chicago area. The church was, at that time, coupled with two local para-church organizations. One of the organizations is a ministry directed toward helping homosexuals leave the gay life style. It is led by a former homosexual. The other church ministry is dedicated to the “healing of the soul”. “Healing Prayer” teaching seminars were led, at that time, by a Kathryn Kulhman type figure – a self-styled prophetess.

The prophetess wrote books which were filled with quotes from notable Christians such as C.S. Lewis. Her writings spun off into different directions using her own spiritual experiences to formulate a point. After reading several of her books, I wasn’t exactly sure what her point was. It seemed to me that she tried very hard to appear intellectual and bookish and to be taken seriously. An aura of mystery surrounded her person. This invoked an image of a feminized Elijah who was often whisked away by her crew to pray in the Spirit out in the wings.

To give you an idea of the confusion that was wrought when she spoke I’ll share with you a conversation I had with someone in the lobby of Wheaton College’s Edman Chapel where she spoke. I was there attending a healing prayer seminar given by this woman. I was seeking some kind of resolution to the gender issue in my life.

During one of the healing seminar sessions, I got up to stand in the lobby. I was tired after sitting for several hours. Out in the lobby I met the doctor who was also attending the session. This doctor had delivered my son. We struck up a conversation.

Like me, he had been sitting and listening and he had also decided to get up and stand in the lobby. Standing in the lobby together, he asked me directly if I knew what the prophetess was talking about and I said, “She keeps saying it will make sense later, but I don’t know. It hasn’t made sense yet” The doctor looked puzzled. He was hoping that I could bring some meaning to the mishmash of words spoken in the auditorium that morning but I couldn’t. In fact, my own confusion was becoming deeper. I gave her the benefit of the doubt because she talked about gender issues and self-image issues, applying healing prayer to wounded-ness.

The soul healing seminars (and books) offered by this ‘prophetess’ would deal with a host of psycho-sexual issues including homosexuality. Many of the people who came to the seminars had been wounded in their youth. The wounding would include rape, abandonment, neglect, beating, mistreatment and even a possible traumatic birth (breach births, cord wrapped around neck, etc.). In essence the seminars were like spiritual LSD. Through healing of memory prayers, the attendees would relive some of the painful memories and then have those memories prayed over and then supposedly vanquished, leaving the person to go on with their life without the burden of the past. At least that was the idea.

Having been around this woman for many years while attending the afore-named church I can say that she is a wonderful person with discernible good motives. She seeks to help others who had been wounded as she had been early in her life. Her seminars bring many hurting people together including homosexuals who desperately want to leave the gay lifestyle. The healing prayers offer a place to start looking at the core issues of homosexuality, issues born out of deep neurosis and family life situations.

Her seminars would talk about the re-symbolizing. Re-symbolizing is important when a person wants to leave a bad pattern or life style behind. It helps someone, with a ‘healed’ imagination, to focus on what is good, pure, noble and true. In this process, re-symbolizing replaces the image previously fixated on and even idolized and gives the person the image of the cross – the suffering Servant, arms open, who seeks to embrace you. This message was always abundantly clear from her talks and writings.

Misogyny, the hatred of women, was one driving motive behind the origin of the ‘prophetess’ healing prayer seminars. As she recalled in one seminar, the prophetess had endured misogyny early in her life. Her mission, she felt, grew out of a need to help others who had endured oppression, hatred and worse from misogynistic people, mostly men, but women could also be misogynistic to other women and to themselves. This calling was made clear from the beginning of her writings and talks. When she related in one of her talks that she considers her misogynistic uncle an “Ass” you knew she has an axe to grind and a hatchet that needed a burial.

What wasn’t clear to me and to others are her words about the “true self”, the “true masculine” and the “true feminine”. She pointed to God as having “the True masculine and the True feminine”. What was the “True self”? What was the True Masculine? The True Feminine? And, why parse things so finely?

Many of the seminar prayers (and writings) included prayers prevailing upon God to bring a person out of their wounded past and into their true self, into a true masculine or true feminine identity. I have since learned that there is no true masculine or true feminine identity, only the sexed body, male or female, that you were born with. Gender identity, though rooted in the sexed body, is fluid and mostly a social construct. Consider these words from Miroslav Volf, a Christian theologian and currently the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale University Divinity School:

“Nothing in God is specifically feminine; nothing in God is specifically masculine; therefore nothing in our notions of God entails duties or prerogatives specific to one gender; all duties and prerogatives entailed in our notions of God are duties and prerogatives of both genders…”
Men and women share maleness and femaleness not with God but with animals. They image God in their common humanity. Hence we ought to resist every construction of the relation between God and femininity or masculinity that privileges one gender, say by claiming that men on account of their maleness represent God more adequately than women or by insisting that women, being by nature more relational, are closer to the divine as the power of connectedness and love.”
Miroslav Volf from Exclusion and Embrace, 1995

I attended many of these healing seminars. I did so because I was desirous of walking in the Spirit and hopefully finding a reason for the gender disconnect within. The teaching/healing prayer seminars were described as praying the soul into well-being. The prayers were not a one-shot fix but a starting point from which the soul which had been wounded or cut off from its “true self” would bring God’s touch to a place of deep wounding. Then, the process of healing could begin.

Back to the dream. During the healing prayer seminars participants were prayed over by the ‘prophetess’ and her prayer team. I was prayed over several times with prayers spoken in tongues using holy water and a crucifix. It was during this week of healing prayer sessions that my lucid dream occurred. I considered the dream, at that time, to be symbolic and nothing more. Recently, I now understand the dream to be a prophetic dream. I’ll explain.

Several years ago I made the decision to live as woman. When I did, I understood that God had given me the grace to do this and to be in a relationship with Him. God was willing to embrace me as a woman. God was not threatened or put off by my change. In fact, I have certainly been blessed throughout the process.

Recently, while riding the train to work, my tunnel dream and its fullfillment came to mind: I am a ‘new’ woman; I work (in the trenches) in Chicago near the lake front; I am settled and laid back (as the dream’s lounge chair would symbolize). I am at rest. A dream come true.

But, my dream is used as a nightmare by my ex. In my ex’s hands, my change has become a wedge between me and my children, a way of alienating the children from me. It is my ex’s ‘normalcy’ argument that hammers the wedge deeper and deeper: my ex’s position is that she is normal and that I am not. She tells my children this in so many ways on a regular basis. I know. I hear back from them. Children will learn prejudice from their parent/s over time. This is true wherever there is any off-putting’ of people and groups throughout our world.

My change, by the way, never absolved me from responsibility to my children. I continue to parent my children and give them what they need.

While the attempt to heal the soul is a massive undertaking, I see any desire to heal the soul as laudable. At the same time I am concerned about the specific ideation of the true self, the true masculine and the true feminine identities. These definitions could drive people into further confusion and perhaps into more despair. Perhaps, it would cause a return to a bad or broken symbolization because her teaching embraces the new idols of the masculine and feminine: her teaching identified the “True masculine as the man being the initiator (thrusting, pushing forward, aggressive) while the True feminine is the woman receiving (actively passive), relational and integrating life.” More mishmash. Each of us has masculine and feminine qualities and their amounts are negotiated within the society each of us live in.

On closer examination, the true self, not seduced and influenced by TV and the media, is the person who finds his or her identity in a relationship embrace with Jesus Christ. Gender identity, anchored in a sexed body, free-floats. It can be active and passive, giving and forgiving (think marriage of a male and a female, an Adam and Eve narrative). Harbored in Christ this identity is able to be open to others. It is known for its ability to accept changes in the other and to do justice.

A prophetess, a dream and a reality. The Divine Secret of the Traveling Ya-Ya finally makes sense.

“Now you can understand the quantity of love that warms me toward you, so that I forget our vanity, and treat the shades as the solid thing.” Dante’s Purgatorio 21.132-135

How Shall I Then Live?

I have just finished reading Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals & Meaning by Nancy Pearcey, B & H Publishing Group, Copyright 2010.

As a student of art, music and literature as well as some philosophy and a good bit of theology, this book, found at a local book store, caught my eye.

Saving Leonardo gives the reader an overview look at the history of modern man’s fact/value split (known as the “lower story” and the “upper story” in the book).  It seeks to help us to understand the two basic worldviews that are prevalent today: Continental and Analytic. These two streams are manifested throughout today’s art, music, literature, politics and pop culture.

Pearcey uses the following dichotomies to describe our evolved mindsets:

Facts/Values
Box of Things/ box of the mind
Machine/ghost (Descartes)
Nature/Freedom (Kant)
Formalism/expressionism
Mind (autonomous self)/body (biochemical machine) – in toto, the Liberal view of the human being
Imaginative truth (art)/rational truth (deterministic world of science)

Discussing the Continental worldview Pearcey notes that there are the schools of idealism, Marxism, phenomenology, existentialism, postmodernism and deconstructionism. The Analytic worldview stream holds empiricism, rationalism, materialism, naturalism, logical positivism and linguistic analysis. She quotes John Stuart Mill in talking about “the antagonism already separating the two traditions: The lower story, with its materialism, “is accused of making men beasts” while the upper story, with its irrationalism, is accused of making men lunatics.””.

Culture has reflected the dueling mindsets along the way. Artists, composers and writers have portrayed the philosophies of the day through their art. Saving Leonardo gives prominent examples of artists who have either mirrored the prevailing thought or who have worked to oppose it.

The book is divided into two main parts: The Threat of Global Secularism and Two Paths to Secularism. As a trans-gendered woman I became particularly interested in Chapter Three of the book’s Part One. The title of Chapter Three: Sex, Lies and Secularism.

In the section “Hooking up, Feeling Down” Pearcey begins “Let’s move to the most contentious sexual issues of our day such as homosexuality, transgendersism and the hook-up culture.” She then goes on to say that having an understanding of the two-story dualism of modern thinking will help the Christian in providing a holistic biblical alternative. Because of her shotgun approach of scoping trans-gender-ism within the same sights as aberrant sexuality, Pearcey does, I believe, relegate trans-gender-ism to be on par morally with acting out homosexually and one-night stand sexuality. I would state emphatically here that trans-gender-ism is not about acting out sexually. Trans-gender-ism is not homosexuality. It is about gender identity/gender dysphoria. My concern with anyone reading Chapter Three and Pearcey’s own reductionism of the trans-gender-ism issue as being a person with a deluded worldview interlocked with a self-hatred would be that the reader would certainly be misguided and misinformed about trans-gender-ism and gender dysphoria.

To be sure, trans-gendered (TG) people can act out homosexually or bisexually. Certainly, anyone can act out sexually and do it from a broken place in their psyche. Sadly, though, I have witnessed this same type of marginalizing before in the Christian community:  trans-gender-ism aligned with homosexuality . In doing so, Pearcey sites the same article that I have contended with previously. Interestingly, though, she doesn’t mention the mindset behind the 50% divorce rate rampant in the church of Jesus Christ. (There appears to be enough biblical grace for divorcees but not enough grace for the trans-gendered individual who is at odds with their own body.)

Saving Leonardo is an overview of culminating worldviews. Because of this, suffice it to say, I read the rest of the section and the chapter and there is no detailed understanding given about trans-gender-ism, only inferences made about being able to flippantly choose your gender. The assumption here being I guess is that Pearcey is going to tell you what to understand about the issue. These assumptions are revealed in the section titled PoMoSexual Alienation. This section does mention that there are people using a postmodern point of view regarding gender.  These people contend that gender is fluid and changeable, rejecting “the binary male/female system a mere social construction.”

One of the challenges for Christians coming out of this chapter should have been, “you should seek to understand other people’s world view but keep your own sexuality pure and undefiled by laciviousness.”

The effect of mind/body sanctity and wholeness, including an enduring marriage, is a strong testimony to the rest of the world whereas the elitist knowledge of psychologically determined ‘good and evil’, provided in this book, doesn’t go very far with anyone. Also, the word “compassion” is used by Pearcey. For all intents and purposes and in practice it is just an empty word that is used to frame talk about “contentious issues” by Christians in the ‘know’. In the context of this chaper it is also a condescending term.

  As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have provided some identifying ‘sexual’ definitions for the LGBT community that I have witnessed first hand. I made these definitions so that I could talk about differences with the LGBT community. In the community itself the definitions overlap. Definitions, within the community, are secondary or even tertiary issues behind getting people to affirm and codify their behavior as being OK (most recently, the repeal of Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell). The LGBTQ community has changed labels (from homosexual to gay; from homosexuals to community and so on) to massage the message, to make what they are doing more palatable to others. But, they will also use the word “Queer” and other evocative terms when they need to describe their ‘personhood’s’ ‘empowered’ and ‘liberated’ uniqueness.

Some general definitions: trans-sexual men are men who want to appear as women to gain sex with other men. Trans-sexual women are women who want to appear as men to gain sex from other women. I don’t need to give examples here. You have seen this acted out in daily life. I assume that because Saving Leonardo is an overview of the generation of worldviews these sexual distinctions are not noted in Pearcey’s book. Only blanket statements are wielded regarding sexuality/gender issues, perhaps to rattle the cages of the Christian hamsters asleep on the wheel.

I mentioned earlier that transgender people identify themselves by their gender disconnect from their body and not by their sexual preferences. Pearcey does talk about the mind/body brokenness in modern thinking and there is some truth to what she is saying, especially as it relates to the LGBT community, but also to the general public. We are a people who say that bodies can be disposed of (abortion, euthanasia, embryonic research) and can also be used for sordid pleasure (homosexuality, bi-sexuality, trans-sexuality, hook-up sex, etc.) and who augment, plasticize, starve, binge-purge and reinvent our bodies, our looks, to fit a certain desired idolized self-image.

Pearcey writes about gender issues later in the section Bodies Matter. She talks about the Gender (psychological identity and sexual desire)/Biology (physical identity and anatomy) split. She talks about the divorcing of gender and anatomy as a means to denigrating the materiality of the body. She gives her psycho- socio-theo-opinion: “A genuinely biblical view honors and respects our biological identity. Psalm 139 says God “knits” together our bodies in the womb. Masculine or feminine identity is a gift from God to be enjoyed in gratitude.”

I agree with the latter-Psalm 139. I believe in a binary gender/sexuality – of male and female as separate and distinct beings. The physical boundaries of gender are represented by the unique anatomical differences of male and female. Psychologically, male/female boundaries are generally more fluid, hence sexuality issues and gender issues can more easily arise resulting in conflict and a resolution or repression of the conflict. Sexual identity may be influenced by environment, social constructs, psychological trauma and/or biology (hormone secretion on the brain in the womb). All of psychology’s assumptions about how gender identity is ultimately derived are just that, assumptions. None of them are verifiable. Psychology does, though, seek to relieve a person’s distress by trying to understand the cause of distress. The biblical wellness scenario: the whole person is a mind and body, one unified whole, either male or female, who is not in distress or despair.

What God has created is good.  He knitted me together in my mother’s womb  – with the gender disconnect.  Because of this and the fact that there is also the work of redemption going on in human history, I made the decision many years ago to make the changes needed to live as a unified whole and as a woman. This was after many hours of ‘rationale’ sessions with counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists and healing prayer. I came to the understanding that I could make the change because God gave me the grace to do so within the framework of a Christian worldview of redemption. I do not embrace a post-modern worldview of gender.

Born in the fifties, I was raised in a Christian home, without psychological trauma or encouragement to be a female. I had never heard of a postmodern (PM) view of gender as described by Pearcey in her book. Of course, I knew of Woodstock and Warhol and of the ’60s sexual revolution. I also knew at the same time that I had a strong Christian worldview and that I was female. My understanding of being female in a male sexed body can be likened to a Spirit-filled Christian who views himself as a saint in a sinner’s body – a mind/body disconnect that is dwelt with daily within God’s purview of grace.

No trans-gendered person I know of, and there are many, had made their changes based on this PM worldview premise that Pearcey describes in her book. Rather, each one at various times has told me that they knew their gender identity when they were a small child. They may have, later on, used the PM gender theorist’s justification of gender fluidity to endorse their change from a secular worldview point. The real genesis of their change, as told to me, was inherent in them from the start of their lives. Generally, when a person writes about something they have no first hand knowledge of, they make assumptions and generalizations based on the loudest proponents banging their drums off in the distance. That is the case with Saving Leonardo, Chapter 3.

In doing so I feel Pearcey blacklists transgender people. Beyond this, I have also heard Nancy Pearcey, during a recent radio interview, mention the same “contentious” connection – trans-gender-ism and homosexuality.  She undoubtedly set some teeth on edge about the subject of trans-gender-ism. I heard her say this on a Saturday morning MBN broadcast program called In the Market with Janet Parshall (I am a former student of the Moody Bible Institute.  Therein lays my interest in the radio program.).   When a person talks in this way they continue to propagate, I believe, a fear of the unknown (gender dysphoria).  And, when people don’t understand something they often will reject it wholesale, out of fear.

Nancy knows, I have no doubt, that Scripture is very definitive about sexual sin whether its homosexual sin or hook-up sin. She also knows that Scripture does not define or mention trans-genderism (TG-ism). Because of this, Pearcey has to make inferences regarding TG-ism. I don’t agree with the inferences she has made in this section, the first being that it is related to a “contentious” sexual “issue” such as homosexuality or hook-up sex.

Here’s something of what compassion for a trans-gendered individual would look like:

1. Understanding that trans-gender-ism is not the same as acting out homosexually. It is not a sexual issue. It is a gender identity issue. (In general, most people are not confused about their gender. Some people are confused about their gender and then, there are a few people who are gender dysphoric.)

2. Understanding that trans-gender-ism (gender dysphoria) is a disconnect between mind and body that usually originates in infancy or early childhood and carries on into adult life. This disconnect may be due to a traumatic childbirth (see Frank Lake’s Clinical Theology), perhaps due to a deep psychological neurosis, perhaps due to a biological imbalance of hormones before birth). In any case, it is a heavy burden to carry. Christians are to bear one another’s burdens.

3. TG-ism may or may not be treatable or changeable in this life. The person may not be able to overcome his/her disconnect through counseling and Christian social ‘shock’ therapies (Dobson-esque tough love). In any case, this person has to choose the path to wholeness. The desire for wholeness, I would suggest, is inborn in all humans (the underlying point, I believe, of Saving Leonardo). I chose wholeness and unity of mind and body and spirit and a celibate lifestyle to walk in.

4. Tough love results in an even tougher resolve in the matter presented here.

5. Accept the trans-gendered person at face value. Don’t be dismissive of them. (I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a wife whisper to her husband, letting him know that she knows ‘about’ the trans-gendered person. This woman only wants a laugh at the TG person’s expense.) There is no need to create a social leper colony, keeping TG people away from the church. Embrace, not exclusion.

5. A trans-gendered person can have a happy life. Much of what I hear from Christian articles about trans-gender-ism is that trans-gendered people go off into despair and perhaps even become suicidal.  This is not true, at least in my case and for others that I know.

6.  It should be noted that a gender dysphoric person is not a neat little cataloged item found in a DSM manual or some coordinate on a worldview system map who may be pointed out with a “contentious” disdain.  Rather, gender dysphoria is a person with their own personal dichotomy of mind and body who seeks complete and utter wholeness.

Having said all this, I do not think that trans-gender-ism should be promoted as a life choice by any group. It is a unique and difficult situation that should not be marketed in a gender ‘mall’. On the other hand, though, I do think that when all possible remedial actions have been considered to resolve the TG person’s identity conflict and a resolution is not forthcoming – is not towards a material end as presented by nature, then a material adaptation of nature can be accommodated to match the TG persons understanding and bring about wholeness. In other words, living with a separation of mind and body is not an option for anyone. For a person who is not trans-gendered this would be a difficult concept to understand. Especially since there are trans-sexuals who do play the gender game.

I realize that a Christian rationalist psychologist will say that a trans-gendered person should live with the tension and find ways to ‘deal’ with it. In other words, live out a Jack London novel of man struggling with nature and the beast. You should understand that this tension can be exceedingly unbearable. Trans-gender-ism tension, unlike sexual tension, does not seek to resolve itself in sexual relations with another person or in emotional relationships with another person. It seeks wholeness of being. Trans-gender-ism is not kitsch posing as a woman. That is trans-sexual-ism. There are, of course, varying degrees of Trans-gender-ism. Every person is different.

Finally, I don’t need the pity or compassion as construed at the end of the chapter. The chapter begins with the mention of “contentious issues” and ends with words about having compassion for the trans-gendered person. As usual, the “contentious issues” are spelled out by the ‘Christian’ but, the word “compassion” is rarely fleshed out.

What is fleshed out: I live as a Christian woman with a Christian worldview as a unified whole. I do not hate my body. I never did. I do hate, though, Christian psychological snobbery disguised as ‘knowing’ compassion.

On the whole, I think the book is an OK attempt to help Christians understand modern man’s dealing with two combating worldviews, Analytic and Continental. This book (actually, more of a collection of topical brochures) offers Christians a place to begin discourse with those who are wishing to find a resolution to the worldview conflicts they are facing on a daily basis.  In discussing these topics Christians can introduce the Gospel’s answer of an alternative narrative history of redemption and wholeness to those who have lost their way:  The Way, the Truth and the Life.

************

Endnote:

I certainly don’t agree with the author that art has to have unifying narrative to be of value.  One of the earliest painters I connected with was Jackson Pollack.  I remember seeing a painting of his in a Life magazine article and then later at the Art Institute in Chicago. This was a time back in my junior high school days.  Jackson’s drip paintings reminded me of a brain’s neural network being charged with emotion. Perhaps, his paintings are a one-nanosecond glimpse of a much larger narrative. In any case, art is something you can take or leave as you see fit based on your own life narrative.

In the final words of the book, Pearcey encourages parents to not push their kids into being conservative (keeping things as they are).  Rather, she encourages parents to push for “revolutionary” children. From my reading of Saving Leonardo, there seems to be no direct context given for defining her word “revolutionary”.  Perhaps she means being an ‘out-side-the-box’ artist, composer or a unique Christian writer (she apparently hasn’t read Flannery O’Connor) or… ?

I’ll supply my own context:  one revolutionary thing that I have done (something outside the box given me) is that I did not conserve (keep things as they are). Instead, I began living as woman to create a unifying whole, a life narrative of redemption, an autobiography of grace bestowed. And in doing so, I seek to emulate C.S. Lewis, a romantic-rationalist.  Lewis, as revealed by his writing and talks, integrated the upper and lower stories.

Finally, I find it rather strange that the author never mentions the spontaneity, sonority and musical improvisation of jazz.

How Shall I Then Live?

I have just finished reading Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals & Meaning by Nancy Pearcey, B & H Publishing Group, Copyright 2010.

As a student of art, music and literature, as well as, some philosophy and a good bit of theology, this book jumped off the shelf and caught my attention. Saving Leonardo gives the reader an overview look at the history of modern man’s fact/value split (known as the “lower story” and the “upper story” in her book) and helps us to understand the two basic worldviews that are prevalent today: Continental and Analytic. These two streams are manifested throughout today’s art, music, literature, politics and pop culture.

Pearcey uses the following dichotomies to describe our evolved mindsets:

Facts/Values
Box of Things/ box of the mind
Machine/ghost (Descartes)
Nature/Freedom (Kant)
Formalism/expressionism
Mind (autonomous self)/body (biochemical machine) – in toto, the Liberal view of the human being
Imaginative truth (art)/rational truth (deterministic world of science)

In the Continental worldview, she notes, there are the schools of idealism, marxism, phenomenology, existentialism, postmodernism and deconstructionsism. The Analytic worldview stream holds empiricism, rationalism, materialism, naturalism, logical positivism and linguistic analysis. She quotes John Stuart Mill in talking about “the antagonism already separating the two traditions: The lower story, with its materialism, “is accused of making men beasts” while the upper story, with its irrationalism, is accused of making men lunatics.””.

Culture has reflected the dueling mindsets along the way. Artists, composers and writers have portrayed the philosophies of the day through their art. Saving Leonardo gives prominent examples of artists who have either mirrored the prevailing thought or who have worked to oppose it.

The book is divided into two main parts: The Threat of Global Secularism and Two Paths to Secularism. As a trans-gendered woman I became particularly interested in Chapter Three of the book’s Part One. The title of Chapter Three: Sex, Lies and Secularism.

In the section Hooking up, Feeling Down Pearcey begins “Let’s move to the most contentious sexual issues of our day such as homosexuality, transgendersism and the hook-up culture.” She then goes on to say that having an understanding of the two-story dualism of modern thinking will help the Christian in providing a holistic biblical alternative. Because of her shotgun approach of scoping trans-gender-ism within the same sights as aberrant sexuality, Pearcey does, I believe, relegate trans-gender-ism to be on par morally with acting out homosexually and one-night stand sexuality. I would state emphatically here that trans-gender-ism is not about acting out sexually. Trans-gender-ism is not homosexuality. It is about gender identity/gender dysphoria. My concern with anyone reading Chapter Three and Pearcey’s own reductionism of the trans-gender-ism issue as being a person with a deluded worldview interlocked with a self-hatred would be that the reader would certainly be misguided and misinformed about trans-gender-ism and gender dysphoria.

To be sure, trans-gendered (TG) people can act out homosexually or bisexually. Certainly, anyone can act out sexually and do it from a broken place in their psyche. Sadly, though, I have witnessed this same type of marginalizing before in the Christian community:  trans-gender-ism aligned with homosexuality . In doing so, Pearcey sites the same article that I have contended with previously. Interestingly, though, she doesn’t mention the mindset behind the 50% divorce rate rampant in the church of Jesus Christ. (There appears to be enough biblical grace for divorcees but not enough grace for the trans-gendered individual who is at odds with their own body.)

Saving Leonardo is an overview of culminating worldviews. Because of this, suffice it to say, I read the rest of the section and the chapter and there is no detailed understanding given about trans-gender-ism, only inferences made about being able to flippantly choose your gender. The assumption here being I guess is that Pearcey is going to tell you what to understand about the issue. These assumptions are revealed in the section titled PoMoSexual Alienation. This section does mention that there are people using a postmodern point of view regarding gender.  These people contend that gender is fluid and changeable, rejecting “the binary male/female system a mere social construction.”

One of the challenges for Christians coming out of this chapter should have been, “you should seek to understand other people’s sexual issues (their world view) but keep your own sexuality pure.” The effect of this kind of mind/body sanctity and wholeness, including an enduring marriage, is a strong testimony to the rest of the world whereas the elitist knowledge of ‘good and evil’, provided in this book, doesn’t go very far with anyone. Also, the word “compassion” is used by Pearcey, but, for all intents and purposes and in practice, it is just an empty word used to cushion talk about “contentious issues” by Christians in the ‘know’.

  As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have provided some identifying ‘sexual’ definitions for the LGBT community that I have witnessed first hand. I made these definitions so that I could talk about differences with the LGBT community. In the community itself the definitions overlap. Definitions, within the community, are secondary or even tertiary issues behind getting people to affirm and codify their behavior as being OK (most recently, the repeal of Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell). The LGBTQ community has changed labels (from homosexual to gay; from homosexuals to community and so on) to massage the message, to make what they are doing more palatable to others. But, they will also use the word “Queer” and other evocative terms when they need to describe their ‘personhood’s’ ‘empowered’ and ‘liberated’ uniqueness.

Some general definitions: trans-sexual men are men who want to appear as women to gain sex with other men. Trans-sexual women want to appear as men to gain sex with other women. I don’t have to give examples here because you have seen this acted out in daily life. Because Saving Leonardo is an overview of the generation of worldviews these sexual distinctions are not noted in Pearcey’s book. Only blanket statements are wielded regarding sexuality/gender issues seemingly to rattle the cages of the Christian chipmunks asleep on the wheel.

I mentioned earlier that transgender people identify themselves by their gender disconnect from their body and not by their sexual preferences. Pearcey does talk about the mind/body brokenness in modern thinking and there is some truth to what she is saying, especially as it relates to the LGBT community, but also, as well to the general public. We are a people who say that bodies can be disposed of (abortion, euthanasia, embryonic research) and can also be used for sordid pleasure (homosexuality, bi-sexuality, trans-sexuality, hook-up sex, etc.) and who augment, plasticize, starve, binge-purge and reinvent our bodies, our looks, to fit a certain desired idolized self-image.

Pearcey writes about gender issues later in the section Bodies Matter. She talks about the Gender (psychological identity and sexual desire)/Biology (physical identity and anatomy) split. She talks about the divorcing of gender and anatomy as a means to denigrating the materiality of the body. She writes, “A genuinely biblical view honors and respects our biological identity. Psalm 139 says God “knits” together our bodies in the womb. Masculine or feminine identity is a gift from God to be enjoyed in gratitude.”

I agree with these words. I believe in a binary gender/sexuality – of male and female as separate and distinct beings. The physical boundaries of gender are represented by the unique anatomical differences of male and female. Psychologically, male/female boundaries are generally more fluid, hence sexuality issues and gender issues can more easily arise resulting in conflict and a resolution or repression of the conflict. Sexual identity may be influenced by environment, social constructs, psychological trauma and/or biology (hormone secretion on the brain in the womb). All of psychology’s assumptions about how gender identity is ultimately derived are just that, assumptions. None of them are verifiable. Psychology does, though, seek to relieve a person’s distress by trying to understand the cause of distress. The biblical wellness scenario: the whole person is a mind and body, one unified whole, either male or female, who is not in distress or despair.

What God has created is good.  He knitted me together in my mother’s womb  – with the gender disconnect.  Because of this and the fact that there is also the work of redemption going on in human history, I made the decision many years ago to make the changes needed to live as a unified whole and as a woman. This was after many hours of ‘rationale’ sessions with counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists and healing prayer. I came to the understanding that I could make the change because God gave me the grace to do so within the framework of a Christian worldview of redemption. I do not embrace a post-modern worldview of gender.

Born in the fifties, I was raised in a Christian home, without psychological trauma or encouragement to be a female, I never heard of a postmodern (PM) view of gender as described by Pearcey in this chapter. Of course, I knew of Woodstock and Warhol but I knew at the same time that I had a strong Christian worldview and also that I was female.

No trans-gendered person I know of, and there are many, had made their changes based on this PM worldview premise that Pearcey describes in her book. Rather, each one at various times has told me that they knew their gender identity when they were a small child. They may have, later on, used the PM gender theorist’s justification of gender fluidity to endorse their change from a secular worldview point. The real genesis of their change, as told to me, was inherent in them from the start of their lives. Generally, when a person writes about something they have no first hand knowledge of, they make assumptions and generalizations based on the loudest proponents banging their drums off in the distance. That is the case with Saving Leonardo, Chapter 3.

In doing so I feel Pearcey blacklists transgender people. Beyond this, I have also heard Nancy Pearcey, during a recent radio interview, mention the same “contentious” connection – trans-gender-ism and homosexuality.  She undoubtedly set some teeth on edge about the subject of trans-gender-ism. I heard her say this on a Saturday morning MBN broadcast program called In the Market with Janet Parshall (I am a former student of the Moody Bible Institute.  Therein lays my interest in the radio program.).   When a person talks in this way they continue to propagate, I believe, a fear of the unknown (gender dysphoria).  And, when people don’t understand something they often will reject it wholesale, out of fear.

Nancy knows, I have no doubt, that Scripture is very definitive about sexual sin whether its homosexual sin or hook-up sin. She also knows that Scripture does not define or mention trans-genderism (TG-ism). Because of this, Pearcey has to make inferences regarding TG-ism. I don’t agree with the inferences she has made in this section, the first being that it is related to a “contentious” sexual “issue” such as homosexuality or hook-up sex.

Here’s something of what compassion for a trans-gendered individual would look like:

1. Understanding that trans-gender-ism is not the same as acting out homosexually. It is not a sexual issue. It is a gender identity issue. (In general, most people are not confused about their gender. Some people are confused about their gender and then, there are a few people who are gender dysphoric.)

2. Understanding that trans-gender-ism (gender dysphoria) is a disconnect between mind and body that usually originates in infancy or early childhood and carries on into adult life. This disconnect may be due to a traumatic childbirth (see Frank Lake’s Clinical Theology), perhaps due to a deep psychological neurosis, perhaps due to a biological imbalance of hormones before birth). In any case, it is a heavy burden to carry. Christians are to bear one another’s burdens.

3. TG-ism may or may not be treatable or changeable in this life. The person may not be able to overcome his/her disconnect through counseling and Christian social ‘shock’ therapies (Dobson-esque tough love). In any case, this person has to choose the path to wholeness. The desire for wholeness, I would suggest, is inborn in all humans (the underlying point, I believe, of Saving Leonardo). I chose wholeness and unity of mind and body and spirit and a celibate lifestyle to walk in.

4. Tough love results in an even tougher resolve.

5. Accept the trans-gendered person at face value. Don’t be dismissive of them. (I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a wife whisper to her husband, letting him know that she knows ‘about’ the trans-gendered person. This woman only wants a laugh at the TG person’s expense.) There is no need to create a social leper colony, keeping TG people away from the church. Embrace, not exclusion.

5. A trans-gendered person can have a happy life. Much of what I hear from Christian articles about trans-gender-ism is that trans-gendered people go off into despair and perhaps even become suicidal.  This is not true, at least in my case and for others that I know. 

6.  It should be noted that a gender dysphoric person is not a neat little cataloged item found in a DSM manual or some coordinate on a worldview system map who may be pointed out with a “contentious” disdain.  Rather, gender dysphoria is a person with their own personal dichotomy of mind and body who seeks complete and utter wholeness.

Having said all this, I do not think that trans-gender-ism should be promoted as a life choice by any group. It is a unique and difficult situation that should not be marketed in a gender ‘mall’. On the other hand, though, I do think that when all possible remedial actions have been considered to resolve the TG person’s identity conflict and a resolution is not forthcoming – is not towards a material end as presented by nature, then a material adaptation of nature can be accommodated to match the TG persons understanding and bring about wholeness. In other words, living with a separation of mind and body is not an option for anyone. For a person who is not trans-gendered this would be a difficult concept to understand. Especially since there are trans-sexuals who do play the gender game.

I realize that a Christian rationalist psychologist will say that a trans-gendered person should live with the tension and find ways to ‘deal’ with it. In other words, live out a Jack London novel of man struggling with nature and the beast. You should understand that this tension can be exceedingly unbearable. Trans-gender-ism tension, unlike sexual tension, does not seek to resolve itself in sexual relations with another person or in emotional relationships with another person. It seeks wholeness of being. Trans-gender-ism is not kitsch posing as a woman. That is trans-sexual-ism. There are, of course, varying degrees of Trans-gender-ism. Every person is different.

Finally, I don’t need the pity or compassion as construed at the end of the chapter. The chapter begins with the mention of “contentious issues” and ends with words about having compassion for the trans-gendered person. As usual, the “contentious issues” are spelled out by the ‘Christian’ but, the word “compassion” is rarely fleshed out.

What is fleshed out: I live as a Christian woman with a Christian worldview as a unified whole. I do not hate my body. I never did. I do hate, though, Christian psychological snobbery disguised as ‘knowing’ compassion.

On the whole, I think the book is laudable in its attempt to help Christians understand modern man’s dealing with two combating worldviews, Analytic and Continental. This book gives Christians a place to begin discourse with those who are wishing to find a resolution to the worldview conflicts they are facing daily.  This opening will then enable Christians to reveal the Gospel’s answer of a complete narrative history of redemption and wholeness to those who have lost their way. The path to wholeness is difficult for everyone, even for Leonardo. So, compassion all around.

************

Footnote:
 In the final words of the book, Pearcey encourages parents to not push their kids into being conservative (keeping things as they are).  Rather, she encourages parents to push for “revolutionary” children. From my reading of Saving Leonardo, there seems to be no direct context given for defining her words.  Perhaps she means being an ‘out-side-the-box’ artist or composer or a great Christian writer or… ?

I’ll supply my own context: One revolutionary thing that I have done (something outside the box given me) is that I did not conserve (keep things as they are). Instead, I began living as woman to create a unifying whole, a life narrative of redemption, an autobiography of grace bestowed.

Finally, I find it rather strange that the author never mentions the spontaneity, sonority and musical improvisation of jazz.

The Transgender Moment

Caution: Compassion Exposed!
After reading the following web article from Christianity Today…

The Transgender Moment
Evangelicals hope to respond with both moral authority and biblical compassion to gender identity disorder.
By John W. Kennedy

…I would like to take a Transgender Moment and reply with a few comments:
The words chosen for this article (compassion, gender identity disorder, mental malady, etc.) regarding trans~gender-ism are purposely segregationist both in their deceitful use and in their condescending tone. They certainly imply that there is a normal and moral barrier being breached by the trans-gendered (TG) individual. The implicit warning in this article is that THE CHURCH should be prepared for this ‘PROBLEM’. When Mr. Kennedy put the word Biblical in front of ‘compassion’ in his opening title, he knew what he was doing ~ fostering a position of “we are in a Biblically correct position to help you” and “you need our help” type of separatism in the hearts of all evangelical Christians who peruse Christianity Today (maybe while having their hair dyed an unnatural shade of blond. I say, why mess with creation?).

The words “moral authority” invoke a wrath of God type of dealing with the TG individual and needlessly, whether or not the word compassion is used, gathers up the storm clouds of anger and dissent over and around this person. Mr. Kennedy wants to draw a line in the sand (As I see it, this is fine because God has sand moving all of the time.) Who or what is this ‘moral authority’ he ascribes to? I assume the Bible – Sola Scriptura! Mr. Kennedy, in this rather weakly thought out article, is using the word Bible or Biblical as the wedge between them and the TG person.

The word “Biblical” often summons up a devious self –righteousness into every one who reads this word. He wants the reader to believe that they are on good moral ground with him and others just like him who read his pulp magazine when he talks about the issue of trans-gender-ism. I would call the others like him “CT clones” (Christians Trans-morphed into Clones). But, I won’t get into name calling. At least not to the degree that Mr. Kennedy has, anyway. Mr. Kennedy, in his article, has used almost of all of the psychological terminology he could muster to leverage his ‘moral’ (?) authority and to posture the TG person as a person with a “Biblical’ sized disorder.

Trans-gender-ism is not a disorder, not in the sense that Mr. Kennedy wants to use it  – as a psychological and moral weakness. I understand that Mr. Kennedy wants the church to be scandalized by his article on trans-gender-ism. Where did the author of this article come up with the term “gender identity disorder” or GID? These words probably came from a psychology textbook, the DSM-IV manual, a Psychology Today article or perhaps via the internet. Now, apparently, these sources have become infallible (‘Sola Scripturian’) in their description of a TG person’s ‘disorder’ especially if theses sources serve to make an implication of sin and moral weakness, Mr. Kennedy. And, since when does a psychological profile of someone (an infallible profile in your estimation since it is the bedrock of your article) demand an inquest into its moral grounds? Is it in order that you may withhold your anticipated judgment with your parsimonious grace? Biblical moral authority is invoked but there are no grounds to do so.

Someone, at some point in time, wrote down a psychological profile of trans-genderism and saw it as an anomaly – a deviation (let the reader understand that I am using the word ‘deviation’ in the scientific sense and not the coined Biblical sense!) apart from other more prominent behaviors and understanding. Because some book gives trans-gender-ism a label called Gender Identity Disorder (GID) does not make trans-gender-ism a disorder and certainly does not make it into something sinful or something you need to ‘fix”. This label, GID, as I see it, only provides a handle to help people understand the issue – a person’s disconnect between their mind and their body. But now, this profiling is becoming ‘Biblically ordained’ by Mr. Kennedy’s article as a morally and a psychologically handicapped condition. Has anyone ever done a psychological profile on an Evangelical, fundamentalist Christian who wants to set boundaries on grace every chance they get? Wipe that smile off of your face!

As I see and as I understand gender confusion from the perspective of being a TG woman, the ultimate confusion does not lie prominently within the TG person but in the eyes of the person viewing them. This is the confusion Mr. Kennedy should prepare the church for. As I have seen in my fifty-one years in the Christian church and in my many years in “fix-it” counseling and healing prayer seminars, the fix or healing prescribed is only to make the person like “the rest of us” – their ‘prescriptions’ are made to only conform the TG person to what is generally understood and accepted.

Trans-gender-ism, by itself, has nothing to do with sin or sinfulness or psychological maladies as Mr. Kennedy would imply: I do not hate my father. I do not adore my mother. I do not envy women. I do not idolize women. I do not have a psychosis, a fixation, on women. I am not neurotic. I do not have an obsession of women nor do I have a phobia of maleness. I do not hate my body. I am not full of lust and I am not perverted nor am I in denial. I did not have birth trauma (See Frank Lake’s Clinical Theology). And, I do not have attachment issues or separation anxiety. I have understood, though, from the very beginning what gender I am. (Hmmm, this sounds like predestination!  Does DNA contain predestination?)  Beyond all this, it does take time for a trans-gendered person to understand why they are different and to come to terms with their gender.

In the article, Jerry Leach, director of Reality Resources, a ministry in Lexington, Kentucky says, “This is a psychological and emotional malady. It’s not like taking an appendix out.” Well, Mr. Leach, it’s more like having a C – section. C-sections are invasive and ‘unnatural’ procedures. Creation suggests the birth canal. Creation ‘pushes’ a woman into using the birth canal. Yet, there are times when this ‘un-creation like’ procedure is the only way to give birth to another human life or to save a human life. Now, would someone be diagnosed as having an emotional malady if he were to cut off his right hand because it made him sin? This is what Jesus taught. Or, would he be psychologically troubled if he became a eunuch for the Kingdom of God as the Apostle Paul writes about? This is Sola Scriptura fleshed out! Wake up!

(Yes, Mr. Kennedy, I will be taking estrogen the rest of my life. I will also be receiving the Eucharist every week for the rest of my life. I will also be confessing sin the rest of my life and I will be receiving absolution from sin the rest of my life. I will be reading my Bible the rest of my life. I will be praying the rest of my life. I will be worshipping God the rest of my life. I won’t be reading Christianity Today, though, the rest of my life.)

Why mess with God’s creation? Is it OK for a church building program to take over several acres of prime Creation and build a huge structure upon it? When a boy is circumcised or a young girl’s ears are pierced or a woman’s hair dyed or teeth whitened or air polluted or when cats and dogs are castrated or . . .? What is happening to creation? Are we meant to subdue creation for our own well-being and benefit? And from this, a TG person has the same unction to change into wholeness as does a repentant sinner who wants to become a saint.

The title of Mr. Kennedy’s article, The Transgender Moment, can be taken in two different ways, as he already knew. He is either asserting that trans-gender-ism, perhaps a fad in his eyes, perhaps not viable, will vanish just like all other fads (e.g., WWJD). In this case he is being dismissive and condescending. Or, he is asserting that the evangelical church will quickly stomp out its existence (or at least its access to ‘their’ church) with its ‘higher-ground-than-the-TG person’ rhetoric. In this case, he is promoting crucifixion. (It should be noted that Jesus had His “moment” on this earth, too.)

Here from the article  is Mr. Kennedy’s smug and schmoozing closing sound bite to the Evangelical church:
“The challenge before conservative evangelicals is persuading trans-gendered people, their families, and faith-based advocates that gender identity disorder is not beyond the reach of God’s grace, compassionate church-based care, and professional help.” (Are you saying that TG people should be accepted into ‘your’ church so that you can then put them within the crosshairs of your pseudo-psychology-‘professional’ preaching and your Biblical compassion (whatever that means)?

I am a Christian TG woman. I attend a Christian, sola-scriptura based church. I take communion every week. Because of these things and my belief in Scripture’s truth, I do not practice homosexuality nor do I promote it in any way shape or form. I fully accept a God-given (Sola Scriptura) binary gender distinction –male and female. I am female. I am not beyond God’s grace whatsoever or outside of its boundaries (even though you want to set its boundaries)! I do not accept cheap grace (as described by Dietrich Bonhoeffer). I live a quiet and peaceable life. I do not want to stand out. True Trans-gender-ism is not a Mardi-Gras parade. It is a person, a human being. And, I do not believe in adding any new Civil Rights laws unless, you incite uncivil behavior against me. I also believe that it would be malevolent journalism to insinuate that trans-gender-ism is equal with homosexuality, bi-sexuality, cross dressing or trans-sexuality. These activities are sexual adaptations (Biblical ‘deviations’) and life style choices, life choices which have become sexualized.

If someone were to ask me why I don’t go back and be what I was before my change (i.e, ‘normal’) my answer would be the same as that of the character Hazel Motes in his answer to Mrs. Flood at the end of the novel Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor. Mrs. Flood asked Mr. Motes why he doesn’t go back to preaching after he had blinded himself with lye.  Motes replied “I don’t have time.”

Like Mr. Motes I now stare in wonder at the mystery of the gospel. And though my flesh is ‘disfigured’  in the sight of the world, the ‘eyes’ of my spirit are now able to see.

I want you to see God’s grace in a new way and not through the myopic lenses of those who would hold court over me, those who view grace only as it accords with ‘normal’.

Finally, I do not accept a binary compassion (a ‘them – us’ type of compassion) Mr. Kennedy. The journey to wholeness is difficult for everyone on that road. So, compassion all around.

****

Related Posts:

A Naturalized Woman

What’s Biblical About It? Is there such a thing as Biblical Masculinity and Femininity?

*****
Chicago Tribune Article:
New Science on Gender, Hormones and the Brain
New evidence shows how hormones wire the minds of men and women to see the world differently
By Ronald Kotulak, science reporter

****

Apart from such well-known irreversible“ organizing” effects of sex hormones on the developing brain, the possibility of a direct action of genetic factors on sexual differentiation of the brain should not be ruled out .

From the following limited research study:

MTF Female Neuron Numbers in Limbic

“You still don’t get it?”

“I can see people,” said the man, peering around, “but they look like trees walking about.”

A blind man gains partial sight. He interprets the forms he sees via his prior limited understanding. Did he know at this stage that his perception was off?

The gospel according to Mark is composed of short narratives that could be easily visualized by those who heard its oral performance. Mark would have the listener hear, see and perceive who Jesus is. He would have the listener understand that seeing and hearing alone are not sufficient for the followers of Jesus. Understanding is what is required. At a mission critical point in the gospel account -Mark chapter 8 – Jesus reproaches his disciples for their lack of understanding.

The disciples had been mumbling about not having brought enough bread for their boat crossing. Yet twice before they had seen with their own two good eyes Jesus multiplying loaves to feed thousands. They had picked up the leftovers! And now they are mumbling about not having enough bread!

“Don’t you get it? Don’t you understand? Have your hearts gone hard? Can’t you see with your two good eyes? Can’t you hear with your two good ears?”

“You still don’t get it?”

Right after this rebuke is the narrative of the blind man who receives a two-stage healing of his eyesight (Mk. 8:22-26). The man’s depth of field is made whole. He could see everything clearly. Men were no longer like walking trees. His perception was growing.

Mark then increases the depth of field for those visualizing the account of the blind man’s healing:

Jesus and his disciples came to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, “Who are the people saying that I am?

(I suppose in this setting that Jesus’ question could also be stated as “What do people perceive about me?”)

He gets feedback.

John the Baptist,” they said, or, some say, Elijah. Or, some say, one of the prophets.

Like the blind man whose initial vision is without depth of field and lacking clarity, people are reporting that they are seeing a form that they were vaguely familiar with.

What about you? asked Jesus. Who do you say that I am?

Peter, recently admonished about the bread incident, doesn’t hesitate to declare “You’re the Messiah.”

The people perceived Jesus to be one of several polemical figures: Elijah, John the Baptist or a prophet. The people were looking for just such a figure to re-enter into their times and bring about God’s judgement on the wicked.

Peter, like many Jews during the second temple period, looked for a new emergent figure: the messiah.

Hearing Peter’s reply, Jesus gave his disciples strict orders to not disclose this to anyone. It would appear that Jesus had more to teach the disciples and he didn’t want them to go public without them seeing/understanding what he sees. Mk. 8:31:

Jesus now began to teach them something new.

Jesus tells the disciples that the son of man must suffer and die at the hands of those who reject him.

Peter is clearly rattled with this new teaching. Clinging to the vague figure of a messiah and projecting onto Jesus that image, Peter rebukes Jesus for saying things that would alter his own view of things.

Jesus sternly rebukes Peter for rebuking him.

Get behind me, Accuser! he said. You’re thinking human thoughts, not God’s thoughts.

Even after all that he had witnessed, including an unclean spirt that identified Jesus as “God’s Holy One”, Peter still did not perceive who Jesus is. Peter still didn’t understand. Peter, with his “human thoughts”, was still in “men as trees walking” mode.

Jesus does not hold back. Jesus goes on to describe what is required of those who follow him. He talks about life altering choices. He talks about accountability. (I think Peter, at this point, wanted to go back to passing out bread.)

Having taught them something new, Jesus, his mind set like flint towards Jerusalem, brings his closest disciples on a field trip. Peter, James and John go with Jesus up atop a high mountain. There, Jesus is transfigured into heavenly splendor right before their eyes. Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, are standing with Jesus.

Peter, again using human thoughts, didn’t know what to say but he said it anyway . . .

I tell you what – we’ll make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah!

Peter (“You still don’t get it?” Peter) gets another stern rebuke:

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud: This is my son, the one I love. LISTEN TO HIM!

This same Peter declares to bystanders who are questioning his relationship to Jesus, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

A Roman centurion who stood before the cross, saw how Jesus died. He declared “This fellow really was God’s son.”

Seeing, hearing and perceiving. “You still don’t get it?”

****

Mark’s skillfully structured biography uses a literary device (inclusio) to emphasize that seeing, hearing and perceiving things from God’s perspective are absolutely essential traits for followers of Jesus. Between healing-of-blind-man narrative brackets, Jesus takes his disciples aside and talks mission detail. He relates what His father has told them. He wants the disciples to take this in. This information will prepare them for what is coming.

Beginning Bracket: Mark 8:22-26. We read of a blind man receiving a two-stage healing. Then, in Mark 8:31-32

There’s big trouble in store for the son of man, he said. The elders, the chief priests, and the scribes are going to reject him. He will be will be killed – and after three days he’ll be raised. He said this all quite explicitly.

And, again in Mark 9:31-32:

The son of man is going to be given over into human hands. They will kill him; and when he’s been killed, after three days he will rise again.

They didn’t understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him.

And, again in Mark 10:32-34:

“Look, he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem. The son of man will be handed over to the chief priests and the legal experts, and they will condemn him and hand him over to the pagans. They will taunt him and spit at him and flog him and kill him – after three days he will rise again.

End Bracket:  Mark.10:46-52. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus receives his sight after calling out loudly to Jesus “Son of David! Jesus! Take Pity on Me! … Son of David take pity on me! . . . Teacher, let me see again.”

****

Both hardness of hard (Mk. 3:5) and the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod (Mk. 8:15) can keep one from seeing and perceiving who Jesus is and what he is about. Jesus warned against both.

When the disciples asked about his use of parables (Mk4:10-13), Jesus’ response included words from Isaiah 6: 9-10:

The mystery of the kingdom is given to you, but for the people outside it’s all in parable, so that ‘they may look and look but never see, and hear and hear but never understand; otherwise they would turn and be forgiven.’

Don’t you understand the parable? He said to them. How are you going to understand all the parables?

When Jesus confronts the disciple’s mumbling about not bringing enough bread (Mk.8:17-18) he questions them as to whether they are just like the outsiders he talked about in his response to parable use:

Can’t you see with your two good eyes?

Can’t you hear with your two good ears?

Many today do not perceive who Jesus is. They, like Peter, readily associate themselves with Jesus, as Jesus appears to them as being “on the right side of history”. But they remain clueless as to who he is. Instead, they project onto Jesus a form they are familiar (and comfortable) with.

Some are not comfortable with a Jewish Jesus. Some project onto Jesus a Catholic or Evangelical image. Some project onto Jesus an image of a Progressive social justice warrior. Some say he is Elijah, some say John the Baptist and others . . . Oprah, for instance, projects a Pluralist-Pantheist-Playdough image onto “the Son of God”.

***

Why was Jesus pressing so hard for his disciples to gain understanding? Human thoughts deny the reality of Jesus every time. With God’s thoughts, God’s perspectives, we can see beyond our present circumstances and our present suffering and grab ahold of God’s resources.

The apostle Paul, who wrote of unwise hearts growing dark (Rm. 1:21) and teachers possessing an outline of knowledge and truth (Rm. 2:20) prayed for the church at Ephesus. He desired that the church receive the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus.

I personalized Paul’s prayer, found in Ephesians 1: 17-19, so that those of us who follow the Lord can pray and grow in the wisdom, knowledge and understanding of our Lord.

I pray that the God of King Jesus, our lord, the father of glory, would give me, in my spirit, the gift of being wise, of seeing things people can’t normally see, because I am coming to know him and to have the eyes of my inner most self opened to God’s light. Then I will know exactly what the hope is that goes with God’s call; I will know the wealth of the glory of his inheritance in his holy people; and I will know the outstanding greatness of his power toward those who are loyal to him in faith, according to the working of his strength and power.

****

War Room Episode 795 – Dennis Prager, Transhumanism, and the West

Coronavirus in the Dock

 

By now you are aware of the CDC guidelines to stave off the spread of the Chinese import – the Wuhan coronavirus. (“COVID-19” is the socially sterile PC term.) I want to offer three perspectives: mine, one from a gentleman who survived a pandemic and the third from a doctor in Lombardi, Italy. I will start with mine, the most strident:

Up until Friday night, I was working at my company’s remote office as usual. Then the Illinois governor ordered “shelter-in-place” for everyone in the state with the exception of those in “vital occupations”. Our company is now following the order. I start working from home tomorrow. I had a limited time yesterday to gather up my laptop, monitors, drawings, etc. before the remote office was closed.

Up until Friday, I had been working out 4-5 times a week. But now, the health club is closed. I would think that maintaining your health would be of maximal import right now. But things have gone berserk. You can maintain social distancing in a health club. The hours can be shortened to allow for sanitizing of the equipment.

No doubt there are legal aspects that businesses consider in shutting down. No business wants to be sued for spreading the coronavirus. We live in a litigious society where many do not want to take responsibility for their own actions and finger pointing is promoted.

The grocery stores have changed their hours to 8 AM till 6 PM. This has resulted in a hoard of people lining up before 8 AM so that they can get in to pillage the shelves. I went to a grocery store yesterday after eight. I picked up a couple of things: a bottle of water and a newspaper for the crossword. I then found that the checkout line was extended from the cashiers back through the frozen food aisle to the back end of the store and continued to the left past the meat deli counter. So much for “social distancing”. And, many of the shelves were empty. The lockdown and the lines are insane for many reasons, including the imposed reliance on the information systems in place – the 24/7 pandemic-obsessed media, with its constant log of coronavirus cases and deaths and shortages. What are you to do with this information?

On a news program just now, I heard that 5 million people could lose their jobs because of the lock-down of businesses – a number that tells you, in effect, that our economy will not recover anytime time soon. The yield curve, the relationship between the short and long-term interest rates of fixed-income securities issued by the U.S. Treasury, is indicating a pending recession. I predict that the lock-down will be withdrawn when the government cannot receive the revenue it needs to function. The Democrat state of Illinois is already in a huge financial mess. Before this happens, though, there will be a nascent outcry from those in lock-down – “Enough Already!” For they will see that the cure is worse than the disease. While there is much talk of flattening the pandemic curve, the economy’s health curve is now inverted and will not begin to flatten until “Enough Already!” or a vaccine is produced.

The federal government’s response – handing out checks to those earning $99K and less – is absurd. This shotgun approach will not help a long-term lockdown. Many are still working and maintaining. Those who lost jobs will go on unemployment. The amount the unemployed receive is around fifty-percent of their previous paychecks. The federal government should provide the balance of that income through the unemployment system already in place. The money provided by the federal government could replicate H. R. 4584: money paid out now would be in exchange for delayed eligibility for Social Security benefits. The focus for citizens should be to maintain income through the imposed lock-down. The focus for small business and corporations should be to keep them afloat with no-interest long term loans, reduced regulations, and a delay in taxation. (A word to Democrats in Congress: you continue to hate on corporations. You continue to deny economic reality. Corporations along with small businesses provide the common man a job. Corporations provide millions of jobs. Corporate profits work to create more jobs (and money for your political campaigns). Corporations provide the infrastructure of supply and demand. Corporations provide your “Precious”: toilet paper.)

The taxpayer’s money should be spent primarily on securing the equipment and means to fight the virus. Such a vaccine will bring an end to quarantine much quicker. I have every confidence in America’s biotech companies. They will find a vaccine that will stop the virus.

Our church will not be open during this lock-down. Though there is an obvious physical component – the virus – affecting everyone’s behavior, there is also a spiritual component at work. It’s as if the Evil One, through the world system, wants to deprive Christians of the Eucharist and gathering in the name of the Lord. It’s as if the Evil One, through the same system, wants the media with its fear-mongering news, its prescription drug commercials and its prurient depictions of life – to be the sole source of how to think and feel during the lock-down. What will you be doing during your shut-in time? Watching TV. The media is a constant reminder that there is a spiritual battle going on, a battle for your heart, mind and soul. The media virus will have its negative effects.

As a church community we are right to obey the authorities. But there is also this to consider:

“A scared world needs a fearless church.”

-A. W. Tozer

At times like this one looks for a reference point from the past. Here’s mine: In 1957 I was five-years old. I became very sick. I had a burning fever and chills. Our doctor made house calls then. He took my temperature: over 103! He said that I had the Asian flu. He gave my mother a script for something. I recovered after a week. I do not recall any lock-down or social madness at that time. I have never been germ-obsessed. So, somewhere along the line, I must have developed antibodies to stave off illness. If I came down with something the kids brought home, I just worked through it. I have never had a flu shot and I can’t remember a time when I had the flu.

Here’s another perspective, a more reflective one. I recently came across an article written by an older man who also had experienced the Asian flu:

Say Your Prayers and Take Your Chances

And another perspective, a sobering one, sent to me from my brother, a hospital chaplain in Indiana:

Testimony of a doctor in Lombardy, Italy:

Never in the darkest nightmares did I imagine I could see and live what’s happening here in our hospital for three weeks now.

The nightmare is flowing, the river is getting bigger and bigger.

At first some came, then tens and then hundreds.

Now we are no longer doctors, but we have become classifiers on tape and decide who lives and who should be sent home to die, although all these people have paid taxes all their lives.

Until two weeks ago, my colleagues and I were atheists; it was normal because we are doctors and learned science and science was told to exclude the presence of God. Always laughed at my parents going to church.

Nine days ago a 75 year old pastor came to us. Gentle man, had big breathing problems. He had a Bible and we were impressed that he read it to the dying and they grabbed his hand. Being all the new doctors tired, discouraged, psychologically and physically exhausted, when we had time we listened to the pastor. Now we have to admit that we, as humans, have reached our limits; more we cannot do, and more people die daily. We are exhausted, we already have two colleagues who have died and others are standing. We realized that where what man can do ends, we need God and we start wondering things when we have some free minutes. We talk to each other and we cannot believe that of fierce atheists we have become believers to find our peace, asking the Lord to help us to resist so we can care for the sick.

Yesterday the 75-year-old pastor died, who until today, even though we had more than 120 dead in 3 weeks here, we had all ended up wanting; we are destroyed because the old pastor managed, during his stay, to bring us a peace we no longer expect to find. The shepherd went to the Lord and soon we will follow him. I’ve been home for 6 days now, I don’t know when I last ate, and I realize my futility on this earth and I want to dedicate my last breath to helping others.

I am happy to have returned to God while surrounded by the suffering and death of my peers “…

 

Prior to this current pandemic, haven’t each of us avoided becoming infected via social interactions prior to the pandemic? Haven’t the elderly and pregnant women avoided friends and family when things seemed iffy? Haven’t we tried to stay healthy? Haven’t you been helping your neighbor? If these things are true of you, then “Stay the course”, as my doctor told me at the end of my yearly checkup on Friday.

Homestead Reset: Avoid the media. Play games. Try new recipes. Challenge your mind. Spend time learning a new trade. Take online classes. Learn how to trade stocks. Read classical literature. Read to invoke your imagination. A healthy imagination is life-sustaining. Read to see how others deal with adversity. Read to take your thoughts to new places. Don’t let your thoughts fester on the “Island of Despair”.

And, pray.

O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

…..

This is another day, O Lord.  I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.  If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.  If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly.  If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.  And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.  Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus.   Amen.

The Letters

 

September, 2019

My Dear Agnus,

I may be among the last of those who write letters. Handwriting is personal and so I hope my words will be received not as the words of a deacon, but as your brother.

The last time I saw you Agnus, at the funeral for Nicholas, I perceived bitterness behind your grief as we spoke that day. You asked “Where is God in all of this?”

The tragedy that took your son was compounded by his claiming to be an atheist before his death. Together, these events must have caused you considerable anguish.

What succor can any observer give to the one who has suffered such a loss and heartbreak? What comparison of those who have also suffered loss can one make to lessen your grief when your sorrow and pain are profoundly yours, and yours alone? And, imagine, what support a spouse gives to her husband who has suffered profound losses when she says to him that he is better off dead?

Job’s wife, knowing where God ‘was’ in all that had happened, ‘comforted’ her boil-encrusted ash heap-seated husband with “Curse God and die!” In effect she said “Why maintain your notions of God and your devotion to Him when He does this to you?”

Job, also knowing where God ‘was’ in all that he suffered, responded to the “foolish” words with his own reckoning of the situation: “Should we accept from God only good and not adversity?” I wonder at the reckoning of Job, after suffering devasting losses: “the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job wasn’t putting a positive spin on his situation. Rather, he was letting God be God.

And what of value are clichés like “time heals all wounds”? The wounds may heal, but the scars remain, as they do for our Lord and Savior. Pain, loss and suffering make their marks, as you well know.

As I write this I have before me the photograph of you and Nicholas at his fourteenth birthday. What joy and promise I see in both of your eyes. How will you remember him on his eighteenth birthday this Saturday?

Do you blame yourself for Nicholas saying he became an atheist? Don’t. I have mentored many such young men. Approaching adulthood, they are dynamic. They believe they know all they need to know and what they don’t know you can’t tell them. They begin to reject familial authority and the fixed rules and identity imposed on them. They will chose a path opposite of what they know. When they receive a driver’s license or go off to college, they believe they can drive off without limits.

Your Nicholas didn’t have time to harden his heart against God. Had he gone on to the university he may have begun to harden his heart, as immature Christian faith is often weaned on the religion of ideology.

The picture I have in my mind as I mentor these young men: they are like the lost wandering sheep that the Shepherd goes looking for. You committed Nicholas to the Good Shepherd as an infant. When he declared himself to be an atheist, the Good Shepherd went looking for him asking “Where are you Nicholas?” The Good Shepherd did not give up on him.

Most likely Nicholas, not yet understanding the nature of God, saw something in the nature of life. The world offers many shiny objects to lure a young man away from the fold.

Be assured, Agnus, that you are continually in my thoughts and prayers. Help me to see through your eyes.

Love,

Tom

 

September 2019

Dear Tom,

Forgive my email reply. My stationery, which I used to thank those who gave flowers in remembrance of Nicholas, has run out except for a mismatched envelope.

Thank you for writing. This past year have been a blur. The loss of my only child and the loss of my marriage the year before has drained life out of me and filled me with wormwood and gall. That is what my new friend Ann calls it.

I saw Nicholas change after the divorce. He became moody and distant. It didn’t help that Bill and I often fought the months before we separated. I was crushed when Nicholas asked both of us “Where is God in all of this?”

I will remember Nick’s birthday with a few friends. They are folk from the church I now attend. They are giving me a memorial tree to plant in my yard.

Agnus

 

October, 2019

Dear Agnus,

A memorial tree is a symbolic and an enduring way to remember Nicholas. What kind of tree did you plant?

You mentioned in your last email that Nicholas was affected by what was going on in his homelife. Changing aspects at home would intensify the growing dynamics in his young life. It would spur him to look elsewhere for greener pastures. But the Good Shepherd knows his sheep and cares for them wherever they run off to.

All that has happened has changed you, as well. Our sister tells me that you are now attending a Universalist Church. This concerns me, as I know of their pluralist beliefs.

How is your health? I worry about you.

Love,

Tom

 

October, 2019

Dear Tom,

I planted a redbud tree in my front yard. I can see it from my chair by the window. My friends from church helped me plant it. They say it will produce rose-colored flowers.

You mentioned the church I now attend. At the church I attended for many years, the one where Nicholas was baptized as an infant, after the divorce no ever one ever invited Nicholas and me over for a meal. I felt judged, unclean and worthless because of a failed marriage. I felt isolated, like I didn’t exist. I felt like a leper.

There was one old woman at that church, I won’t mention her name, who rankled me. She had the gall to imply that what happened to Nicholas was a judgment for my divorce. “These things happen for a reason” is what she said. Why on God’s green earth would someone say this? At that point I had had enough of that can of wormwood. I wasn’t about to lose my sanity and so I looked elsewhere.

Nicholas refused to go to church. He was spending time with his father who also didn’t attend church. Bill said that he has more fellowship on a golf course on Sunday mornings than in church. I don’t even know what fellowship means at this point. My old church had become a valued-members only country club of sorts.

I met the folks from the new church at a rummage sale. They invited me over for coffee. So, I took my baggage and started going to their church.

My health? I don’t sleep. I wake up from dreams so real I begin to cry. I see the old woman and Nicholas standing at the end of my bed. They are turned away and Bill is walking away.

Food and a glass of wine and a few new friends are my only comforts.

Agnus

 

November, 2019

Dear Agnus,

I understand your reaction and your desire to walk away. That woman had no business saying those things. The church, where the lost and lonely and broken should find hope and fellowship and healing, is often the place where the most rejection and hurt is incurred. There are, as you may have encountered, broken people who believe they know the mind of God and can diagnose other’s lives through their own distorted lens. I am reminded of Job’s friends and their counsel.

Now, it may be that this woman had also experienced loss or hardship or heartache and assumed that God was chastening her and that became her frame of reference to project onto others. It may be that, like many in the church, she gets involved with people only viscerally and never enters into a deeper relationship with them. There are those who are not solicitous about a person’s spiritual and emotional well-being as it would involve having to get involved. I don’t want to project any of this onto her or impugn her character, as I only know of her. I don’t know her. One cannot know the mind or intentions of another or the mind of Christ, for that matter, unless they are intimately acquainted with the person. Still, that woman had no business saying those things.

I think many see the church not as a Mash unit where the wounded are cared for and nursed back to wholeness. Rather, they see it as a soapbox for their views. Years ago I left a church where the congregation voted on church matters. That was a nightmare. Many who voted had already converted their political commitments into moral principles. As such, they had become conduits of the world and not of the Holy Spirit.

My main concern is you. How are you holding up? I am glad you found some folks who invited you in. I hope this letter finds you well and in better spirits.

Love,

Tom

 

November 2019

Tom,

I received your letter. The church isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and neither am I for that matter. Maybe the old woman just woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day. I know I did.

These days all my focus has narrowed to getting by day to day. I try to make sense of it all. It seems life is one of those patternless crossword puzzles in the newspaper. There are clues and no structure or a place to start. There are answers that connect at one point but after I work on it the puzzle ends up being a disconnected mismatched jumble. And the solution is a Want Ad.

Now that Christmas is approaching and I will be without Nick, I have a question for you Deacon. Why would God send his son into the world when he knew that his son would brutally die? That is a world of hurt that I know all too well. Why all the suffering? What does it accomplish?

I may get around to buying stationery someday. Right now, email is what I can handle.

Agnus

 

November 2019

Dear Agnus,

I can relate to the crossword puzzle example you gave. More than once I have a puzzle almost completed but there are a few clues that confound me. I have to search to find the word suggested.

You ask a deep theological question that is much like the patternless puzzle. Both begin on a template as a mystery that bids the partaker to search for answers, as you are doing. Mysteries cannot and should not be assessed on their face and be rejected outright as too difficult or pointless.

I have long wondered why Jesus didn’t just come down to earth and feed everyone and heal everyone and keep people from suffering and death. Why did he have to suffer to make things right for the world and then allow suffering to continue?

I have been reading Russian authors for a while now – Chekov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Solzhenitsyn. What I like about these Russian authors is that they were not afraid to pose deep questions in their works. The things of the spirit were of great importance to them. Their writings depict the torment of the Russian soul especially as it is affected by suffering and loss and evil.

My favorite is Chekov. His writings depict the prosaic side of Russian life and the hopelessness pervasive in the lives of his characters. His stories are not of the Hallmark/Disney sentimentalist twaddle so popular today. He writes the about the way life is without moralizing.

Here, as an example of their writings, I will quote Ivan, one of the brothers in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov:

“And if the suffering of children goes to make up the sum of suffering needed to buy truth, then I assert beforehand that the whole of truth is not worth such a price.” (5.4.21)

Ivan Karamazov, a deep thinker, poses suffering as a theological problem: if sweet innocent children suffer, how can there be a just God? With this conundrum he reveals what is behind Russian nihilism and atheism he sees all around him – sentimentality and a false sense of sympathy for mankind.

The Russian nihilists and atheists he speaks of see children suffering, so they assume that if there is a God that he is unjust and not worth their time. They walk away from God bearing a hatred towards Him and his divine purpose for life. They take on a false moralism which denies all values including the sacred. They will hold an abstracted God accountable but not themselves. They will not stomach the tears of children nor will they stomach the sacrifice required of them to alleviate the tears in this world. In fact, as history shows, they go on to sanction Progressivist revolutions that create untold sufferings and tears.

Have I answered your questions? No. Not yet. I am relating that the patternless puzzle, the mystery, has troubled mankind since the days of Job. The Psalmists and the wisdom literature authors in Scripture reflect on the meaning of life amidst suffering and hardship and loss. These writings offer clues that suffering can be redemptive as they turn to God for healing and justice instead of indicting him. Maybe the old woman spoke from this perspective.

Each individual puzzle, yours included, can be redemptive as one seeks the Source for answers. The church should be a resource of redemption, of grace and a healing balm. But it is often the resource of sentimentality and a false sense of sympathy for mankind as I mentioned above. There are those in the church who see themselves as prophets, as arbiters of who is right and who is wrong and of the mind of God, like Job’s friends. They think they have the answers to the patternless puzzle.

I’ll briefly mention that along with the problem of suffering there is also the problem of evil. Of the Christian view you are already aware. Jesus suffered death on the cross to defeat evil. His resurrection means new creation. That sin and evil continue is a matter of human’s free will. That suffering continues, Jesus’ resurrection tells us that things are not as they seem – that suffering can be redemptive and that death can be overturned so that new creation can take place. The return of Jesus is when he will put things to right.

I’ll just mention a non-Christian view.

An atheist will revere cause and effect science as the tree of life, as the impersonal source of life. This ‘relieves’ them of accountability. Yet, as mentioned above, the atheist will not see human agency as the mechanism behind the cause and effects of evil. Rather they see themselves as the tormented and not as the tormentors. This is more to say on this subject but would be of no comfort for you now.

How are you spending Christmas? Will you be alone? If so, I will come out. Let me know right away so that I can book a flight. I should have asked sooner.

For your sleep I recommend exercise. It will alleviate your mood and help you sleep at night.

Love,

Tom

 

December 2019

Tom,

I received your letter and your Christmas card. The card is beautiful. Thank you.

Of the things you wrote, that whole ball of wax, I can barely take it in. The church has been both a blessing and a bane to me. Now I see myself as part of the bane. My focus has been on myself and words spoken and not spoken to me.

You and I were raised in a church with petty rules. No dancing, no movies, no talking in church. Remember the sign that hung over the choir loft? Be still and know that I am God. How can anyone be still when so much suffering is going on?

Later I attended a free church where I thought I would be free from judgment. I think it is called grace. No way. I traded the Be Still church for the Shut Up about your problems put on a smiley face and carry on church. I came home depressed and crying so I went elsewhere. I told you about my last church. My last straw is the church I attend now. They accept anyone and anything. They teach universal reconciliation – that all humans will eventually be saved. I want to believe this for Nicholas’ sake but I can’t. Why wasn’t everyone saved and suffering stopped right after Jesus died on the cross? Why is there still evil and trouble in the world. It seems that people must still make a choice to be saved or not. You mentioned free will. It seems that universal salvation would mean that there is no difference between good and evil. Alls well that ends well, I guess is what they think.

They also teach about finding yourself within yourself. I found enough in myself I don’t like. If God thinks like me and the rest of these people, we’re all in trouble. Your letters got me thinking about all this.

Anyway, I sit by the window looking at the memorial tree covered in snow and wonder when the redemption part kicks in. I sit here with this feeling of something gushing up inside me like a flare was set off inside me and I can’t contain it. What could this be?

The church does give me the chance to work at a local homeless shelter. I brought in some of Nicholas’ clothes. I was so happy when I saw a boy wearing the shirt I bought for Nicholas.

Rose said that she is coming out for Christmas. She is bringing her kids. That will be a blessing. There will be noise and life in my home again. I will have to clean the house. This is no vale of roses.

How are you spending Christmas?

Agnus

 

December 2019

Dear Agnus.

Your email was a great encouragement to me. My concerns for you have greatly diminished. I don’t see you being taken in by your church’s pluralism. As you have stated, the church accepts anyone and everything. It teaches all religions as emanating from a divine origin and therefore all religions are true and therefore worthy of toleration and respect and considered on equal footing. As such, the church synthesizes universal principles of many religions to form a universal truth. The church wants to be known for being inclusive. You will encounter all manner of false teaching to make inclusion and toleration possible.

The Universalist church will teach about God and Jesus and immortality and, as you mentioned, that things will work out at the end, that no one will suffer eternal torment. The church implies with their teaching that evil and sin make people victims and therefore no one should have to suffer eternal punishment. Their teaching questions how the redeemed can enjoy heaven while even one soul suffers in hell. The sympathy card is played.

The Universalists are like the prodigal son’s older brother. He deems himself on higher moral ground than his father as he witnesses his brother repenting and returning to their father of his own volition. He believes he deserves the sympathy of his father for just being himself.

Like the atheists I have mentioned in a previous letter, the Universalists have taken on sentimentality and a false sense of sympathy for mankind and imbue it with false moralism and cheap grace. They do not let God be God. Rather, they let a god of their own making, as synthesized from the world’s religions, be their graven image.

But there will be no synthesis of good and evil. There will be no marriage of heaven and hell. In fact, there will be The Great Divorce. If you get a chance, read C. S. Lewis’ book by the same name. As Lewis depicts, the choices we make take us down divergent pathways.  We either choose a path of good that becomes an even greater good as we continue to make good choices and stay on its narrow way or we choose a broad path that leads towards ever greater evil.

In the story you will read of the proud, the stubborn, the willful and the angry.  There are those who demand their rights.  There will be those whose feet hurt them as they walk on solid ground for the first time and there will also be the “bright solid people” who move about the “High Country” without effort.  And finally, there will be those who reject Joy and solid Reality to return to “grey town” on the same bus.

Universal salvation teaching reckons the ‘victim’, the ‘tormented’, as having power over God, as being able to hold God hostage and being able to force God’s hand to enact salvation from eternal punishment regardless of the choices made. This implication is mere sentimentality and nothing more. God gives each what they have desired with their free-will. I’ll quote Lewis from that same book:

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

 

Now, enough of this talk. My pipe just went out.

It appears that redemption is already “kicking in”. The shirt you provided that boy is an act of redemption and re-creation. You gave new life to the shirt and to the boy, so it is also an act of resurrection. Resurrection is the hope of Christians. You will see Nicholas again. In the meantime, keep doing what you are doing.

What you are experiencing as you sit in that chair by window is what Paul wrote about in Romans. The entire creation, not just you and I and the Russians I mentioned, but “the entire of creation is groaning together and going through labor pains together, with groaning too deep for words. The Searcher of Hearts knows what the spirit is thinking, because the spirits pleads for God’s people according to God’s will.” God knows what is going on inside you by his spirit which indwells you. The spirit is pleading on your behalf so that God will work all things together for good. The Comforter is with you.

Rose will bring the gift I have for you. I hope you receive this letter before Christmas. I am spending Christmas Eve and Christmas day at church to receive the Eucharist. After church on Christmas Day I will be having dinner with a couple my age. Then I will go home and watch Alistair Sim in A Christmas Carol with my parrolet Henry. He’s good company.

Love,

Tom

 

Christmas Eve 2019

Tom,

I received your letter just today. Thank you! Still smoking that old pipe?

And thank you for the wonderful gift. It gave me a spark of joy. Rose says it is a copy of the Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt. Isn’t this the same painting that hangs behind your desk?

I am sorry this will be a short email. I have a houseful right now. We’ll talk soon. Maybe you should stop smoking that pipe. You’re 82.

Merry Christmas Tom.

Love,

Agnus

 

January 2020

Dear Agnus,

I see in that painting Father Christmas and the greatest gifts being reconciliation and redemption.

I see myself, as I was a prodigal who returned to the father. The suffering caused by my waywardness to myself and to others, including a loss of dignity and relationship, was redemptive in that I saw myself as I was and in need of the father and his love to put things to rights. My Father in heaven suffered being un-fathered by me for a time but he never changed Who He was in my absence. He never said to me “do this and be that” and then I will accept you back. He did not become like the older brother with his strict moral order as the parable relates. Our relationship, not rules, was his priority.

I see Nicholas being comforted and back home. I see you beholding that scene and being filled with joy.

I will come out to see you in February. At 82 this will be my last trip. My age ‘kicked in’ a while ago, so my travel days will be over after this trip

If you’ll be asking me questions, I will have to bring my pipe.

Love,

Tom

 

 

 

 

 

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