Seek Ye First

By: John H. Campbell

"As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after you
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship you

You alone are my strength, my shield
To you alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship you

You're my friend and my strong Deliverer
For eternal Joy You bring
And I love you more than any other
So much more than anything

I want You more than gold or silver
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joy giver
And the apple of my eye"

-Lyrics from "As The Deer" by Martin Nystrom

In one of those wonderful moments of unexpected joy God so Lovingly and frequently will surprise and bless us with - most often when we are under some fashion of stress or duress (at least, that seems to be how it most frequently transpires for yours truly), the above lyrics and hymn just suddenly and without any specific trigger ran through my consciousness recently. Initially, you might be reading them with the thought that the lyrics may not appear as you may have come to know them, and rightfully so-that would be a correct assumption. This particular version was the one which was updated with a more inclusive, non-gender specific interpretation created for the church I belong to (with the substitution of "strong Deliverer" in lieu of "brother" and "for eternal Joy You bring" replacing a reference to God as "king".)

And I know the song very well. It is not just because I performed the song as interpreted above in a duet with one of the ladies in the church choir many years ago during a worship service, although that does bring about a pleasant memory and was something I enjoyed. It is not because of the beauty of the song which I appreciate and enjoy, or due to the fact that is it a treasured favorite hymn of my Mother, and also one of my personal favorites. The reason that hearing it or thinking of it is accompanied by such meaning and emotion to me is that it truly epitomizes the way that I feel about God in general: no matter what it is in life that brings me happiness, joy, good feelings or whatever it is I might feel passionate about or regard as meaningful, God, and my personal relationship with God truly does come before anything for me, for without God, I am but an empty shell devoid of meaning; without my awareness of God and placing God first above all things, nothing to me is possible or has any true meaning.

I had not listened to or read anything specific which had reminded me of it, nor had it been played recently at church. It just ran through my head and I started singing it out of the blue when I was dealing with one of those mountains of stress which we at times find ourselves climbing. I am certain most people can relate to the type of mountains I am referring to: the ones which seem to arise and grow to seemingly insurmountable proportions as the measure of time available to us in a twenty four hour period gradually decreases, while whatever it is which we feel we must accomplish within that time frame increases. It is in those instances when we feel ourselves begin to buckle underneath the pressure as our desire to do whatever it is we feel we need to do is rapidly outgrowing our means and ability to perform the tasks at hand, and we find ourselves in need of stepping back, finding our center and focus, and reprioritizing.

Whenever I find myself in this situation, my initial response - and that of many others, I am certain - is to first commence with the frustration and feelings of stress, and then to make the conscious election to allow myself to crumble beneath the pressure, or to strive to take a deep breath, calm down, ascertain and reevaluate what is of the highest importance and proceed with faith.

As much as I would like to boldly proclaim that I do the latter more often than not, the former is often the initial knee jerk response. This is usually followed by a brief indulgence in self-deprecating thought and being critical of myself for assuming a greater portion of responsibility than I had the means to fulfill successfully and attempting to cram too much to achieve in too minimal of a time frame, and then finally reaching acceptance, most often by taking a deep breath and stating the ever-famous "Serenity Prayer" which I find myself revisiting on a daily basis as an excellent source of spiritual nourishment and rejuvenation:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

That usually is a successful technique which will wrench me from allowing myself to engage in any type of negativity, and let go of whatever stress or pressure I find myself under. And certainly enough, it helped in this instance. However, one thing it did not change was the fact that I still had some residual anxiety over the pressure I was feeling, so I just took a mental coffee break and opened up my heart and waited for something to snap me out of it with anticipation.

I relaxed, went within and prayed to be able to locate peace-being mindful of a wonderful piece of wisdom I had heard in a recent sermon regarding prayer that "Whatever you pray to God to accomplish, be certain you have also done whatever possible within your reach to bring it about." And as I was able to let go of any concerns about how I was going to get everything I felt I had to do completed, one very clear and resounding thought filled my consciousness: Focus on what is truly important.

On the surface level, I would initially consider "what is most important" to be "whatever the most pressing need is." But in the moments that followed, something else moved me and I reached a peace of clarity, calm and understanding about the meaning of that thought: maintaining my peace with and relationship with God, the Loving God I know through my understanding of the teachings of Christ is what is most important of all, and whatever trivial "to do" list I might have, or that anyone else may have assigned me, was overridden by that.

I thought of what in my responsibilities would embody that: obviously, anything I had promised someone else to do out of kindness would take precedence, anything which would be accompanied by a result of bringing light, joy or hope to another, or anything which the welfare of another depended upon would obviously come first, followed closely by anything which would serve to contribute to my own sense of well being, peace, and oneness with God. Anything beyond that would require rescheduling for another time. I started out by returning the call of the friend who had called me in crisis in the midst of my own crisis at the moment and helping talk them through what they were dealing with, and just the act of doing that alone enabled me to shift my focus towards what would make significantly more of a difference and benefit another than whatever I had to do at that time.

As it always does when I am able to relax and practice the habit of "being still and knowing" that God will help me to find my way during times of difficulty - even something as trivial as attempting to schedule too many things at once and creating a recipe for personal stress I easily could have avoided with a little more forethought - putting things into perspective and rebalancing my focus to what is truly important was just the dose of spiritual medicine I required to heal me from my temporary case of mental indigestion from having bit off more than I could chew and allowing my fears to get the best of me in a moment of temporary insanity, or lapse of reason. By placing God and what I feel in my heart God calls me to do first and at the forefront, everything else just somehow fell into place, as it always seems to. One of the work related deadlines I was facing was postponed, interestingly enough, and the other was understanding that something else had come up and granted me an extension.

I am grateful for the experience, as it really enabled me to take a step back and have the opportunity to analyze and reflect on what it truly means to me on a personal level to put God before anything else in my life, and also facilitated a greater realization in me that it is not only what I am called to do, but what I deeply desire to do. One of the teachings of Christ came back to me as I was considering the above, and I felt it was time to revisit it:

"Strive first for the dominion of God and God's righteousness, and all of these things will be given unto you as well." -Matthew 6:33, The New Testament and Psalms - An Inclusive Version

For a long period in my life, I never truly understood what it meant to do that, or the profound relevance and importance of that teaching, which I today sincerely feel to be one of the Greatest passages of Wisdom Christ gave to us. What exactly did it mean to "Seek Ye First" (or, as the Bible I read from which I quoted above states it, "strive first")? In order to ascertain the relevance that teaching has had in my own life, I had to look in the place where it is in which I feel that God Provides for us the most powerful spiritual tools we could ever possess - our own life experience.

I have to rewind to quite some distance to recall the first time when I began to reach a point of understanding about what the meaning of this teaching was. In the years prior to my having a genuine and authentic spiritual awakening and rebirth (I have many times referred to it as "being born a third time," there was physical birth, my brief, traumatic and disastrous foray into the "born again fundamentalism" mindset that nearly destroyed my desire to know God, and then the time when I finally approached God as I am with an open heart, mind and soul and came to know the real unconditionally Loving God Who is not defined in black and white terms but rather seen most clearly through a glass darkly and a sense of mystery and wonder that embraces the questions as opposed to knowing the clear cut answers), the idea of putting God first, while it did make sense to me, was not something I was entirely sure exactly how I should approach and was definitely not something I was prepared to do at the time.

At that time in my life, I had my own scattered assortment of things which were poor substitutes for God: alcohol, aimlessness, pessimism, a very unhealthy outlook on life in general and a poor self image, fitting in rather than being myself, and attempting to get through life without the need for any form of spirituality. None of them very pretty, I know, but you have to remember I was dealing with the ideas others had spoon fed and attempted to force feed me about a strict, dogmatic legalistic idea of God, I was dealing with knowing within that I knew full well then that I was in fact a bisexual even though I vehemently attempted to deny the fact and tried to be "normal," and not having any form of relationship with God, I was wholly carrying the full burden of my own pain, brokenness, fears, insecurity, anger and frustration - some of which I had allowed others to place on me, and others which I had allowed myself to create within my own mind out of surrendering to fear.

When I recollect back to when I first attempted to make sincere contact with the Loving God - not the God I had falsely feared for so long but the God of Love, acceptance and hope which I longed to know - I recall that there was something that I wanted in my life. It was not the right thing to want at the time; I was in the midst of a deep depression and as I remember, it involved not being able to find the relationship I wanted in my false ideation that somehow that it would repair the brokenness I felt in my own life. While I wanted to better love and accept who I am, I felt as if God sent me the right person, I would be complete and be able to do so more effectively. While it wasn't for the right reasons that I prayed for what I did, God did answer my prayer and a few months later I met a wonderful girl and we fell in love.

I didn't care that I was still very broken inside, and that I had not even begun to know, love and accept the person who God had Created me to be. It did not matter to me at that time that I was looking for love in all of the wrong places, as they say, and seeking a relationship with another and expecting them to love and accept me for who I was when deep down, I could not even accept myself. And it didn't concern me that I had not even attempted to truly seek God and find peace with God and myself prior to desiring to love another person. It was more of a metaphorical band aid that resulted in a temporary rush of joy, while sweeping the bigger issues that needed to be fixed under the rug.

Before too long, sure enough, through allowing fear to get the best of me, and not truly allowing myself to build what would become the most important relationship in my life and one far more important than any type of human relationship we can have - the relationship with God - I had successfully sabotaged and brought an end to the relationship I was in and started back at square one. At the time, I might have been under the false impression that God was angry with me for focusing my energies in an incorrect place and placing importance on the wrong things, but in retrospect I can now value what transpired as not being any type of "rebuke" or "punishment" in the least. I was not ready, I was not doing my part, and that was the reason it came to an end.

As I had not focused on what was most important first, I was in no fashion prepared to enter into any type of meaningful relationship with any other person. How could I love and accept another or expect to be accepted, when I had deep down not learned to love and accept who I was? How could I cultivate a meaningful relationship based in love with anyone when I had not developed a relationship with God Who is not only the Architect of Love but the epitome of Love itself? How could I have the level of honesty which is required to have a relationship when I was not being fully honest with myself? And how could I trust my heart to anyone when I deep down did not still fully trust God, and still held on to those lingering ideas forced on me by others in the past of a God of fear instead of one of Love?

This is when the real work began, when I truly began to focus on the one relationship I had never truly actively sought but that my soul longed for, a real relationship with God. There were some pitfalls at the outset, as in the fearful ideations which I was besought with upon the loss of my relationship and the tired old fears of a punitive God which has arisen in the light of my current circumstance at that time sent me looking for God in all of the wrong places as well. I allowed some people involved in a legalistic version of Christianity to take advantage of my emotional vulnerability at the time to persuade me briefly to surrender into an understanding of God which proved to be toxic rather than healing.

This was even more problematic, for when I tried to reconcile who I knew I was with the literalistic interpretation of the Bible they insisted upon, it had the effect of only serving to make me feel even more distant from truly knowing God. It maintained my status of being under the illusion that in order to "put God first," I had to change who I know that I am, had to suffer and sacrifice aspects of who I was made to be, and live in a perpetual state of fear that I would never be adequate in the eyes of the terrifying God they insisted I must bow down to. And this was an ugly god: one more concerned with a person's sexuality and adherence to a standard defined by human fear and ignorance than their ability to love, forgive or be compassionate to others, and perform God's Work in the world through love and kindness to others. I abruptly exited when I knew deep down that pursuing this path was neither authentic or genuine, and was only serving to draw me further from God.

And even more importantly, it was not compelling me to "seek God first" for the right reasons. It was browbeating me into assimilation and conformity to a standard which is nowhere to be found and completely absent from the teachings of Christ, and causing fear to be the primary emotion I associated with God. The feeling it poisoned me with was not one of "Love and have faith in God" but rather "Follow the rules and be blessed if you are deemed worthy, and prepare for the consequences if you fail." There was a strong emphasis on "the powers of evil" surrounding you at all times rather than God's Love which must be resisted and so much dwelling on the "enemy," the fear and the negativity. There was extremely little to no emphasis on the teachings of Jesus about love, compassion and forgiveness; in retrospect, that should have been a red flag.

Thank God I was able to get out when I did. And I state that quite literally, for I know now that it was God reaching out to me then and helping me to discern that the path I was on was not leading to any sort of meaningful or healthy spirituality. I learned a critical lesson at that juncture which I still have never forgotten which I strive to always share with anyone I know who is seeking God. The lesson was this: it is critical that the emphasis one should focus on when seeking God be on God as we understand God-and not merely someone else's interpretation. In addition, at that point I made up my mind if a path to God was one which filled me with fear and terror rather than hope occasionally tempered with a little trepidation as there are some things we cannot know and have to accept on faith alone, then it was not a path I needed to follow.

So away again I went, and this time I decided to clear my heart and head, erase the slate clear, and begin to honestly seek God not as I had allowed others to tell me how I should allow God to "see" me, or with any type of conditions or stipulations, but just as I am. I sincerely at this time held the advisement of Jesus to seek God first in my heart, and another Scripture - which held even more meaning to me at this time, as I had relinquished the thoughts that I was required to understand the Bible literally and had moved towards the line of thought that maybe what I really needed to do was allow it to speak to me personally rather than have another tell me what I think it should mean.

"Ask, and it will be given unto you; search, and you will find, knock, and the door will be opened for you." -Matthew 7:7, The New Testament and Psalms - An Inclusive Version

These days, I refer to the concept as "Just ASK" whenever I am seeking some type of resolution or answer to a problem, be it some task I am attempting to decipher, a spiritual conundrum I find myself faced with from time to time, a sense of hope or peace about something, or a lack of clarity on how to proceed. But at that time, I took it pretty much at face value: I held in my heart a sincere desire to know God, and know what it means to develop that Oneness with God, and putting my relationship with God first.

And I did. And things did get better; it was a slow process but I was truly committed to being open and aware for instances where I was being guided in some way, as well as maintaining the resolve that "wherever Love is, there also is God" and that if I was treading a path which was making me feel closer to God, which was helping me to become stronger in my faith, and most importantly, enabling me to feel peace with myself and with God, then I had the compass pointed in the correct direction.

I was able to find churches and faith communities, as well as non-church related friends and angels in human form who helped me to fully understand that God is a God of Unconditional Love, and that being a follower of Christ is not about dogma and legalism, but about making the best possible personal effort possible to allow God's Love to flow through us by embracing and practicing what Jesus taught. I came to understand that there was nothing unnatural or wrong about my sexuality, and that it was in no way a "sin" or in error for me to be a bisexual man who feels the need for intimacy with both women and men, and that it is not wrong for me to realize my bisexuality by being in an open, honest, caring and committed relationship with both a female and male partner, so long as I always strive to live the authentic truth of who I am in a way which is loving and respectful of all others. And I came to realize that although my personal path and my beliefs about God or being a Christian may differ from those of others, it does not in any way deem them as invalid, counterfeit or incorrect, merely a different perspective. And finally, I came to understand that no matter what anyone may try to say to discourage or attempt to denigrate my faith, it cannot ever and will not ever cause God to cease Loving and Accepting me with an Unconditional Love, and encouraging me to have a life filled with both joy and abundance and utilizing the gifts that I was Given to assist God in the Creation of the Heaven on Earth - which I feel was always the original intent until we began allowing our own succumbing to fears to screw things up.

But none of the above would have been able to occur had I remained steadfast in my ways prior to that time, and closed to letting God come first. I was only able to find true self acceptance with who I am, as both the unique Creation that I am and as a bisexual, when I approached God honestly and was able to state with true sincerity that I had faith that God Created me as I am, for a purpose and a reason (albeit one which I discover new aspects of on a regular basis) and that I longed for God to enable me to discern a way that I could live the truth of who I am with love and respect for all others, and still play whatever part in the grand Design of things God desired and intended for me to play. I utterly refused to believe in a God Who would Create us all as individuals and then demand some sort of conformity to a standard based not in love but in human fear and ignorance, and even when others would attempt to discourage me, I would place my focus on what was most important - putting that relationship with God at the forefront.

I came to discover that where I truly needed to place my focus was on not worrying so much about what others thought or told me about the path I was on and instead focusing on how what I believed in was serving to strengthen my spiritual health, to build a relationship with God as I understand God through what Christ taught, and what if anything I was doing could somehow help or be of service to others. I remained open and aware for any answers to the questions my soul was posing to God.

I began to view everything good in life not as chance, not as luck or pleasant happenstance but pure and uninhibited Grace. If something brought me joy, and especially when the same brought joy to those around me (being caring, taking the time to listen, being able to articulate and express myself, gifts of creativity) it was a gift from God. Even that which others might deem in their understanding as anathema to God or being a Christian-my sexuality, my sexual orientation as a bisexual, and my needing to express that through a caring, honest and committed relationship with a woman and a man, my being able to embrace and acknowledge other faiths than the one I embrace, my understanding of the Bible as beautiful Spiritual Wisdom we are intended to allow Spirit to speak to us individually through rather than a definitive textbook for Life 101-all of those things are gifts that I constantly respect and thank God for as I continue to strive to live my life in a way which not only shows love and respect for all others and doing harm to no one, but helps anyone I can along the way in the process.

As I was reflecting on all of this, and how much I am grateful to God for as well as my deep sense of knowing that without God none of it would have been possible, another hymn came to mind, joining together all I which had been contemplating:

"Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God,
and God's righteousness;
And all these things shall be added unto you,
Allelu, alleluia.

Man shall not live by bread alone,
But by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,
Allelu, alleluia.

Ask and it shall be given unto you,
Seek, and ye shall find;
Knock and the door shall be opened unto you,
Allelu, alleluia."

-Lyrics of "Seek Ye First" by Karen Lafferty

This was another I had sung in church a long time ago and as I thought of it, my heart was filled with joy for I had been able to revisit how meaningful the words are to me. Without God, not only would nothing in my life-or life itself-be possible, but none of the joy, none of the growth, none of the wonderful peace I feel in my spirituality or my life would be possible. And it just cemented what I already knew deep down to be the truth, even in moments when I, as we all can sometimes, forget what really matters: Put God first and everything else truly will follow.

In day to day life, especially in the world we live in operating at a breakneck pace which would shock anyone who walked the Earth in Jesus' time here and a pace which could rapidly accelerate to a state of terminal velocity should we not allow ourselves to take a moment to slow down and re-center our focus on what is truly important, the thought and the idea of allowing God to come first, and to seek God first can all too easily be temporarily forgotten in our hectic rush.

We allow other things to ensnare us, and most times in my experience, our allowing this to happen is a result of letting fear take over: Fear of the unknown fills thousands of legalistic churches each day, filled with souls seeking God out of their terror of escaping an imagined hell in the great unknown of what will come following our experience of this life. Closely related to that is the fear of that which we do not understand, leading to the invention of a cosmic battle between good and evil in an attempt to explain such, which just results in more divisiveness. Fear of terrorism and giving in to hysteria and fear based propaganda compels others to support political belief systems which, while they might attempt to guarantee protection from the "enemy" or the "other", the "them" in a more effective fashion than their opponent, actually serve to restrict the freedoms of some, withhold charity and assistance from those in need, and support discrimination based upon difference. Fear of intimacy can cause people to become cold and distant, fear of not having enough can tempt some to steal and take from others, and the fear of being "wrong" can cause others to force their belief systems on another in a desperate need for validation which does nothing other than alienate them from real or potential friends and family, or create brokenness.

And at times, it isn't just the fear, but the human frailty we sometimes exercise of merely losing focus in the storm of life and forgetting what the true Source, the real Foundation of everything is. We can sometimes easily temporarily forget when we achieve a personal goal we have been working and toiling for and finally accomplished that without God to Provide us with the knowledge, the drive, the ability, the will, the desire, persistence and passion required to bring it to fruition that it never would have happened. We can in a moment of excitement attribute the new and exciting opportunity and the unexpected blessing to luck or good fortune, rather than viewing it as a Blessing from God we were intended to embrace. Or, at times, we can allow stress to get the best of us and temporarily view our neighbor as an enemy out to antagonize us, rather than see things for what they are and realize that they too are just another precious child of God who might be having a tough day, and in their moment of losing perspective of the Grand Scheme of things, they have elected to take their frustration out on us in a moment of upset.

Which leads me to pose the question: how is it then that we can seek God first, and put God first in a world which seems to put just about everything else first, and where all too often the mantra becomes "look out for number one" rather than "take care of ourselves, and enjoy life, but never lose sight of what is truly important," as I feel it should be? While I could never begin to answer for anyone else, I can say what it is to me and what meaning it carries for me.

It helps to begin with the reference point of what it was Jesus asked us to do in the Great Commandment and to recall that Love for God and Love for our neighbor is both the foundation and the cornerstone of what God Desires most for us to strive to do, to enable us to do God's Work in the World, while simultaneously having a fulfilling and abundant life for ourselves in the process.

While I am grateful for all things in my life, and my life itself, and for everything that happens including the ability to feel joy when things go well and feel sorrow if they do not, for all of the wonderful things that transpire, be they the fulfillment of personal goals and dreams or everything just coming together wonderfully and unexpectedly when it seemed as if hope did not exist, I thankfully am completely and permanently unable to attribute anything to any other Source but God. If it was a good idea I had, or a flash of brilliance, that was from God. If it was a solution to a persistent and difficult problem, no matter how long I might have worked to achieve it, I know that nothing would have been possible had God not blessed me with not only the tools and resources to do so, but the knowledge of how to best go proceed, and the persistence and the passion to keep going when things didn't work out, and learning from mistakes rather than accepting failure. All blessings, everything flows forth from God, even those things which others might encourage me to take the credit for. Sure, I am grateful for the abilities I have, but never, ever forget Who Made it all possible, or enabled me to know it was possible.

These days the majority of any prayers for my own life, and even those I pray for others, are always supplicated with the plea that I will know what I can do to bring them about, to reach within the tapestry and storehouse of blessings I have already been given to seek the best possible method. And I cannot begin for a moment to imagine life without God, or my faith; I have been there in the past and never desire to feel that void, that spiritual sense of emptiness, that thirst ever again. Should I ever experience a drought of the awareness of God in my life, I hold on to the faith that it will return, and thankfully, it always does.

But putting God first is not merely about maintaining that sense of Oneness with God and that sense of acknowledging God as the Source of All. That to me is only half of the equation, and the second half is expressing gratitude for all of the above through playing whatever part it is I am intended to play in God's Work in the World through service to others.

And that directive never fails to lead me back to the second half of the Great Commandment, to Love our Neighbor as ourselves, which I interpret to mean as always striving to treat all others - regardless of how we may perceive their intentions towards us-with the same measure of love and respect with which we ourselves as children of God would desire to be treated.

To break that down a bit further, it to me entails always doing the "right" or the loving thing instead of the "easy" thing. It means taking those extra few minutes to do something kind for another rather than wasting time on whatever frivolous worry I might be entertaining at the time. It means trying to never forsake respect for others and common courtesy even if I am in some sort of breakneck rush. It means returning unsolicited hostility with unexpected kindness, even if that might not be the initial response my mind would jump to if someone is having a bad hair day and getting in my face. It means being able to let go of the idea of winning and realize that life is not a game of win or lose.

And for me it goes a step further than that whenever I am able. It means devoting some time to call or visit family or friends I have not seen in a while, even if I am busy and overwrought with work. It means being able to take a half hour out of a busy day to call back a friend who is dealing with a time of grief or loss and just being there for them and listening, even if I feel like in taking that time that I will just fall further behind in whatever tasks are on my agenda that day, and being glad to take that time out and feeling good in knowing I helped someone have a slightly brighter day. And it means taking action to actively seek to help those in need when I can, and taking time out to volunteer time and resources to help others however I can, whenever and however possible.

It never ceases to amaze me how whenever I take the time to help someone else, a shower of unexpected blessings always seem to follow as a result. Being able to know I have helped another feel closer to God or more at peace with themselves is a blessing enough, but I always find that when I do, either some other little or even big major good thing manifests in my life, or, at the very least, in the instances where I made time I did not imagine that I had available to help another, I end up having more than expected and everything turns out fine regardless of whatever silly imagined fear might have made me initially apprehensive of "making that time."

Perhaps most importantly of all, it also means remaining as spiritually centered and maintaining the fitness of my soul with the same level of intensity that I hit the gym to maintain physical fitness, and investing the time in continuing and growing in my relationship with God. It means never allowing those old, tired fears to creep in and to know that regardless of how others might view my faith, constantly affirming that it is genuine and real through daily communication with God, through silent, calm prayer and meditation as well as continuing to see God in all places, not merely the expected ones. It means being able to pray for those who might have hurt me in the past or those who do not understand and persecute me or other LGBT people or others who they deem as "unworthy" and hope they will come to know the peace and joy of a Loving God rather than invest time judging others. It means trusting, and knowing that so long as I am true to God, while being true to who I am and striving to be as adherent to the teachings of Christ as possible in all of my dealings with others, only good things will follow.

People are often shocked when I tell them that God is the most important thing in my life, but it is a statement I wish to make. The reaction is usually one of surprise, given that I am unashamedly open about being bisexual and having a female and male partner, that I am too radically liberal in my theology for even some liberal Christians, and that I am not preachy towards others or judgmental of others who do not believe as I do. Yet I am as equally unashamed of my faith as I am my sexuality and sexual orientation; I want others to know that in my experience, God's Concern is with our spirituality and not sexuality, and that God is not concerned about how each of us might differ in our beliefs but how to encourage us all to work together in harmony despite whatever differences we may have to make the world a better place. Perhaps the intent of us all being Created so uniquely and the entire process of finding peace with God, ourselves and one another can seem so challenging at times is that we never, ever forget the One True Source, the Foundation of all, the Loving Creator and always know we can call on God to help us shine forth, make the best of our lives, and realize whatever purpose we were intended for.

Never be afraid to seek God first, or put God first, regardless of what another might say in judgment of you as an LGBT individual. Everyone has a different view of God, and many times a lot of the differences truly are a matter of semantics and when they aren't, remember that the beliefs they might hold are merely a symptom of fear and misunderstanding which are not of God. Each and every one of us was Created with Love as we are and for a purpose, and I can state from experience that no matter how impossible it might seem to do so, in honestly seeking God and allowing your heart to open up to the possibility and reality that God has a purpose and a place for you, only joy will eventually follow if you trust God, heed the teachings of Jesus about a God of Love instead of Law, Who Desires nothing more that we live in peace with ourselves and each other. It isn't about dogma, law or religious ritual. It's as simple as seeking to know and love God first, which will lead to knowing, loving and accepting yourself as God Made you, and then sharing that joy with others.

So, take today as an opportunity to go within and approach God honestly, just as you are. Even if it seems challenging, imagine how you would feel, how wonderful it would feel to know that you are as equally cherished and valued as any and everyone else, and that God accepts you and Loves you with an Unconditional Love. Cast out any fearful ideas about God, and consider the God of Love Jesus taught of if you need to have any sort of visualization or idea about what God is. And then just ASK - Ask, Seek and Knock what it is you can do to know that God more closely, and embrace all of the wonderful abundance life has to offer and the blessings God has in store for you, and more importantly, how you can share God's Love with others through simply being who you are and bringing forth the gifts God has given you.

While I can't guarantee what the exact outcome will be, I can say with confidence and from life experience that only joy, hope and a wonderful journey will follow if you just remain open and aware, and trust and believe.

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