Rise and Shine
By: John H. Campbell
"This is the day that God has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24)
"It is like someone going on a journey, who when leaving home puts in charge people who are enslaved, each with a particular task, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake - for you do now know when the owner of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else the owner may come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake." (Mark 13:34-36)
"Only that day dawns to which we are awake." -Henry David Thoreau
Even though I generally prefer to begin each day as early as possible, I have never naturally been a "morning person." Through the years out of necessity I have often assumed the role of one, albeit not always the easiest endeavor for me. I suppose, as with many of my other quirks, being more inclined towards the nocturnal just comes naturally for me. It's just how I was made; another odd aspect of my being.
Yet for as much as I have practically worn grooves into the snooze button of many an alarm clock in the perpetual half waking quest for those elusive, "Just five more minutes" (that have, all too often, resulted in my running "just five minutes late"), among the best days I have are those when I awaken early, after a restful nights' slumber rather than remaining awake too late on some online tangent, the next chapter, watching those last few minutes of a movie and then ending up watching whatever came on next, that task which could have very well been - and probably should have been completed in the morning.
There is just a certain quality I always experience when I awake before everyone else, grab my morning coffee and spend a few moments reflecting on the promise of the blessing of a brand new day which God has Made as well as feeling gratitude for whatever blessings and things I feel joyful about transpired the previous day and spending a few moments sending loving thoughts and prayers to those who might have shared concerns with me the day before, hit the gym and the shower and get the day started on a positive note. Granted, it is not always the easiest task for me to be an "early riser," but it always strangely seems to create more time in the day when I begin each day rested, awake, alive and early. But even when "early" for me might be a later hour when some elect to begin their day, I still strive to maintain that same attitude of "getting up on the right side of the bed," and eagerly anticipating what new adventures, experiences, and excitement God Has in store for me that day.
However, there was a time in my life, before I had a personal relationship with God through the Christ I have come to know, love and trust in when I felt exactly the opposite of that. I dreaded each morning; I considered the alarm going off a siren and a harbinger of a potential stressful series of events to come. I would procrastinate getting out of bed until the absolute last minute, and start off the day with a sense of foreboding and dread rather than a sense of hope, excitement and enthusiasm. Sleep was infinitely more comfortable for me; it was an escape, and slumber was an excuse to get away from it all.
Worse than that, many times I would practically sleepwalk through the day once I did manage to drag myself from the false sense of security I felt retreating to more sleep granted me. I would go through the motions, ignorant to so many things and not really embracing the opportunity which each day brought. At that time in my life, I was not fully awake and aware of the reality of God in my own life, so the very concept of rejoicing and being glad in a day that God had made was not truly relevant to me. What understanding of God I had at the time - one I had inherited and been taught by others rather than one I had allowed myself to experience-was a very negative one, and therefore I wanted no part of it.
But as much as I refused to acknowledge God's Presence in life back then, it was always there and I had just resigned myself to being ignorant of it. In retrospect, it would be wonderful to be able to reclaim many of the missed opportunities, little things I missed that it would have been more beneficial for me to have heeded, and the absolute multitude of potential blessings God had directly in front of me that I metaphorically slept through. However, the past is the past, and beyond learning from experience, it is always best, at least to me, to move forward.
Now, when I begin each day, awakening from sleep is not a burden, but a blessing and a gateway to another day in the mysterious adventure we know as life. I cherish and anticipate the sensation each day of being awake, alive and aware-but not strictly on a literal level: most importantly of all, on a spiritual level. It took a major spiritual "awakening" to arrive at that point, and much growth over time.
I have related many of the details of this journey over time, a journey which continues each and every day, so rather than do so again, I wanted to share some thoughts I have on what exactly it means to be "spiritually awake," rather than sleepwalking through life; to go through the emotions, rather than the motions; to awaken to possibilities we might have never considered and making the absolute best of the day God has Given us each and every day, rather than allowing ourselves to fall into a sense of complacency and spiritual stagnation as the distractions and mundane tasks and "gotta dos" of day to day life make us weary and susceptible to nodding off rather than remaining fully awake and aware in the moment.
There are numerous references in the New Testament which advise us of the importance of "keeping awake" in a metaphorical and spiritual sense, whether it be the advice shared in Thessalonians that we not fall asleep and remain ever-vigilant, or Jesus' teaching in Mark 13 that we "keep awake." Traditionally, and especially for those of us who have a past where we were exposed to legalistic or fundamentalist Christianity, these have been associated with either "being ever vigilant" against the "snares of the devil" or more frequently, to be awake for the onset of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ as defined in premillennial dispensationalism, or, in less verbose and complex theological terms and in words we might all be more familiar with, the "End Times."
I vividly recall that one of the aspects that most turned me off to legalistic and fundamentalist Christianity (aside from the fact that it painted a picture of God that was distorted, monstrous and frightening and based in fear rather than love) was what seemed to be a constant and consistent focus on "the enemy," all of which was attributed to an external entity, the devil, that given the way this being was spoken of, seemed as powerful if not more so than God. The devil was in the TV, in music, in books, in our classrooms, in any other church other than the one we were attending and around every corner. We had to remain constantly on the defense, on guard, and obedient, lest we be led into hell on earth or hell eternally or both.
There was less focus upon studying the teachings of Jesus and discerning how we could best embody God's Will and Christ's Message in the world, and more focus on the latest "satanic panic" in the media, in society and practically everywhere. And I don't need to remind anyone reading this how the LGBT Community was lumped into being in cohorts with this perceived "enemy." Nor do I likely need to remind anyone about the terror of being told that Armageddon could transpire at ANY MOMENT of ANY DAY and if we were not totally in alignment with all of the literal and "correct" Biblical teachings or cautiously treading a very narrow, set and specific path, there would be, well, hell to pay. (I do have to add, though that every time I hear one of these legalistic Christian groups claiming to know an exact date for what they believe to be the "End Times" I wonder how they can still insist that they understand the Bible as "literal," when a literal reading is absolutely contrary to anyone claiming to know a day and time for such events.)
So naturally, with the thought of what Jesus' admonition that we "Keep Awake" was interpreted to mean way back when I was still victimized by a cloud of fear created by a legalistic understanding of God, with a new understanding of God and faith, and after much introspection, I arrived at what I believe is the deeper meaning and the true intention of Jesus' teaching on the matter.
I believe that when Jesus tells us to "Keep awake," that He is not necessarily referring to any specific event, or time, or given moment, but rather and endless array of them. I believe that if there is one concept He is advising us to be spiritually and metaphorically alert and awake and watchful for, it is opportunities - opportunities that the Unconditionally Loving God is constantly sending our way.
At first thought, considering that He is referring to opportunities, one might think of a specific opportunity that we have been seeking, asking, knocking and praying for - something in our own lives. And while I feel that many times, seizing, embracing and receiving the full benefit of all of the blessings that are there waiting for us - often right in front of us if we would simply relax and cease focusing so intently upon not having them that they pass us by-is the very type of instance He is instructing that we should remain awake, open and aware to, I feel that there is something a bit deeper to it than something so literal and surface level, as is the case of most of Christ's teachings.
So after reflecting a bit on Mark 13, what I have attempted to do is compile my own list of the types of opportunities that I feel He is teaching that we should be "keeping watch" for, and why.
The Opportunity to Increase Our Awareness of God's Presence In Our Lives
Of course, the first and most necessary imperative prior to being in a state of spiritual awareness and being fully spiritually awake is to allow ourselves to awaken to the reality of God in our own lives.
This to me is perhaps the grandest opportunity any of us has with the promise of each new day we are blessed with. We can boldly claim and profess our faith; we can say that we embrace the concept of God in our lives as a reality rather than a possibility, but it is one thing to know what it is we believe and another to me to truly experience and feel that. There is that moment when we are able to relax, be still and listen to that "still, small voice" however it may be spoken to us, be it the kind words of another, a sudden moment of comprehension that we are Loved with an Unconditional Love and are Created with our own place, value and purpose, or simply an epiphany in miniature when we are able to discern that we are not alone, never have been or ever will be, that can literally come at any moment, most often when we least expect it; that moment when we feel a deep sense of Oneness and connection with God as the Source of All.
And it can come not only at a time when we may least expect it, but from the most unexpected sources. There is an old and tired saying about "the devil being in the details," but I wholeheartedly disagree; in all of my experience, God is in every detail. There have been moments when I have allowed fear to temporarily obscure my own personal awareness of God when I allow the trials and tribulations of life to get to me. At one time, I would fervently pray for some sort of a sign that God was ever Present with me, or some type of reassurance, only to find that had I slowed down, truly opened up my eyes and taken a look around that it was there all along, be it in a blessing in my life, a passage from the Gospels that infused me with new hope and a fresh perspective, or even someone expressing a sense of gratitude for something I said or did to brighten their day or their life in some fashion. At other times, I discovered that if I found myself in a sense of feeling as if God had "fallen asleep at the wheel" I merely offered up a simple thought to God and let it go, and something would happen to remind me I am never alone. Every time it ended up being an instance of me "having fallen asleep in class" instead.
But absolutely none of this would have been possible for me, none of this deep sense of faith that I have that God is always there for me had I not allowed my soul to arise and wake up to the possibility that maybe there was a better perspective and understanding of God than one others had told me about. Once I was open to the possibility, and had awakened the spiritually hungry part of my soul, it was amazing what began to happen.
I was able to see through what Christ taught and embodied that God was a Loving God Who only Desires that we express our gratitude through striving to Love One Another with the same level of Unconditional Love that God Loves us. I was able to see that all of those "coincidences" in life were not luck or happenstance, but had a deeper level of meaning, and I began to understand why certain events had taken place the way that they did. And I began to see the blessings others had brought into my life as true gifts from God, connections with kindred spirits seeking others traveling along a similar path as my own which were made as the answer to prayers, be it through someone helping me with a kind word or action, or me helping another.
For years, I had been under the false impression that there was no way that God could ever Love and Accept me as a bisexual, let alone one who feels the need for honest, caring intimate relationships with both a female and a male partner. But when I came to understand that there was nothing unnatural about my sexuality or sexual orientation or how I chose to express that truth of my being with love and respect for all others, my entire perspective shifted and I actually experienced that moment where I felt fully and completely awake and aware of God's Love for me. God Made me as I am, and although many others might not necessarily understand that at all times, that was no reason to allow God to direct me to fully embrace my life as a gift and be on the alert for methods where I could assist in doing God's Work and God's Will in the world.
I cannot speak for anyone else - LGBT or otherwise - exactly how or when that moment of just "knowing" God will take place. I can only recommend three possible ways: call them "splashes of cool and refreshing water" or "spiritual java" that might offer a possible boost towards becoming fully spiritually awake, and open to a new level of awareness of God's Presence in your life:
1. Ten Things
This one is fairly easy, regardless of where you find yourself in a faith journey. Each morning, set aside just a few moments to consider 10 things which bring you joy.
They need not be the same 10 every day; they can shift depending on whatever recent blessing you may be focusing on from today, yesterday, or every day. But think of those things; write them down if you need to, or just offer them up in a prayer.
Even if you find your faith obscured at the moment, remember that anything which brings you joy while at the same time causing harm to none and especially when it brings help to someone, these are God's Greatest gifts to you, and by always reminding yourself to be aware of them, over time, it can result in growing closer to a greater awareness of God's Presence in your life.
2. Acknowledge that fear is real, but give it no power in your life.
Fear is the most negative four letter word I know. To this day I still believe that fear is the true source of any "evil", or unloving actions which create a sense of brokenness between ourselves and others and ourselves and God. And unfortunately, it can have the power to get the best of us - if we allow it to.
For the LGBT Christian, we have our fair share of exposure to fear based thinking: those who persecute us wield it as a formidable weapon. But what would happen if we disarmed them?
What if we did take to heart the admonition of Jesus to strive to fear not and be not afraid, regardless of how others might attempt to mire us in fear and obscure our knowledge of God's Unconditional Love for us? What if we could take to heart Jesus words that we cease worrying and focus clearly on the moment rather than dwelling in the past or daydreaming attempting to foreshadow a tomorrow which has not yet arrived?
I can attest from experience that fear is a profoundly intense, if negative emotion, but also that we possess the conscious elective to not succumb to it. We can acknowledge that it is real, yet move forward with faith anyway and allow God to take care of whatever we cannot and strive to remain strong through dark passages. It may sound trite and cliché, yet I can state from experience; there have been times I have faced extreme apprehension and not asked God to take the fear from me, but rather to enable me to discern that I have been given the strength to overcome it by not allowing it to hold power over me and result in my making poor and irresponsible decisions, and the result is that I was able to come through it feeling spiritually stronger, as if it were all little more than some bad dream.
3. Believing begins with the word "Be"
This one might prove to be the most difficult of these three steps, at least, it was for me. Because it concerns doing something which legalistic Christian thinking based on the concept of "original sin" taught me was anathema to God: feeling good about who I am and living and enjoying life to the fullest. Allowing myself to merely "be" living free as a valued and precious child of God despite what judgments others might allow themselves to be ensnared in.
We truly are free if we embrace the teachings of Christ-free of all of the fundamentalist legalistic dogma, free of being required to fit some narrow definition created by another or extrapolated from interpreting Old Testament legalism as point blank and unchanging truth. Those of us who are LGBT are free to live the truth of who we are without fear, guilt and shame and with love and respect for all others, and allow our light to shine for all others to see.
It is true that none of us is "perfect" in that we don't always make the most loving decision or do the right thing. We do have the potential and penchant to make irresponsible decisions and reap the consequences as a result, hopefully learning from the experience in the process. We do allow fear to get to us and act before we think, almost as if we were spiritually sleepwalking through life and then suddenly snap awake and regret what we have done. And when we do, thankfully, God through Christ has shown us it is possible to atone, to forgive and be forgiven, and strive to attain better.
But it never has been, nor will it ever be a sin, at least, not according to my understanding of God as expressed through Christ, to be at peace with who we are, regardless of how much it might differ from "the mainstream" or that old favorite euphemism, "everyone else" and so long as we are living that truth with love and respect for all others, living it freely and joyfully and without fear, guilt or shame.
And the blessings in our lives? Be they "10 Things" or an overflowing abundance, we DO deserve them. We deserve to fully and truly allow ourselves to be, to be who we are, and to be joyful in it-for that is how the Loving God Created us. The true sin to me is attempting to deny that, and in effect hiding whatever light God Wants us to radiate under a bushel.
Something miraculous can transpire if we awaken and approach life from the vantage point that in our uniqueness, whatever that might be is on purpose rather than by accident, fate, or some other unknown reason. If we see each day as a gift from God - and eagerly anticipate waking each day to embrace and cherish each moment one at a time, it becomes difficult over time to doubt that God is the Source, a Source we are constantly awake to, aware of and listening intently to with our hearts.
These three concepts have been extremely useful to me in developing that sense of being awake to opportunities to increase my awareness of God's Presence in my own life. Practiced over time, they have opened up a multitude of even greater blessings as well as a deep awareness that there is nowhere where God is not or cannot be. I find myself more alert to answers to prayers that were in front of me all along or appear in my life through my reaching out to others or their reaching out to me. I see doorways opening with new opportunities rather than I would once focus on doors closing. And perhaps the best of all, it has enabled me to remain strong during difficult and challenging times where I might not always be able to decipher the rhyme or reason behind events which transpire or the wonderful and mysterious ways in which I know God to operate. It has not given me "all of the answers", but it has enabled me to love the questions and trust that whatever I might not understand, whatever may be going on, God is ever present in my life. And that only inspires me to strive to recognize the second type of opportunity which I feel Jesus is calling us to awaken to:
The Opportunity To Increase Others' Awareness Of God's Presence In Their Lives
I have often said that I feel that we can best adhere to the first part of the "Great Commandment" to Love God with All of our heart soul and might by following the second, to love our neighbor as ourselves. But to me, there is more to it than merely showing others the same measure of love and respect with which I would expect or want to be treated.
When I arrived at a place in my life when I began to feel a sense of peace and Oneness with God, and the joy I felt in that, I wanted to pass that on to others. It did not matter if it were something specific to my own experience of life that I could intimately relate to. I just wanted everyone to know that they too, were not alone.
Speaking from an LGBT perspective, and from my unique perspective as a bisexual Christian man, I wanted to do whatever I could to let others know that there was no reason to feel excluded or left out or afraid, regardless of whether others understood or not. I had come to the understanding that there was nothing unnatural about my sexuality or sexual orientation as a bisexual, and that for me being bisexual translates to a sincere need for honest and committed relationships with both a woman and a man and that there is nothing shameful about that aspect of my life either, but I knew there were countless other bisexuals who were spiritually starving and wanted to turn to God rather than feel as if they would be turned away if they expressed their feelings.
But that's relatively easy and simple. It was natural and easy for me to reach out to other bisexuals who shared similar feelings, and the opportunity for me to share God's Unconditional Love for them and offer hope and inspiration was and is simply my living out one of the purposes I feel as if I am intended to help with. Just by living my truth with love and kindness while being as open and unashamed about my faith as I am about being bisexual became a part of that process. While I wanted to, and still do offer my support and assistance to the bisexual community wherever I can, the Christ I know and the God I know is far bigger than to want me to remain in my "comfort zone."
So rather than pray to merely be of assistance with people with feelings, paths and experiences that mirrored some, many or all of my own, and overflowing with gratitude for all that God Has Blessed me with, I wanted to do more to express my gratitude. I began to pray for a sense of awareness of opportunities where I could reach out to any and every one I could to help them become more aware of the reality of God in their lives.
And something interesting took place as a result: I found myself approaching each day with my eyes, ears and heart open for opportunities for opening up a path for God to guide me to help anyone I encountered each day who was feeling a greater need to feel some sort of closer connection to and awareness of God. Someone was in need of furniture that I happened to hear about, and I had a storage unit full that I no longer needed, so I made arrangements for them to take it. Someone needed a ride to drive them somewhere and I happened to overhear and I was headed it so I offered to fill the need. Another person I knew had a family member suffering from illness and needed someone to talk to and I took the time to offer what support and encouragement I could. Yet another was struggling with depression and angry with God over things, and I took the time out to talk with and reassure them the best I could. A friend lost their partner suddenly and unexpectedly, and I was certain to let them know that I was there if they needed anything. Someone had a question about something technical they were struggling with and I e-mailed them a message on how to repair it.
Some of these people were people who knew nothing of my life, others were friends and family or friends of friends and family; some were liberal, some conservative. Some of them are in vehement disagreement with many of my beliefs, but that was and is as irrelevant to me as it is to God. All of them are Children of God, and that is all that matters. From what I know of Christ and all He had to say on the subject, we are to love even those we might perceive as an enemy, and I further interpret that to indicate that there is not any "enemy," other than fear itself.
Sometimes I would be concerned how I would have the time to be able to do all I wanted to do to help others in my quest to say thanks to God for everything by doing what I could for others, but God has never Given me more than I can handle. I have found so often that when we think we could not have enough time to take care of others who we may not even know well at all if we barely find the time to care for ourselves that God always Provides a way. Sometimes, when I would find myself overwhelmed, say, a friend needed help moving, I would reply that I would see what I could do and the same day, someone else who I knew who was able and willing to provide the resources I could not seem to manifest would call.
And in all of these and other instances, not only did I feel the sense of joy that can only be obtained in knowing we have made a conscious decision to give of ourselves to another, but even more awake to God than I had previously felt. I felt as if I were allowing myself to let God's Love flow through me to another, which is one thing I feel that all of us have the potential for if we merely remain open to allowing it.
As LGBT Christians, whatever our perspective or life path, we can all easily make others aware of God's Presence in their lives by allowing the Light God Has Shone into ours radiate into theirs when we live confidently and joyfully and acknowledge and share with them our awareness of God's Love for us and the freedom we have been blessed with in the teachings of Jesus and our being filled with Spirit we are willing to share. But we can also make the effort to be awake to opportunities to reach beyond the known safety of our community, acknowledge that fear exists and reuse to grant it power, and let that love shine upon even those who we might perceive as enemy by seeing the common ground-that we are all precious children of God.
And the third type of opportunity is very similar:
The Opportunity To Become Part Of God's Presence In The Lives Of Others
In living the truth of who we are with joy, allowing ourselves to be awake, alive and open to possibilities and opportunities to share the joy God has Given us with others, I feel we are following Jesus' call to "Keep awake." And when we take another step and give of ourselves and become an active part of the process of reaching out to others, we come to the next step. It's the step of "What is it that I can actively do to be a part of God's Presence in the lives of others?"
I recognize that the ground I have already talked of previously is already a step in this direction, but I am not so much referring to living one's truth or even seeking out places where we can be of service to others out of gratitude to God on an individual, case by case level. I am referring to when we seek out with passion ways in which we can utilize whatever individual gifts God Has blessed us with as a calling to help others.
It could be someone who is skilled in web technology suddenly becoming aware of a non-profit organization who needs a web presence assisting them in getting started. It could be someone who is a skilled listener volunteering to devote time to a suicide hotline or facilitate a support group. Or it could be someone with cooking skills volunteering to cook meals for those in need, an individual who is skilled in carpentry being able to assist building a new home for a homeless family, or someone with theological knowledge volunteering to offer non-judgmental counseling to LGBT individuals. Perhaps we are seeking our own support group, and finding none, work to create one.
Or it could be something completely different, but what I am attempting to convey is that if we are awake, alive and open to possibilities, and the opportunity to somehow be of help, assistance and service to others firsthand - pursuing our natural passions while helping others in service to God, I feel that we can find our true place, purpose and where we belong rather than merely sleepwalking through a life we are not truly happy or fulfilled in.
These are just three examples of what types of opportunities I feel Jesus was telling us to remain awake to, although knowing God, I know there are always a million more that we might not even know of yet.
While those are merely my thoughts of what it means to be spiritually awake as an individual, I wanted to take a moment to share a few other thoughts. I was giving consideration to what the LGBT Community can do individually and as a group to remain more awake, and I came up with the following ideas as well:
1. Be fully aware that there are those who oppose us, yet focus on love, communication and education rather than negativity
Following a bisexual support group I once facilitated, I used to peruse a lot of the LGBT magazines available at the local LGBT Center in an area where I used to live, and it seemed in some of them there was a constant and extreme focus not unlike the evening news on all of the negativity: anti LGBT legislation, the hateful comments of some anti-LGBT ministers and organizations, anti-same gender marriage threats. The articles in some seemed to be written to do little more to incite anger and outrage.
While I steadfastly believe that these things need to be talked about, and responded to, I have been at many an event, coffee house and on many a message board where there was the same type of constant talk about the "anti LGBT" forces as there was in the fundamentalist churches talking about the snares of the devil.
Just as many of us may have discarded dwelling on an external entity or enemy intent upon separating us from God, and have elected to focus on the good, taking personal responsibility and learning from our own mistakes instead, I feel it would be most beneficial to examine the example of all of the positive things so many in the Community have chosen to do to lovingly combat all of the ignorance and fear that our alleged "enemies" are attempting to spread: The "It Gets Better" videos, the work that Soulforce has done, the efforts to educate and foster love and understanding rather than coming back with the anticipated response of "fighting fire with fire."
Yes, we have to remain ever vigilant and expose hatred and injustice for what it is but I feel that all of us should strive to respond to those who persecute us just as Jesus did, with love and forgiveness as they truly do not know what they do, and instead focus energies on ways we can educate and communicate.
The anti LGBT rhetoric still so prevalent now is an unfortunate reality, but I see little purpose in being panicked about or focusing on the negativity at all. It can and will be overcome with love, someday if we all work together and remain aware of any opportunity we have to educate. I feel it will be a long and challenging journey, but I truly do see a day when there can be harmony and equality; yet I feel that we can be aware of and work towards a resolution peacefully and with a positive outlook rather than being defensive, although it can take a great deal of strength and faith to do so.
2. Remain fully awake to and accepting of the diversity in our own community
The LGBT Community is as vibrant and diverse with many shades and hues as is God's Creation, and all of us are different. Yet at times, I witness divisiveness among different factions of the community.
"That guy is so flamboyant, he gives all of the rest of us a bad name."
"Those two are in the leather scene. Make sure they aren't in any pictures wearing that get up, you know what the press will say."
"They might have been together for 30 years, but they're in an open relationship. Their love or commitment can't be sincere."
"Let's downplay the whole bisexual and transgender thing. Too many freaks and wanna bes."
"Why can't the rest of us just behave like normal couples and live like regular hetero couples?"
These are all comments I have overheard-not all of them were LGBT Christians, but all of them were from LGBT individuals. I won't go into too much detail here, but I can state that from my own experience as a bisexual that I have been ostracized from many allegedly LGBT places and some of them allegedly Christian and LGBT accepting.
So many are not awake to what can be the plight of the bisexual in some parts the LGBT Community. At times we are not taken seriously beyond just being the token "B." Others, we may be included, but only those of us who are monogamous with one partner, and those of us like myself who have found that our life path has led us a different way and in a relationship with a female and a male partner, however honest, ethical and genuine are excluded. And then there are the instances where we are "too heterosexual" or "too freaky" or "too different." I am ashamed to say it, but it has happened.
But it is absolutely not just the "B"s. I have seen some outright embarrassing exclusion of Transgender individuals, gay men who were seen as "too flamboyant," lesbians who were cast out for being into the leather scene, and so on.
If there is one thing I feel that the community as a whole could do, it would be to be more awake to the beautiful diversity and finding common ground. It has progressed by leaps and bounds, but as with societal acceptance of the LGBT Community in general, there is still some way to go.
We all have our differences, but divided we fall. How can we expect society to accept us as we are if there are still challenges doing so amongst ourselves? How can we limit "membership" only to those who fit a certain criteria when this has been done to us for so long? I know in my heart that Jesus would want us to embrace whatever differences we have, agree to disagree and work together for the greater good of all.
3. Remain awake to the knowledge that we have more support than we may think, especially when we let others know we need it
It is all too easy when turning on the television, opening up the newspaper, or getting online to be discouraged by what we see and want to shut off the alarm, pull the shade down and return to bed. Yes, there is a far greater level of acceptance than there has been for the LGBT Community in the past, yet there is still so much ignorance and misinformation.
But over the years, I have found something very interesting about how much support there is in reality.
Nearly every instance I have seen where someone comes out as LGBT, although it is definitely not always an ideal experience initially for anyone other than the person who has been liberated from a closet of hiding for years, I constantly hear stories about people who came out to everyone they knew, being certain that everyone would reject them. In every case, there were at least several people who were not only accepting, but supportive.
Don't misconstrue that to mean that they fully understood that person being LGBT or in all cases, even totally agreed - they were simply willing not only to release any judgments but to encourage others to let go of their judgments as well. I was blessed with a Mom who became one of my greatest supporters, but there were other members of my family who "just don't get it."
I have never and would never tell someone they should come out until they personally felt ready to, but I will always tell anyone who is considering it to never ever assume that they may not find a new ally in the process.
Regardless of where we are in life, regardless of whether we are involved in the LGBT Community or not, or regardless of who we are, when we allow ourselves to fully awaken spiritually, we come alive. When we allow our souls to awaken to even entertain the possibility that God truly does Love us with an Unconditional Love, it sets the spark in motion. We can then shake the feeling of being tired as we have the potential to awaken to the knowledge that we were Created to be who we are for a purpose and a reason, and are just as valuable as every other child of God.
And then, invigorated and infused with the sense of peace that only a deeper sense of connection and Oneness with God can bring, we can truly rise, and shine. Having awaken spiritually and risen to the new day that God has Made, we can truly rejoice and be glad in it and share that love with others, by shining the light God has brought into our live into others to light their way, remaining ever vigilant and ready for even greater opportunities to shine brighter by utilizing the gifts God Has Blessed us with and bringing them forth to share.
We can discover that deep sense of awareness of God's Love and use the joy we have found to overpower the fear which may have clouded our lives, and which may cloud the lives of others. We can remain forever conscious of all of the blessings in our lives which we may have previously allowed to escape our view if we have been in a state of spiritual slumber. We can confidently live the truth of who God Made us to be without fear, and speak our truth lovingly in hopes that those who need to hear it will hear it. We can be unafraid to ask God "How can I help?" and know we will not be caught sleeping when the answer comes. And we can be ever watchful for ways in which we can be a part of God's Presence, and use our gifts to bring about the Peace and Harmony on Earth I feel the God Who Jesus taught us about desires most of all.
So don't hit the snooze button - arise to the day that God has Made, rejoice and be glad in it! Allow your soul to awaken to new possibilities and opportunities without fear, live your truth with a sense of peace and allow your own light to shine, whatever it may be, for God Has a place and a purpose for it in Creation.
For in my experience, to be awake to all of the wonderful possibilities God can offer, and most of all awake to possible opportunities for God's Light to shine through you to others, is to be fully alive.
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