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Learning that Prayer Isn’t Amazon Prime


These questions have occupied a lot of my thinking time recently. A few months ago, I embarked on a personal quest to reclaim Christianity from so-called “Christians.” I realize that I’ve let them hijack one of the most important tools of my religious tradition: prayer.

Like so many religious things, I feel that prayer has been corrupted. For many people, prayer is “Amazon Prime.”  Just ask Jesus for something, and it will be delivered in two days.

I’ll admit that in my youth, I used prayer and Jesus as a personal concierge service, but as I’ve struggled recently to renew my spirit and relationship with the Divine, I’ve wanted a better approach to prayer.

I’m taking a theology course at my church, and this week we took a survey of our personal beliefs and attitudes about God. One question asked us to describe the purpose of function that prayer fulfills in our lives.

Here are some of the options:

  • Communion with God
  • Petition (prayer for self)
  • Intercession (prayer for others)
  • Meditation
  • Autosuggestion (planting ideas in our subconscious mind to effect change in our lives)
  • Communion with Inner Self

After reviewing this list and seeing the richness and fullness of how others use prayer, I realized that I needed to apply some of my Virgo-attorney-left-brain skills to praying.

Here’s what I’ve come up with as an outline for my prayers. And I realize that I need to structure and schedule daily prayer time. This isn’t something I can just do on the fly. I need to write things down and block out a chunk of uninterrupted time for this daily communion with the Divine.

  1. Acknowledge God and the sacred
  2. Express gratitude for the abundance in my life.
  3. Personal requests.
  4. Prayer for others.
  5. Sit with my thoughts and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit.
  6. Write down any thoughts, feelings, and reflections on this time of communion.

Like my spiritual journey, this prayer habit is a work in progress, and I’ll keep you posted on changes and my progress. And I would LOVE to hear from you about your prayer habits and the purpose of prayer in your life.

We Must Re-Horrify the Sin of Homosexuality

Linda Harvey is a woman on a mission.Through her organization Mission: America, she takes up the standard torch of the far right, bashing the triumvirate of evil: gays, Planned Parenthood and Muslims.

On her weekly talk show, she recently lamented that acceptance of gay people seems to be widespread despite her efforts to paint us as godless child molesters. “People are becoming so comfortable with this, even people on our side.”

She offered a solution: “We need to re-horrify people about the sin of homosexuality.” Of course, that means spreading falsehoods about organizations which try to promote tolerance of the LGBTQIA+ community. She believes that the “homosexual clubs in schools are just red flags for predators. I think that they exist there as an audience to continue to fast-track kids into the lifestyle.”

If so many people didn’t agree with her and believe the lies she spews like blood in a Quentin Tarantino movie, then we might laugh her off. BUT SHE IS SERIOUS. AND SHE HAS AN AUDIENCE.

On her website, she uses facts like she mishandles Scriptures, cutting and pasting one fact after another without context.  According to her data, gay people are out to destroy our society, our values and the far-right version of 20th century America-centered christianity.

How do we stop people like her? WE TELL OUR STORIES. We talk about our relationships. We talk about our marriages. We talk about our families.

And we talk about our faith. As the good book says, “By their fruits you will know them.” Let’s not attack religion because of the Linda Harvey’s of the world. Let’s show people like her the true example of Christ and his love and compassion for everyone.

Why One Gay Conversion Story Doesn’t Mean You Can Pray Away the Gay

My comments on this week’s viral video: You might not agree with the content and message, but it’s helpful to know thy enemy.

It’s been cold in my hometown of South Carolina for the past couple weeks, so my brother sent me this text: Trump has only been in office 1 year and already fixed global warming.

My reply: I ate lunch today so I guess he solved world hunger too.

I told my mother about our exchange. She was a science teacher and suggested that I remind my brother that there’s a difference between weather and climate. You can’t extrapolate a trend from one data point. Or even a few outliers.

This notion that one example becomes the rule has been on broad display this week with the release of a video from Anchored North, a “religious” group that supports and promote gay conversion therapy. (Yes, these groups still exist).

The video is misleadingly titled: “A powerful coming out story!!! LOVE IS LOVE” and is being used to prove that it’s possible for everyone to pray away the gay.

In the video, “Emily” claims to have spent seven years living out her same-sex attractions in a wild party lifestyle. At the start of the video, Emily is a girl who just wants to have fun.

The first part of the video is beer and summer and bright colors and techno music. (It’s basically excerpted from the recruitment video that lesbians are shown outside the Home Depot.) But then at the 1:56 mark, the summer beach party is over, the leaves fall off the trees, and Emily is in a dusty abandoned warehouse where she finds a neglected Bible with ratty crumpled pages.

Emily picks up the Bible and reads the verses on homosexuality and believes that she won’t enter the Kingdom of God.  And then she quotes verse 11 (no reference to any particular book): Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (She is of course quoting from One Corinthians, Chapter 6. I’m using the Donald Trump method of naming books of the Bible here.)

From that one moment, Emily says that her eyes were really opened, and she thinks she’s been wrong all along.

The video ends with Emily snuggling with a guy on the couch. He’s whispering sweet nothings into her ear, and she’s laughing. A Yankee Candle is on the end table, they have some framed Jesus quotes on a console, and they are well-off enough to have a window AC unit in their apartment. You might want to argue that her cute boyfriend is gay, and this is just a relationship of convenience, but their apartment is painted a horrific dark army green so I don’t think he’s got the gay gene.

In the video, Emily doesn’t say whether still has attractions to other women physically (and it’s not even clear whether she had deep-rooted sexual attractions to women in the first place. She mentions that she got a hickey from a girl, but  I gave and got hickeys from many girls in high school. I never wanted to have sex with them though). But for the sake of argument, let’s say that Emily was 100% attracted to women and then one day she reads a couple verses of Scripture and that changes immediately to 100% attraction to guys.

Some so-called “Christians” use this one example to prove that the rest of us just aren’t trying hard enough.

I’ve had my own a-ha moment on the verses that I thought condemned homosexuality, and God showed me an alternate path.

It was my senior year of college, and I was at the end of a long struggle to pray away my gay. I had done everything, but nothing was helping, and I couldn’t go forward. I went to the chaplain at my college and begged him for help. I wanted a cure to homosexuality.

Instead of offering to pray that I would change and instead of hammering me over the head with Bible verses that I’d read way more than he had, this pastor told me that I could be gay and Christian. I read some books that he recommended, and I came to realize that God was calling me to be in a committed relationship with another man.

My story is different from Emily’s but is similar to the 99.9% of the folks who try gay conversion therapy and can’t find that change of sexual orientation they so desperately seek.

Emily’s video is one data point.

One snowfall doesn’t disprove global warming.

One meal doesn’t mean that world hunger doesn’t exist.

If you’d like to hear more data points, I talk each week with folks in the LGBTQIA+ community about their experiences struggling with faith and sexual orientation on my podcast BE THE BRIDGE.



Earlier Posts

How to Discuss Politics at the Thanksgiving Table

If you really want to discuss difficult issues at the Thanksgiving table, the best approach is to start by listening. And avoid the eye roll! And don’t read my instructions on how to give the perfect eye roll. Seriously. Don’t learn how to roll your eyes like an expert.

It’s Time for a New “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy

In what I’m calling the “Battle of the Cakes”, The Satanic Temple has joined the fighting. They released the following statement:

“. . . The laws of the United States require that no one may discriminate by way of refusal of service against an evangelical theocrat for their religious beliefs, but the evangelical theocrat may discriminate against LGBTQ people because of who they are. . . . If [baker] aren’t willing to make a cake for same-sex unions, let’s have them make a cake to honor Satan instead.”

Should Gay Couples Adopt a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy to Beat Baker Discrimination?

As I told you before, I’m Christian.” Bob the Baker stood up from the table. “I can’t support two guys getting married.”

The words hit Jake like a bran muffin, and he could feel his insides churning. “But you made and decorated my marriage proposal muffin.”

“I didn’t realize you were going to use one of my engagement muffins to propose to a man.” Bob wrested his portfolio from Jake’s hands. “I would never have sold you that muffin if I’d known.”

Judge Claims “Religious Liberty” Means Her Beliefs First, Laws Second.

The so-called Alliance Defending Freedom (i.e., discrimination) has struck again with another frivolous appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. This time, they’ve picked a terrible case. They’re arguing that judges should have the right to express their religious views publicly. In October 2014, the Wyoming Supreme Court declared that Wyoming had to issue a marriage […]

Can I Survive a Morning without the Internet?

I’m not sure what it says about me (probably just that I’m typical), but I love enjoying my first and second (and sometimes third) cups of coffee each morning while browsing on my computer. I love checking in on Slack with my writing mastermind group, updating my gratitude journal. Then I check emails. But this morning, I can’t get online. TO FIND OUT HOW TO “MICROSOFT” TECHNOLOGY PROBLEMS…

Why is it so hard to charter a jet for 12?

My husband and I were having caviar cones at our favorite restaurant in Beverly Hills, when I raised the specter of chartering a jet and taking some friends to Sonoma for his 50th birthday. It should only be an hour and half flight from Palm Springs, and I figured I could schedule a lunch with Liz in the Bubble Room at J winery, our favorite spot for sparklers. Afterwards, I imagined an afternoon of pinot tasting at Banshee with Zack followed by an early dinner at Chalkboard, featuring their pasta tasting menu.
My husband doesn’t like birthdays and doesn’t want a fuss, but I feel that I have standards to maintain.

There’s no First Class without Coach

The moments in life when you are special, when you are treated differently, and when things are going great – How can you cherish those unless you’ve been through a lot? We only get to enjoy first class because we’ve spent most of our times in coach. I encourage you to relish those moments at the back of the bus because they’re training you for when you get your moment. If everything is first class, then nothing is first class. READ MORE.

How I Live the Nike Mantra with Mistakes but no Regret.

Nike’s motto is not something best left on a T-shirt. “Just Do It” should be the mantra for how we all live our lives. The battle is not to figure out how to solve all the problems before acting or overcome all the fears before doing. There’s never the perfect time. Sometimes, you just have to take that leap and then pick up the pieces. You can’t perfectly plan your life (and I’m talking to my fellow Virgos in particular here). There are some things that you’ll screw up, but you’ll have the memories of all the things that you did do.

And not the regret of all the things you did not.

Follow your passions, loyal readers. It’s the best advice you’ll ever get.

It’s not business class without the champagne and cashews

A proper flight begins with champagne, and I’m not talking the $7 a bottle Prosecco that US carriers try to give you for pre-flight. I mean the fancy French stuff that can actually be called Champagne because it’s from that region in France.

I’ve Handled the Election of Donald Trump like a Death. One way I’m coping.

I’ve responded to the election of Donald Trump like a death. On November 8th, I went to bed in denial thinking that maybe I’d wake up, and it would have been a bad dream. Then I was angry that people would vote for someone I considered unfit for the most important job in the world. Next, I was willing to bargain with the courts in Michigan and Pennsylvania to do a recount. And finally, I was just depressed.
I can’t hide in my liberal California bubble, praying that God does indeed cause an earthquake splitting my state from the rest of the country.

To Make America Great Again, We Need to Rediscover Precious Values

As we honor the memory of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., I think we should never forget that he was a reluctant leader of the civil rights movement. His true calling was as a pastor. And every year on this day, I’m inspired by all of the MLK-quote memes shared on Facebook to dive deep into his wisdom and read a few of his sermons.

GREY MATTERS: Why in your marriage, you should pick being happy over being right.

This week, I’m dispensing with the normal Grey Matters format to share with you something I’ve learned the hard way. Marriage takes work, and relationships are never perfect. On Halloween, I celebrated my 8th wedding anniversary. And I’ll be honest. On October 31, 2008, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get married. It’s not […]

Grey Matters: What Determines Unsportsmanlike Conduct? Actions or Race?

Three months ago, Philip and Brooke moved with their ten-year old son, Andre, from their predominantly black neighborhood on the south side of Atlanta to a white suburb on the north side. Andre just started at his new school and is playing on a local football team. Although fictional, this story is inspired by true […]

Grey Matters: Should gay conversion therapy be provided to minors?

Miles is 17 years old and wants to be a Southern Baptist preacher, the same as his father and grandfather. But Miles has a problem. He struggles with same-sex attractions. For the past year, he’s been dating Tracy, a girl who goes to his church. But Tracy has a brother named Scott, and Miles is more attracted to the brother than his own girlfriend. Tracy’s family has a pool, and Miles spent all summer over there, trying not to look (but failing) at Scott. Miles just wants to have normal feelings like everyone else. He wants to look at Tracy and notice her for what she has to offer. But he can’t stop thinking about the fact that her brother has the same emerald green eyes and red hair, and that if he squints hard enough, he can pretend that he is kissing Scott.

Grey Matters: Why those who attack micro-aggressions are fighting the wrong war

Jake was born in South Korea. He was adopted by a lesbian couple when he was ten months old and has lived in North Carolina ever since. Gay, right-handed, a baseball player, and eighteen-years old, he just started college at Stonewall Jackson University, a small liberal arts college in South Carolina. General Stonewall Jackson was […]

Grey Matters: What to do if you say something offensive to a friend?

Chad checked his watch. He and his friends had been waiting in the bar area of the restaurant for almost an hour. He loved this place, but it didn’t take reservations, and getting a table for eight on a Friday night required a wait. It did give him a chance to catch up with his […]

Grey Matters: When to apologize when you’re not totally to blame

This is a story about apologies featuring Liz and her best friend, John. “I can’t believe it’s only Tuesday!” Liz texted her gay BFF. “Señor Miguels and margaritas?” An instantaneous reply. “YEAASSS!” It had been a couple weeks since Liz and John had gone out for drinks after work. Liz’s fault. She had a new […]

Grey Matters: We Need to Talk about the Facts of Aging

Please enjoy this week’s guest blog post from Amanda Toler Woodward.  Birds do it, bees do it, and I hate to break it to you, we do it, too.  I’m aging as I type this. You’re aging as you read it. If we’re both lucky we’ll keep aging until we are . . . gasp […]

Grey Matters: Should co-workers discuss politics?

ISSUE: This election year, our nation is deeply divided over who should lead our country for the next four years. In this week’s Grey Matters, we look at the issue of talking about politics at work. Specifically, is there any reason for a Trump supporter and a Hillary supporter to talk about this year’s election? […]

Grey Matters: When is it ok to share your faith in the workplace?

ISSUE: More than half of Americans say that faith is important to them, but it’s not something that many people talk about. In this week’s Grey Matters, we look at the issue of sharing your faith at work. Specifically, should Gayle be able to invite her co-worker Amanda to a church event or does her […]

What’s in a name?

ISSUE: This week in Grey Matters, we look at a dilemma facing every married couple, gay or straight. What do you do about the social convention where the wife takes the husband’s last name?  Let’s examine this topic with a fictional story about Juan Gomez, an attorney, and Billy White, a personal trainer. The couple has […]

Is it ok for religious-affiliated hospitals to limit treatment options for patients?

ISSUE: This week in Grey Matters, we look at a trend in the healthcare industry where religious-affiliated groups are taking over public hospitals and applying their ethics and values.  Specifically, is it ok for religious-affiliated hospitals to limit treatment options for patients ? Let’s examine this topic with a fictional story about Carol and Dr. […]

Grey Matters* – Should the CEO of Big Bass Sports come out of the closet?

The characters and events in Grey Matters are fictitious. ISSUE: This week in Grey Matters – We look at the issue of “coming out” relative to the consequences. Specifically, does the CEO of a company have the right to publicly announce that he is gay even if it might affect his employees, corporate earnings and […]

Let’s Stop Fighting Cultural Wars

A cultural war is brewing – even the media is speaking of it in these terms – as hundreds gather in Raleigh, North Carolina to either support or protest last month’s overturning of a controversial law.  The city of Charlotte had passed an ordinance protecting the LGBT community from discrimination and allowing people to use […]

Pride in My Home State of South Carolina 

It’s nice to be proud of where you’re from.  I grew up in South Carolina, and I was always jealous of North Carolina. This started when I was in first grade and someone from North Carolina moved into our neighborhood. He bragged about how the North defeated the South in the Civil War, and I […]

Mississippi decides that being gay is a “super sin”

  This is the first blog in my “All the Words in Red” series where we take a look at what Jesus said and apply that to 21st century problems. When I was a kid growing up in rural South Carolina, we had a saying, “Thank God for Mississippi.”  The reason we said this: even […]

Georgia and North Carolina Governors take very different approach to discrimination

It’s been a crazy week in anti-LGBT legislation. For a boy from South Carolina, it’s been interesting to see how my neighbors, Georgia and North Carolina, have behaved. On March 23, 2016, the state of North Carolina passed a law that struck down an ordinance passed by the city council of Charlotte, the state’s largest […]

North Carolina Legislature and Governor Hate Gay People

I try my best to be balanced. I want to be a voice of reason and try to understand both sides of an issue– any issue – and see how we can reach common ground.  But there are some times that I just have to call out hatred and discrimination for what it is. In […]

Advice for Same-Sex Couples on How to Navigate Anti-Gay Discriminatory Laws

This November, Missouri voters will be able to pass an amendment that will enshrine in the Missouri Constitution the right to discriminate against same sex couples on the grounds of a sincere religious belief. With a change in their procedural rules, Missouri Republican Senators stopped a thirty-nine-hour filibuster of the anti-gay bill, sending it to […]

For God’s sake, “Christians” need to learn how to discriminate

  It’s been in the news for a couple of years now. Across the United States, small business owners have refused to provide services for same sex weddings. Just last month, in Longview, Texas, the owners of Kern’s Bakery, Edie Delorme and her husband, refused to bake a cake for an engaged gay couple, Ben […]

The South Carolina writer who inspired me – Pat Conroy passed away

Pat Conroy died last night. As his wife, novelist Cassandra King Conroy, said, “The water is wide and he has now passed over.” It’s a common question writers get. Who were your main influences? I know that I’m a writer today primarily because of Pat Conroy. Growing up in South Carolina, I had an inferiority […]

South Dakota Governor flies high in protecting transgender kids

As a gay man, I’d never understood transgender people. In fact, until recently, I never even bothered to try. I didn’t know anyone who was “that way” and just thought that a guy that wanted to be a girl was just taking the stereotypical gay effeminate nature to an extreme. But after watching Caitlyn Jenner’s […]

Peanut Butter Crackers and Childhood Memories of Myrtle Beach

Every summer when I was a kid, we’d go to Myrtle Beach for a week. It was a four hour drive from where I grew up in Upstate South Carolina so there would be a couple stops along the way. Dad would give us a couple bucks, and my brother and I would go into […]

Finding my way back to Church with the guiding light of Sarah Bessey

On Friday night, my husband and I went to the First Church of the Nazarene to hear Sarah Bessey, a Christian blogger from western Canada. From the moment we arrived in the gym where chairs and a mock living room stage had been set up for the conversation, I was touched by the energy in […]

Pope Francis tells Trump he’s not a Christian. Trump calls himself humble.

The New York Times reported today that Pope Francis suggested that Donald Trump is not a Christian. Returning home to Rome after a six day trip to Mexico, the Pope told a reporter, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” Earlier that day, Pope […]

Turning the other cheek and foregiveness

My husband and I were robbed on Saturday. It wasn’t our personal home, but one of our rental houses in Palm Springs. This was the second robbery at that property in a month. The first time they stole three brand new TVs. This time they took two of three TVs we had just purchased to […]

Learning from my failures in the sermon of Franklin Graham

I failed today in my mission to be a voice for discourse in our nation, not a voice of discord. My high school debate coach always told us to agree to disagree without being disagreeable. And that’s what I want to do, but I let my temper and anger get the best of me today. […]

Any glory in 2nd? Carolina Panthers suffer same fate as Clemson Tigers

What does it mean to come in second place? Last month, the Clemson Tigers tarnished their undefeated record with a loss to Alabama in the college football playoff. In the Super Bowl last night, the Carolina Panthers were stunned by the Denver Broncos. Is there any glory in 2nd? In the United States, coming in second doesn’t […]

Why would someone vote for Trump? Watch video to find out.

I had lunch yesterday with some friends, several of whom are Republican, and nobody got Donald Trump’s appeal. But it’s very important to me to understand the other side. To listen to the views of Trump supporters on issues and try to figure out if we have areas of common ground. I grew up in Anderson, SC. […]

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz need new friends

My Momma always told me, “You’re known by the company you keep.” I’m not sure the origin of this phrase, but the sentiment comes from Proverbs 13:20. “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the one who walks with fools will be destroyed.” Last night, Ted Cruz won the 2016 Iowa caucus […]

Donald Trump’s take on Christianity

I’ve questioned how and why Donald Trump would have any support from evangelical Christian voters. But as one of my favorite Christian bloggers points out, a chunk of the right wing evangelical movement started in response to racial integration, and Mr. Trump certainly hits all the right notes with his anti-immigrant and overtly racially charged language.  This […]