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Welcome to my site and thank you for reading. After many times thinking, if only I had a blog, well-- here we are. This blog will feature writings on a variety of topics from roadside food, to leadership in the fire service; politics; culture- gay, straight, and indifferent, my experiences in Ohio, New York and beyond; and much much more. It's my hope that you will find it interesting and that it stirs at least some thought and discussion. I am certain you wont always agree, but that is what its all about right? Oh and one more thing:

The views expressed on this site are entirely my own. They do not reflect in anyway the views or positions of my employer (s) and should not taken as official policy of ANY organization with which I am associated. Reading or sharing any post from this site shall be taken as an indication that you have read this disclaimer and understand it.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Places of Beauty

Hawks Nest, WV 2011
Harrisburg Muster, 2011
View from the Top of The Rock (NYC)
New York Harbour
The Shenadoah Valley, Near Lexington, VA
Monticello (home of Thomas Jefferson)
Atlantic Coast of Ireland, 2010
Kenmare Ireland (2010)

Ladies View, Near Kilarney, Ireland

Trying to Find The Words.

This week has been hard to put into words.  Whether the lunacy of politics in the US right now; the threat of yet another unnecessary war in the middle east or the senseless murder of a 17 year old by a vigilante in Florida, recent world events could truly overwhelm you if you wanted to let them.

Fortunately, there is another way , and a better truth through which to view our modern world of seeming violence and hatred and fear. We are truly at an amazing and wondrous point in world history.  Dictatorships are falling; peace is more prevalent now than nearly at any time in world history; a trend of awakening has begun-- exemplified by the quest by so many to find  answers to questions that have existed as long as man-kind has had the ability to wonder-- to doubt- to ask.

The media would not have you know this, as boring news shows don't do well in the ratings, but things are getting better.  The old ways will not go without a fight, however.  The people who profit from the old ways of thinking and of living, and who fear the change that progress inevitably brings, will cling to their hatreds and their bias and their fear as long as they possibly can. Just as they have in every age.  Just as they fought the earth being round-- just as they fought to keep slavery-- just as they fought to deny women and minorities suffrage-- just as they fought even token attempts to being rights to the Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Transgendered community.  But now, as then, they have to know-- to sense-- that their days are numbered. With a non-white president, with the increased connectivity of  all the worlds people through the Internet-- and the ability to share a radical or revolutionary idea such as freedom or liberty or love with millions in less than a second- the spread of something better cannot be slowed.

 That is why they are reacting the way they are.  On a small scale in a town North of Orlando; at less violent but less divisive  presidential campaign stop; in the town of Homs in Syria; and elsewhere on our round planet where people still try to take sides (credit to Dr Dyer). These people cling to their bankrupt ideas-- and sometimes resort to violence to silence or stop the progress of humans towards a more enlightened and better planet.  And along their way, in their struggle to hold onto what was-- and impart  their idea of the future they claim their victims.  Some indirectly: by supporting a culture of intolerance or fear contributing to the suicide of a student in NJ; or some far more directly-- a student in Florida; thousands in Syria; Egypt; Iran, China; and so many other places.  And that, at first, is a sad thing.  But it is not just a sad event or a tragedy. And it is not the end of their story-- of our story-- by any means. 

For if you hold that all things happen for a reason-- that all that happens in our physical world is an illusion-- and  that all hate springs from fear and darkness-- then we can rejoice in this steady journey of our planet towards enlightenment- towards the light of truth-- a truth that will push away the bigots and the despots and the simple minded people who only care about people just like them. We will know that the high cost paid to bring light to their fear will be justified, that the lives of thousands in Syria or one in Florida will not be lost in vain.  In time, we will wonder how our world was ever the way it is now-- but the paradox is that it can never be what it can be without this present day and the sacrifices of too many families and individuals. 

But in their memory, I think it is so very important to remind you and me and everyone that ours is a world of light and beauty and love.  Those are the rules-- the natural order-- not the exception.  Human progress has always- will always demand growth.  Though some may resist, though Limbaugh may moan or Assad cling-- they will not win out.  Those kinds of people never, ever have.  The only tragedy is that so many will not get to see their victory or maybe that they did not know they were already victorious.

But each day you love someone just because they too are a child of the divine; each day you bring peace into the world by your simple actions;  each day you live to your higher purpose; and any moment your bring light into darkness; and especially when we forgive  those still clinging to hate, fear, and power-- you call the world and all its inhabitants to a place beyond where it is now, better than where it is now.  And that progression will bring us all to a better more loving world as the light ebbs away the last remaining patches of darkeness.  For once and forever.   

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Classic Chris Poetry for Wednesday

32 Steps
By: Christopher Blake Carver (c) 1999

Thirty Two steps, about a minute more or less.
The sixty seconds of my night when my world falls
and my heart breaks
and things don’t seem so perfect. 

The walk inside the apartment,
the look around.
Dishes dirtied, clothes crumpled, CDs strewn.
A reflection really- of what those things see in me.

A quick glance at the machine,
and the little box beside it—the last hope for my crashing spirit.
The verdict—zero new.
What a shame.

I know you love me—and it means a lot.
More than you will ever know in fact.
And, truly, I love you too.
But you are—my friend.

And that is good—and it is wonderful
and I don’t want to want more, to need more—
but I do.
And that need gnaws and festers and never heals.

My biggest question as I collapse into my bed:
Will it ever heal?
Some wounds never do—they live on in stone
and stare back at you from the other side of the mirror.

You tell me how great a person I am—and I know you believe
But do I?
And will someone else ever believe
Or even know
Or even try?

I play my music, write my sad sonnets, and think of you and all the others
And I smile.
But when I can resist no longer my thoughts are directed to the one.
The one who will comfort all this—
            Wipe it away with a sly grin or a gentle touch
But later, after that pain has run its course—
that virus of want and despair and loneliness—
a part of me acknowledges what I already suspected.
The only one who can truly comfort me—
Is me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Save the Date, especially if you are in Ohio!

It has now been confirmed.  My first gallery event will be held May 4th, at Gallery G in downtown Zanesville, Ohio, as a part of their First Friday art Walk.  Hours will be from 5pm to 8pm and I will be showing alongside the incomparable Joleen Kinsel. I look forward to seeing many of you there. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

They Walk Among Us..

I am truly a fortunate person.  In fact, I am one of the luckiest people alive-- for I get to spend a significant portion of my life doing something people only dream about: walking with dinosaurs.  Perhaps you thought they were extinct. I can just imagine you declaring that Jurassic Park was a fairy tale!  The truth, however, is far different.  

For many years, generally the length of my career in the Fire Service, I have encountered various forms of these creatures.  Some large, some small.  Many were indifferent giants, vegetarians lumbering along in the forest, content simply to be.  Especially given their scarce number and shrinking habitat.  Like all of their kind, they are a diminishing breed, but to call them vanished would fly in the face of what everyone who wears a blue uniform knows. 

As public safety agencies across the country raised expectations-- required college degrees; critical thinking; and at long last started to consider such foreign concepts as change management; organizational transformation; and effective leadership-- they have still slothed along.  Munching on the trees and generally unaware that their surroundings were changing.  Until, at last they have been forced to face the same truth that has looked all of God's creatures in the eye-- evolve or die. 

A few were able to pull it off-- willing to grow, question, and listen-- they integrated to their changing environment and survive by adapting.  These are the seasoned veterans that are a joy to work with, around, and for.  Able to leverage their experience and staid wisdom with the understanding that a tree (or dinosaur) that does not grow is also known as dead-- they occupy a welcome and increasingly rare position in both society and public safety organizations. 

But, as is often the case with living things, many choose another path.  That of utter and complete resistance to change, or growth, or evolution.  From positions of fear, intolerance, resentment; or ignorance they cling hard to time-- as though it could ever be held at all.  They live in the countless stories of old, where things were easier, simpler, and better-- and ignore even the slightest possibility that things could maybe improve.

They disregard that with each generation lessons are learned, insight developed, and the organization, or city, our country, or world does improve.  The world moves away from the Eden's Garden of the good old days towards a new place.  Its a scarry world-- of color, noise, light-- and change-- but it is what we are all here for-- anything less slaps the face of progress-- of evolution-- of the very truth revealed by the setting of the sun and its rise the next day.  Time does pass-- we can hold on to nothing-- we are supposed to hold on to nothing, especially not our place, in a role, on a stage, where the satisfaction of too many comes not from being the actor playing a role, but the dinosaur living a lie.

Those these less than benevolent reptiles see as representing change are treated as threats or worse.  And they are to be destroyed.  Rather than the lumbering brontosaurus, leisurely wandering and comforting in its presence-- they become raptors.  Carnivorously eliminating any and all threats-- whether real or perceived.  They hunt down every last thing that represents what they fear and they do so with the arrogance that time imparts the unaware and the unwise.  

At the inevitable and merciless end, standing in a field of destruction that they have created-- the lonely raptor realizes that his greatest enemy was the one he had no chance against.  No matter how hard the bite, or devious the mind.  For the clock on the wall still ticks and the pages on the calender still turn, and the cold will still come and his time will still pass.  Left to understand that the time, oppprtunities, wonder and experiences of the days between the "good old" ones; and the last ones have not been used to better others; or himself-- but rather to fight an unwinnable battle-- punish those who were just doing what they had to do to survive-- and hold back the arch of time-- the dinsosaur comes to understand and feel that the final page of the calendar will soon turn.

Perhaps it already has.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why am I here?

Sometimes they come out and ask me directly—often with a look that expresses doubt, wonder, confusion, and incredulity with one subtle glance. Other times you can see it in their eyes—as they listen to me explain that I am, indeed, not from this place originally. In one form or another—it comes:  So why did you move here from Ohio?   

Their reactions always surprise me a bit.  After all, it’s not uncommon for people to migrate to New York City.  In fact, if you believe the stories about Ellis Island, notice the Dutch Origins in many street names; or order Falafel from a street vendor—just to name a few—there are many indications that I am not alone at all in deciding at some point long ago that my life need to include a stop in New York City. 

As with most stories, especially most of mine, however, the story is a little more complex than that.  It comes down, largely, to one name:  Richard Scarry.  His books—my favorite companions in my early childhood— told of wonderful, active, exciting towns and the “people” who inhabited them.  The “people” took the form of various animals- from Postman Pig to Lowly Worm—and their adventures were just like those of the humans who would occupy any mid-sized city with distinctive Swiss-like architecture.  It was  a lively place—and the cut-away drawings of the homes and the businesses added an even greater vitality, as well as a subtle hint of the vitality always going on behind the walls or the curtains in any community. 

Those books contributed to my love of going downtown with my Dad to his job.  At the time he had an office on North High Street in Columbus in the very official sounding Federal Building.  A couple of times a year I would make the trip with him and, while he worked, I would explore the streets of the city.  Some may find it odd—a nine or ten year old kid wandering the streets of the city.  Those people obviously have no idea of what downtown Columbus was like back then.  Or what it wasn’t.  With over 70% of its surface covered in parking lots and a distinctive lack of human beings, downtown Columbus bore little resemblance to what most would consider a vibrant urban core.  Even today—after years of extreme effort, tempered by the recession, downtown Columbus hasn’t quite returned to what it was fifty or one-hundred years ago. Long before the outside of the donut (the ring suburbs) swallowed up the people; and the jobs; and, ultimately; the downtown mall—leaving the center as something like the land between the Moon and Earth—just now beginning to refill. 

I think often about walking those Columbus streets, especially when I walk through Times Square or down 5th Avenue and have to fight through, around, above, and below swarms of people.  When I walk by window displays, or saunter a two minute walk to get milk or bread at my local store—no automobile required.  I don’t mind the people—or the scale.  That’s the funny part.  That compressed humanity does something for the soul.  It fills you with a sense of life, sometimes even when you don’t really want it. Within these neighborhoods of Charles Dickens or Jane Jacobs are all kinds of dreams—thoughts- and realities, compressed upon you, much the way the earth compresses coal into a diamond.  The effect of my time in New York has been the same. 

Sometimes my mind wanders back to “BusyTown”—where interesting people would be on every corner, some adventure just behind a Swiss Chalet Wall—and I realize that on those streets, and on the more empty ones of my urban childhood adventures--  were planted a need and a desire and a dream.  A dream to fill something—to create something that I didn’t recognize then, but that I feel now. Without even knowing it, on these busy streets here in this ultimate “Busytown” -- I have been trying to fill that hole in the middle. 

A Typical Richard Scarry Scene

Monday, March 12, 2012

Opportunities from Challenge-- Lessons for the Fire Service

As I read yet again of Fire Departments in my home state of Ohio facing extreme financial pressures, I can not help but wonder if those departments are missing out on an opportunity to use the current and ongoing financial crisis as a tool to actually accomplish critical public safety goals; increase labor involvement; and develop essential partnerships between the community, the fire service, fire service unions, and local elected leaders.  These partnerships could transcend the political environment and sew seeds of future progress regarding several key areas.

I realize that given the current state of politics, especially in the Midwest, this would seem to be counterintuitive—but it is my strong belief that the greatest opportunities for growth can and do come from the most challenging times—and now is no exception.  The key is for leaders to see those opportunities and leverage the desire on the part of all stakeholders for both successful outcomes and political victories in order to make substantial forward progress.  Several of those key areas include:

Element One:

A Statewide or Nationwide standard for fire protection services that is based on NFPA principles, but is codified into law.  Much like the standards used to evaluate fire protection in the UK, these standards could be based on three principle types of service areas:  Urban; Suburban; and Rural.  They could be designed in a very flexible manner, describing how many fire personnel should be able to arrive at a given location in a given amount of time.  For example; in an Urban area; a minimum of nineteen firefighters should arrive for a working residential fire in ten minutes or less; twenty-four for a commercial fire—including a minimum of three personnel dedicated to Rapid Intervention.  The standard would not dictate the type of apparatus or number of apparatus—this would permit local flexibility. 

Element Two:

In return for supporting a national standard on personnel (something that city managers may not embrace) Unions could become more supportive of consolidation efforts—especially in urban areas where smaller departments could be absorbed into larger municipal departments.  This would be especially advantageous in Midwestern areas such as Columbus and Cincinnati where many smaller township departments exist in areas surrounded by larger municipal departments.  The IAFF could work with the IAFC; the ICMA; and other municipal/government groups to develop a standard on how these mergers could be worked.  Given that the standard would exist regarding fire protection coverage; and rules could be included about jobs being maintained—the overall impact on firefighters would be minimized, with cost savings for local governments maximized.  In many Midwestern states, where townships exist often only to support fire departments—townships themselves could potentially be eliminated.  Saving millions and eliminating a form a government that is often redundant—especially in urban areas. 

At a minimum—even without consolidations of departments—the opportunities for cost savings in shared support functions—such as fleet maintenance; administrative support services; apparatus procurement; and dispatching are more than significant.  The creation of fire authorities or Councils of Government should be explored in many areas—especially those with smaller departments that operate cooperatively; but for whatever reason cannot merge with each other or a larger neighboring department. 

Element Three:

Best Practices regarding EMS.  One of the contributing factors behind the financial challenges of  many fire departments- have been the need to provide EMS services.  In the 1990s, many departments approached EMS with a one-size-fits-all ALS approach, and now find themselves with far more paramedics that are reasonable required.  Often, these paramedics are paid more; the trucks they operate cost more for equipment; supplies; and drugs; and the medic skills that they are trained are rarely used.  The use of all ALS systems to respond to mostly BLS emergencies is a costly waste of resources and is a potentially dramatic source of not only cost savings—but service improvement!  According to a watershed 2005 USA today study—the presence of more paramedics does not automatically lead to better outcomes—a fact that remains unheeded by many large fire departments who are in the EMS business. 
The potential solutions vary based on local operational conditions—but having ALS providers only on Fire Engines; with BLS transport ambulances is one potential solution.  Another is to utilize new Computer Aided Dispatch Programs that are better able to distribute calls effectively to a more limited number of ALS ambulances utilizing triage questions; AVL dispatching; and dynamic response adjustments. 

Element Four:

Whether Move up modules; new Dispatch Programs that allow sharing of resources; consolidated dispatch facilities that can manage all units in a region without regard to ownership (jurisdiction); fire station deployment software or simple techniques such as having all Ambulances “on-the-air” during peak periods to save on turn-out times, the number of solutions for current challenges is likely beyond quantitative measure.  Any of these solutions, however, must be outcome driven- and work for the local agency—not require the agency to work around the technology. 

In conclusion—although these days have been very dark for many public safety agencies across the United States—the outcomes do not have to be all bad.  By taking creative approaches, by working with stakeholders even when it may be difficult to do; and by employing technology and new approaches, the fire service doesn’t have to come out of this period weakened and less effective than it was before.  In fact, as with most times of hardship faced by individuals—it can sometimes be adversity that leads to greatest success.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Song For Sunday:

  Johnny Cash's version of "Let The Lower Lights Be Burning"
Published in 1871 by Philip Bliss, this song in just over two minutes, explains perfectly what it means to have faith and live in the world from a position of Love and Grace for your fellow man-- and the importance of being aware of not just our needs but, even more importantly, those of others.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Starting Each Day

These last few weeks have been pretty impressive times.  Many little lessons with some very big outcomes.  One I would very much like to share is an idea of how to start each day. This comes, in part, from Wayne Dyer’s amazing special the other night and follows along with thoughts and ideas from every one of the philosophers and counselors that I have encountered recently.  Basically, we are what we think.  We manifest our thoughts into the realities that we experience in our life.  If you feel you are inferior and say you are inferior—then you will live a life that is inferior.  Conversely, if you believe you are extraordinary—which you are—and you say you are extraordinary—you will live a live that is extraordinary.  I have done a great deal of paraphrasing, but in essence it is the lesson from all of them, Jesus on down.  I have seen it in my own life.  When I believed that the words of my detractors were right, when I believed that I wasn’t attractive enough to find a partner in NYC, when I believed that my writing skills were not up to some imagined ideal, or that I would not be able to excel at photography—well that’s what happened. 

I have known success—I have experienced it.  But over time, as I lost my vigilance, the naysayers and haters wore my spirit down.  I let them inside my private world and took their beliefs as my own.  I even managed to say their thoughts back out as my own—until a chain of events over the last seventeen months led me to see what I had done.  Like a swimming pool with oil—it only takes one drop of that oil to contaminate a vast amount of crystal clear water.  Our souls are the same way.  It only takes letting one failed friend, one less than supportive manager, one bad date to pollute a soul that is magical—capable—and wonderful.  And that is not just me but all of us.  Not because we are born of any special thing about just us that makes us capable—but rather because all of us are equally and forever divine—born of whatever creator you wish to acknowledge.  By the product of our humanity and our spirit we are given so many skills- abilities- traits—dreams—and desires—and with the ability to make every single one of them come to fruition.

Sadly, we loose sight of that—as we let the doubt in.  We listen to it, think about it, roll it over in our minds and repeat it—until the one place of sanctuary comes to believe not the best about ourselves—but the worst about ourselves. 

There is a reason we are so often (in our memories) happiest when we are children.  It is quite simply because, as children, we did not think to occupy our minds with the thoughts of negativity.  Rain and its puddles were just as much fun as sunny days.  Two feet of snow meant not an aching back from shoveling the driveway—but a sled and a hill and, hopefully a snow day.  We did not learn to look through the negative lens until we were old enough… “To know better?!”  How silly is that phrase?

Here and now, beginning to at last be awake again, I wish to share with you a simple suggestion.  Focus not on what you are not.  Focus not on the black hole on the page (thanks Bernie) but on the positive—the snow day of fun, rather than the snow blower of doom. 

A great way to begin is to focus each day with simple concepts, of who you are—so that your mind will not forget.  I don’t mean who you are in a role sense—this has nothing to do with occupation.  It has everything to do with the deep down part that doesn’t get a paycheck in the literal sense—but that provides you worth in the real sense.  Start with this at the end of your day, before you go to sleep, instead of rolling over the failures of the day in your mind—focus on the good that you are and the good you want to bring into your life.  At the beginning too—before your drown your spirit with the day’s news—or the frustration of a morning commute—visualize and then put to words the beauty and the potential and the wonder that you are and that your life is—at that very moment. 

I am Loved
I am Creative
I am a Student
I am a Teacher
I am a Child
I am Beautiful
I am Prosperous
I am Happy
I am Content

That’s my list.  I encourage you to develop your own.  And I wish you Love. 

And thank you to my teachers— just some of whom are:

Wyane, Eckhart, Joel, Bernie, River, Dawn, Ginny, Will, Kevin, Doug, Joleen, Alan, John, Jack, Shirley, Holly, Natalie, Dee, David, Paul, Ron, Ron, Eric, Tommy, Te, Eric, Kevin, Alex, Steven, Anthony, Frans, Toby, and so very many more than I can not list here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An Open Letter to Kirk, et. al.

In the words of Ronald Reagan: “There you Go Again…”  Add former childhood star and religious mouthpiece Kirk Cameron to the long list of people making comments, religious assertions, and statements about the LGBT community.  You don’t have to go far to read supportive online remarks such as: “He’s just saying what he believes” or ‘Its God’s Words that he is defending”.  This issue rising again juxtaposed with the trial of Tyler Clemente’s roommate (Tyler committed suicide after the roommate spied on and broadcasted his encounter with another man) not only adds the tragedy—but highlights a truth that many who claim to be religious just don’t seem to understand. Their sincere—but misguided-- condemnations of LGBT persons do more damage than they realize. This damage contributes to a culture of intolerance and un-love and that has serious consequences for LGBT community members-- especially those just coming out or just beginning to understand their sexuality.  Most significantly, it is done in the name of religion—when to undertake judgment or condemnation is the farthest thing from what religion itself teaches.

In the song “Which Way Are you going”, Jim Croce sings the words: “You say you love the baby, then you crucify the man.”  This is, in essence, what those who rail about the sin and horror of homosexuality do every day with every word—especially those words spoken in the name of using faith against those in the LGBT community.   And these words have consequences—that turn many away from religion, or, far worse, lead young LGBT people towards lives of self destruction or suicide. From a recent Oregon study comes indications of just how important this is:
Gay, lesbian and bisexual teens are five times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, but a supportive environment in their schools and communities can make a difference, new research suggests.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young adults from ages 15 to 24, and lesbian, gay and bisexual teens (LGB) youth are more likely to attempt suicide, according to the researchers. ( [emphasis added]

That is why these words matter—why they need to be called out—and why it isn’t just people defending their faith.  It is actually expressive of something quite the opposite—people using faith to sew seeds of hatred and divisiveness in themselves and in their communities. It contributes to a lessening of the supportive environment that all people to be themselves effectively and to see the beauty in their creation.

Faith teaches us that God creates us in his own image- every single one of us.  Not just the righteous, or people of a certain faith or creed- but everyone.  Further, the two greatest commandments are: Not to Judge and To Love.  Yes, your biblical interpretation may hold to the idea that committing a gay act is wrong.  You may quote Leviticus or the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to the highest mountain as a way to justify your beliefs  But the foundation of your argument fails—for it rests on practicing an even more “deadly sin”—that of judgment. 

Further, you are in judgment not of an action—but of one of God’s creatures.  Just like you.  Have you no sin in your own life to address? Have you no defect to work on in your own path toward God’s love. This is where the true damage begins—by introducing judgment- the opposite of love—you speak a message to those who are Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered, or Bisexual are not one of God’s Children.  That they are not deserving of God’s love or made in his own image.  That they are not part of the Divine.  What right do you have to make this determination or to proclaim it as the Will of God?  The answer comes from the Sermon On The Mount:

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.    3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Is this the message you are providing to countless young men and women—boys and girls. These souls, who deal not just with society’s rejections, now must also address your assumption that they are not loved.  They must deal with your judgment in the name of your interpretation of the Bible—a judgment that the same scripture you selective quote includes the words above.

This leads too many LGBT youth and young adults to feel shame for who they are-- the most damaging of all emotions. Even more troubling is that these are not adults who, after a lifetime of experiences learn (hopefully and eventually) to separate the wheat from the chaff. To hold dear only to the ideas of love and forgiveness.  These are still people in the dawn of life.  The fragile and the unformed—and the inexperienced.  Those who all too often haven’t yet constructed an effective and healthy framework from which to view the world, much less their own sexual orientation.  Influential preacher Joel Osteen speaks to the significance of this view in his boot “Your Best Life Now” with this amazingly powerful passage:

It’s vital that you accept yourself and learn to be happy with who God made you to be.  If you want to truly enjoy your life, you must be at peace with yourself.  Many people constantly feel bad about themselves.  They are overly critical of themselves, living with all sorts of self-imposed guilt and condemnation.  No wonder they’re not happy; they have a war going on inside.  They’re not at peace with themselves. And if you can’t get along with yourself, you will never get along with other people.  The place to start is by being happy with who God made you to be.
[emphasis added] (Osteen, p. 66)

How do you, from your faith, provide love to LGBT people?  How can your words of condemnation be tempered with platitudes such as—Love the sinner but not the sin—when you condemn not the action of the LGBT person—but the very existence of them—or their very nature?  How cruel is to say, you have a right to be gay or lesbian, but not a right to find and be loved—to build a live with someone?  To be “normal”?  What options do you provide them?  And how far away are you from the teachings of true faith—and the presence of true love?

Far too frequently, faced with an unsupportive family environment, or a culture that in many places rejects them, or at least deals with them with less than love—is it any wonder they often turn to drugs, or alcohol, or compulsive sexualized behavior, or, tragically suicide?  They get precious little support finding peace or happiness being who they are “made to be” because too many in the outside world are too busy placing judgment—or finding fault or denying healthy outcomes permitted for the rest of society—when they should only be concerned with providing love!  Even if they disagree—even if they think it’s a choice—even if they find it vile or repulsive—it is still not their battle to fight.  Nowhere in the scripture, even in the brimstone pages of Leviticus does it decree that normal God fearing Christians have the obligation, or the right to be anything but loving towards any person—any child of God—whether they be sinner or saint.   Again the words from the Sermon on the Mount: 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. (Matthew 7) .

This is in the impact of beginning the discussion with the concept that homosexuality is a sin, that it is a choice, and those who are gay are less than equal to any other of God’s creatures.  You may condemn the action of gay Sex (pre-marital) with the same voice or logic you use to condemn pre-marital heterosexual sex.  You may argue that certain elements of the “Gay lifestyle” may be destructive—but that is the case with all “lifestyles” and immediately express the silliness of there even being such a concept of a lifestyle based on orientation, or area of residence of extent of education or any other concept.

The even greater tragedy lies with the fact that so many people who claim to be religious—God fearing people- fail to see that the very people who’s lifestyle they condemn need most the love that can be expressed through a divine faith.  They seek answers—“why was I made this way”; “Will I find love”, “Why is life so hard”; ‘Why do I feel alone?” These answers can be found in the texts of the scripture of all faiths.  The expression of love that is found in genuine religion—absent of judgment—is exactly what troubled young people need to hear.  Instead they hear, from people who should help them to grown and find peace and love only voices of condemnation—of intolerance and non-acceptance.   

In these moments, faced with the hypocrisy of people of faith expressing emotions and judgments that are so opposed to faith—young LGBT people turn away from what could be their key the real joy, happiness, and love—to entities and people and habits that are the farthest from it. Pain that could be eased it not—love that could be shown is not—and  souls that could be saved are left alone by those who proclaim to have faith.      
People have occasionally asked me why I think God created gay people, and I have asked that same question of others.  My answer has become more resolved over time.  For me, it was a challenge—God’s way of getting me to accept who I am—Love who I am- even though it was different.  Today, I thank God for my orientation—and my opportunity to find my faith though the many questions and difficulties that have been present in my life—but even more so—by finding faith in Love.  Of a Family and friends who accepted me for who I am—of a firehouse that accepted me even though it was not the normal thing to do—and of finding the love in myself and the understanding that I am a child of God.  Created for amazing things and given certain qualities that make me unique and special.

And for those who are out in the world—who are not LGBT—and especially those who do not accept us--members of the LGBT community are God’s challenge to you as well.  That is one explanation for why we all different—the role we have to play in our lives is as much a role in the lives of others. Each of us a piece in a giant 3D puzzle—never to be complete without each soul occupying its predetermined place—serving its role.  To show all people ways to grow—become closer with the one.  Every time someone speaks not to the glory of a child of God—but instead to their intrinsic failure—this takes them, and us as a whole, away from the message—away from their growth—leads that beautiful soul into a land where they see themselves as apart from the one—not a critical element of it. In the words of Joel Osteen:

“Our Value is Intrinsic.  It is not something you or I have earned; indeed we cannot earn it. God built value into us when He created us.  To God, we are his ultimate creations.  That means you can stop obsessing about all your faults and give yourself a break.” [Osteen, Your Best Life Now, p67]

And if you can stop obsessing about your own faults, then by God you can certainly stop obsessing about what you perceive other’s faults to be as well.  Too many people's lives depend on it.  The phrase that so many liked to wear applies here-- not just because it was the "hip" thing but because it was appropriate: "What would Jesus Do?"  When it comes to LGBT teens and young adults-- yearning for Love and Acceptance in their lives-- what do you think the Son of God- the one how walked with the poor and ministered to the misfortunate-- the one who loved all of God's Children-- even those who would crucify him-- what do you think he would have done?