This is an incredible talk that each person should hear.

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Below is a quote from Steven Den Beste (I found this quote here) that speaks very clearly how I feel about my choice to state succinctly my convictions regard same-sex attraction (he was speaking of a different matter altogether):
There comes a time in every man's life when he has to choose sides. I have chosen my side. I am comfortable with my decision. I do not think everyone on my side is a saint... Sometimes a man with too broad a perspective reveals himself as having no real perspective at all. A man who tries too hard to see every side may be a man who is trying to avoid choosing any side. A man who tries too hard to seek a deeper truth may be trying to hide from the truth he already knows. That is not a sign of intellectual sophistication and "great thinking". It is a demonstration of moral degeneracy and cowardice.
This past Saturday there was a lively debate on my Facebook page (when ever isn't there). Friend of mine on the Religious Right responded to a linked article on my Facebook page by Kathy Baldock, "The Ten Lies about the GLBT Community..." that I posted on Facebook. She said, "It sounds like you may not consider homosexuality sin or are critical towards those that do." (sic) Those words really stuck with me throughout the weekend. Another friend of mine who came up to visit said to me, "Ray why don't you just put your position out there?" His question, too, has stuck with me. I guess the answer to his question is this: I'm afraid. I have no problem being classified as a left-wing liberal. After all, maybe Jesus was (tongue-in-cheek). The truth of the matter is that I know to cross this line will put me at odds with a lot of evangelicals; many of whom are friends of mine. I know that to say that I have not been convinced by scripture, science and clear logic that same-sex attraction is a choice will really cause some to question whether, in fact, I am a follower of Jesus, or if I have become jaded in my convictions. That scares me. Honestly, it is frightening. That brings up another issue entirely that I won't touch on here.


SO...here goes the leap...

If it is not a choice, it is my conviction that  it unjust to expect a person to deny their sexual attraction. I find it unloving, irresponsible and cruel to tell teens--my fifteen year old niece being one of them--that they are an abomination destined for hell.  It is wrong for the Church to lead the charge of hate and vitriol concerning folks with same-sex attractions. It is wrong to disown family members and friends because their sexual orientation is not to your liking. Finally, it is wrong to drag the name of Jesus through the mud to codify bigotry, hatred or simply fear and ignorance. 


Martin Luther warns that it is "neither right nor safe to go against conscience" and I could not agree with him more.

I am certain that I do not know it all; I do not have all of the answers so far as this topic (or any topic) is concerned. But I know that God has shown me what is required; what is good. It is good to Do Justice. It is good to Love Mercy and it is good to Walk Humbly before God. It is good to love folks and leave the judgment and conviction to the only omniscient and perfect God. (Click here for more depth on that)


Let me state clearly and succinctly my position, lest there be any ambiguity:
  • I believe that the Old Testament has enumerated many things that are abominations that we no longer see as such 
  • I believe that the debate around this issue is still growing and evolving
  • I believe that science is clear that same-sex-attraction is not a choice but rather "normal"
  • I believe that same-sex-attraction has more to do with biology than with choice
  • I believe that folks with same-sex-attractions can be bona fide Christians
  • I believe that folks can disagree with my position and still be bona fide Chrisitians
  • I believe that we all win when we stay in our lane and love; leaving judgment and convicting to God.

I submit this humbly, lovingly and with great conviction.
Four days ago I became the big 3-0! I gotta tell you that I was not much looking forward to this birthday. I know what all of my evangelical friends will say, "Every year is a gift from God; be blessed to be alive." I don't refute that; I am happy and blessed to be--as Grandma would say--, "In the land of the living." But there was something about turning thirty that made me, well, sad. I don't know if it is because I don't feel like I am anywhere near where I envisioned myself being at thirty or if it is because this is the first birthday that I have not had my Gma Mammie. At either rate, I was not looking forward to it.

This past weekend was full; very full. So, I officiated the wedding of one of my dear friends this weekend. I had lunch with Frank Tart, my middle school mentor. Met up with some of my Hillsborough family--who I have missed desperately. Then the cake-topper--crème de la crème--of the weekend, I celebrated with my twin brother, most of my siblings and some of our childhood friends. I had an incredible time. Then when I got home I celebrated with Kels, Jesse, Mille, Toots, Ben and Joy! This past weekend was so great.  So, this leads me to the heart of this post.

I have lived fifteen million, seven hundred, sixty-eight thousand minutes. That is a lot of minutes, but not really. In the first third of my life, I have laughed a lot, loved a lot and lost little. When I look over the first third of my life, I have had few regrets and tons of rewards. As I think about the blessings in my life, I must start with the acknowledgment of Jesus. His sacrifice for me, a wretch without him. Then there is my incredible bride, who has always been the unsung hero of my life these past six years. She is, without a doubt, an evidence of God's grace upon my life.  Quinton, my incredible son, is a joy to me. He has shown me a lot. He has given me a glimpse of the love that Abba has for me. Then there are Dee (Courtney) and Jesse (Camille)--my two best friends who get me and know me--loving me despite it. My parents, have been a constant. They have neither been perfect but have been a constant love. My Judy, I love her so much and she is the epitome of a strong, black, educated woman. My other siblings and their spouses have been a constant source of love, strength and support for me. I love my family! To enumerate the people who I have impacted my life in the fifteen million minutes that I have lived would be impossible.

My mind, however, immediately go to people like Tonetta Landis--one of my longest and dearest friendships. This woman has exhibited before me and the world how to live out your faith through actions. She will travel any distance for the ones whom she loves. Then there is my dear friend, Allen, who has always been a listening ear for me and willing to give hugs when necessary. My dear friend, Patti; words will fail to speak of the impact that she has had on Kels and me. Charlton, he is my brother from a white, W. Va mother. Brandy Black, my sister from another mister (ILYLAS)! There have been countless folks who have impacted my life in such positive ways, and you each know who you are.

So, instead of looking with dread at the next 2/3 of my life, I look with anticipation. I look forward to the folks who I have yet to meet. I look forward to the obstacles I have yet to clear. I am excited to see my family grow.

Thirties, I will master you!

There are tons of things that I miss about youth ministry. The thing that I miss most is the impact that you can have on the lives of the young friends you spend time with individually and the impact they have on you. Caleb and I hung out tonight with his folks at Lone Star. We had a good meal but the best part was just the time spent together. One thing that can't be taught at Seminary or Bible College is genuine love; mutual love. I think that successful Youth Pastors are ones who make their "job" far more than that. They are the ones who love their young friends whether they come to a houth meeting and especially if they don't. They are the ones who go beyond. They are the ones who allow the relationship to become reciprocal! Caleb, thanks for reminding me; I love you dude!
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I'm sitting in my new babrber shop. The smells of the shop take me back to when I was a kid getting my hair cut in "The Grove" in Greensboro.

There are few institutions in the black community that hold more influence and foster community than the Church and the Barbershop. As I've been here I have heard already the talks of Obama, Wallerbees, Church and the pros and Cons of Charlotte. I love the barbershop. If you want to get a bead on the black community go to the shop or the church.

The parting words of a frequent "client" (because he does not pay) was, "When the hell yall gone get some new magazines?"
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Death is a pretty bizzare thing. We often think that we git it; we understand. The reality is, in reality, we don't. We accept death because to not accept it would be to ensure certain instability.

No matter how much we know of death's inevitability, we never are prepared.
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Mammie Lee Goodwin
Born: December 19, 1936
Died: November 23, 2010

I took this picture of my grandma a little over a month before she died. She died. That still gets me. Death is so final; so unforgiving. No matter what you had not done with or for a person prior to their death, it remains undone or unsaid. 

As I think about my gma, I immediately smile. I hear her laugh which is so distinct in my mind. I hear her saying my full name with the emphasis on RAY...RAYshawn. I hear her asking me if I'm hungry. I hear her telling me, "Well, don't hurry." when I go to leave after visiting for hours. I hear he telling joke to Ms. Loula Mae, her best friend of 70 yrs. I hear her asking me to get her some of the fish that was "fried hard". 

Then there are the memories and smells. Now, when I smell tea, I think about all of the "Russian Tea" that she would make for my home church's "Rainbow Tea". I think of all of the Easter Egg Hunts that we had at her house. I think about her phone number that had the coolest rhyme 2722702. I think about, well...when I think about grandma, the memory that most hits me is the memory of being secure. Being safe. In contrast to my biological grandmother, my Grandma loved me. She "oogled" over me, clear up to her last days.
My Grandma (and Grandpa),most importantly, had the greatest influence on me as a Christian. Were it not for her (them) I am not sure the trajectory my life would have taken. I remember going to my grandparent's each weekend and often mult times during the week. Gosh I miss her so much. This is rambled, I know. But it is near six a.m. and I have been awake thinking about her. Crying. Sobbing. Cussing. Confused. 

I would give so much just to have one more kiss. One more hug. One more laugh with you, Grandma. But I know that is not going to happen on this side of heaven. I will settle for my fond memories. I will settle for the smile you gave me in the Hospice Room on Monday night. I will settle for the love that can never wither, fade or die. I will settle for the pictures. Those must suffice until I see you in heaven.

Grandma:

The days are cold living without you
The nights are long, I’m growing older
I miss the days of old, thinking about you
You may be gone, but you’re never over

Lord I’m so thankful, please don’t think I don’t feel grateful, I do
Just grant me the strength that I need, for one more day to get through

I love you grandma! You are gone but never over. You are my hero, one of my biggest fans and my heart.
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