Archive for September, 2019

Road Trip to Prince Edward Island

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

We’re off! Between Saturday and Sunday, we really drove all the way to Prince Edward Island, Canada!

Ruth is posing by the car that was loaded up with stuff before I tried to put my stuff in. We managed it, somehow. (When we arrived, it turned out most of that was food. Darlene loaded the car with more and more food. I think we’ve got munchies for a month.)

Saturday, we drove through Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, and spent the night in Maine. The further we drove, the more colorful the trees became — getting the most colorful right as it got dark. We didn’t arrive until 10:30 at night, and had a feeling we’d be in for beautiful fall color in the morning!

Yes, it was a very long drive. The most harrowing part (for me) was driving in the outskirts of New York City. And it was already well into the afternoon, and we still had a long way to go. But it was Saturday, so the traffic certainly could have been much worse.

I was the one who booked the places where we’d stop for the night. So I was worrying that I should have picked something closer. Especially when we didn’t arrive until 10:30 pm. But my friends kept reminding me what a great time we were having — and that there was no pressure. The hotel desk was still open, so it actually wasn’t a problem. (I realized that planning trips makes me anxious that if anything goes wrong or turns out to be poorly planned, it’s All My Fault. But these friends assured me it’s all an adventure we’re on together. Such nice people to have with me!

Have I mentioned how blessed we are to have known each other for so long — Darlene and me since 3rd grade and Ruth since 7th grade. We chatted all during the drive, talking about our lives and where God has brought us. I love it that we all believe God has been so good to us. Even Ruth, with early onset Alzheimer’s, has been able to keep working and has her family looking out for her. She insists that God has been good to her, and her attitude is inspiring.

On Sunday, I was right — the colors were dazzling right from the start! Here’s a tree right next to our hotel. We liked the splash of color in the middle of green.

Maine was amazing. We were on a road winding through hills and forests — with trees as far as the eye could see. In some spots, there would be bright splashes of color; in others, it would be a gentle shading. But taken all together — it was glorious. We had beautiful sunshine and bright blue skies and we were driving through forests and over hills and into valleys.

In the middle of the day, we crossed into Canada:

Then it was more driving through beautiful New Brunswick — until just as the sun was setting, we drove over the longest bridge over water that freezes, the Confederation Bridge — and arrived in Prince Edward Island.

Then Google Maps led us a winding journey — even on a dirt road! — in the dark, across the island. For the second night in a row, I had trouble spotting the actual place, but eventually we arrived at Cavendish Lodge and Cottages and checked into our cottage for the next six nights! Hooray! We’ve arrived!

Prince Edward Island Prelude

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

I’m going on a road trip with my friends to Prince Edward Island!

Here’s the background. I’ve known Darlene (on the right above) since we were in 3rd grade together in California. I’ve known Ruth (on the left) since 7th grade. Darlene’s a little younger than me, and Ruth’s a little older, but for 18 days after Darlene’s birthday and before Ruth’s, we are all three the same age.

So the year we were fifty, I think it was Ruth (who turned fifty first) who said we really should get together to celebrate when we are all three fifty years old. Darlene and I live near each other close to DC in northern Virginia, but Ruth lives in California, and it seemed like an awesome reason to take a trip together.

Darlene suggested that we go to Prince Edward Island — somewhere I’ve always wanted to go because I’m an L. M. Montgomery Superfan. I’ve read and own all her books and all her Selected Journals. (Just learned that her Complete Journals are out, and I’m buying them.)

Ruth said it was too expensive for her at that time, since she was flying from California anyway. So that year, we did things in the DC area, including a trip to Shenandoah National Park, where the picture was taken.

However, we all decided together that we would plan to do a trip to Prince Edward Island together when we are all 55. That time has come! And we’re really doing it!

It turns out it’s a whole lot cheaper if we do a road trip. And then we’ll have a car on the island, anyway. So we’re driving on the weekends, Darlene and I sharing the driving, and we’ll stay in Cavendish — L. M. Montgomery’s hometown — during the week. Even paying for lodging for a night on the way there and back, this will be cheaper than getting flights, especially since we can split the costs of lodging and gas, but not the cost of flights.

We also suspect it will be a gorgeous drive through New England in the Autumn. We hope there will be some Fall Color — there’s not much here in Virginia yet. And it’s going to be so much fun spending the time with each other. (That’s what I say before the trip, anyway!)

There is a sad note to all of this. We got the very bad news that Ruth has early onset Alzheimer’s. This actually makes a road trip all the better. Her husband says that she’d have trouble with connecting flights. But he can put her on a direct flight to us, and then we’ll have her with us the rest of the way.

I’m afraid I think it’s sadly funny that all three of us going on this road trip are brain damaged. I’ve got a hole in my cerebellum from my stroke in 2011. The main effect that’s left is I do get motion sickness more easily than before. So I’ll sit in the front seat and navigate. That makes sense anyway, since Darlene has memory issues from a brain injury in 2005. So I’m in charge of our itinerary, because it’s easier for me to remember details.

But all this means that we are utterly determined to have a fabulous time! I am also planning to bring my laptop and blog about our trip to be sure my friends can remember the amazing time we’re going to have together.

I’ve been getting ready for the trip as well by rereading my L. M. Montgomery books. So far, I’ve finished 11 of the 24 books she had published in her lifetime, so it’s only a start, but it’s been delightful. I’m planning that we’ll see the several L. M. Montgomery sites, but also do lots of hiking and walks on the beach.

It’s going to be a fabulous way to celebrate friendship at fifty-five!

Transcending – The Council at Jerusalem

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

My series Transcending: They’ll Know Us By Our Love is about why the church should welcome and affirm LGBTQ people, with a special emphasis on transgender people, like my own daughter.

Let me sum up what I’ve posted so far:

The Situation told how my church at the time was considering adopting a policy that declared that marriage is only for one man and one woman for a lifetime and that when transgender people attempt to change their bodies in any way, that’s opposed to God’s design. I disagreed strongly with that position and still hoped they would not adopt the policy.

In Creation, I looked at the one Bible passage the leadership came up with in saying that transgender people changing their bodies is opposed to God’s design. This is not at all consistent with any other policy at that church, as they freely allow people to make any other changes to their bodies: wear glasses or braces, color their hair, get any other surgery, get cochlear implants.

In The Science, I talked about a few (only a few) of the many studies that would seem to indicate that gender is something we’re born with — and it doesn’t necessarily match our external genitalia. So it is biological — in the brain.

In Self-Definition, I talked about how abusive it is to refuse to adopt someone’s definition of themselves because you think you know better.

In What Does the Bible Say? I looked at what the Bible says about transgender people and also what it says about making up policies against them.

In Not Conforming to the World, I talk about how the church should be more welcoming and affirming of outsiders, not less.

In Choice and Non-Choice, I present some of the multitudinous evidence that LGBTQ people are born that way, created by God that way. The only choice they face is whether or not to admit to themselves and to the world who they truly are.

In Interpretation, I pointed out that believing that same-sex marriage is sinful or a transgender person changing their bodies is sinful depends on your interpretation of only a few passages of Scripture. That interpretation is questionable and many, many Christians interpret them differently. Indeed, I quoted a scholar of ancient Greek and Roman literature who makes a strong case that we should interpret them differently.

In Gender-Expansive Children, I looked in detail at a position paper put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics as to best practices for supporting and caring for transgender children. Since then, I’ve found position papers from many more medical and psychological organizations. At one point, I hoped to look at more of them in detail. But wait a minute — why is a church arguing that transgender people shouldn’t get the most accepted medical treatment because they don’t think it’s effective? And that argument did come up. It’s pretty easily refuted with these papers and studies — but even if the established treatment were ineffective in making transgender people more satisfied with their lives (It’s not!), what would that have to do with whether it’s sinful or not? (If you’re actually contemplating medical or surgical treatment — by all means look up the studies and the statistics on effectiveness. But even if it were ineffective, that doesn’t make it sinful to try it.) This post and the paper quoted concludes by advising parents the same way the church should also be advising them: “they do want parents to assure their children that they are loved unconditionally, ‘however they express themselves and whoever they grow up to be.'”

I wrote Saying Farewell after my church did in fact adopt the policy.

My Gracious Argument post reflected some things I learned in this highly emotional discussion.

It’s been two months since that last post, and I’ve been thinking about posting more ever since, so I do have a lot to cover. I will try to make this coherent!

First, I do want to state that I am extremely happy with my new church, a local United Methodist Church. Now, the United Methodists as a whole do not have any policy about transgender people. They also allow women to be pastors, so they more genuinely reflect Galatians 3:28 — “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The denomination as a whole is not yet affirming of same-sex marriage — but the pastor of this church is one of the leaders in the movement to change that. When I went to a congregational meeting and he explained how the prophetic tradition calls us to change — it brought tears to my eyes that instead of arguing with the pastor, the pastor was presenting biblical arguments for being inclusive.

I’ve been thinking about the Science of Gender, too. Scientific American recently published a blog post titled “Stop Using Phony Science to Justify Transphobia.” It explains how we get our biological sex in detail. And we discover: It’s complicated!

I’ve had several different people who believe transgender people are sinning tell me that even if my child gets surgery, that won’t change “his” DNA.

So I asked them, Oh, have you had my child’s DNA tested, because I never did?

More than one person scoffed at my question — but it’s completely legitimate, as this article explains: “Biological sex is far more complicated than XX or XY (or XXY, or just X). XX individuals could present with male gonads. XY individuals can have ovaries.” And then it explains how that works.

I’ve heard an anecdote that a high school biology teacher stopped having his students test their DNA, because any time someone came out with chromosomes different than expected, that kid would get very upset. And this happened often enough, he had to stop that experiment. I’ve also read stories of people who found out as teens or adults that internally they had intersex characteristics. One person found out when they were getting ready to have gender confirmation surgery. Another person found out that was why they were infertile. Our bodies are complex. Chromosomes do not absolutely define your gender, or even what sex organs you have.

You can read the blog post and read the studies it links to about how scientists have worked to figure out how the body forms organs of one sex or another (or both). It’s complicated. It turns out that many factors come into play, even environment.

The paper makes a strong — and scientific — case that sex is not binary. The process of forming gender is long and complicated and not as simple as what chromosomes a fetus has. Do people really believe that just because God created Adam and Eve male and female, God will now make sure that every step of the process of forming biological sex in every single baby will always go smoothly?

Even my former church said that it’s not sinful for intersex people to change their bodies. But apparently they only accept as intersex people who are visibly neither distinctly male nor female. However, with that admission, they are acknowledging that the process of forming biological sex does not always go smoothly. Yet they’re assuming it’s only going to deviate from the “norm” in ways that we can see from outside the body. That doesn’t match many intersex people with internal organs of both genders. How much testing will they do to determine whether people are sinning or not?

As the Scientific American blog post sums up: “the science is clear and conclusive: sex is not binary, transgender people are real.”

Okay, all that is background! Now for what I wanted to talk about: The Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15.

I’m still reading through the New Testament on a schedule put out by my former church, and we recently read Acts 15. Verse 19 jumped out at me:

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

The background of the Council at Jerusalem was that many Gentiles were turning to God. And many Jews, who were the first followers of Jesus, thought that the Gentiles should follow the Law and become circumcised in order to be saved.

This was a big controversy — they had believed you approach God by keeping the Law. But they held a council and listened to the leaders who had seen Gentiles receive Christ, and they concluded that following Jesus was not the same thing as keeping the Law.

Honestly? I think a church having a Code of Conduct or a “Christian Living Statement” is setting up new rules, new laws.

I also think it’s interesting to look at the rules the leaders at Jerusalem did send out:

Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

This is the one time you see the New Testament church setting up rules — and three of the four are no longer anything anybody ever worries about.

And even those rules were presented as suggestions, not as requirements in order to be members of the church. The letter to the churches says, “You will do well to avoid these things.”

We are no longer under the Law. We are under grace.

Paul expounds on this controversy and these ideas in the book of Galatians. In the first three chapters he talks about faith and works of the law — the very passage that culminates in these words:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ.

We have established that gender is not binary and transgender people are real.

Now let us not make it difficult for the transgender people who are turning to God.

Let us neither make it difficult for the gay person or the lesbian or the nonbinary person.

Many Christian Jews of Paul’s day honestly believed that in order to approach God, a person needed to be circumcised. But the leadership came to see that rule was only making things difficult that should not be difficult.

Coming to God and being part of the body of Christ isn’t supposed to depend on following rules. Walking with Jesus is about love.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” (I Corinthians 12:21)

Let’s not make it difficult for anyone who’s turning to God. The body of Christ needs every part.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

That’s I Corinthians 12, and you see that again Paul is saying that we need everyone, all types of people.

Please look out before making up rules. Let’s not make it difficult to be part of the body of Christ.

Shouldn’t they know us by our love?