Bye Nike.

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I usually stay out of the political debate, except with those I am closest to.  I find I am not going to change anyone’s mind and mine is rarely changed on an issue, through debate with people I don’t know.

With that said, here I go.

Nike, I gave you the benefit of the doubt when you hired Colin Kaepernick as a spokesman.  Our views about America, our history and respect for the greatest democracy in human history don’t align, but it is your right to hire whomever you want. Afterall, he isn’t the first washed up athlete to be given a second career hocking tennis shoes and work-out apparel.

I didn’t get rid of any of my Nike, I just didn’t buy anymore.  If I wanted to throw on a hoodie or pair of socks with the familiar “swoosh” on it, I did.

That changed this week, when you decided that Kaepernick’s hurt feelings were more important than the first flag that flew as a sign of Independence for the greatest country in the history of man.

The same flag that flew over America that allowed Mr. Kaepernick to get his feelings hurt over a tennis shoe design.

I understand that there are parts of the history of our country that are shameful, but to try and erase the parts of our history that has led up to the progress we see in America today is just plain stupid.

Nike has decided that the voice of a multi-million-dollar endorsement hack is worth more than the history of our county, they have the right to support their spokesman, and I also have the right not to buy their crap.

I realize I’m not the target market for Nike, that’s cool, I just hope that for the sake of the brand, the bed wetting snowflakes who get offended by a tennis shoe design will be able to give the brand the longevity that the object of Mr. Kaepernick’s hurt feelings have given.

As a business owner, I try not to piss off anyone (except the University of Alabama and the Florida Gators, I hate them both and they can be pissed off), I may not like what you want on a t-shirt, but I’m not going to turn your business away because we have differing viewpoints, it’s just not good business.  Nike on the other hand has chosen to piss off millions of Americans by allowing an overpaid past his prime athlete to get his feelings hurt over a shoe that celebrates the history of our country.

Mr. Kaepernick obviously has issues with the United States of America, maybe he should run over to North Korea or Russia and see what they think of his “hurt feelings.”

I love my country; I love what it stands for and I even love that idiots like Nike and Kaepernick can raise their voices in dissent.  What I don’t love is people trying to erase the history of America that has brought us to where we are today.

When you erase the ugly parts of our history, people forget, and we are more apt to repeat the mistakes of the past.  We still haven’t succeeded in getting to that “more perfect union,” but we are a hell of a lot closer than we used to be.

Mr. Kaepernick is entitled to his hurt feelings; Nike is entitled to turn their backs on millions of potential customers, and I am entitled to walk away from the brand.

But what they are NOT entitled to do is erase the history of America, the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

MY Methodist Church

I was not born into the Methodist Church.  As a young man, I CHOSE the Methodist Church, when I saw a congregation in Atlanta, GA, step outside their doors and offer a cup of water to a community that was searching.

This simple act of love happened when the Gay Pride Parade in Atlanta was passing the front doors of this congregation and instead of turning their backs on a community they didn’t understand, they stood on the sidewalk and offered water to those who passed.

That one act, an act of friendship brought me to the Methodist Church.

A young man in my 20’s, I was searching.  I was searching for a way to continue the faith that I had learned as a child, but with a new understanding of who I was, I was also seeking a congregation that would not judge me for who God made me.

I found that love and compassion at St. Mark United Methodist Church.

In my 30’s I moved to south-Florida.  Wanting to continue my faith walk, I sought out a Church that would continue to love and accept me.  I found that love, understanding and friendship at the United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches.

While living in south-Florida, I met and became friends with the Pastor.  In a candid and loving conversation, he told me one day that he did not understand my sexuality, but he loved me and would walk BESIDE me through life, that promise continues today.

After my pastor was reassigned to another congregation, I was embraced by my first female pastor, a friend who became a confidant, the person I needed to speak with more than anyone else on the morning my mom died. A pastor who exemplifies the love of Christ with all she encounters.

As a member of the Methodist Church, I have been blessed to gain friendships that will follow me until my last days on earth.  As a member of the Methodist Church, I have grown in my walk with Christ and as a Methodist I found a home.

It all started with a simple act of kindness.

Today, as a middle-aged man, I grieve at the thought that this same compassion may not be offered to our next generation of Methodist leaders and congregants.

I never imagined that my faith-walk could one day split a church, that my desire to know God and live a life that was honoring to Him could ever be considered so abhorrent to some that we would turn our backs on others who simply wanted to live their lives in honor to God.

Acceptance, love, compassion, those are all words that I have known from the Methodist Church I chose.  It saddens me that those cornerstones of the religion may be torn apart, by a simple vote, one that can change lives forever.

If we the Church are to fulfill the mission of Wesley and the teachings of Christ, everyone must be welcome, everyone must be honored and everyone must have a place at the table.

This week, as the United Methodist Church Conference tackles these important issues, I pray that millions of us who have known the love of Christ through OUR church will continue to feel the welcome and a new generation of Christ seekers will find that the United Methodist Church is a place of love for all.

Will the United Methodist Church continue to offer a cup of water to the thirsty, will they honor the teachings of Christ?

What are You Offended by Now?

wpid-wp-1436742937115How did we become a society of the permanently offended?

It seems like there is a whole group of people in our society who just live to be offended by something, and let me say from the outset, you being offended does only one thing…. makes you offended.

Everywhere you turn, someone is offended by something.  Politics, religion, sexuality, entertainment, words, clothes, media….. offended, offended, offended… here is a piece of advice….. GET OVER IT!

In the society that we now find ourselves in, Republicans are offended by Democrats, Democrats are offended by Republicans; gays are offended by straights, straights are offended by gays; black are offended by whites and whites are offended by blacks; men are offended by women and women offended by men, Christians are offended by non-Christians and vice-versa; and on and on and on….. GET A GRIP PEOPLE AND GET OVER BEING OFFENDED!

At this rate, who and what are we not going to be offended by?

I learned this week that I am supposed to be offended by a Christmas song; one that I have listened to my whole life and never knew was evidently about a man “supposedly” trying to sexually assault a woman.  I just thought it was a cute song about a man trying to get a woman he was dating to try to spend some time with him.

If you look at the internet, everything is a conspiracy,  who knew that every agency created to protect and defend the Constitution was now a left-wing conspiracy group designed to bring down the government… who knew?  Evidently, the internet taught us that.  Thanks internet!?!?!?

We all have crap in our lives, crap that sometimes makes it hard just to put your feet on the floor in the mornings and get moving, but we do it and most of us do it in private.  We don’t have the need to share with the world what offends us and demand others be offended too.

In our world of being offended, we now have co-workers afraid to get into an elevator with someone of the opposite sex because of what may be said.  REALLY?  It’s an elevator going between the 3rd and 5th floor.

How about we all just take a breath, grow up  a little and live our own lives without trying to bring everyone else along with our “being offended” mentality.

You know what offends me?  You being offended and expecting me to care!

There is a guy in my town who moved here because he loves it so much.  He opened a successful business and has done very well.  But now, he is offended by other businesses moving into town who he doesn’t agree with politically.  He now wants to homogenize our little corner of God’s Country into the way HE thinks it should be…. here’s a history lesson for you,…. we were this way before you ever moved here and will be long after you leave, take the offended entitlement and move on!

Is there stuff in our world that offends me…. you bet!  But guess what, I’m not asking you to be offended by it too…. I’ll just not listen to the music that offends me, or patronize a business that I don’t agree with or vote for a candidate who doesn’t represent my views on how I think our world should be operated.  But I’m not going to expect you to feel the same.

2018, is almost over, it has proven to be the year of “I’m offended,” on all sides….. here’s an idea, in 2019, let’s all put on our big boy and girl pants and grow the eff up!

And now, you can be offended by what I just wrote!

Love One Another…. It’s That Simple.

Once again, over the last few days we have been witnesses to acts of unspeakable violence and hate.

Once again, our differences have torn us apart.  I don’t understand.

I don’t understand how someone can hate an entire race, creed, orientation; I don’t understand how someone’s heart can grow so hardened that the fears of our differences bring us to such a place and I am thankful for that lack of understanding.

For decades, I suppose centuries, our differences have continued to define us.  At what point will we find our similarities are so much more important than our differences?

Unfortunately, these acts of violence have hardened all of our hearts.  We send our love to victims, we pray for entire cities and we tweet about our heartbreak, but what do we actually do?

It’s not about guns, or politics, it’s about hearts, minds and a lack of understanding.

There are billions of people on the planet, each one of us different and that is what makes the world such an amazing place.  I can’t fathom a world where everyone was like me, short, fat, bald, old white guy, how boring is that?  What makes the world so amazing is our differences, our vast beliefs, religions, races, why can’t we seem to accept that and get along?

Our society has grown so hardened that we witness these senseless acts and then go on about our day, we just keep moving along and wait for the next atrocity to happen, we then send out thoughts and prayers and wait for the next, unfortunately it seems on a weekly basis.

Like all of you, my heart breaks a bit more each time one of these mass murders takes place and I am lost, I am lost to know what to do, I am lost to understand…. I am lost.

I don’t think I am the only one who is lost, I think we all are, we are lost to find answers when the fringe of our society begins to define us.

This isn’t a Democrat or a Republican issue, it isn’t an American issue, it is a human issue, one that brings us down instead of building us up.

I will always believe that 99.999999999999999% of the planet is good, but sadly today that infinitesimal percentage that is filled with hate and rage define us.  Our fringe should be just that, fringe, not the voices that we hear most often, but the ones who are set aside and witnessed to about the goodness of humanity and not encouraged and held up as a voice that should be leading our charge.

What do we do as people to stamp out this hate?  What do we do to celebrate our similarities and allow good to overcome evil?  What do we do?

Several years ago there was a movement in our society, it was begun by young people and it was symbolized by four letters…. WWJD?

What would Jesus do, a simple phrase with a simple answer….. LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Jesus gave this simple command to his people, he didn’t say love one another except for those you disagree with.  He didn’t tell us to only love those who were like us, he told us to love all people, everyone.

We can’t love when we continue to allow our differences to separate us, if we are to truly love we must first look at how we are alike and then in voices of compassion, resolution and understanding we must work together to work together to overcome our differences.

I’m not a Bible scholar, but I have studied.  I can’t find a place in the Bible where we are told to love someone unless they are Black, Brown, Yellow, White, Jewish, Gay, Muslim, the only command I see is LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

At some point, if we are to survive as a people love has to overcome the hatred that we have for one another.  Hatred of our differences will only continue to tear us apart, continue our heartbreak and our tweets of compassion, when a tweet is simply too late.

Thankfully, all hatred doesn’t end in violence and death.  In our society today, we see people being harassed on a night out with a loved one, hate is hate.  We tear each other down over our beliefs, families are torn apart , people we value as friends are swept aside over simple differences.  Imagine how things could change if we just talked to each other, kept the temperature to a slow boil and discussed differences to find solutions like respectful humans.

I don’t hold myself aside from these actions, I am as guilty as anyone else, maybe one day we will all learn and embrace our similarities and stop letting our differences overtake us.

Sadly, there are few places where we are safe anymore.  Churches, synagogues, restaurants, nightclubs, the workplace, have all been attacked.  Our places of work and play are now battlegrounds and sites of mass murder, it is truly a sad commentary on our world.

We can do better, we must do better, we must find a way to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

I don’t understand a hatred that engulfs someone, I don’t understand hatred of entire group of people, I don’t understand….. and I hope I never will.

December 29, 1977

Over the last week or so I have heard and read many comments about how someone could remember what happened to them over 30 years ago.

How something could happen to someone over 30 years ago that was violent and harmful and them not say anything.

As I have watched the news over the last week or so, I have grown increasingly upset and this morning when I woke up I was physically ill.

As I put my fingers to the keyboard to type this post, they are shaking and I feel weak.

I don’t know if what has been reported is true or not, what I do know is my story and this is it.

On December 29th, 1977, I was 13 years old.  I had just started to discover who I was and at the end of a Christmas season was preparing to go back to school.

That afternoon, my cousin, a couple of years older than me, called to let my family know that she was in town with a friend, the friend’s father and his son, who was about my age.  They were going to the small ski slope in my town the next day to enjoy one last hurrah before school would resume the following week.

My parents invited them all to the house that night for dinner and they accepted.

As I lived on the slopes during my days away from school they invited me to go with them the next day.

I remember distinctly the man telling my parents I could just stay with them that night as they would be heading out early the next morning.  My parents said yes and after dinner we all returned to the Heart of Rabun Hotel to prepare for the next day’s outing.

Just 2 miles from my house, the Heart of Rabun Hotel stood alongside the busy highway that would take us to our snow adventures.

The man had rented two rooms.  One for the girls and one for his son and himself.  I would stay in that room.

That night, the man sexually assaulted me.

I don’t know where the son was, I don’t know if he was in bed asleep or had stayed in the room with the girls.  I do know that no one came to my rescue.

I also know I was terrified.

The next day, we arose and went to the ski slope as planned.

Sometime during that afternoon, my brother arrived at the slopes to pick me up.  He was with a friend and once we got in the car, he told me that my Uncle, a fireman, had died that day in an accident at a home fire.

I remember going back to my parents house and drawing a bath.  I remember sitting in the tub and crying, at the time I wasn’t sure if I was crying because my Uncle had died or because my innocence had died the night before.

More than anything I remember thinking, how easy it would be to slip under the water in the tub and never come back up.  That thought still haunts me to this day, 41 years later.

After that night, I went on with my life and in the 41 years since it happened I have told two people, one a therapist I was seeing when I lived in West Palm Beach, Florida and the second a cousin, an author who read about it in a book I was working on.

I never told anyone else, until today.

But just because I have said nothing doesn’t mean the incident that I went through doesn’t still affect me daily.

I find it hard to trust people.  I feel easily betrayed.  I find it hard to befriend new people.  I am not comfortable in crowds, with casual small-talk or being in the presence of strangers. I am afraid to make long-term commitments.  I often go for the quick and easy instead of devoting the energy into the long-term, but most of all I find it very easy to keep secrets.

I have kept my secret for 41 years, some people may ask why?

There are a number of reasons and none of them are good ones, but they are reality.

Shame.

Fear.

Being labeled.

Doubt.

I was ashamed of what happened to me.  I felt like somewhere deep inside I had asked for it.  Back in 1977, I was a young teen just finding my own truth in my sexuality, did I provoke the man?  Did I want it?  Did I enjoy it?

Being a young, lithe, boy was I an easy target?  Could this man see through my other secret and know I was an easy victim for his abuse?

Today, I know the answers to those questions are no, but back then I didn’t.

I was afraid that no one would believe me and if I came forward I was afraid of what would happen.

The man who assaulted me owned a large company in Atlanta, who was going to believe me over him?

And if I was believed, my family was one of the most loved in our community, what would happen to my family if I came forward?  How would this affect them?

Yesterday, my co-workers and I were talking about sexual assault, like I am sure many other Americans were.  A young lady who works for me said, “if this had happened to me, someone would have died.”  I agreed, but what I didn’t say was I was afraid I would be the one who died.  I was terrified, the man who hurt me could come back and hurt me again or this time hurt my family.

In 1977, I was just starting to learn about my own sexuality.  Things were different back then, being a gay kid in a small town wasn’t easy, if I had come forward my “other” secret would surely come out too.  That was not something I wanted to risk.

Also, in 1977, people just didn’t talk about things like sexual abuse.  Thankfully today, our society sees it differently, but back then, these types of things were usually kept quiet and the victim suffered alone.  That was my case.

Today, I know my family would have supported me and they would have gotten me the help that I needed.  But that isn’t how a 13-year-old brain works, I was scared and felt like I was the guilty one.

I share this story, not for pity or out of some way of swaying anyone’s opinion on the news that has been gripping our nation for the last few weeks.

I share my story to say, yes these things happen and memories from 41 years ago can still linger and affect lives just as vividly today as they did the day they happened.

But like most stories, mine lingered in private, until today.

December 29, 1977 – 41 years seems like yesterday.