Eight years ago today, I met Honey for the first time. We had connected through an online dating service, chatted for several nights, and finally agreed to meet in person. After spending the evening eating dinner and watching a movie with a very polite and quiet young man, I assumed he didn’t like me. You know what they say about assumptions…
This is now the longest relationship I have ever been in. I don’t want to jinx things, but I am happy, contented, and fulfilled. I consider him to be my greatest friend, and there can’t be anything much better than getting to spend your life with your best friend.
Weekend before last, we journeyed to Chattanooga, TN. We managed to pack several activities into our two-day trip, including a visit to Rock City, Ruby Falls, the saltwater and freshwater aquariums, and IMAX theater. Although I had toured Rock City before, the other experiences were new to both of us.
Chattanooga was warm and sunny when we arrived Friday afternoon. We parked and headed straight for the aquariums. Although they were very nice, we both decided the aquarium in Newport, KY, is much better. Of course Newport wasn’t as crowded and had the added benefit of Mighty Mike.
After a delicious lunch at a nearby restaurant, we watched a 3D film at the IMAX theater titled Cities Under The Sea, which was about coral reefs and their important role in keeping our planet healthy.
We arrived at Rock City early Saturday morning to find conditions very foggy and overcast. I was really disappointed that the view from the top wasn’t as good as it would be on a clear day, but the sun began peeking out and conditions improved quickly. I love the outdoor part of Rock City, but I find the cave section of the tour very disturbing. I’m not exactly sure what neon-colored fairy tale characters have to do with nature, and the whole things makes me feel like I’m on a bad acid trip.
After touring Rock City, we arrived at Ruby Falls to find throngs of tourist waiting in line. We waited for close to an hour before riding an elevator down into the cave below. From there, we walked half a mile through narrow, slippery passageways to catch a short glimpse of the waterfall. It was beautiful, but we felt like we were being herded around like cattle. Very little time was allowed for photographs, although I did manage to capture a few.
All in all it was a nice trip, and I would highly recommend Chattanooga for anyone looking for a nice vacation with plenty to do.
During my visit to New York City in the fall of 2001, I had the privilege of visiting the top of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. The observation deck encompassed both an indoor and outdoor viewing area. I have included photos from both vantage points, as well as a photo of the original globe that rested at the foot of the towers and a model of the southern tip of Manhattan that was displayed on the observation deck.
I took the following photos with a 35mm camera on 9/9/01 – two days before the towers came down. You can read more about my experience here.
And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. - Isaiah 35:8 (NIV)
The small Holiness church I grew up in had cement block walls lined with single-pane windows along each side, two plain wooden doors at the front, and a modest parsonage at the rear. Inside, bare bulbs dangled over harsh wooden pews and a cement floor that was often moist with condensation. A sturdy lectern stood in the middle of a small stage at the front of the sanctuary, and a long altar for kneeling and praying stretched across the space between the stage and the pews. I’m not sure which was more plain – the building or the people it inhabited.
Our church was founded when some members left a local Pentecostal Holiness church to begin their own. Our new church would be known as Free Holiness Church, although the word Free was later removed because the pastor didn’t want our church associated with hippies and their Free Love movement.
As a child, I wasn’t allowed to wear short sleeves, short pants, or any form of jewelry. Men weren’t allowed to grow beards; women weren’t allowed to cut their hair. Some ladies took the admonishment about cutting hair to the extreme, even refusing to shave their legs and underarms. Some took the disapproval of male beards to the extreme, even removing the large painting of Christ that hung at the front of our church because he was depicted with facial hair.
We weren’t supposed to have a television, although there were a couple of times my father kept one in a bedroom when he wasn’t attending church regularly. Radios were okay, but only Christian music was allowed. Drinking and tobacco were strictly off-limits – even during communion when grape juice was substituted for wine. Cursing of any kind, including using crude words to describe bodily functions, wasn’t allowed. Sex before marriage was a huge no-no. Dancing, sports, and board games were discouraged. Some of the most faithful even avoided doctors, relying on God for healing of any infirmities.
Although most of these beliefs might seem extreme to even the most devout Christian, there were Bible verses to back up all of them. Verses about idle words, not setting anything evil before your eyes, long hair being a woman’s glory, etc. Nothing seemed far-fetched when it could be backed up with the Good Book.
Having been out of that particular faith and church for many years, I have had some recent interest in reading about the roots of the denomination. Although we were raised under the assumption that our particular way of faith was the Only Way, the Straight and Narrow Way, a quick search of Wikipedia shows that the early Holiness movement actually started around the middle of the 19th century by way of the Methodists and Evangelicals. Pentecostals (those who believe in speaking in tongues, miraculous healing, etc.) emerged around the beginning of the 20th century during a multi-year revival in Los Angeles.
What is really interesting to me is that although our church identified as Holiness, many who called themselves Holiness in the early 1900′s strongly objected to the growing movement of Pentecostalism because of speaking in tongues. Seeing how our church believed in baptism of the Holy Ghost, our church would have clearly been categorized as Pentecostal Holiness.
Because church history was never taught and rarely discussed, I grew up believing Pentecostalism was the predecessor to the Holiness movement. It seems the opposite is true.
I drove by my old church this afternoon. The building hasn’t changed much since the days when I stood and played my tambourine as music and praise roared around me. I hear the congregation is much smaller now, with only a handful attending on a regular basis.
It has been almost two years since I wrote that I will always be a Pentecostal in my heart. I’m sure my mother would be delighted to know I said that, even though I no longer attend services or live the lifestyle I knew as a child. I may no longer hold some of the beliefs I grew up with, but I do hold a special place in my heart for the people and their way of life.
I was molested around the age of five by a close family member. Not an immediate family member, but close. I’ll refer to him as Chester. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say I wasn’t his only victim.
When my parents found out what was going on, Chester placed the blame on me and the other child he had preyed upon. According to him, we started it all, even though that would have been impossible given our age and ignorance about all things sexual. Even so, in my earliest memory of sexual contact with him, I was the one who initiated it.
I used to beat myself up and wonder if I really did start it, but the most logical explanation is that my first memory wasn’t actually the first encounter. How would I have even known how to initiate sexual activity at the tender age of five?
Despite the fact that there were two victims with the same story and a confession from the perpetrator, no one contacted the authorities, no charges were filed, and Chester never paid for his crimes.
Although any unsupervised contact with Chester was stopped after his misconduct came to light, I was still occasionally in his presence. Even today, because of our familial connection, I still have to be around him at times. Our small talk is always forced and awkward, and I keep a close eye on him when he is around children.
I recently attended the funeral of a distant relative. After walking past the casket and waiting in the adjoining room for the rest of the family to enter, I felt something tickling my ear. I whipped around to see Chester grinning while holding a twisted up chewing gum wrapper. Although the gesture was harmless enough, I felt like it was highly inappropriate given past circumstances.
I used to blame Chester for making me gay. I figured those early encounters must have formed my sexual preferences. I honestly still don’t know if homosexuality is completely biological, but I don’t see the point in trying to find a definitive reason or explanation for my sexuality. I simply am what I am. Whether I was born this way or became this way because of what happened to me as a child, I had absolutely no choice in the matter.
Chester had a choice though. He chose to steal the innocence of my childhood, and the consequences of his actions still reverberate through my life today.
Yesterday, in the presence of a lawyer and three witnesses, Honey and I signed our lives over to one another. Literally.
Not only did we sign Last Will & Testaments leaving all of our property to one another in the event of our death, we also signed documents granting each other financial and medical power of attorney. Lastly, we completed Living Wills which detail our wishes about end-of-life medical decisions – ultimately leaving final decisions about treatment to one another. So, at least from a legal standpoint, we placed our lives and our property in each others hands.
All of the paperwork and signatures even made it seem like we finally achieved some legal recognition of our relationship. I figure this is about as close to married as a couple can get without actually receiving a marriage certificate and having a ceremony.
The amazing part is that after almost eight years together, it feels like our relationship just achieved a new level of commitment. I hope this is just the first step of many on our journey toward full legal recognition of our union.