I am writing for the Christian agnostic, by which I mean a person who is immensely attracted by Christ and who seeks to show his spirit, to meet the challenges, hardships, and sorrows of life in the light of that spirit, but who, though he is sure of many Christian truths, feels that he cannot honestly and conscientiously ‘sign on the dotted line’ that he believes certain theological ideas about what some branches of the Church dogmatize.
Leslie D. Weatherhead, ‘The Christian Agnostic’
- The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs
- Looking For Alaska by John Green
- Have No Shame by Melissa Foster
- Don’t Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde
- Twelve Years A Slave by Solomon Northup
- Where We Belong by Catherine Ryan Hyde
- Once Upon A Haunted Moor by Harper Fox
- Tinsel Fish by Harper Fox
- Don’t Let Go by Harper Fox
- Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock
- Falling Off The Face of The Earth by JF Smith
- The Fence And Then The Trees by JF Smith
- The Sticks by JF Smith
- The Last Day of Summer by JF Smith
- Latakia by JF Smith
- The Sticks by JF Smith
- Kitto by Harper Fox
- Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune
- Tell Me It’s Real by TJ Klune
- John & Jackie by TJ Klune
- Bear, Otter, and the Kid by TJ Klune
- Who We Are by TJ Klune
- The Art of Breathing by TJ Klune
- Meatworks by Jordan Castillo Price
- The Starving Years by Jordan Castillo Price
- Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
- Zombie Boyz by TJ Klune and Eric Arvin
- Woke Up In A Strange Place by Eric Arvin
- Wonder by RJ Palacio
- The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
- Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
- The Jew Store by Stella Suberman
- Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan
- The Other Guy by Cary Attwell
- A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
- Private Conversations in Neverland with Michael Jackson by William B. Van Valin II MD
- My Drowning by Jim Grimsley
- The Watch by Moonbeam McQueen
- Jesus Is Sending You This Message by Jim Grimsley
- Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
- Joe by Larry Brown
- Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
- The Key Is Love by Marie Osmond
- Scrap Metal by Harper Fox
- Life After Joe by Harper Fox
- Clear Water by Amy Lane
- The Boy Who Came In From The Cold by B. G. Thomas
- Caught Running by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban
- Denial: My 25 Years Without A Soul by Jonathan Rauch
- Driftwood by Harper Fox
- The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
- When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
- Brothers of the Wild North Sea by Harper Fox
- A Midwinter Prince by Harper Fox
- The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
- I Wrote This For You by pleasefindthis
- The Catcher In The Rye by Jeff Marsden
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- Fire Birds by Shane Gregory
- When You Were Older by Catherine Ryan Hyde
I just finished reading Anne Lamott’s book titled Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. It was beautiful. Anne has a unique way of understanding and elaborating on religious doubt. I could see myself in many of the pages, including the prayer in the following excerpt.
My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. If you say to God, “I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don’t like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You,” that might be the most honest thing you’ve ever said. If you told me you had said to God, “It is all hopeless, and I don’t have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand,” it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real-really real. It would make me want to sit next to you at the dinner table.
I like the idea of being completely honest with God. I tend to completely shut Him/Her out of the equation when I am feeling low spiritually. This has actually been the case for quite some time now. I also completely identify with the idea of recoiling from most people who believe in God. Even so, I still pray. Often in the manner Anne descibes. Short and to the point.
If You are up there, please help this person get better.
If You exist, thanks for my home, my partner, my comfort.
Wow. You really outdid Yourself with these beautiful flowers. I’m in awe!
I’m never sure if anyone is actually listening, but I do it anyway. Since reading this book, I intend to do it more, and in a much more honest manner. If God exists, He/She already knows my thoughts, so there is no point trying to conceal them.
Anne sums up her book and my feelings perfectly with a quote from Matisse:
I don’t know whether I believe in God or not. I think, really, I’m some sort of Buddhist. But the essential thing is to put oneself in a frame of mind which is close to that of prayer.
Special thanks to We Are Fambly for bringing this book to my attention.
Books I read or finished reading this year:
- A Place of Yes by Bethenny Frankel
- Official Book Club Selection by Kathy Griffin
- Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
- Transparent by Don Lemon
- The Michael Jackson Tapes by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
- The King of Clayfield by Shane Gregory
- It Ain’t All About The Cookin’ by Paula Deen
- Bossypants by Tina Fey
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- Older Man, Younger Man by Joseph Dispenza
- Remembrance of Things I Forgot: A Novel by Bob Smith
- Boys Like Us: Gay Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories by Patrick Merla
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
- Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
- All That I See: The King of Clayfield Book Two by Shane Gregory
- True You by Janet Jackson
- Sidecar by Amy Lane
- The Fall by Ryan Quinn
- The Absolutist by John Boyne
- Featuring Michael Jackson by Joseph Vogel
- Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
- Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble
- Unconditional Love (Seven Days Series) by Andrew Grey
- The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family by Dan Savage
- The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
- Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
- American Gods by Neil Gaiman
- Society’s Child by Janis Ian
- Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
- Boys by G. A. Hauser
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
- Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama
- Ethan, Who Loved Carter by Ryan Loveless
- Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan
- The Convert by Oliver Broudy
- My Life and Other Unfinished Business by Dolly Parton
- Dream More by Dolly Parton
- Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
- Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
- Comfort and Joy by Jim Grimsley
- Winter Birds by Jim Grimsley
- Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley
I am currently finishing up a book titled Boys Like Us: Gay Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories by Patrick Merla. What struck me the most while reading is how coming out as a gay person means something different to everyone. The accounts written by older gentlemen explain that “coming out” simply denoted the time and place they had their first same-sex experience. Today we worry about acceptance by others after revealing our sexuality, but back then accepting yourself as homosexual was the ultimate goal in a world where being openly gay wasn’t an option. As the book progresses into newer stories, the definition of “coming out” begins to evolve into what we understand today – revealing an often taboo secret to those around you.
Even though I am homosexual and came out to my family and friends many years ago, I found the short stories in the book offering a new perspective on what it means to be openly gay. Some men took years to overcome their fear of being ridiculed and marginalized by admitting their sexual orientation. Some grew up confused about what was happening within themselves. Some knew right away.
Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones, because I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t gay. Being straight was just never an option. From around the age of five, I can only remember being drawn to the same sex. There were a few girls that I liked during elementary and middle school, but never in a physical way. I was more interested in emulating their penmanship or mannerisms than holding their hands or kissing them, yet I understood society expected me to have a girlfriend.
I constantly had crushes on boys. If a moderately attractive guy showed me the slightest amount of attention, I was a goner. Although I was technically a virgin until the age of 20, I had made love to many different men in my head by that time. There were several instances of fooling around with the same sex throughout my childhood and teen years, but never with someone I cared about in a romantic sense until twenty. Unlike the older gay men in the book, I never viewed my first same-sex encounter as “coming out.” That was something I did when I told my sister I was gay one night over dinner. A week or so later, after my parents left for church, I placed a handwritten note on the dining room table and went to my sister’s house for a few nights.
Even though that event marked the most important and gut-wrenching coming out experience I’ve had to date, I have found coming out to be a never-ending process. I constantly find myself in situations where I am revealing my sexuality to people – necessary or not. Maybe it’s while talking with my hairstylist about her lesbian stepdaughter. Maybe it’s when a healthcare provider asks if Honey is a family member or a friend. Even though it happens frequently, I still get a mixture of feelings; anxiety that it might not be received well, and pride because I get to present myself and my relationship with complete honesty.
So, while coming out might mean different things to different people, the one common vein running through it is the ability to accept yourself. Much like the saying “You must love yourself before you can love others,” we must accept and appreciate our own uniqueness before we can expect others to understand it. Knowing that, it is easy to see why so many still choose the security and anonymity of the closet.
The short stories in the book are chock-full of details and downright confessional at times, but they express the complexity and beauty of what makes each of us human. One day I hope to write my own story without censoring myself or worrying about what others will think; a brutally honest depiction of my experiences so far, a new “coming out” story from a guy who came out almost twenty years ago.
Although I have heard many of the verses from The Book of Ecclesiastes over the years, I don’t believe I ever read it in its entirety until last night. My curiosity was piqued by a mention of the book on an internet forum, so I read all twelve chapters before going to sleep. I was so astounded that I literally kissed the pages before closing the Bible.
Author Thomas Wolfe described it this way: “[O]f all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man’s life upon this earth — and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth. I am not given to dogmatic judgments in the matter of literary creation, but if I had to make one I could say that Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound.”
I liked the repetitive descriptions of life as “meaningless” and “chasing after the wind,” and several of the verses struck me as particularly wise.
Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 – What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 – There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 – There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.
Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 – For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.