Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Let this be my daily prayer

I received this email from a friend today. After researching the content, it seems the author is unknown. However, I claim this as my clarion call for each day of the new year.

On this day...mend a quarrel · Search out a forgotten friend · Dismiss a suspicion and replace it with trust · Write a love letter · Share some treasure · Give a soft answer · Encourage youth · Manifest your loyalty in a word or a deed · Keep a promise · Find the time · Forego a grudge · Forgive an enemy · Listen · Apologize if you were wrong · Try to understand · Flout envy · Examine your demands on others · Think first of someone else · Appreciate · be kind · be gentle · Laugh a little more · Deserve confidence · Take up arms against malice · Decry complacency · Express your gratitude · Worship your God · Gladden the heart of a child · Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth · Speak your love · Speak it again · Speak it still again · Speak it still once again.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Week of Thomas Merton to end the decade ~ 4

“Be careful of every vain hope; it is in reality, a temptation to despair. It may seem very real, very substantial. You may come to depend far too much on this apparent solidity of what you think is soon to be yours. You may make your whole spiritual life, your very faith itself, depend on this illusory promise. Then, when it dissolves into thin air, everything else dissolves along with it. Your whole spiritual life slips away between your fingers and you are left with nothing. In reality this could be a good thing, if only we could fall back on the substantiality of pure and obscure faith, which cannot deceive us. But our faith is weak. Indeed, too often the weakest thing about our faith is the illusion that our faith is strong, when the "strength" we feel is only the intensity of emotion or of sentiment, which has nothing to do with real faith"

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Week of Thomas Merton to end the decade ~ 3

"If we want to understand alienation, we have to find where its deepest taproot goes--and we have to realize that this root will always be there. Alienation is inseparable from culture, from civilization, and from life in society. It is not just a feature of "bad" cultures, "corrupt" civilizations, or urban society. It is not just a privilege reserved for some people in society. . . . Alienation begins when culture divides me against myself, puts a mask on me, gives me a role I may or may not want to play. Alienation is complete when I become completely identified with my mask, totally satisfied with my role, and convince myself that any other identity or role is inconceivable. The man who sweats under his mask, whose role makes him itch with discomfort, who hates the division in himself, is already beginning to be free. But God help him if all he wants is the mask the other man is wearing, just because the other one does not seem to be sweating or itching. Maybe he is no longer human enough to itch." ~ Thomas Merton, Why Alienation is for Everybody, 1968

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Week of Thomas Merton to end the decade ~ 2

"The earthly desires men cherish are shadows. There is no true happiness in fulfilling them. Why, then, do we continue to pursue joys without substance? Because the pursuit itself has become our only substitute for joy. Unable to rest in anything we achieve, we determine to forget our discontent in a ceaseless quest for new satisfactions. In this pursuit, desire itself becomes our chief satisfaction." ~ Thomas Merton, The Ascent to Truth, 1951

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Week of Thomas Merton to end the decade

"The deep secrecy of my own being is often hidden from me by my own estimate of what I am. My idea of what I am is falsified by my admiration for what I do. And my illusions about myself are bred by contagion from the illusions of other men. We all seek to imitate one another’s imagined greatness.

If I do not know who I am, it is because I think I am the sort of person everyone around me wants to be. Perhaps I have never asked myself whether I really wanted to become what everybody else seems to want to become. Perhaps if I only realized that I do not admire what everyone seems to admire, I would really begin to live after all. I would be liberated from the painful duty of saying what I really do not think and of acting in a way that betrays God’s truth and the integrity of my own soul." ~ Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, 1955

Monday, December 14, 2009

That worth knowing...

A year ago today I didn’t know.

Oh sure, I knew something was wrong with him. He had not been to work in over two weeks, we had been to so many doctors that I had given up months prior, he was dreaming and scheming about things that were neither real nor plausible nor true.

One year ago I knew nothing of what t-cells meant or viral loads or Kaletra or Truvada or Isentress or Seroquel or Risperidone or B6 or Folic Acid or Tricor or Levocarnitine or Lamotrigine or Ativan or Isoniazid or Rifampin or Rifabutin or Marinal or TMP/SMZ or Plant Sterols or the difference between an ID doctor and a GP. I didn't know what AIDS Demetia Complex demented or exactly how AIDS Wasting Syndrome wasted.

I knew nothing about SSI, SSDI, WIC, HICP, PACO, LIHEAP, ACCAP ADAP or any of the other sterile chains of letters used to abbreviate sterile names of sterile programs that suck the marrow from the last vestiges of one's independence.

I didn’t know tricks to make a grown man eat or how to change an adult diaper or how to carry the living dead to their next doctor appointment or how to go nearly a week without so much as a minute of sleep.

I didn’t know the agony of putting my precious dog to sleep or the pain of my father walking out of my life due to a relapse or how the words "six to twelve" would knock me off my feet. I didn't know how heartbreaking it would be to say, yet again, "My name is Jon-Marc and I have one day back" or the anguish that possibly losing a friend would bring or facing death and wishing beyond all else for it to carry me on to the side unknown.

Today I know.

I know that my arrogant and selfish expectations of life are never met and that ‘s ok, that life is hardly fair and never simple and that sometimes it just doesn’t break my way or it breaks me in two or it shatters me completely. I know that a man I once called my husband will never be the same, that his mind has deteriorated and is arrested at a 10 year old child’s development, that he withheld a secret so potent it could have killed me. I know I will never know the answers as to the where and how and with who. And I know that at this point it doesn’t matter.

I know now that slipping beyond the reach does not mean I’ve slipped beyond the grace, that the darkness is temporary, that hope won’t get you far but that a mustard seed of faith will destroy the mountains blocking tomorrow. I know that right at this moment, the present, I am always safe and always right where I need to be.

I know that Jesus calling to Lazarus was not an isolated incident, that I have seen miracles – life altering miracles – right before my eyes, that the lame do walk again and the blind do see again and those left for dead spring forth from their resting place. I know that God dwells in the dirtiest places and keeps company with the dregs and the bums and the ones just like me. I know that he restores the friendship in due time, she quiets the chatter and he rocks gently the ship. I know that she moves just beneath the current and just above the storm and he is just what you need when you don’t know what is you are looking for. I know also that God cannot be reduced to a simple pronoun.

I know I cling with reckless faith to a God that clings to me with reckless compassion, that my problems are only as big as God’s ability to handle them, that holiness is the currency of eternity and that my circumstances do not dictate my happiness in the here and now.
In this season of advent – expectant waiting – I know that waiting is the trickiest part of the game.

And tomorrow I will know what I don’t know at present.

And I know, above all else, that life is worth the living whether or not I ever know again!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

NYRR Holiday Run in Brooklyn at Prospect Park

Here are some pictures from the New York Road Runners' (NYRR) 4 Mile Holiday Run in Brooklyn at Prospect Park on 2009-12-12. The temperature was 26 degrees, it was very hilly and I finished in 37:00 at a pace / mile of 9:15 shaving 42 seconds off my mile from the God's Love We Deliver Race to Deliver just 20 days ago on 2009-11-22. To see pictures from that race, click the link at the bottom of this post.

This race I went alone, no family or friends to cheer me on, and I had a great time.
Me, Jon-Marc McDonald, about 15 minutes before the race

View of the crowd from my phone

Another view
My post race ugly face!

Click here to see pictures from the Race to Deliver

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Facebook down? Can't login or logon

This is so pathetic! Facebook has become such a part of my life and it appears that it is down. I should be able to move on and, oh, I don't know, go read a book but instead I am posting about it. My heart is beginning to race and I am breaking out in cold sweats!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pictures from Rally for Marriage Equality at Union Square in New York City ( NYC )

Me (Jon-Marc McDonald) at the rally with my sign. New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate was found guilty of slashing his girlfriend's face with a broken bottle and yet had the audacity to vote against marriage equality.

Rally for Marriage Equality Tonight in Union Square

Be at the rally tonight in Union Square for marriage equality. Starts at 6 on the north side of the square. Deets here: Rally for Marriage Equality

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The God of AIDS

In years past I have never really given much thought to World AIDS Day. Of course I knew the disease disproportionately hit my community hardest but AIDS never really affected me in any meaningful way. In fact, in the twelve years since coming out of the closet I knew only one person to die from the disease and that was the year I came out. But thankfully – yes, thankfully – that all changed this past year.

On Christmas Eve, nearly one year ago, I learned that the love of my life had HIV. Just a few short weeks later I learned that he had developed AIDS. My world shattered, the firmament cracked and every notion as to who I was or what I stood for was challenged.

I was, whether I liked it or not, in the throes of the fight against AIDS and the fight for Ric’s life. I did not ask for this role any more than Ric asked for his disease but I’d be damned if I was not going to fight like hell for his dignity and by extension the dignity of everyone living with this sometimes rapacious executioner.

Ric’s case was unique, I was told. Many said they had not seen the ravages of AIDS displayed so pronounced in twenty years. Doctors told me to prepare for his last days, social workers told me to put him in a home, friends told me to walk away, family shook their heads in disbelief.

Indeed there were dark days. For two months I carried Ric to the bathroom, changed his diapers, fed him, listened to his delusions. Many nights I wanted to give up and walk away. Many days I cursed the heavens and raged at a supposedly all loving God.

No doubt many look at our life and see some divine condemnation. No doubt it has crossed the minds of some of you reading this that Ric and I would not be in the situation we are in had we not chosen the sin of homosexuality. The only reply I have for you is that of great pity. What an ugly, monster of a god you serve.

There are still others that stop short of proclaiming divine retribution but consider homosexuality to be sinful and not aligned with the will of God. To you I echo the words of Bishop Spong and proclaim "I am ready now to claim victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever"

Instead I am grateful. I am grateful that God has allowed this disease to touch so close. I am grateful that I have been able to see the ravages of AIDS in all its raw, brute strength. Because of this disease I have learned compassion in the face of judgment, hope in the face of despair, freedom in the face of bondage, life in the face of death. I have learned that God lives in the heart of the wounded and broken, that his glory is etched in the faces of the dying, that his light beams from the souls of his marginalized creation. I have learned I am far stronger than I ever imagined, far more capable than I ever gave myself credit, far more resourceful than I ever knew possible.

God is in every crevice of this disease. He is in the t-cell, the viral load, the blood and the mucus. He is in every man, woman and child that has ever heard the words “Your test result came back positive”. He is on the death bed of every person that died alone, in every stitch of every patch of every quilt. He is in minister that embraces the afflicted, the volunteer that delivers the food, the advocate that pleads for more funding.

He is also in Ric’s prayer that he prays each night.

“They told me I was going to die but I proved them wrong, didn’t I God?”

To which the heavens respond “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
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