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Posts Tagged ‘Unitarian Universalist’

Today, like most Sunday mornings, I attended the now digital services of the Unitarian Universalists of Mt. Airy (until recently it was the Unitarian Universalist Church of Mt. Airy). Today the service was given by two long-term members on the subject of convenent. It was a good service, and I learned a lot about being in community. I have been a card-carrying member of the Unitarians for more than five years, but I do feel like I am still in the learning phase. This is possibly because this is how I approach life. It is also probably related to the fact that I was raised secular. I have a hard time summing up my complex relationship to religion in a few words, but I do know that the religion that I found – combined with my other spiritual practices of doing qigong and Buddhist meditation — makes me a better person. It also makes me more inquisitive.

I am heavily influenced by the gnostic gospels The Gnostic Gospels can help people think in new ways, critical for this time. Consider that “gnosis” is the common Greek noun for “knowledge.” Perhaps, the reason the Gnostic Gospels are scorned is in the name: Gnostic (“knowing”). Apparently, it is heretical to know your own truth.

The Gnostic Gospels were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945. There are some conflicting theories about when they were first written, but some historians say that they were written before the New Testament was written. The Gnostic Gospels were known throughout history – particularly in the Middle Ages – but were always banned by the Church.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of the Gospel of Mary written by Mary of Magdala and found in fragments.

I’ve decided to post a short excerpt from my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders(Adelaide Books)that were inspired by the The Gospel of Mary.

Mary looked dejected. Thomas wanted to cheer her up.

“It does not matter,” Thomas said. “You and I are Yeshua’s favorites. We’re the only one he trusts, really. He told me himself that there is no way to know that the apostles won’t abandon him in a crisis.”

“That’s true,” replied Mary. “Besides, we’ll be travelling with Yeshua when he performs his miracles. There’s nothing that Peter can say that will change that.” Mary nodded and then spoke: “Peter treats me like an adversary. But I am trying not to respond with anger. For one thing it would tarnish the feeling that I hold for Yeshua. I do feel that he can truly save us. Also, I know that the angry person’s wisdom is the seventh power of wrath.”

“What are the first six powers?” asked Thomas.

“The first form is darkness; the second, desire; the third, ignorance; the fourth, death wish; the fifth, fleshly kingdom, the sixth, foolish fleshly wisdom; and the seventh, as I told you, the angry person’s wisdom.”

Mary picked up her basket and glanced back toward the Temple. “I should go before the meeting is over and the men come out.”

Thomas looked at Mary with respect bordering on awe. Mary was wise, to be sure. She had much to offer.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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This morning, I participated in a service on difference during a month of storytelling at  Unitarian Universalists of Mt. Airy in Philadelphia. I reflected on story and led the following writing exercise. You can watch the reflection on You Tube (below) or read the text below. I hope it inspires you.

A story about difference

All my life, I have struggled with being different. Finally, in my sixth decade, I’ve made peace with the fact that I am different – that I am uniquely myself with the corresponding thought that it is good not to “fit in” anywhere.

For a long time, the only places I’ve felt comfortable are those that embrace diversity. Perhaps the reason why is that places where everyone is the same take me back to my childhood when I was bullied for being different or “other.” This was an intense experience, but the end result was that it did make me identify with others who are seen as different.

Decades ago, I found myself mistakenly in a gathering of lesbians who all worked for large corporations. They were talking about having to be closeted which at that time was the only way they could survive in a corporate environment. Rightly or wrongly, I felt that the entire thing – working for corporate America and being in the closet – was, in a word, “weird.”

So, my feelings of being different haven’t always related to being Queer, but that has usually factored into it. When I came out and found my tribe, I found myself among a group of lesbians in a woman’s book-store – many of whom all dressed the same in various types of jeans and tailored shirts usually with the collars turned up. Well, it was the eighties, and we had a uniform. So, I distinguished myself with a pair of trademark red high-top sneakers and dangly earrings.

I’ve been different in different ways over the years. I’ve been a lesbian-feminist (before the word Queer came along – even though I was always queer with a lower-case “q”). About six years ago, I found my way to this Unitarian Universalist congregation which is diverse enough to make me feel comfortable. Being a Unitarian Universalist for me means embracing more than one faith tradition and since this is different than most religions, I’ve often had to explain how this works.

More recently, for the past year and a half, I’ve belonged to the worldwide movement of going to a healthy plant-based diet. Of course, there is some overlap between my identities, such as the existence of the UU Animal Ministry. And I admit that I am happy when I find another LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) vegan!

You might say that I’ve worn lots of hats over the years. And the members of my tribe now? Well, I’d have to say that the people I’m most comfortable with are those who are most comfortable with difference – including their own!

We are all, in our own way, different.

–Namaste

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

The Unicorn, The Mystery now available from Adelaide Books — #amreading #FaithfullyLGBT

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Synopsis:

A young monk spirals into inner moral turmoil after he tells his superiors about the lone unicorn he saw, which launches a city-wide hunt for the magical creature in Janet Mason’s historical fantasy novel THE UNICORN, THE MYSTERY.

Janet Mason’s THE UNICORN, THE MYSTERY is a historical speculative novel of magic and morality. In a medieval setting, young monk Apolo sees a lone unicorn in a forest one day and becomes obsessed with her, believing her to be the perfect symbol of Jesus, purity, and beauty. He is overcome with innocent love for the creature, and his teacher, the abbey’s priest, worries that he is worshipping a false idol. When Apolo tells the bishop about the unicorn, hunters begin to seek out the unicorn in hope of a reward. Apolo and the unicorn navigate the few days detailed in the novel while contemplating the meaning of their existence and examining the lives of those around them. Both Apolo and the unicorn are observers. They contemplate the goings-on of their peers and their surroundings without taking much decisive action themselves. As characters and as narrators, they are sweet and likeable. Apolo strives to be a good, moral monk, but when he sees others taking an untraditional approach, he forms a new understanding of himself and the world. The unicorn’s vanity and curiosity about humans are endearing. Oddly, the unicorn can smell whether or not a girl is a virgin, a creepy ability she uses often to decide whether or not she would like to “lay her head in their lap.”

Among the people that Apolo and the unicorn observe from a distance are two nuns in love who hope to run away together, a young nun who successfully runs away with a local carpenter, and a warrior maiden who the unicorn wonders if she can trust. While it is sometimes implausible that Apolo and the unicorn could overhear these characters’ conversations without being seen, the inclusion of these individuals brings significant intrigue to the story and makes the characters think. The lesbian nuns, for instance, worry about Mother Superior discovering them, but they come to believe their love is a special, pure kind of love; the arc of their discussions over the course of the book mirrors Apolo’s inner monologue as he inquires as to whether his love for the unicorn is appropriate and worries what his superiors think of his obsession with the magical creature.

….

THE UNICORN, THE MYSTERY is a wise historical fantasy novel that will find a captive audience in those interested in sexuality, gender, and magic through a Christian lens.

~Aimee Jodoin for IndieReader

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

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(This morning I participated in a UU service with several other lay leaders on the topic of Buddhism. It was truly an enjoyable experience and I learned a lot. My reflection is on the YouTube video above and is printed below.)

Good morning

A Unitarian and a Buddhist?! This is a question that I am asked a lot – especially when my credibility is being challenged. I guess the problem is that people don’t understand how you can be two things at once. 

So, I take a breath and sometimes I explain. But always I take a breath — even when I don’t explain. When I decide to respond, I explain that you can be more than one thing at once. This fits for me because, like Walt Whitman, “I am large. I contain multitudes.” As a writer this is particularly true. When filling out the occasional Unitarian Universalist form, I always check Buddhism as my root religion. I was raised secular and Buddhism feels the most natural to me. I take a breath. But I am also a Unitarian Universalist. I have chosen a faith that includes everyone. That is important to me, especially as a Buddhist.  

I embrace the moment. Some would say that the moment is all we have. I don’t try to run away from it, as many do – often using food, drugs or alcohol among other things. I take a breath and inhabit the moment even when it is an extremely difficult one – or a complicated moment like this one. Some might say that it is intersectional – when things fall apart and come together. As a writer I often record the moment – because we have so much to learn from history even, or especially, when it’s happening in the present moment.

I’ve written that these are difficult times to be a Buddhist. It’s true that I cannot wish everyone well. So instead, I wish for peace and for the highest good to emerge. Can doing nothing change the world? 

Please take a breath with me. Take a deep inhalation for a count of three and exhale for a count of four.

Buddhism is energy. It is breath. And I would say it can change the world. These are difficult times – to be Buddhist or to be anything. But we are also in a time of change. For me, it is a necessary time to be a Buddhist – because as I breathe in and out, I realize that the Buddhism I practice is a way of taking care of myself.  If I didn’t practice it, I would have been reacting to things for much of my life instead of observing. 

One of my mantras, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, is a phrase that translates loosely to “I devote myself to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra.”

This mantra aligns my energy with the universe. It is also called the Law of Attraction, the Mystic Law or God, among other things. We are all connected to a force of goodness that is larger than ourselves.

–Namaste 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2018/04/25/a-perfect-mind-segment-of-they-published-in-blazevox15-amreading/

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

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I’m reposting a talk I gave at a Unitarian Universalist Memorial Day service on the topic of forgiveness that includes a segment from my latest novel The Unicorn, The Mystery. The YouTube video of my part of the service is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

For me, forgiveness is a thorny issue.  I suspect I’m not alone.  I may forgive – but I do it on my own terms and this means taking the time that I need to understand the deeper reasons of why I was offended by someone’s actions. So, for me, learning to be more forgiving is wrapped up with protecting myself and having good boundaries.

As a practicing Buddhist, I understand that forgiving others is a way of forgiving yourself.  But as I did research on forgiveness, there were so many conflicting theories, that really the only thing that ultimately made coherent sense to me was this quote from Oscar Wilde:

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

A few years ago, I was leafing through a slim book on Christianity and was surprised to read that forgiveness is expected in the Christian tradition.  As a tenet, this one is not so bad. But it did occur to me that a reason why traditional religion has never appealed to me is that, on principal, I would never believe what someone tells me I should believe.

So when it comes to forgiveness, I process things the way that I usually do – in my writing. The novel I am currently writing The Unicorn, The Mystery, is set in the late Middle Ages and addresses some religious themes.  I am going to read you a short excerpt of a monk talking with his Latin teacher, also a Priest:

“One of the things that Augustine is known for is his ‘doctrine of love.’ He wrote about forgiveness – which of course is related to love.  In addition to forgiving others, it’s important to forgive ourselves. In fact, some argue that you cannot forgive another without first forgiving yourself,” said my teacher

I smiled and nodded.  This all made sense. No words were necessary from me.

“He also was the first to write about loving your neighbor as yourself. In saying this, he infers that it is first necessary to love yourself. When you truly love yourself, then you can love your neighbor and you can love God unconditionally,” he stated.

The Priest was silent – and so was I for a moment.

My curiosity got the best of me and I asked, “What if you are ashamed of yourself – how can you find it in your heart to forgive yourself? And if you can’t, how can you ever love your neighbor and how can you love God?”

The Priest looked at me oddly.

“That’s a good question,” he replied finally. “I do not know the answer. Perhaps I am not the best person to talk about love. I take the Christian writings seriously.  I try to follow them.  I follow my heart and each time it is a disaster. I love teaching and I love my students. But each term, things go too far, and I have my heart broken again,” he cried.

I looked at him with sadness.  He had his reasons for hating himself. Perhaps that’s why he was snippy at times. How could he forgive himself, when the church told him he should be ashamed of himself?

This time I cleared my throat. I looked at him with tears in my eyes, and said, “Father – it is true that you know how to love and it is true that you are worthy of love – from others, from God. I came to your office that night after vespers a few months ago. I saw you bent over the desk with Gregory – I saw the love that surrounded you.”

The Priest looked at me as if he had seen a ghost.

I attended the Episcopal Church until I was about five — when my mother became a card-carrying atheist.  It’s a long story.  I remember reciting the Lord’s Prayer. When I think about forgiveness, I think about the lines:

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive them that trespass against us;

As I did my research, I was fascinated to learn that in the “Book of Matthew,” chapter 6, of the New Testament, the line after the Lord’s Prayer says:

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

Of course, in my Unitarian Universalist interpretation, God the Father could be the Universe, the Great Spirit, or the Mother/ Father God or God the Father.  It depends on what day it is.

If I’ve offended anyone, please forgive me.

Namaste.

The Unicorn, The Mystery is available online where books are sold.  You can also find it at your local library (just ask the librarian to order it if the don’t already have it), through your local bookstore or directly from the publisher, Adelaide Books.

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

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Today is Pentecost in the Christian tradition. There was a time, when the word “Pentecost” just conjured little white churches in central Pennslytucky that I knew with a shudder that I should avoid. (Even driving by on the turnpike was a hazard.) But I am now past that. I am really am curious.  I researched the Christian holiday of Pentecost a while ago for my novel The Unicorn, The Mystery (being published later this year by Adelaide Books) and found that doves were routinely shoved through a little hole in the ceilings of cathedrals in the Middle Ages. (Doves represented the Holy Sprit and before that they were associated with Aphrodite.)  Perhaps there really is nothing new.

The minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church I attend (now digitally) is from a Christian-background and mentioned that today was the holiday of Pentecost in his background. Then he went on to talk about the events of the day which truly are grim.

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Later,  I received two comments online relating to Pentecost. The first comment was from a colleague I’m friendly with. She quoted a passage from what I assume is the Acts chapter in the New Testament. The quote ended with: “ever with the cross that turns not back.”

I approached this Bible verse like a riddle. To me, not turning back is persistence. 

The second comment I received was from a not so friendly source. It was written in response to my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders. He told me that Christ demands the complete and full surrender of self. Then he said, “This not only includes acting upon same sex attraction but all sin.”

I have to confess to being raised secular— something that I have always considered a blessing — so I may have missed something. But I think I was just insulted.

I’m a practicing Buddhist.  That’s my root religion in my Unitarian Universalist faith. As such, I rarely comment on anything personal about my harassers. But I looked at this guy’s Twitter profile and saw that he looked more than a little light in his loafers. He is young looking and rather effeminate. In fact, if he hadn’t just insulted me, I’d think we both played for the same team.

He described himself as a “Catholic who’s doing his best and discerning the priesthood.” Now I don’t know what the latter part of that means. But I do understand the first part. The question is what is he doing his best at? Does he mean that he’s doing his best in his avoidance of same sex attraction? If so, what is his best? Does he act on his same sex attractions now and then?

I hear that thinking you’re engaging in a sinful act might make things seem forbidden, and therefore “hotter.” But to me, it’s easier to believe that there is no such thing as “sin.”  I’ve heard it said that Jesus never said one word about “homosexuality” being a sin.

I’ve come to understand that Jesus is about justice.

In my research today about the holiday of Pentecost, I learned that the holiday is often called White Sunday or WhitSun. And I learned that the wearing of red is customary.

If it is White Sunday — then it is time for white people to stand up for justice. And this time — as in too many instances — it’s about racial justice. As a practicing Buddhist, I try to stay away from anger. But people have a right to their anger and often when it starts, it can’t be stopped. It’s perfectly understandable.

The senseless murder of George Floyd is an outrage. Thinking of yourself as above the law or as the law — is a mindset that has to be stopped. 

The golden rule of ethics (included in the New Testament) of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, is a creed that we live by.

It’s time for justice.

“…. ever with the cross that turns not back.”

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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One of the ways my partner and I have been staying connected during this time is through video chatting — with others as well as with each other. This week we met with a small group with our Unitarian church that is focused on poetry. Actually one member of the group is someone we know from way back when who was in a feminist writing group I was in. Another friend brought this poem to share. Since it has to do with writing and it talks about the sit down and be quiet method that I’ve espousing for decades, I thought I would share it with you. It was penned by Wendell Berry.

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How to Be a Poet

(to remind myself)
i
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
ii
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
iii
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon),click here.

THEY Scottie

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Just recently, I was contacted online and was asked what do I mean by saying Unitarians don’t believe in hell and therefore I can’t be threatened by it.

Whatever the motivations were behind the question, it did make me think.  I’ve long heard that Unitarian Universalists (UUs) don’t believe in hell and that it is an issue for some people.  For the record, I do believe in karma (not necessarily a Unitarian belief) — that what goes around comes around and I do believe strongly in living an ethical life. UU beliefs on hell can easily be found online. One of the most accurate and pithy statements I found came from a website  called Learn Religion which stated:

Heaven, Hell – Unitarian Universalism considers heaven and hell to be states of mind, created by individuals and expressed through their actions.
Unitarian Universalism describes itself as one of the most liberal religions, embracing atheists, agnostics, BuddhistsChristians, and members of all other faiths. Although Unitarian Universalist beliefs borrow from many faiths, the religion does not have a creed and avoids doctrinal requirements.
I was raised secular and it felt natural to be part of a religion that doesn’t emphasize a “bad  place” like hell or tell me I’m going there. Plus, I really like the UU notion of making life on earth less hellish with its emphasis on social justice.
But also for the record, I support people’s rights to believe what they want to. It’s called Freedom of Speech (or thinking for yourself) and it’s in the constitution. This notion undoubtedly helped me become a fiction writer.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

THEY a biblical tale of secret genders Janet Mason New W

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Looking back into the not so distant past, I recall wondering as I looked out the window — what if Spring doesn’t come back this year?  I didn’t wonder that this year, probably because I was busy — with my head in my laptop —revising my novel The Unicorn, The Mystery.

Having been raised secular (along with being a fan of Greek mythology), one of my favorite stories is about Persephone and her emergence from the underworld to be reunited with her mother Demeter.

I’m the first to acknowledge that I’ve had my issues with Christianity over the years.  What it came down to was that traditional religion just had too much baggage for me.  But that is changing.

But having been raised secular was freeing enough for me to once write a poem that said 

Jesus is a daffodil.

That’s it.  That’s all the poem said and, in my mind, all it had to say.

Just recently, I published a blog post about seeing the movie, Wild Nights With Emily, and how happy it made me as a scholar of Emily’s lesbian life.  I received a comment from someone who called himself “a reverend” about how upset it made him to think that Emily Dickinson was “gay.”

The movie is based on solid research regarding Emily’s relationship with her sister-in-law Susan and how that relationship was erased.  The comment (given its source) made me wonder if all – or most — of homophobia is based in religion.

A7CFB471-CA19-44C6-9F38-DDCFC95058E7Thankfully, religion is changing.  At the movie theater, I picked up a copy of The Philadelphia Gay News, which had an article about Drag Story Time at the Mt. Airy Philadelphia branch of The Free Library being protested by conservative Christians. My partner and I were delighted to  see the minister (McKinley Sims) of the Unitarian Church we attend on the cover of the newspaper as one of the counter protestors protesting the protestors and taking the side of the drag queen and story time. 

McKinley is on the bottom right of the photo (holding a big wooden cross) and his wife K.P. Is next to him holding a sign that says, “Christ is in all things, including drag.”

I was delighted that the a substantial graduating class of Notre Dame College walked out on speaker Mike Pence because of his anti-LGBTQ views. One of them coined the hash tag #notmyjesus. (For more informative, click here )

So let’s hear it for the people changing Christianity and changing the world!

 

Available through you local library, (including the Lovett Library branch of the Philadelphia Free Library where the protest was) THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders is also available through your local bookstore or online.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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Homophobia is an old habit and homophobia in religion, in particular, is becoming an old habit.

It was interesting that my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books – New York/Lisbon), was maligned online today, the same day that a substantial number of brave graduating students of Notre Dame College walked out of their commencement speech given by Mike Pence.  Pence is slated to appear at a number of Christian colleges in the upcoming weeks and the adverse reaction of the students is causing concern among Christian conservatives. There is talk of students withholding funding.

To all this, I say to the students: Good job! Good for you in standing up for yourselves and others!

Good for you in being part of the changing world!

On this glorious spring day with the blossoms beckoning, the good news about the #notmyjesus students and the #MuellerTime report finally revealed, I opened Twitter only to be told that I am going to hell. The full text of the Tweet is below.

Perhaps it is because I have gotten such good feedback on my novel, THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders, that being told that I am going to hell does not produce the desired effect.

Some of the good feedback, I have gotten about THEY:

A colleague in Los Angeles let me know that her MCC book discussion group is reading and discussing THEY. (MCC stands for the Metropolitan Community Church, founded in 1968 with a  focus on human rights that includes (but is not limited to) the LGBTQ community.)

At a local spiritual gathering, a trans woman (who I remembered from my church when she was presenting as male) responded enthusiastically “you’re that Janet Mason?!” and then told me that the book was important to her and in her library in a LGBTQ community center — where the rainbow flag flies outside prominently — in a nearby small town.

The Queer Church of England (also harassed) retweeted one of my Tweets about THEY and I have also from a Priest from England that he ordered and plans to read the novel.

I also have gotten a large number of glowing reviews including Gregg Shapiro who wrote in the San Francisco Bay Area Reporter that the publication of my new novel THEY “is occurring at the right time.”

Of course, there’s a lot I could say about the offensive Tweet if I wanted to take the time to dissect it. But what I will say is that change is always possible, and that forgiveness is possible too.

I will pray for you to change your errant ways.

 

@thetruthspirit

homosexuals will NEVER enter Heaven

men who practice sodemy r ABOMINATIONs to the ONE GODs,Jesus&Heaven

Dont FOOL yourselves

REPENT&STOP your cocksucking ways

 

In addition to being available through you local library, THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders is available through your local bookstore or online.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

Janet Mason novelist area resident

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