Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is Thanksgiving Day, 2017.  I’m going to forget some people and things that I am thankful for. Charge it to my head and not my heart.

Before I get into my list of things I am thankful for, I must acknowledge the harm and horror done to the Indigenous Peoples of this country, who were here when it was “discovered”, and paid a very high price when it was colonized. I remember and honor the folks who were here when the others got here.

On this cold Thursday morning, I have so many things to be thankful for. To start off, I am thankful for life. Having had a cardiac scare earlier this year made me a little more thoughtful about how I live and taking care of my health. I am glad that, while I move a little slower this year than last, I am still moving.

I am thankful for heat. It’s cold outside, and I pray for the persons who slept outside in that brutal cold, or for the persons who were inside with inadequate fuel to warm themselves and their babies.

I am thankful for my calling. Last year, on this day, I was editing an ordination paper that I though would never get done, Four years ago, I thought that the possibility of serving God’s people through ordained ministry was a wish, never to come true. This morning, I am an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ!.

I have to say how thankful I am to serve two of the best small churches on EARTH: Keysville Grace United Church of Christ and the MountPleasant Reformed United Church of Christ. The members remind me how blessed I am to pastor two churches, and also serve as proof positive that Sunday Morning at 11 am does NOT have to be the most segregated hour in America – they allow me the privilege of serving them as pastor.

I am also thankful for my home away from home – Veritas United Church of Christ in Hagerstown, MD. The members at VUCC are doing an integral work in Hagerstown, and on a shoestring. They also allow me to breathe when I am there – I get to be Guy when I’m there, and I just happen to be the preacher of the afternoon as well. I love y’all, and all of your originality.

For the Grace Church and its pastor, my mentor and friend, Rev. Dr. Rob Apgar-Taylor, it’s good to find your home and your people. I found mine in July, 2014. I am forever thankful for the chance you took on the little brown man from DC who was looking for a place to serve. I thank God for you every day and know that I treasure coming home every chance I get.

This year, there have been some…gargantuan…changes in my life. I started working in a coffee shop – a weird coffee shop. I am thankful for framily like the vanHilst crew, who introduced me to this unusual dude named Paul, who basically hired me on the spot, then entrusted me to run his shop. Not only that, they have enveloped all of us in the Johnson-Davis household into the Weird Brothers/Olsen clan, and we are thankful. In the process, I get to do Coffee House Ministry – it’s always good to be able to let your light shine wherever you are. (PS – Come get some Weird Brothers Coffee – 321 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon…it will bless you real good.)

I am thankful for the old and new friends and family members I acquired this year. George, thank you for being a sounding board and a voice of reason when I am often deaf and unreasonable. Kyle, you are the dude. David…thank you does not nearly encompass what your support and friendship have meant to me. You, sir, rock.

Speaking of new and old friends and family, I would be out of my mind if I did not publically holler how thankful I am for my village and kitchen cabinet: Feborah, Kim, AJ, Melonie, Tiffany, Henrietta, Kevin, Monique, all of my babies. My Chicago family and the newest edition to the family, Akel. Lord, I’m a great uncle again. That’s something to be thankful for.

To my girls: Tira, Kellie, Des Shawn, Venus, Lydia, Kim, Michelle, Kati, and Cindy – Y’all make it easy to be a good friend for almost 3.5 decades. I’m thankful that my crew is on speed dial and will show up and cut up whenever and wherever for whatever. Who knew?

To my boys: Chewee, Dewey, Judah, Rocky, Benny, O, Dan, Scott, Scott, and Charlie: Y’all make it easy to be real with you. Thank you.

Oh crap! I am really thankful for Matt and Eric. And Deidra and Alice. And Jay and Antares. This is why I shouldn’t name people (see opening lines).

Thankfulness extends to my blood family, the ones who carry my last name – Kristie and Cheryl, Bobby and Patrick, Briana and Ciera (and Deuce and Zöe), Terita and Chris (wherever you are – you still have a family that loves you and misses you. Come home). Our folks would be pretty proud of us. I am so thankful that y’all acknowledge me and claim me – even when I’m not at my best. 

But I am most thankful for my husband and dog. I am thankful that I can tell the world that my husband IS my husband. If you want to know why I am so thankful this year, it’s because the man who has stood beside me, supported me, believed in me (even when I did not believe in myself), pushed me beyond my comfort zone, spoke up for me when I could not muster the strength to find my own voice, and made it easy for me to do ministry love me unconditionally. Poppins, well, is Poppins. I am thankful for the person who discovered they were allergic to him and opened the door for us to become his forever family.

This year, life has been a roller coaster, but in the middle of the loop de loop, I have made it a point to find things to be thankful for. I woke up on this side of the dirt. I’m thankful. I can breathe without assistance. I am thankful. I have people who love me. I am thankful.

Find something to be thankful for yourself. I am sure you can, even if it’s a struggle to do so.

Be blessed, but more importantly, be a blessing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Equality Loudoun 2017 Transgender Day of Remembrance

This reflection was presented at the 2017 Transgender Day of Remembrance Event, held at the Purcellville Library, Purcellville, VA, on November 21, 2017.

Good evening. I am the Reverend Guy S. Johnson, pastor of the Keysville Grace and the Mount Pleasant United Churches of Christ, both located in Northern Maryland, and while I am grateful to be here, I wish I weren’t. I know that sounds contradictory, but in 2017, I wish I didn’t have to be here to remember our trans brothers and sisters because they are no longer here.

It is 2017, and we are remembering 24 amazing people who, in any other circumstances, would still be with us. Most are victims of homicide. This is unacceptable. 

It is unacceptable for several reasons, and for me, the first is because these people – our trans family members – are children of God. Now, as a Christian pastor and faith leader, my first frame of reference is that I use the Torah as a guide, and I honestly believe that we imago dei – the image of God. And I use the book of Genesis to make that claim – Genesis 1:26 -27 says it this way: “Let US man HUMANS in OUR own image.” That tells me that WE are made in THEIR – multiple – images. 

And we are. Our trans family members are made in the image of God, and because of that, deserve the rights that all people deserve – the right to life and liberty. Our trans family members deserve all of the rights that we all deserve. Our trans family members deserve the right to live without harassment, without fear, without disruption.

And we have a duty and a responsibility to speak out when we hear of violence. We have a duty and responsibility to make sure all of our family members are safe. We have a duty and responsibility to ensure our family members live. 

We have a duty and a responsibility to love God with all of our hearts, and minds, and souls, and to our neighbor as ourselves.  That’s what we are to do. 

And that might mean we have to contact our officials. Make the call. We might have to contact the press. Make the call. We might have to step in. Make the call.

We must love our neighobors as ourselves, not because we might have a certain faith tradition, but because it is the right thing to do. We must love our GLB, and T family members without reservation or hesitation, because it is the right thing to do. 

We must remember our trans family members and love them unconditionally.

THAT is our call.