Prayer: an ongoing conversation

This illustration pretty much captures my life!

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The morning of August 1, I was running. It was sunny. In the upper 60s. Low humidity. I was in the third mile, not yet halfway to my 6.33 total, when I put it all together.

I was feeling great. Appreciating my surroundings. Our safe neighborhood. My good health. The desire to work my body hard and the ability to do so.

I said a prayer of thanks to the Lord.

I noticed that I had already said a bunch of prayers as I ran, as I do on every run. As I do throughout every day. As comes naturally after a lifetime of practice.

And I wondered how many times a day I pray.

So I started counting.

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Before I get out of bed. I awoke at 5:15. Before moving, I say “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” then “this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” and finish with Martin Luther’s morning prayer. 1.

Podcast devotion. Making the coffee, I listened to a podcast devotion. I pray with the closing prayer. 2.

Bible reading. I read the daily lectionary, concluding my reading with a prayer of thanks. 3.

Daily devotions. I read two booklets each morning. 4 & 5.

When Julie leaves for work. I try not to pray the same way every day, but my prayer generally asks for her safety on the road and that she has a good day of work. Then, I pray for all who are on the road and giving their labors for the good of the community. 6.

Breakfast. I pray before and after my meal. 7 & 8.

School buses. A bus passed our house. The first time I see one in a day, I pray, “Lord, please bless our school buses and keep safe all of their occupants.” 9.

Ready to run. Before I leave the house, I pray, “Lord, please keep me safe, strong, and smart.” 10.

Beginning my run. I again say the name of the Trinity. I say the Lord’s Prayer, pray for my family and a list of others, pray a refashioned version of Luther’s morning prayer, and conclude with either the common doxology or the “Create in Me,” or both. 11.

Roofers. I saw two men shingling a house. I prayed for them, then prayed for all who labor for us for the good of our homes. 12.

House for sale. The first yard sign I saw, I prayed, “Lord Jesus, bless all those selling their homes and those buying, that things go well for them.” 13.

Public buses. Seeing an IndyGo bus, I prayed the same as I pray for school buses. 14.

Lawn mowers. As I saw a woman mowing, I prayed, “Lord, bless her and keep her safe, and all who are laboring for their homes and families. 15.

The run. Appreciating everything about the morning, I thanked the Lord for the weather, our neighborhood, my good heath and desire to work my body, and for everything He provides for my body and soul, now and forever. 16.

Sirens. Every time I hear a siren, I pray, “Lord, bless those in their need, and those serving them.” 17.

While running. Every five minutes, my app calls out the time, my distance, and my pace. With each call, I say a prayer of thanks. When the call includes having reached the next mile, I add, “Keep me safe and strong and smart all the way, dear Lord Jesus.” 18–32.

Busy roads. Most of my running is on side streets and sidewalks. I have to cross two or three busy roads every run. This day, I had to cross Emerson and 46th twice each. I prayed for safe crossing. Twice, I had to run along 46th, in the bike lane. I run toward the traffic and keep my eyes peeled. Still, I pray for safety. 33–38.

Arriving home. I always say a prayer of thanks. 39.

Lunch. My usual prayers before and after eating. 40 & 41.

More sirens. Wherever I am, whenever I hear them, I pray. 42.

Safe son. Our youngest lives with us. He went on an errand. I prayed for his safekeeping. 43.

Garden. I checked our green beans, but they weren’t ready to pick. I noted our first two watermelons are growing. I toured the entire garden, taking pictures of tomato and green pepper plants that are heavy with fruit. I said a prayer of thanks. 44.

Julie heading home. She always texts me when she leaves work. I pray for her safety, and for all who are on the roads that they might have safe homecomings. 45.

The garage door. When I hear it move, I know someone has arrived home. I said my usual prayers of thanks when my son and Julie got home safe. 46 & 47.

Supper. The usual two prayers. At the dining room table, we pray together. 48 & 49.

And more sirens. The evening is usually busy for our ambulances and firefighters. 50–52.

Bed. I conclude my day with Luther’s evening prayer and anything specific to the day. 53.

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Our mom taught us kids to pray. The prayer I say for my family is an adaptation of the family prayer we said together before bed. As we kids grew, our parents were zealous in their faithfulness to the Lord, brought us up in it, and it grew in me. By the time I was in my twenties, I had an active prayer life.

Prayer is simply the believer speaking praises, thanks, needs, and wants to the Lord. For me, it’s an ongoing conversation—as natural to turn and talk with my Lord Jesus as turning and talking with Julie.

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Whirlwind reviews for “Hurricane”

My book has now received twenty-three reviews online. 22 of 23 have given it five stars. The screenshot, below, shows my rating and the latest review . . . and the photo of the hand—thanks, Sue!—shows where I grew up in Michigan (it’s a book reference).

The review might be too small to read. Here it is: This is a book that educates people about being transgender. I loved it! As a Christian, I appreciate the author’s sincerity and honesty in relating his experiences while maintaining and expressing his Christian faith. This book should be read by everyone, especially those who condemn transgender people based on their Christian beliefs.

To read the rest of the reviews, click on the book, below. Even better, you may purchase it today, either as a paperback or an ebook.

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While I hope to sell many books, there are some folks I can’t ask to shell out bucks for it. On July 7, Julie and I attended the annual Eilers family reunion. I took a bunch of books with me to Michigan. Indeed, as I toted a handful to the reunion’s picnic area, I inadvertently snapped a pic:

Announcing that I would be honored if anyone took my book, I set a stack on an end table. After we ate, folks began to grab them. I continued to refill the stack. I was pleased that fifteen were taken . . . and many folks asked me sign theirs.

One cousin zipped through it in a few days. Before you read her reaction, know that when she asked me to sign her copy she requested I note how she’s my best, most wonderful cousin. After her review, I’m not arguing.

She posted on Facebook: You two are amazing and I love you both and admire you so much! Sooo who will play you guys in the movie? Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow?

I have a call in to Matt’s people. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Still a trans advocate (3)

I also have a secular version of the presentation.

On March 14, I gave my second Transanswers presentation. This time, I addressed eighteen pastors and ministry leaders.

They were attentive throughout my ninety minute talk, sprinkling it with their excellent questions and important insights, which brought to blossom the time we spent together.

This is always an area to bring out much discussion.

I mixed in short readings from my book, “A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane,” which served to enhance my talk and demonstrate what is to be found in the book. I was pleased afterward with how many purchased a copy.

Transanswers is where my heart is, to develop my new career of service and education. Based on the two times I’ve presented it, the need is clearly there.

I expand on each of these to provoke Christians to think deeply.

Might I present to you? To your church? Workplace? School? Group?

How far will I drive to do so? For starters, I will gladly go to the states which surround Indiana. If the occasion is such to entice me further away, I will certainly want to discuss it.

Help me promote

Of the few dozen folks from whom I’ve received feedback regarding my book, readers can’t put down my book, they find it riveting, and they state this is a story that needs to be told.

That all is as wonderful as I could possibly ask!

And now I will ask more.

I don’t have a publisher behind me. While I am working on in-person promotion and selling in bookstores, those things will take weeks and months to accomplish.

For now, you can help. If you believe in my story, please promote my book.

Who is A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane for?

  • It’s for those who have a family member or friend who is transgender, who has transitioned, or who is struggling with gender dysphoria.
  • It’s for those who are in the midst of the gender identity conflict, who can benefit from a sympathetic voice, who can use a book to share with those they are aching to tell: “Read this. What Greg went through is what I’m experiencing.”
  • It’s for those who have transitioned, who are dealing with the fall-out, who could hand the book to their loved one and say, “Read how Greg was rejected and cast out. Read how deep goes the hurt. This is what I’m going through, what you’ve done to me.”
  • It’s for Christians, who could use a faith-lift, to see how a fellow Christian was strengthened by the Lord, who walked through the valley of the shadow of death and now enjoys green pastures.
  • It’s also for Christians who reject all things transgender, who need to be educated, to have their eyes opened and their hearts poked so that they might realize we’re all in this together.
  • It’s for the spouses of trans folks, for whom Julie can serve as a model to help them abide with their marital vows.
  • And, it’s for everyone who enjoys a human interest story, who can identify with a person who’s been put through the paces of suffering, of learning, of growing, of triumphing in the face of adversity.

With that, I kindly ask you to please share with your family and friends.

  • Click Share on the Facebook post of this, or share one of my several posts regarding my book.
  • Share a link to my website: https://gregeilers.com/
  • If you have read the book, review it on your Facebook page.
  • Share the link to my Amazon book page (see the end of the post for that).
  • Bloggers, share it on your blog.
  • Talk with whomever fits any of the seven It’s for categories.
  • Do what several have told me they have already done: purchase it for someone who would benefit from reading it.

If you’ve read it, I always appreciate your feedback. If you are an Amazon customer, you can write a brief review on my book page. The more reviews, the more the book will be promoted on Amazon.

Thank you, friends!

Stop talking about your faith!

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“My faith got me through.”

“I don’t know what I would have done without my faith.”

“The people of Santa Fe, Texas, are taking solace in their faith,” I heard said, the day after the people held a service to unite and strengthen them.

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I wonder whether the Lord sits on His throne in heaven, wincing every time He hears a person refer to his or her faith, without mentioning the object of this faith. In His wincing, does the Lord call out, “Hey, there! Are you forgetting about me, the One in whom you put your faith, the One who gives you something to trust, somewhere to turn in your time of trial?”

Can you imagine a person, who required emergency surgery to save his life, declaring, “It was my trust that got me through. I went under anesthesia with full faith. When it was done, I woke up and now I’m healing. My faith got me through. I don’t know what I would have done without my faith. I took solace in my faith.”

You KNOW that you would not hear such nonsense. The person would not be talking about himself, not one single bit. I don’t have to ask you about whom he would be speaking.

He would be saying, “I was in desperate shape. The surgeon came in, and she assured me that, though my situation was very serious, she was confident that she could correct the problem. And, wow, did she ever come through for me—along with the entire staff of professionals who were in that operating room. They got me through. I was nothing without them. I was dead, to be sure. Without their expertise, their care, their attention to my welfare, I had no solace because of the mess I was in.”

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When we are in a bind, or have been rescued from one, we don’t talk about ourselves. We talk about the person who delivered us from that evil. If the person, whose surgeon successfully operated on him, talked about himself, and did not talk about the surgeon and all who did their job on behalf of him, we would rightly declare, “You sure are full of yourself! Aren’t you forgetting someone?”

In the three quotes, with which I opened this piece, you know of whom the people are speaking. They are referring to God, to their Lord. My question is, why don’t they talk about Him, instead of talking about themselves?

As with the patient whose life was saved by the doctor, who gladly sings the praises of his surgical savior, shouldn’t we be talking about OUR Savior?

Here is how those three quotes should go:

“My LORD got me through.”

“I don’t know what I would have done without the grace of my LORD JESUS.”

“The people of Santa Fe, Texas, are taking solace in their GOD.”

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Christians supposedly have a deep desire to glorify their Lord. Yet, when they find themselves in the worst situations, they rarely do it.

Instead of talking about the Lord Jesus, they talk about their faith. Rather than praising the God who hears and answers their prayers, they talk about the power of prayer, and all of the people who had been praying. Instead of remarking about the Rock on whom they stand, they talk about their foot.

It’s downright goofy.

Why is it this way?

I find it to be twofold. First, that we talk about ourselves, rather than the Lord, displays the self-centered people we are, because of our sinful nature. We love to make ourselves look good. “Look at me! I have faith! Aren’t I something?!”

Second, most of us are too shy, even embarrassed, to explicitly talk about Jesus Christ. We will go to church. We will pray in private. But, to actually talk about the Lord, to cite specific things about Him, even to quote promises from Him which we see that He has fulfilled? Not so much.

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Here’s the worst I ever heard. I was talking with a man, a Christian, about faith matters. I kept hearing about his faith, but never about his Lord. I finally asked him, “Faith in what, in whom?”

He didn’t grasp my question. I had to restate it. After pondering it, he finally said, “I guess I have faith in my faith.”

Faith in one’s faith? Oh, gravy . . .

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I don’t want to hear about your faith.

I want to hear about the One in whom you put your faith.

When you speak of your Lord, I will hear your faith.

As the healed patient’s appreciation for those who got him through the surgery is obvious by what he declares regarding them, so is the faith of Christians evident by how they remark about the goodness, the forgiveness, the mercy, the strength, the help, the love they receive from their God, through the work of the One Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Let’s suppose it is a mental illness

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Dear fellow Christians: If you believe gender dysphoria is a mental illness, why do you treat transgender persons so terribly? How do you treat those who suffer any of the many other mental illnesses?

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Because I am transgender, my former church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), is keeping me from being a member of one of its congregations. I believe there are numerous church bodies, which have the same attitude toward transgender persons, because they are like the LCMS in its biblically-traditional doctrine and conservative practice.

My experience informs me that the majority of these types of Christians hold that gender dysphoria, which leads to one’s identifying as transgender, is a mental illness. I have argued against this, finding evidence for gender identity issues arising from a physical condition. Certainly, one’s mental state is affected, but I cringe at this term—mental illness—because, I have observed, it is not respected. In other words, if a person has cancer, his illness is respected—it’s real, it can be touched, surgery can be done on it—but mental illnesses are not so easily located, often are perceived as personality-driven, and thus are not viewed with the level of seriousness as cancer. One hears, “Oh, he’s mentally ill,” the words perhaps dripping with contempt.

Since I have left many unconvinced that gender dysphoria arises from a condition which is just as physically real as cancer, I will now take up the position of the traditional Christian, that gender dysphoria is a mental illness, that I might help my fellow Christians see how they are improperly treating their transgender brothers and sisters in Christ.

First, a look at some common mental disorders. I bet you are aware of all of these:

  • anxiety
  • eating
  • mood
  • obsessive-compulsive
  • psychotic
  • post-traumatic stress
  • sex

Each disorder has one or more specific conditions associated with it. For example, under eating disorders are listed bulimia and anorexia nervosa. At least one medical website places gender dysphoria under the various sex disorders.

Preparing to write this essay, I read over many of the specific ailments which fall under the general headings. I have found that I could use any of them for my point of comparison. I have chosen to begin with anorexia nervosa because, four years ago, a pastor, whom I told that I might transition, used it in his rebuttal to me.

Believing my gender dysphoria to be a mental illness, and finding that it is sinful for a Christian to transition, he said, “You wouldn’t tell a person with anorexia not to eat, to give in to that desire.”

Of course, no one would encourage the anorexic not to eat. I can’t imagine anyone saying, “Let her be. If she doesn’t want to eat, that’s her business.” No, starving yourself  is an awful thing.

The pastor made his point. I had no comeback. We both thought he had won the argument.

I would now reply to him, thus:

“No, I would not encourage the anorexic not to eat. However, if I were this person’s pastor, and she would not eat, I wouldn’t kick her out of my church. Just the opposite, I would show the deepest compassion. I would encourage and love and do everything in my power, and give Holy Communion—even if it had to be the tiniest sliver of a wafer soaked in a single drop of wine—to provide her with the love of our Lord Jesus. What I would NOT do is shun this child of God, or kick her out of the congregation. I would not make fun, or hold in contempt, or ostracize this Christian, which is what pastors and Christians are doing with their transgender sisters and brothers.”

There it is. It seems to me that my fellow, traditional Christians want it both ways—they want to call gender dysphoria a mental illness, but they want to treat it as if it were nothing more than a sinful desire, nothing different from a person’s bad habit of misusing the Lord’s name. (Funny, I know a lot of Christians who have spent their entire adult lives misusing the Lord’s name, but I can’t think of a one who has been kicked out of a congregation for it.)

I will now make this mental illness argument harder for myself to argue. It seemed impossible when another pastor, who found transitioning an unacceptable way to treat gender dysphoria, said to me, “If a person were a kleptomaniac, you would not prescribe stealing as the cure.” He’s right; I certainly would not prescribe it. However, if he continued to steal and I were his pastor, what would factor into my decision as to how to deal with him? If he told me that he could do whatever he pleased, I would find his position unacceptable. I would tell him that his attitude is sinful. But if he said, “I hate that I do this. The talk therapy helps sometimes, and other times I’m just so weak that I can’t stop myself,” I would show him compassion and have mercy on him.

Every pastor, with whom I have talked, I have told that I hated to transition, that I found it a terrible “cure” for gender dysphoria. If I have missed anyone, I say it again:

I. Hate. This.

As I have gotten to know other LCMS Christians who are in my same spot—some have transitioned, some have family members who are doing so, and some are fighting not to—every one of them has my attitude. They do not embrace this. They do not say that being transgender is normal. They hate being plagued with this awful thing.

Even after transitioning, I continue to hate this—and I am using “hate” in the biblical sense, “to consider evil.” I find gender dysphoria and one’s transitioning among the evils meted upon we human beings because of the Original Sin we inherit from Adam, through our parents. Just as anorexia and cancer are evil things and come to us because of Original Sin, so does gender dysphoria.

I am not happy to be transgender. I do not embrace it. I do not say that I can do as I please.

I will now provide a third, more challenging argument. Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) describes the malady where a person has a compelling desire to have a limb amputated—often, a leg—or wishes he here blind or deaf. The person suffering with BIID feels, for example, that the leg in question is foreign to his body; it needs to go.

Thankfully, BIID is a rare condition, but for even one person to experience it is one too many. If I were this person’s pastor, my compassion for him would overflow. Now, let’s say, despite my pastoral care and encouragement that he work hard at talk therapy, he proceeds to have a leg amputated? How shall I minister to him? Should I inform him, in no uncertain terms, that he has sinned, and that he cannot come to church now because the sight of him would offend the members of the congregation?

You know how I would minister—exactly as in the two previous examples.

It was important that I work toward BIID because there are those who argue that a gender dysphoric male’s desire for sex reassignment, and the gender dysphoric female’s wish to have a double mastectomy, are cases of BIID. (In reply, I point out that the desire is not only for this procedure, but one’s entire life to be corrected. In other words, it is not the desire to have something removed, but the desire for that area of the body to be correct according to the feminine or masculine nature of the person’s gender.)

Whether anorexic, or a kleptomaniac, or with BIID—I could keep naming mental illnesses—I cannot imagine a pastor would treat his member as the gender dysphoric and transgender Christian is being treated.

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Three years ago, on April 29, 2015, I went public with my gender dysphoria. At the time, I was fighting to remain male. I had the love and compassion of one hundred percent of those who responded to my post.

Four months later, I revealed that I was attempting transitioning, so that I might find some healing, to try to remove the thoughts of suicide and fears of insanity. Immediately, many had contempt for me. I was accused of being a sinner. Some longtime friends either chastised me or simply walked away without a word.

Since then, matters only grew worse with my fellow, traditional Christians.

Most of them would say my gender dysphoria is a mental illness.

If it is a mental illness with which I have to be plagued, I wish it were a different one.  Maybe then, I would not be hated by so many of my Christian brothers and sisters.

Two more rays of hope

This is another follow-up to The Lutheran Witness article which sought to answer the question, “Can people really be transgender?” Following are the links to my reaction to the article, how I responded with my letters to the magazine and to the author, and finally the first letter to the editor which took exception with the article.

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/dear-lcms-transgender-is-not-like-making-a-chevy-into-a-ford/

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/10/04/chevy-into-a-ford-follow-up/

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/chevy-into-a-ford-a-ray-of-hope/

In LW’s December issue are two more letters from folks who were not pleased with the article. If the magazine has followed the typical practice, printing a representative number of letters which reflect the tone of all letters received, the readers of The Lutheran Witness found the article greatly lacking.

While I was hoping my letter would be printed, I am pleased that they published the excellent one from my friend, Norma Sander. I came to know Norma when I was a pastor, her being related to others in our congregation. After I went public regarding my being transgender, she became a grand ally. I am very thankful for her, and that she wrote to LW.

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It is with a heavy heart that I write to say how disappointed I was in the August 2017 article about transgenderism.

The whole problem is the lack of education and understanding. I wonder what kind of research the author did before espousing such simplistic views. Does he know that children from good Christian families tell their parents at a young age that they are really the opposite gender? Can he imagine the heartache and strife accompanying these feelings? Is he aware of the suicide rate among transgender people? Does he really think someone would choose to be transgender?

Please know that there are many LCMS Lutherans who know, are related to, or are friends with transgender people. These people need our prayers and support. They deserve our understanding and willingness to learn.

Amen, Norma! You touched on many vital areas concerning which all simply must be aware. As you write about Lutherans who have trans relatives, that is the perfect introduction to the other outstanding letter.

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Like Pastor Christenson’s response in October, I was dismayed with Pastor Vogt’s article about transgender people in the August LW. It’s not that I disagree that God created us male and female and we can rejoice in how He has made us. God’s original design seems clear that we are created with distinct differences in gender for both body and mind. Part of that difference is that we have an internal sense of our gender. For most of us our internal sense aligns with our physical body. When your internal sense diverges—you are transgender. The biggest problem the Christian church faces with transgender people is that we treat them as modern day lepers—spiritually unclean. Such articles don’t bring compassion and understanding about people for whom Christ died. I have a transgender child, and now many transgender friends and loved ones. They deserve to be treated with respect.

Thank you for this, dear brother in Christ! I found this thought to be especially poignant: “The biggest problem the Christian church faces with transgender people is that we treat them as modern day lepers—spiritually unclean.”

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2017 was pretty quiet for me in the pursuing of my former church body regarding its understanding of gender dysphoria and transgender folks. I was very active in 2016, and was shot down one time after another. I grew disheartened. Couple that with 2017 being my surgery year. I laid low, save for a few letters and my blog posts.

Now that I am done transitioning, and I am heartened by these letters in LW, I am ready to get back to engaging LCMS leadership.

Echoing the two letters, education where there is ignorance, understanding where there is misunderstanding, compassion where there is hardheartedness, and we-are-all-sinners where trans persons are treated like lepers, are my areas of focus.

The job to educate, and to open eyes and hearts, is huge. It is high time the job gets done—for the benefit of all, and to the glory of Jesus Christ.