Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The God Box

Recently, a friend recommended a great little book called The God Box by Alex Sanchez. Alex is an author who writes gay-themed stories of teens and their journey. Although the target market of his books is the teen population, The God Box is an excellent book that will resonate with my readers as well.

It is not a classic literary achievement and isn't meant to be. Instead, it is a great little tome that caused my spirit to call out, "Yes!" It was spot-on in recording the feelings and struggles experienced by Paul, a Christian teen living in a small Texas town. (I could relate, having grown up in an evangelistic, conservative Baptist church in the heartland of America)

Everything's perfect. He has the Christian girlfriend and group of friends. He has the vibrant mega-church with the perfect pastor and he even has the perfect salvation story. But all of that matters little when Manuel moves to town. He's also a Christian. But he has none of the "perfect" trappings of Paul's life; rather, he is confident, gay, loving and filled with God's Spirit.

Paul is drawn to and at the same time driven away by Manuel. There is this need to understand how Manuel can be so centered and sure when Paul's own spirit is so mixed up and fearful.
There were times when reading it that I laughed out loud. There were others that I cried. Like this excerpt when Paul comes out to his beloved grandmother.

"Um there's something I want to tell you." She cocked her head and peered at me. "I'm in love...with Manuel."

She reached out with her frail arms and hugged me. "Mi amor, I'm so happy for you." Then with her finger she gently poked at my heart. "Now let yourself be happy too."

She kissed my cheek. And as she waddled away, I had this odd thought, about how Manuel sometimes called God "she."

Maybe he was right.

(Previously, Manuel had challenging Paul's views of God identified with only male pronouns.)

This book can teach us all, straight and Christian. The greatest thing that I will take away from this sweet little story is that I can be fuller me. I can express my position as a child of God and as the person He created me to be--without guilt and without reservation or fear. And perhaps in doing so, I will inspire others to step beyond their fears and the stereotypes they harbor and drive them into the arms of Jesus.

Like so many of us, Paul begs God for answers. Why? Why did you make me this way? And all the time he finds that he's been asking the wrong questions. God is sweetly and lovingly drawing him to the truth.

My mind struggled to absorb (it). Had I actually been resisting God's love all these years by not accepting who I was? Could I also be content to accept that the Lord might not want to change me, or he would have done so by now? Could I admit that it might possibly be the Lord's will for me to love and accept myself Or would I spend the rest of my life fighting who I was, feeling sorry for myself, and being angry at God about it?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Exodus Parody

So-called "ex-gay" therapies and groups have caused so much damage to my friends and those I love. It is sad that the need to be "right"eous has spawned an entire industry bent on trying to change people's orientation.

One dear friend who spent 9 years in these programs sent me the attached video. It's a parody of a promotional video for Exodus International, the most well-known of the ex-gay "ministries." Although it is humorous, it really shows the faulty logic and incomplete scientific backing that these groups generally use to try to "change" people.

Enjoy it. Can't be serious all the time.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Myopia

No, I'm not physically nearsighted. Instead, I'm talking about my own tendency to become focused on all the "stuff" going on in life.

Sometimes I feel unfulfilled and dissatisfied, but when I stop to analyze the feeling and wonder what is creating such discontent in my life, I am at a loss. Over and over again, I agonize about my purpose and if I'm fulfilling it and what I should be doing to fulfill it.

How do I reconcile this with my (rather hum-drum) everyday life? These thoughts go on and on.

But tonight, my thoughts have followed a different path than what they normally do when contemplating the relevance of my own existence. I realized that my "life" is my existence. The thing that I'm seeking for I already have, and it is found in the presence of every day.

I am so often wrapped up in the drama of myself, that I fail to experience the life that is produced in and through me...that is me. This is the feeling that leaves me wondering if I've missed out on life. I have not missed life, because life is what is. I have missed the opportunity to recognize it as it's occurring.

But my life is blessed. All life is blessed. My life is full and rich and bountiful. Only my myopia keeps me from recognizing this truth every day!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Matter Of Life and Death

I read something that startled me today. Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.

I had to really stop and think about this. For whatever reason, life and death are always paired. Yet gestation and death are the natural regenerative processes that life goes through in all its forms, but they are not life. Death is not a cessation of life but a rebirth of it in new form.

Whenever any kind of deep loss occurs in your life--such as loss of possessions, your home, a close relationship; or loss of your reputation, job or physical abilities--something inside you dies. You feel diminished in your sense of who you are. There may also be a certain disorientation. "Without this...who am I?"

When a form that you had unconsciously identified with as part of yourself leaves you or dissolves, that can be extremely painful. It leaves a hole, so to speak, in the fabric of your existence.

When this happens, don't deny or ignore the pain or the sadness that you feel. Accept that it is there. Beware of your mind's tendency to construct a story around that loss in which you are assigned the role of victim. Fear, anger, resentment, or self-pity are the emotions that go with that role. Then become aware of what lies behind those emotions as well as behind the mind-made story: that hole, that empty space. Can you face and accept that strange sense of emptiness? If you do, you may find that it is no longer a fearful place. You may be surprised to find peace emanating from it.

Whenever death occurs, whenever a life form dissolves, God, the formless and unmanifested, shines through the opening left by the dissolving form. That is why the most sacred thing in life is death. That is why the peace of God can come to you through the contemplation and acceptance of death.
selection and quote from Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Why Am I Afraid to Live?

Why is it that I fear the only thing I truly desire--my own happiness? What causes me to create my dreams and then fear their achievement so much that I'm willing to sit by as my mind deconstructs them with thoughts of inadequacies and failures that have yet to occur?

A friend said something tonight that struck me. He said, "It's the easiest stand still."

I disagreed with him. Standing still is not the easiest way. It's not even the most comfortable. But it is the most comforting. Standing still allows me to play victim (to other people or to circumstances). Standing still lets me feel pitiful and therefore important (to myself at least).

The truth is momentum is the easiest way of life. Living--as an action verb--is the most comfortable way to be. Yet so few of us practice living. Most of us are so conditioned to be comforted with our own dream-dashing, that we fail to live the life we were meant to live.

What I am realizing:

We fear to live the life we dream, so we fail to live the life that is more than we can dream.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

How Does God Speak?

Jeanine is a friend of this blog and she recently sent me a great idea from another blog that does a "Friday Five" list.

I've been going through the wringer on a personal level over the past few weeks and so the list that was posted really seemed apropos.

Sometimes we know God is out there, but we just can't feel His touch. So I want to take a moment to focus on and remember the ways in which God has spoken and does speak to me.

How has God revealed Himself to you in...

A Book:

Obviously, He has revealed Himself through the Bible. This is probably one of the most powerful ways God speaks to me, because I love to read.

But I remember a few years ago, before I came out to myself, I was driving through town and saw a huge sign: BOOK CLOSEOUT

I swerved across traffic, veering into the parking lot and came to a stop with squealing tires. I browsed the entire sale walking around the table marked "Christian" at the end of my shopping. I walked around it twice to make sure I didn't miss anything and that's when it happened.

I saw a bright green book. It seemed to jump off the shelf at me as its title caught my attention. Uncommon Calling. It was the story of a gay Christian fighting for ordination in the 1980's in a mainline denomination.

I was terrified to buy that book, because it was labeled "gay," and I hadn't even labeled myself that yet. But I knew that I needed to read that book. I took it home and devoured it. That was one step on this fantastic journey toward authenticity and communion where God used a book to speak to me very clearly.

A Film:
There are many over the years, but the one that profoundly touches me every time is The Passion of the Christ.

When I first went to see it, I had no preconceptions. I simply prayed, "Lord, speak to me."

It was graphic and overwhelming as anyone who's seen it can tell you. At one point, I fought to keep my eyes on the screen. Tears were pouring over my cheeks and I wanted to look away. But I couldn't.

In that moment during the scene where Jesus is being whipped, there is a flashback shot to the last supper. Jesus is holding the bread and breaks it "this is my body which was broken for you."

I wept. My salvation was real again. I've not been the same since.

A Song:
I am a musician, so these examples are also plentiful. One of my favorites within the last year is sung by India Arie called There's Hope.

"It's about the size of the faith in your heart."

A Person: (not going to post a pic for this it's an anonymous blog!)
God has used so many people in my life to speak His grace and love to me. The one that jumps out is the first person I ever came out to. She is a dear friend who'd been a minister of a United Church of Christ congregation. We met however through a mutual employer.

When I came out to myself, she was the first one I told. I remember it so vividly. We were sitting at lunch. We caught up on all the things going on in our lives. And I just decided to tell her.

My head was full of internalized homophobia still. I was fearful of what people would say and think. I thought everyone looked on the gay community and being gay like I did according to how I'd been taught.

When I finally said those words, she looked me straight in the eyes, reached across the table and put her hand on mine and said, "that's so wonderful".

For another hour or two we sat there and God ministered healing and peace to my heart through her words. I left there a changed man.

I have been able to take the advice she gave me on that Sunday afternoon long ago and use it to minister to others who are in the same boat as I am. And in a sense, that's the reason for this whole minister.


I love the ocean and the beach. This is the place in nature where I feel most connected to God.

I remember a few years ago, I was in the Caribbean on a small island. I had traveled there alone. I had no phone, no TV, and no internet. There were a few shops on the island, but no stores or shopping malls. I knew no one, and I was there for four days.

One of the evenings, I traveled to a secluded beach and decided to watch the sun setting. I drove down to the water and climbed up on a large boulder. I watched the tide come in from my perch about 10 feet off the water. As it rolled in, I noticed small snails that would wash up and cling to the rock face.

As I watched the sun dipping toward the water on the horizon, I realized that just as I was watching the snails on the rock, God was watching me.

Giving Grace

I just finished Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. I often read three to five books all at the same time, so I'd been working on this one for several weeks. Today as I finished it, I was impacted by the message of grace that is found in this spiritual revolution that is so simple, yet not easy--so ancient, yet sadly novel to most of contemporary Christianity.

It is this: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love and support the poor.

In order to fulfill this gospel we must first experience grace (through salvation) and then extend grace (through the working out of our salvation). Yet grace is difficult. It takes courage to lay down one's own life and desires.

But the more I experience grace the more compelled I am by it and the more constrained I am to live with grace toward all men.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch

like me...


...or me

....or me

and even me...

That's the thing about grace--there are no criteria to obtain it.

Grace is the only true gift that we can ever accept, and it is the only true gift that we can ever give. Without grace, we could not receive love. Without grace, we could not give love.

There truly is no other word for grace....but amazing.

I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never - I promise - regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we're at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.
Luke 6:35-36 (the Message)