Informed Freedom Brings Healthy Self-Determination & Respect

People have the capacity to make decisions for their own life that are in their best interests, life-giving and fruitful. That would seem an obvious thing to say. However, ex-gay ministry, conversion therapy, and legalistic religion do not trust people to make up their own minds on what is healthy or not healthy for them to pursue unless it fits with their ex-gay/conversion views. Whether it is with the best but misguided (in my opinion) of intentions or outright “exhortation” and manipulation, these groups will always seek to “educate” or guide someone who is questioning their sexuality down their particular well-worn paths. I do believe we were created to journey with others, but I don’t believe that it is any of our jobs to guide someone else’s direction.

In my experience, the problem with the ex-gay destination is always blurry and only gets murkier as we tried to get to an unrealistic “biblical” life. Eventually, we find the ex-gay/conversion path isn’t changing anything or going from one place to another. It is simply an incredibly long roundabout full of irreparable potholes with a never-ending emphasis on “brokenness”; all the exits are walled-off or boarded up by stacks of man-made stigma and religiously imposed unnecessary burdens. Learning how to avoid potholes and ignore the “no exit” strategy is not changing our core relational sense of being, it’s culturally conditioned behavioral modification.

That’s why many of us who have come out of that world feel like we lost ourselves after getting “saved.” In the name of getting “sanctified” (growth and being “set apart” in Christ) we were actually being hidden away on a path paved with shame for who we truly are. We were not “in process” as we were taught. We were not growing in sunshine and light but isolated in a figurative closet of terminal uniqueness. Finding who we are created to be was defined for us, not what I now believe God naturally designed and celebrates.

We were diverted from our authentic journey to follow someone else’s steps leading to a destination that doesn’t exist.

It is my hope and prayer that instead of losing ourselves in the name of “discipleship” and “overcoming brokenness” that we embrace the reality at who we are as beautiful and something to be celebrated.

Yes, coming to Christ is transformative. He has wonderfully blessed and allowed me to celebrate all aspects of who He created me to be. I look forward to learning more! He destroyed the barriers to the exits from that world by allowing me to see through the blinders of a religiously and self-imposed ideal. We are created with the capacity to think for ourselves and through the issues. For those of us who are people of faith, we will always find Him in the “peace that surpasses all understanding.”

And for the first time in my life… SO cool with you if you agree or don’t agree. I know this post is reflective of my path/journey/opinions. I’ll do me, and you do you, we’re good. However, this is my blog, so the personal observations and opinions shall continue :)…

Truthfully, it doesn’t take long to learn a myriad of ideas. We have resources available from every possible angle. I personally believe we do not need a smiling well-intentioned in their own mind ex-gay minister manipulating, creating, or seeking to steward our questions and/or pain with an assumed power to do so. We do not need parachurch organizations taking money to fix a manufactured brokenness. We can trust in our ability to think for ourselves. For those of us who are people of faith, that includes the guidance of our Creator. Jesus doesn’t need donations or a 501(c)3 resource catalog or bylaws to be a Good Shepherd.

He is with, loves, affirms, and celebrates you.

Truly, if you want an opinion I would be glad to offer one (obviously), but I will not seek to impose it. Some will agree, and others will deny that their core sense of relational being is as an LGBT+ person… that’s their decision, and I will seek to love and understand as best I can.

What I won’t be silent about is the fact that an entire system has risen up from a stigmatized foundation that exploits LGBT+ lives; a system that must be dismantled or at least revealed so that it no longer has the power to convolute issues and breed destruction.

People should be allowed to determine their path from a position of informed freedom, not from a stigmatized environment enforced by culture conditioning rooted in shame and condemnation.

Wherever you are at on the journey, I respect you. Regardless of what you think about my path, choices, and beliefs … anyone who is struggling to live an honest life regarding their core relational sense of being… I have nothing but love and empathy for you as a person and friend.

You are worthy of being celebrated and loved. I hope you feel and experience that today.

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This Has Got To Stop: Ending Conversion Therapy, Opposing Ex-Gay Ministry

My friend Daniel Karslake posted the below on Facebook  this past Tuesday; will share some more thoughts after the embed:


There is a LOT of ground covered in the interview with Daniel that I hope will make it into the film.  It is my consistent prayer that Daniel’s documentary (For They Know Not What They Will Do) will stop the damage, heal the unnecessary hurt and literally save lives.

When I talk about “this has GOT to stop” it is in response to ex-gay ministry/conversion therapy. To be clear, I don’t see a real difference between ex-gay ministry and conversion therapy anymore. They may have different environments, different lingo, but the same underlying beliefs are imposed as a cure or “healing” for something that should be recognized as a gift, not a wound. Ex-gay ministry and conversion therapy both provide false hope, unnecessary hurt on top of already existing pain, and possibly personal/relational destruction on every level.

It has to stop.

Specifically, conversion therapy for minors needs to be against the law, across the board. For adults in conversion therapy or ex-gay ministries, we all have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religious conscience. However, we can have all those freedoms while also:

  • Placing stricter guidelines/policies for state-issued professional licensing programs for counselors.
  • Hold churches that promote and financially support ex-gay ministries accountable through public scrutiny of their support.
  • We don’t have to provide the financial incentive for conversion therapy/ex-gay ministry via the state through the granting of non-profit status. Let the current ex-gay 501(c)3 model go “for profit” instead and see how that works out.
  • If ex-gay ministries/conversion therapists are allowed to go for a non-profit status, don’t let their by-laws get away with being a general “Christian discipleship” ministry either. Their goals of “overcoming” homosexuality should be overt and clear in their legal documents. Their specific ministry approach to accomplishing these goals should be crystal clear in their legal documents as well.
  • In our own spheres of influence, we can expose the legalistic/religious fear exploiting real issues that then funnels hurting and vulnerable people into conversion therapy and ex-gay ministries. For many in the church, they are taught and told that they are broken and these destructive paths are their only option. NOT true. We need to invest in positive, affirming, and life-giving resources (faith-based and secular); resources that provide help, healthy community, and opportunities for personal growth.

Ex-gay ministries and conversion therapy aren’t necessary. While there are real issues every human deals with, conversion therapy and ex-gay ministries confound and sometimes exacerbate existing pain, contextualizes who we are and our relational sense of being through stigma infused teachings, and then creates false expectations and goals with highly pressurized consequences.

This has got to stop and it will. It will the day when we realize that the only difference between us, in Christ and not, is… nothing. We all need love, help, support, and hope. We all struggle with our core relational sense of being, identity, hopes, joys, and fears. We all need each other and safe places of support and community.

While we press onward to live, grow, and love in our non-perfect lives, this unnecessary destruction stops when we embrace that we are not broken, we are beautiful. 

Home

I am sitting in the upstairs living room area of a huge house I just moved into. It is a gorgeous house where I am renting two of the four bedrooms. Renting isn’t my favorite, but it is the best option for now.

And it is a beautiful option. Love this place; incredibly grateful.

The upstairs alone is literally twice the square footage as The Little Cottage House On The Edge Of The Boonies. We (TSG Roomie and I) moved in last week after I had been living in a temporary situation in a lovely apartment for a month. So, two major moves within 32 days of each other from cottage house to a larger apartment, to a Super House.

After having moved many times over the years, these two moves seemed especially difficult. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s that I haven’t had a roommate in around 10 years, perhaps it’s the “new”ness of trying to rebuild life from an honest foundation and finding my place in a community with brand new surroundings. I am sure it is all the above and more. It’s been a very stressful month.

Plus, just last summer, I wasn’t dating. I was comfortable in the cottage house on my own. I was literally alone a good 90% of the time and always alone at home. Now, since moving in with TSG Roomie and dating Dan, I am rarely alone. It has been a challenge and a difficult adjustment in some personal ways.

Here lately, I am reminded of when I first moved to Florida in 2002. The culture shock, entirely new environment, change of pace had a similar effect. I used to say at work or when I was speaking:

“I call Tennessee the Motherland; Texas the Fatherland and Florida… You’re On Your Own land! But I always know that wherever God’s people are, and God’s presence abides, I am “H”ome.”

Well, God’s people (myself included) can be difficult to live with :). It’s the whole human thing. However, now settling into the new place, I find life-giving soul-care knowing that He, Our Creator, is my only Home. Yes, I am a Christ follower, and I abide in Him. But I have come to learn that all people, of every faith and “kind,” are God’s people. He is Life and all things good. He is everywhere and can be found in everyone…everything.

Now matter the physical environment, my shelter is always sure when living in authentic peace and love. That sounds so Sunday School Answerish :), but it is true. When feeling untethered that meditation has always brought me back to center. It is my hope that you find your home in love and peace, too.

A Friend Renounced Their Christianity…What Do I Do?

Earlier this week a friend sent me a message on Facebook sharing that a friend of their family (a closeted gay man) had posted to Facebook earlier that day renouncing his faith in Christianity.

In the process of his renunciation, he clearly stated he was returning hate for hate toward Christians. After a few choice outraged words, he declared he was leaving the faith/church for a community that truly loves others of any kind. It is evident he has been hurt by religion and outraged.

First and foremost, that is his story to tell, and life to live, not mine to second guess from afar. That said, he isn’t the one who contacted me, so the following are thoughts I wanted to share with my friend gleaned from times in life when I was in her position watching friends renounce their faith. Plus, the situation is very similar to the much larger number of people I knew or know (LGBT+ and beyond) who may not renounce their faith but are livid with the church and reject culturally conditioned religion.

Now, to the issue at hand… what do I do when a friend renounces their Christianity?

Prevent Projecting Personal Issues (The Heart Check)

I think it is helpful to take a quick personal inventory of emotions. What feelings manifested when hearing about the friend’s renunciation? Afterward? Did these feelings change or intensify after having time to think about it? Many times, in this type of situation, it is tempting for Christ followers experiencing strong emotions to jump right in with unasked for advice, correction, or reminders. I think it is better to hear the person out, and then affirm them with love and an acknowledgment that we have genuinely heard them. Then, whether it is an acquaintance or loved one, it is a good time to reaffirm the commitment we have to them as appropriate to the relationship. Follow that with meditation, prayer, and search for inner peace before offering an in-depth response (if asked for and/or appropriate.)

Allowing time to process and search our own heart can help center/anchor us in what may feel like a volatile situation. It enables us to remove any potential spiritual ear-muffs and hear the other person clearly.

Emotions inform and empower. Emotions help make our car run, but it is the mind that’s behind the wheel. Emotions can compel us to think through the issues. However, if they are imposing a context on the situation without any humbling and critical thought, it usually leads to unfair and incorrect judgment.

Keeping our heart clear by stewarding our emotions (not being run over by them) makes room for love and compassion to exponentially increase.

Empathetic Listening Often Turns Knowledge Into Wisdom (The Mind Check)

Would you agree with me that in today’s world, truly listening to someone is a lost skill? That many will only listen long enough to find the loophole; only listen for the opportune time to insert an opposing talking point, or just completely zone out until there is an opportunity to change the subject to something they are comfortable with?

Our faith teaches that those with “eyes to see and ears to hear” will know the ways of the Spirit and what is actually important and life-giving. Taking the time to genuinely listen to someone in pain will help reveal the facts being born out of another’s heart and life. Allowing ourselves to consider and relate to what is being shared helps the “facts” become relatable and may produce life-giving wisdom instead of unrealistic assessments and expectations.

Also, actually listening will help turn the pain from a wounding pain into a healing pain. Stating the obvious here, being wounded hurts! However, empathetic listening can contribute to facilitating the clearing and cleaning of the wound. Then, as anyone who has ever broken a bone or suffered a cut knows, the wound hurts through the healing process as well. However, that pain lessons with healing and eventually dissipates.

I believe empathetic listening is the bond/medicine/dressing that keeps the wound be safe and contaminant free enough to heal itself. In other words, we love and listen to our friends find their way to what is healthy and right for them.

Summary

I believe God’s love for us isn’t dependent on our ability to return or not return His love. I think He loves us so much He inspired the very breath you just took; delights in the things you enjoy and purposefully finds ways to bring joy into your world. He loves my Facebook friend. He loves this hurting man. Nothing can remove God’s love from us…not even us.

When we put our hearts and minds in check and really understand where we are coming from and have to offer, we can divest ourselves from ourselves and truly be present to our hurt(ing) loved ones; to love and serve them regardless of what they believe or decide. That’s when our hearts heal as authentic relationships and community flourish.

Smarmy Gay PDA is OK

You know how four-year-olds blow air kisses? They smoosh their pudgy four-year-old palms awkwardly against their cherubic cheeks, snotty nose…whatever and with bright laughing eyes and splayed fingers they push the air kiss forcefully out into the universe in that ecstatic four-year-old way.

Well, that’s exactly how I returned Dan’s discreet air-kiss at the gym yesterday. He was on the leg press sending a regular manly, non-showy, pretty reserved, air kiss and twenty feet away I nearly knocked over the chest fly machine acting like a four-year-old returning the favor.

It was hilarious if I do say so myself.

However, a woman nearby didn’t think so. I asked Dan about this, and he agreed, she looked like she could be Kim Davis‘ cousin. So we will call her Ms. Lynn Mavis. Ms. Lynn Mavis did NOT like our smarmy gay PDA (Public Display of Affection.) She snarly nosed glared at us and shortly after gathered up her daughter and walked to another part of the gym.

Granted, if it hadn’t been me and I saw another couple doing that I would probably roll my eyes but still think it was funny.

However, it was us, and it was awesome in spite of Ms. Lynn Mavis’ glare. I am not willing to not act like a kissy four-year-old at the gym if the Ms. Lynn Mavis’ of the world get perturbed, rustle up their kids and run away. I had fun, and it made Dan laugh.

Worth it!

Not even embarrassed… well maybe a little when I remember my age … BUT, this got me thinking, Dan and I hold hands…a lot. And I usually never think about it. It’s just something we do like millions of other dating couples do every moment of every day. We held hands all day at Disney, at the Scottish Festival, at Dexter’s Lake Mary on Ladies Night (not kidding, happened)…and pretty much everywhere we have been in the greater Orlando metro area. It has happened on a few occasions, but we rarely get weird looks or snarky “micro-aggressions.” We are blessed to live in an area that recognizes equality in policy and interpersonally on a community level.

I know who I am, who we are, and what we are doing is healthy for us. Given where we are at personally and as a dating couple, all good stuff. While smarmy/silly at times (on my part), it’s not inappropriate. There’s the world to enjoy and find love in; this is a good thing to engage.

You might be glad to know that I did not follow Ms. Lynn Davis around the gym to blow her four-year-old style air kisses… but I was tempted.