Category Archives: Community

A Prostitute’s Love

I couldn’t sleep last night.  I haven’t been sleeping well for a while now.  Lately though, when I awaken, instead of turning on the noise of TV, I have simply been attentive to the silence and/or picked up a book to read.  I have felt like young Samuel being awakened and finally saying:  “Speak.  I am listening.”  And in this presence I am no longer alone.

Last night I picked up a book by Anthony Gittins entitled A Presence That Disturbs:  A Call to Radical Discipleship.  I immediately felt myself drawn into the book and its message.  At one point, he describes a former prostitute by the name of “Teddy Bear,” who comes to Genesis House, a place in Chicago that helps people get out of prostitution and rebuild their lives.  Although Teddy Bear ended up dying at the age of 31 from the ravages of prostitution and drugs, she was finally able to love others, because for the first time in her life, through the people at Genesis House, she was able to love herself.

It is only through a real encounter with love through specific flesh and blood people that we are able to love ourselves and, consequently, touch the heart of Divine Love.  Only then can we be energized to go out and change the world – again through touching specific flesh and blood people.

I laid in bed as I read this and realized that, outside of a time in a religious house of formation years ago, I never have had a community of disciples, a spiritual community where I have felt completely and unconditionally loved as a gay man.  Outside of that one experience, I have always had to hide in one way or another in the community of faith.  Suddenly I realized why I have always felt a disconnect from community, a lack of energy in reaching out to help others, a lack of energy for mission.  It is only when we are surrounded by a community that loves us that we can then reach out in love to others.  And this goes way beyond being gay.  I know of many people who feel they have to hide what they really think and feel about things in religious settings.

So where do we go for community?  I am grateful for those friends who surround me with love and whose love and energy I all too infrequently tap into of late.  I am grateful for those people who have had the courage to leave the confines of a religion which really does not accept everyone, and who seek to create new realities, new “houses” as it were, where all can find shelter, be called by name, known and loved, fed and refreshed again for mission and purpose in life.

Healing Presence

Did you ever know someone in whose presence you felt connected, peaceful and refreshed?  We literally are healed by such people.  We draw strength from them.  When we walk about life alone, or trying to do it all ourselves this may work for a while.  But gradually we loose our life force and begin to whither on the vine.  Conversely when we open ourselves to healing presence in others, life takes on new meaning and it’s as if our spirit comes alive with this new food.  “Not by bread alone do we live!”  We need the “food” of others in order to live well in this life.

Some of us, because of past hurts, tend to crawl into our shells, afraid to depend on others, afraid to open our hearts or even ask for simple help.  Perhaps this initially feels the safer way to go about life; but gradually we begin to die, perhaps not physically, but our spirits begin to whither.  Is this any way to live?

It’s no accident that creeds, mission statemets and the 12 Steps begin with the word “we.”  None of us can do it alone.  Yes, in opening ourselves to others, to groups, to churches, to lovers – we may indeed get hurt.  But what’s the alternative?   A safe, but lifeless existence?

Who are the people from whom you can draw healing and strength?  How are you called to be healing presence for others?

Sacred Companions

I am blessed to have a variety of friends. I remain so grateful for the “holy” friendships that I experience in life. These are people who are not only social friends, but those who open themselves to deep intimacy, perhaps the deepest of intimacy as we open our hearts to the Divine in one another.

These relationships are characterized by a sense of respect, openness and humility. Neither person feels that they have all the answers and they listen to each other with a sense of openness. When such a friend speaks, there is a presence of attentive listening, as if God herself were speaking.

Do you have such a friend in your life? Perhaps that person is your partner. Today take some time and give thanks for these Sacred relationships. Let someone know the gratitude that you have for their presence in your life.

Where Two or Three Gather – Creating Spiritual Intimacy

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.”

Matthew 18: 15-20

Much of my spiritual practice is done in solitude. Perhaps that reflects the inner “monk” that is at the very core of my being. However, there is something about coming together with another or a group to experience meditation, prayer or a ritual experience. There is an energy that is released in the coming together of people in these settings. Perhaps it’s the joining together of good, focused vibration, like being in love with another. When we are in their presence, we feel alive, we literally vibrate with energy.

To be honest, I rarely experience this in the typical “church” setting. After Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, overnight, thousands became Christian, not because of any inner experience or “conversion,” but simply because it was the thing to do. Monasticism rose in reaction to that. People began to go to the desert to have a deeper experience of the Divine. Gradually these “monks” joined together in community. We experience the affects of this till this day. Some participate in religion simply because it’s the thing to do. Others look for a deeper spiritual experience.

What is your experience of coming together with others to meditate, pray or for a ritual experience? Does it nourish your soul, or are you simply going through the motions? When I was a leader in a church community I used to say “if this community, if this ritual prayer together is not nourishing your heart, for God’s sake, go someplace else!” My concern was that people find a place where they felt at home, were stirred on the inside, inspired, uplifted and challenged in their living and loving.

Let’s bring it a little closer to home. Do you ever pray or meditate with your Partner? For some, this may be an uncomfortable experience. We may find, however, that this experience of prayer together creates within the relationship an intimacy that until now we had not experienced. There is indeed an Energy stirred when “two or three gather.”

Finding Our Own

Remember how exciting it was when we finally realized who we were, when we began to love ourselves instead of hating and dreading the truth of who we were?  Remember when we began to find others like us out there?  I will never forget the utter joy and excitement of finding others who were like me.  I literally shook inside I was so excited.  It was some friends of mine who I found out were gay that helped me love myself as I was.  Suddenly I went from being so frightened and holding all of this inside to speaking it openly.

I will also never forget the first time I went to a gay bar.  A bar is not the best atmosphere in the world, but we had, in those days, no other place to openly gather.  I will never forget the first time I walked in a gay bar.  I was so nervous and out of my comfort zone that I was shaking all over.  I forced myself to walk in and when I did I was astounded to see hundreds of gay men just like myself.  I saw men dancing with each other, laughing, holding hands, touching and holding each other and kissing.  I was astounded because for the first time in my life I saw reflected in my waking dream what I had always known, deep inside me, to be true and right and good.   I felt that I had come home!  I finally had found my “tribe,” as it were, my own kind, . . . and I loved it!  Instead of cowering in a corner worrying for their eternal salvation, these men were celebrating who they were!  What a gift they were to me that late night so long ago.  I knew then that I was not alone.

Finding a community is indeed among life’s best treasures and without it, life is somehow impoverished.  Do you have a community where you can be yourself, whether you are gay or straight?  Is there a place where you feel at home, a group that feels like it’s your tribe?  If you don’t have that, what can you do to seek that out?  It’s out there.  In being ourselves, letting other people know who we are, stepping outside of our comfort zone and taking a risk, we will discover the grace of finding our own.

Is There Anybody Like Me Out There??

Because I had such a graced coming out experience that was very much connected with my relationship with God as well as other gay people, I naively have thought that, in this day and age, with welcoming churches, positive gay images in the media, etc., those who feel pained and alienated from a sense of Divine love and community are few. As I connect more and more with other groups through the internet by way of this blog, I begin to see that the opposite is true.

There are many, both gay and straight, who continue to suffer deeply because of erroneous images laid on them by religious figures in their lives. Filled with fearful images, told that they are sinful, intrinsically disordered, sick and in need of repentance, they walk through life with a heavy burden, which continually saps energy and joy from their lives. Or perhaps they grew up with a deep love for their church and a comforting sense of God’s presence in their lives. . . . Then they were told they were not welcome, that they were evil and an abomination in the eyes of God; and they walked away into adulthood, with a sense of loss, mourning the connection with church and God which used to be such a source of peace for them. Or perhaps other are like a straight woman I know who lives in abject fear that she is going to hell for the slightest infraction of religious “law,” because as a child these messages were hammered into her. Gratefully, she is slowly beginning to disconnect God with Religious law and connect God with Love!

Indeed, those in need are many! There are many who still need to be set free with the good news that they are loved as they are! “The harvest is plenty, laborers are scarce.” See Matthew 9: 32-38

What contribution can I make to heal those who are still walking in fear? What can I do to let someone know that they are not alone today? How can I create a sense of worth in those who have been so unjustly damaged? What can I do to free those who feel mute and silenced? The good news is, there are communities out there, there are resources and there are laborers in the field who ARE proclaiming good news and setting people free!


Holy Sexy Men

This past week I have been with the religious community that I left some 10 years ago. I had spent about 20 years of my life with this community. I had been asked to come and help them with their bi-annual Assembly. I accepted the invitation to help, but to be honest, I was nervous about being there with them. What would they think of my presence? How would they treat me?

I cannot tell you what a wonderful pleasure it has been to be with these men again! They welcomed me with open arms and many told me how much I was missed, how much I was loved and how very happy they were that I was there with them. And these men knew me, my gifts and my flaws and they know and cherish me as a gay man. It was a very affirming experience. It was wonderful to be around this group of wonderful, holy, sexy men for a week. It reminded me of the type of man that my heart seeks. These men are holy men, spiritual and open, yet very much down to earth, to say the least! Such a combination in a man has seemed difficult for me to find since I’ve left. Of course they, like me, are not perfect and there are some pretty screwed up men among them; but I sat back and observed how those who were screwed up were treated. I found a lot of tolerance. The grace of community is that it is a witness to the possibility of different types of people and personalities, viewpoints and political philosophies coming together and respecting one another in love. And in the world in which we live, such a witness is needed!

This experience reminded me of the importance of community, specifically a community of faith. This has been missing in my life. I yearn to be a part of a community of faith where I can worship in spirit and in truth. It reminds me again how alone the journey feels sometimes because I don’t have a community of faith where I can lay my head and feel at home. Work circumstances prevent that right now; or perhaps it‘s just fear. Maybe this experience was meant to beckon me to search and seek again; to examine my willingness to leave all things and follow – to give up house, home, financial security, geography, friends and family. Am I willing? Am I willing to risk without guarantee in order to follow? It reminds me of Eckhart Tolle who left his native land of England to move to California because something within him felt compelled; and he only had $1000.00 to his name! Perhaps if we risk life becomes more of an adventure than the stayed feeling that pervades my living now. Believe me, there are many advantages of this “stayed feeling,” a beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood, a good paying job doing when I love do to. But I increasingly do not believe in the direction of the church in which I serve and my home isn’t there.

Am I being called to sell everything? To risk? Are you? Anyone know of a good community of faith?