Category Archives: Encouragement

THE CHURCH IS A BULLY!

OK, I don’t want to get into church bashing, because many churches do wonderful things, and, gratefully, some are growing in their acceptance of gays and lesbians, just as they are. However, the messages sent by many churches which directly say or which make gays and lesbians feel fundamentally flawed, if not evil add to or are themselves directly responsible for bullying that goes on, which sometimes ends in death. Can you imagine the pressure a gay child or adolescent must feel if they are constantly absorbing messages from their churches and their families that they are flawed, deviant, an abomination? At the minimum, life is an uphill battle for them.

What about the other side of that equation? Such messages only provide fuel and fan the flames of righteousness within those who do unimaginable verbal and physical harm to gay and lesbian people. How justified their actions must feel in the light of God’s condemnation!

That’s one of the reasons I began these writings. . . To add my voice to sane religious and spiritual voices who speak the truth of God‘s love, and who know it in their hearts. No matter what anyone else says, I know in my heart. All else that I have done in my life would pale in comparison to saving just one person’s life or spirit because they found here a voice which spoke to them of Divine love, instead of Divine retribution. A place where instead of feeling like trash, they can feel whole, loved and spoken into being – just as they are by God.

So what’s the good news?

Despite loud voices which bellow messages of abomination I recently read an article which surveyed young Evangelicals/Fundamentalists. The NUMBER ONE complaint or point of disagreement they had with their churches was their church’s negative stance on homosexuality. The NUMBER ONE point of disagreement! Can you imagine? That’s great news! Somehow, despite loud voices, young evangelicals are simply not buying it! Thank God!

But let’s not be so naïve as to think that people are not suffering. This year again, we heard of young gay people being bullied to the point of taking their own lives or being killed. And so, I write.

If you are one such person who has been swallowing the poison of religious messages, I pray that you are lead here or to the growing number of churches and religious voices who embrace you in love.


Learning to Fly

Last night I was reading the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Shack:  Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by Wm. Paul Young.  The jury is still out on what I think of the novel, but I find parts of it intriguing so far.  If you read it, I recommend getting through the first third of the book.  After that it begins to get intriguing and plays with questions of images of God, religious assumptions, suffering, relationships and new life.

One line from the book struck me.  As the main character and God are conversing about various things, God says:  “This isn’t Sunday School.  This is a flying lesson” (p.98).  What an image!  What if we could view all religion, all spirituality, all relationships from the point of view of this metaphor?  They’re all about flying!  They’re all about being lifted up beyond the pain that sometimes befalls us in life and learning to fly again.  Our relationship with God is NOT about following this or that rule it’s about learning to fly!  It’s about learning to live well!  Of course, any pilot will tell you that there are things you have to learn and do if you are to fly.  But that is not about rigid adherence to rules.  It’s about learning to live well, making good choices so that I feel as if I take flight.  It is about calling on the power of God within and trusting it, trusting that it is with us and will carry us through anything.  Now, we’re not going to “feel” it all the time, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t there.

Some of my friends know that I have gone through a bit of a difficult time the past couple of years.  I have struggled much.  A few weeks ago, I sat down and tried to meditate, having “felt” no connection with God, or others for that matter, in quite a while.  I felt that this was such a waste of time.  I didn’t feel any better.  But I kept going back to meditation anyway, if even sporadically.  One day, wondering about the pain and difficulty of the past couple of years, wondering why I was even doing this and if there was any Power out there to help, I softly heard these words:  “It was then that I carried you.”  I look back now . . . and indeed I see only one set of footprints in the sand.  Indeed, I was still flying, still being lifted up, even though I didn’t feel it.

What strikes me is this:  if I had not meditated, if even sporadically, I never would have heard those gentle words, which were the catalyst which is giving me some thrust, some wind, as it were, as I slowly stretch out my wings again and learn to fly.

In the book, God says to the main character who has been deeply wounded:  “Mack, pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly. . . .And if left unresolved for very long, you can almost forget that you were ever created to fly in the first place” (p.97).

I pray that we all know that we were created to fly; that we have the courage to slowly spread our wings again.  And even when life is difficult may we know that “it was then that I carried you.”


Winter’s Secret

Humans must be among the very few creatures who do not slow down in the Winter.  We keep running about, full speed ahead, even though the cold and the darkness beckon our bodies to rest.  For some, Winter creates an emotional hibernation, a depression which leaves them without much energy.

Whether our Winter leaves us physically tired or emotionally drained, it’s important to remember that Winter’s silence, Winter’s stillness holds a secret.  If an alien came to our planet in the middle of a land’s Winter season, would they have any idea that the seemingly dead branches, the frozen plants and brown grass would, in a short while, burst into life?

In the dead of Winter, sometimes we feel as if the lethargy of our bodies or spirits will be without end.  In such a time, we need to look to Spring, realizing that what seems dead, what seems lifeless will burst into life again.  Sometimes this very thought is enough to reverse a downward emotional trend.

I think of the line in the famous song “The Rose,” sung by Bette Midler some years back:

“When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long; and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong. . . . Just remember, in the Winter, far beneath the bitter snow, lies the seed, that with the sun’s love, in the Spring, becomes . . . the rose.”


Making A Difference

Part of this season is about giving, making a difference in the lives of those in need, or the community in general. I was driving to work today and came across a busy intersection at which were cones set up and people walking up and down the street taking donations for a cause. I was heartened by the fact that these people actually took time out of a free day to do something good that would benefit other people, people that they may not even know. This is one small example of how a meriad of people give of their time for the good of others or the community in general.

Advent is about making known the presence of God to others. Its about incarnating the presence of God. It’s about God with skin. Experiencing the presence of God through our prayer is good indeed, but sometimes we need God with skin. We need the touch and comfort of another. And we are called to be that for others.

“Strengthen the hands that are feeble,

Make firm the knees that are weak,

Say to those whose hearts are frightened:

Be strong, fear not!”

(See Isaiah 35: 1-10)

We are, each of us, a Word of God spoken in time with a mission, a purpose. How can you make a difference in someone’s life today?

 


Saving Lives

“God chose those whom the world considers absurd to shame the wise. . . . God chose the world’s lowborn and despised . . .” See 1Corinthians 1: 26-31

 

I have this soft spot in my heart for the underdog. And I have to say that I have an especially soft spot in my heart for the gay underdog. I’m sure it’s because of my own experience of growing up gay and subconsciously drinking in messages that I was fundamentally flawed. The day I realized in my heart that I was not flawed, but wonderfully made, it gave birth to a passionate desire to lift up those who feel themselves to be flawed or less than. This desire has not subsided all these years. Nothing gives me more happiness than to sit with one who has drunk in these messages and to help them, with my own story, realize that they are wonderfully made! In this age of increasing religious anti-gay rhetoric, it’s all the more important that there be present other “religious/spiritual” voices that speak a different message.

Some years ago, while giving a weekend retreat/conference, a man approached me and asked if he could talk with me. With tears in his eyes and his body shaking because he was so nervous, he told me of his same sex attraction and the utter despair he felt because his church was telling him that he was damned. We talked a long time and through sharing my story, that man’s face was literally transformed. Fear and self loathing gave way to surprised joy at the thought of being wonderfully made. As we parted he thanked me profusely. I looked at him and simply said “you’re welcome.” He looked at me and said that I had no idea how significant this was. He went on to say that he had often sat in his backyard with a gun in his hand, contemplating suicide. A friend had encouraged him recently to come to this retreat (which incidentally was a 12 Step retreat and had nothing to do with being gay) and for some reason he came. He now knew why. With tears in his eyes again, but tears of joy, he looked at me and said: “You see, you just saved my life!”

The gift that I have been given, I want to give. I SO want to be a life saver! If you are one who, for whatever reason, despairs of God’s love, I pray that through these words and in this Blog you will find a word that gives you hope and lifts you up.


The One Who Lifts Me Up

“A bruised reed God will not break; a smoldering wick God will not quench.”
See Matthew 12:14-21

Our relationship with the Divine, whatever we understand the Divine to be, is about being lifted up.  It is not about being beat down into thinking that we are somehow flawed, sinful, not good enough or incapable of changing.  The Christ was not about this.  He was about building people up, healing, reconciling and lifting up especially those who were shunned.  Unfortunately, in some quarters, religion has become a harbinger of condemnation, a place where people, consciously or subconsciously receive messages that they are not good enough in the eyes of God.

Then we develop this “atonement theology” which basically says that we AREN’T good enough as we are, so Christ became the sacrifice to appease the disappointed, if not angry God and only in this way made us acceptable.  What parent would look at their child and see them as fundamentally flawed?  I don’t believe God looks at us and sees us as fundamentally flawed.  Like a parent, I believe God looks at us with tremendous love and only wants our best.

Our spiritual practice should be about being lifted up and conversely lifting others up.  If, when we think about our relationship with the Divine, there is a feeling that we don’t quite stack up, there’s something to be worked on.  Perhaps we need to spend time in quiet and drink in images of the love of God.  Or, perhaps there is some character defect that is rearing its head that we need to admit and work on.  A good way to get a sense of where we’re at with God is to ask this question:  “When God thinks of me, . . . what does God think?”  Like the song “You Raise Me Up,” God is the one who raises us up to more than we could ever imagine!  “A bruised reed God will not break. The smoldering wick God will not quench.”

Be lifted up today.  And then be a blessing for someone else!