Soul – My Review

I am not a huge TV or movie watcher, except when I get ready to fall asleep and am a “co-watcher” next to my wife, who usually has a show on as background noise, to educate herself with a new documentary, or catch up on the latest crime show.  She also loves going to the movies (pre-pandemic) and I’d tag along more for the popcorn.  It’s not that I am AGAINST movies or TV, I’d just prefer to do something else like read, listen to or record music, or any number of things.  So, I was surprised when she suggested we watch Soul this morning that I was actually, really interested!  I believe that interest was in large part because, since Christmas, I’ve been seeing posts on social media that were lukewarm at best to outright livid about this Pixar/Disney creation.  Some of my most vocal Christian friends were LIVID!  My reaction was similar to when Harry Potter first burst onto the social stage of chatter, and so many of my acquaintances were throwing a fit about witchcraft and the like…..what?  Like, I better check this out!

So as the show started, having not known really any details about this movie except it was “hogwash” or “satanic” or “humanistic garbage”, I rubbed my hands together in anticipation.  I mean, give me the story line that has all these Christians bent out of shape!  I wanted to see all the controversy and anguish and laugh a little at the audacity of their stance.  It became clear right away that the premise of the afterlife (and the time before our birth) was super, extremely far from Christian concepts.  I was like, “Oh ho ho ho, this is gonna be good!”

But I am SOOOOOO disappointed! Any controversy for this movie, in my opinion, is only in place because people have run out of other things to be bent about. What a great movie, despite having NO real controversy!

This movie shows how we should be – and can be – content.  How we can find purpose in living.  How we can look beyond ourselves or use the lot we’ve been given to bless others.  How our existence, broken or incomplete or seemingly inconsequential, is valuable and meaningful and powerful.  We are unique and important and special!  We might focus on the wrong things that don’t bring the joy we anticipated, but we are more than capable of realizing this error and more than make up for it.  All Christian concepts that have room to manifest themselves more in our society today.

It amazes me that so many on my social feed missed this, all because the premise of the before/afterlife was formed from a different worldview.  (Never mind that many of the same people are huge Game of Throne fans – as am I – and had no problem with night walkers and flying dragons, but I digress.)  I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s faith or worldview, but it strikes me as very much like the Pharisees who called out Jesus for breaking the social expectations for “being faithful” and totally missed the miracles He provided.  Oh, you healed a man?  Don’t you know you aren’t supposed to work on Sunday?  You have defiled the Lord’s Day!  Oh, you eat with sinners but you avoid us holy ones?  You are obviously unclean!

I recommend Soul, a movie that was entertaining, touching, had amazing animation, and also portrayed a Black protagonist without needing to pull from stereotypes or diminished foundations to make us white folk comfortable.  It made me feel more spiritual, more human, and created a desire to use everything that God has given me to interact with everyone around me in a positive way.  And, if that isn’t Christ-like, I don’t know what is.

Check out Soul on Disney+, steaming now.

Reflecting on 2020

2020 was a different year, I am sure you can all agree.  My 2020 started on a good note; I just began my tenure at a new job – my dream job to date – and the future was bright for me.  This was especially important as the end of my previously believed dream job ended in a way I had not planned.  But the reality was that its demise was the springboard for many great things!  We moved back to Texas to be with family, I found my true dream job, and things were looking great!  Then COVID-19 hit and I think we were all sent into a different (tail) spin.  Our search for a house to purchase went on hold, we (just like most of you) moved to working remotely and staying at home except for essential activities, we began wearing masks and being professional hand washers (the new norm), and we witnessed the world begin to record COVID cases and deaths beyond anything we could have imagined.  This post is not about politics per se, but we all know the political climate remained, or even increased, in its polarization.  While we were fortunate to avoid contracting COVID in our household, things seemed to be put into freeze mode or at least a world of isolation or separation to a large degree. Non-COVID related events also tainted our year; my brother-in-law passed away much too soon, Zack was in a very serious accident, and family members lost their jobs.

Now, looking back over the many months of these changes, I’m here to attest that they weren’t all bad.  Deana transitioned to a new job – perhaps HER dream job! – we used our limited interactions to draw family even closer, we were able to purchase a lovely home after COVID limitations opened up a bit, new jobs were found, and we created new customs for holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Sophia obtained her driver’s license and a new car, Zack got a much bigger (and safer) vehicle, and I got the Jeep Wrangler Sahara Limited I’ve always wanted.  (I love you, Lava!)  If I were to take the time to list all the things I’m grateful for, this blog would be way too long!  So, my main message for today is that things can absolutely suck, but don’t stop in that muck and focus solely on its residue in your life!  Good things may be hidden right now, but they are sure to be right around the corner, waiting to surprise you.  I also send huge amounts of good thoughts and prayers to those who have valiantly been serving our communities as we continue to fight the pandemic.  I also lift up those who have been impacted by this horrible virus.

Now, onto 2021!  I have many plans for this year!  Some include personal items, such as obtaining my Agile Certification, helping to produce a covers CD for my daughter Kirstie, learning how to play the banjo, and reading 50 books.  But I also have plans for this blog and my overall goal of expanding my focus on people of faith within the LGBTQ+ community.  For the past several weeks, I’ve been forming a roadmap for those efforts, including this blog, my related Facebook Group, attempt to establish a better connection with my daughter’s existing stream community, and building potential community activities with local agencies.  In relation to this blog, here are some of my plans:

  • Short term
    • Establish a theme for each month and post at least weeklyProvide usable information for LGBTQ+ or our allies in relation to the month’s them
      • Links to agencies, how to get help, resources, etc.
      Provide educational references for those who don’t understand or acknowledge LGBTQ+ of faithShare any community activities, online, or stream events that may have been scheduledHave an open online discussion monthlyProbably share boring updates about me 😊
  • Longer Term
    • Publishing a book, one chapter per month, in additional to theme blog posts!
    • Develop a monthly podcast or vlog to augment our interaction
    • More details to come soon

This blog is not just for me, but for you as well.  PLEASE reach out, share comments, or email me with questions, ideas, feedback, or information you think would benefit others! 

With that said, I do want to point out that a big part of this blog’s success will be if you subscribe – don’t miss any posts!

Look, I know you all have busy lives and probably don’t need another “feed” to deal with!  But I am committed to partnering with you to add our collective voices to the busy world AND provide resources to you as much as possible.  And, to remind you that you’re not alone!  And I will never, ever share your information!

I hope you all had a blessed holiday!

A Letter

I’ve written versions of this letter several times; in my head, while brushing my teeth, even on my computer on occasion. I’ve never sent it for a few reasons; I didn’t want to supersede all the good you’ve provided me in my life, I didn’t want to stir the pot, and I didn’t want to hurt you. So why am I doing this now, on this bog? I am not entirely sure, actually. Maybe I am a coward. Maybe I’m vindictive. Or maybe I am just……tired. But, in all cases, I am fighting to see where you truly love me. And that is hard for me.

I have often idolized you during my 50+ years on this earth. I have modeled so many aspects of my life around you. I try to think critically. I try to stay calm in stressful situations. I try to to be nurturing and consistent. I try to verbalize the love I feel for others and make an effort to show that love in meaningful ways. SOOOO many things I do are because you modeled it first for me. And for many, many years of my life I felt your pride in my actions. In fact, much of my confidence, joy, and determination is derived from the truth I always followed like a beacon in the storm – you are the one person who loved me completely and unconditionally. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about you in some way, almost always in a positive manner, and that often makes me smile.

However, we both know there are pieces in this picture that are harder to deal with.  How you’ve never wanted to meet Zack and Sophia, two individuals made in the image of God who did nothing to you except be adopted by two lesbians.  The anger and hatred you apparently still carry against my mom.  How you feel about Deana, who by the way I persued.  How you virtually have no active relationship with my brother, his kids, or my kids, and probably blame them and exonerate yourself completely. How you feel about my life.  I have always ignored these shortfalls with you as I felt it was more important to just love you. And all I am asking for is the same from you.

I’m over 50 years old and my heart is breaking because I was wrong about one thing for sure – you love is not unconditional. You see me through a lens that hones into one aspect of my life – my sexuality. And that is just wrong.

For months, I have been having recurring dreams where you are the central figure.  In them, I am almost always a teenager, most of the time high school age, and living with you.  The dreams often change circumstances, but always you are the hero that you were – my main hero, the one that protected me, the one who met all my needs, the person I remember at that time who was the only person I KNEW loved me no matter what.  Ah, I missed that person.  You see, I have known I was gay since about 12.  Maybe 13.  Puberty and all that.  I hated myself because of that.  There were times, even then, when I thought that dying would probably be easier than to admit I was a broken, filthy lesbian.  But even on my darkest days, I’d look at you and realize that you loved me.  SOOOOO much.  And that was enough.  I held on because of YOU.  I knew that, even when I hated myself so much, you carried enough love to hold me over and that created enough for me to face one more day.  Sure, other people loved me too…..I admit that……but YOUR love was my reason to not quit. 

It was in that envelope of love that I started going to church on my own.  In meeting the reality of Jesus in my own heart, I realized that you had already prepared my heart for the miracle that Christ is.  He loves me, just like you did.  He cares for me, just like you did.  He will do anything for me, just like you would.  While those teenage years were hard in so many ways, accepting Christ took the beacon you had provided for me and expanded so much as I grew closer to Jesus.  And, as far as my sexuality, I was SO RELIEVED that now I had the means to be changed from it!  The only thing that held me back a bit during those first years as a born again Christian was my concern for your own faith and related religiosity.  While my church didn’t say those in your faith were not saved, I was so sure that you did not have the connection to Christ that I was having because of the dogma of the religion you were raised in.  I struggled so much for that and often prayed that you would experience what I was experiencing.  I tried now and then back in the day to bridge that gap with you, but it was hard…….it was weird to even suggest that you were lacking anything, and to push too much seemed disrespectful and even intimidating.  I held a burden in my heart about this for many, many years, but I also had peace in my heart that you knew Christ.  It wasn’t that I thought you were not saved, but that you were missing out on so many things with Jesus that I yearned for you to experience. I am very glad your faith now seems to be an answer to all my years of praying for you.

Anyway, you lived through the years that followed, but you probably don’t know the efforts I made through the church, through hours of prayer, through basically reparative therapy I went through to not be gay.  I was determined to be straight.  In addition, I had plenty of guys after me and could have gone down the path of being sexually active with them to build that “straight lifestyle”, but I was also determined to not diminish Christ’s directive to avoid the “sins of the flesh”.  My husband fit that area well for many reasons, and I perceived him as a godly man.  I know now in retrospect that I married him for all the wrong reasons, and apart from the beautiful children we had together, I regret putting him and myself through 16 years of marriage based mostly on my desire to avoid being gay and focus onbeing a “good Christian”, Okay, full disclosure – of also not disappointing you…..right after not disappointing Jesus.  And even though back then I found the idea ludicrous, I was afraid that you’d condemn me. And you HAVE! I should probably add, throughout those years with my husband, I continued through several means to work with Jesus, the church, etc in removing my attraction to women.  Including a suicide attempt, which was done in San Antonio when I was about 25, the first time the two of us separated.

Back to my dreams.  I found it curious that they kept happening, always with you being the focus.  I would wake and feel so warm, picturing your love in those dreams, but was always confused about why I kept having them.  I mean, let’s face it, I am now over 50 and those years were a long time ago.  Week after week, I pondered this, but then realized I miss that person in my life.  The person that I KNEW loved me just as I was…..mistakes and all.  Am I saying you don’t love me now?  No, not at all.  But whether that love I felt as a kid/teenager was based on a fantasy because back then I was “straight”, it was real to me and I never sensed any withholding of it.  And I miss it. I haven’t felt that from you in years.

Today, I insist to myself that you love me.  You reassure that you will be there for me, and I try to trust that.  But I also know clearly that out of love, or concern, or whatever the word is – you don’t love the piece of me that is a lesbian.  And you’ve refused to partake in very important pieces of my life – MY FAMILY – because of it. I also suspect you may think that I am not a “real Christian” because I am with Deana and am in this lifestyle, based on the things that your spouse posts on Facebook and your own comments directly to me.  You even say you are worried that I will go to hell because of it.  While all of this is exceedingly hard for me to admit, I want to assure you that I understand that your pastor tells you, and you believe the Bible is clear about this condemnation.  However, I must candidly say that MY faith believes the Bible when it says that no one can know the heart of man, that our sins are completely covered by the blood of Christ, and our own efforts have nothing to add to it. That, when we accept Christ, we bring nothing to the table and Christ assures us that we cannot be snatched from His hand. Also,  I will NEVER suggest to you through statements that I am “praying for you (to change)”, “praying for you (to accept me)”, etc.  Even when our faith differed and some suggested yours was not “true”, I never considered you were heading to hell nor did I pray that you be saved from the first. When I pray for you, I pray for you to be blessed, period. 

On that note, I hope you accept that I love Jesus, that He loves me, that we interact daily (really, in the moments throughout the day), and I completely trust that He will not forsake me –  even now.  I didn’t just “decide” to be a lesbian, nor did I “decide” to ignore Jesus.  I hope you can trust that I have peace that Jesus loves me, period.  I don’t say that lightly, nor am I trying to justify my marriage or anything else.  I am saying I trust Jesus.  And whether you or anyone else defines my marriage as a sin does not diminish the saving grace that we all receive in Christ.  I am not trying to perpetuate a “license to sin” mentality, but I hope you know that after almost 25 years of attempting to abolish my attraction to women, I have accepted that I am who I am and have peace that Jesus will not forsake me.  Admittedly, you and I have different views regarding this about my life, but I hope we can move past it.  We should both trust in Jesus and His saving grace, because we BOTH have sinned and continue to do so (iyes, I have more things to work on besides “my sexuality”) and the Bible is clear that His death and resurrection covers those sins.  But if we don’t believe his blood covers those sins, then the whole Gospel is a lie.  There is no in between – there is no mixing the two and insisting we have to do some intervention with our own actions for SOME sins.  But again, if you don’t see it that way, I am not here to change your mind.  But I would never say you or your spouse are disqualified from heaven due to sin, because in MY belief system, doing so diminishes the power of Christ and the fact that He conquered the grave.

Also, as much as it hurts my heart, I have to share that I am no longer secure that you love me as Jesus does and maybe that is okay.  Maybe it is better that I don’t look to you in the same way as I did, because you’re not perfect.  Wow, it’s weird that I wrote that.  You’ve always been my measuring stick for perfection.  But anyhow, the sad truth is your love has clearly been communicated as conditional, that I am not worthy of it, and while I appreciate your concern and stated love, I mostly feel your dislike for me. Your DISLIKE of me. Can you picture being in my position, of acknowledging that fact? You make it abundantly clear, in every conversion – even the most mundane – that I don’t measure up. That I am at risk. And that I you have no pride in my life.

Even at my age, I wish you’d give me enough credit to treat me as a person that was created in the image of God. Even apart from my role in our relationship, because I have worth. A few years ago, you told me a story about how you gave an old man that had lost his Bible a new one. Your eyes teared up as you recounted the tale. I sense no tears or such emotion for me, even as you also share that when I was born you were floating on the clouds. I have no reason to feel that lack of emotion except for one reason – I am a lesbian. And that just really sucks.

Look, I need to calibrate this.  It was not my intention to knock you.  I don’t want you to feel as if I am saying you’re in this mean space or that you’re meaning or trying to hurt me.  But it DOES hurt, and that sucks badly. It’s like getting a grade of A- and being told I am a loser. I guess I am saying I want to acknowledge the “elephant in the room” and say – I know we see things differently. I don’t condemn you for your beliefs, but I won’t hide the fact that they are hurtful and seem more important to you than “loving your neighbor and enemies”. It seems self-righteous, especially since you’ve had a lot of sin in your life which I don’t even focus on.  Sometimes I wish and pray so hard it was not this way, but I love you so much NOW that I don’t want to change you.  And I am writing this to acknowledge this and to tell you in my own words that I don’t want to have this separation because of your negative view of me, or the damage that view has caused me.  I don’t want to feel both an urgent desire to call you just to hear your voice, but hesitate (and ultimately, not call) because of not wanting to dance around the truth of this difference. I don’t want to feel like calling you just allows you to point out how disappointed you feel, or that your constant prayers for me are because you believe I am going to hell. I don’t mean to suggest that you stop having these concerns, but it does nothing for our relationship or even the truth of Christ by doing that. To summarize, stop throwing stones at me.

I also want to add that you should have plenty of things to be proud about in regards to me, even if now you no longer see or acknowledge them.  While I will try very hard to no longer focus on the fact that my sexuality is a negative for you, I hope you can see that I am not the sum of that sexuality exclusively.  You should have pride in my life, because I am abundantly blessed. I have been in a stable, loving, and encouraging marriage for over 17 years (something that I could never say about my first marriage).  All five of my kids are thriving in their own way and have the foundation of Christ to build upon.  I work very hard to not be ruled by my emotions, though I leave room for understanding and empathy.  I have overcome some pretty big obstacles and am thriving.  I have an amazing career where I am (now) appreciated and valued.  I am mentoring a few people, in their career and also spiritually, and hope that blesses them.  I am financially sound, which includes helping others who are not as fortunate.  I am introspective, constantly praying and seeking to grow – to have my heart and mind corrected or altered by Christ as He leads.  I hope, by going through this process each day, I can become a better person towards you as well, in that I can at least interact with you without the residue that has permeated me because of this situation.

Finally, I challenge you to think about why you follow your faith. Does it feed your soul and remove anger, condemnation, and judgment from your heart? Or is it so that you can look at others and measure their sin? Do you spend your days worrying about all of the people that are going to hell? Do you DECIDE for yourself, based on what you read and are being taught, that there are so many that DESERVE hell? Do you compare yourself (I assume you believe you’re going to heaven) to others and in that comparison determine others are NOT going to heaven? None of these things describe the Gospel that I follow.

Ephesians 2:4-9 says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. “

John 13:34-35 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

And just in case you feel warning me about hell and what you’re concerned about is love, here is 1 Cor 13:4-6, defining love:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Finally, despite the harder words I’ve written here, I do love you and wish things were better between us.

Responses to “Being Holy”

Last week I reached out on my FaceBook Page and asked you all if, as Christians, we are required to be holy. And, if so, how do we maintain holiness?

I received a lot of likes on the post, but it was pretty quiet for a while and I thought, well, maybe you all are more shy than I thought you were! But then I started receiving private messages with some feedback. So, here are some of those comments (many were similar, so I have highlighted the general ideas received). Remember, this is not a debate, just a means to interact and consider perspectives and ideas.

Yes for Holy

“If we aren’t holy, than others will not know we are Christians. So I think we do need to be holy. We need to pray to get guidance from God on how to be holy and we can read the bible.”

“Fruits are what people see, so if we aren’t holy than we are no different from the world.”

“We are made holy by god and we stay that way by being with other Christians and reading the bible.”

No for Holy

“I think this is a little tricky, but I would say we do not need to be holy. That sounds a little weird. I think the idea that we doing anything is kind of weird also. We are where we are because Jesus died for us and rose again. So I think he is the one that made us holy. And if so, then how do we do anything to maintain it? I have to think about this one.”

“The church has taught for many centuries that we as ignorant followers must conform to what they say we need to do in order to be accepted. Each organization within the church framework has their own set of rules to follow and often are contentious to other organizations that see things differently. Even the Bible can be confusing as the Old Testament says one thing while the New Testament says another. So, I think holiness is a by-product of our accepting Christ, not something we do. And when we interact with him in the way we decide to, He assures we maintain that holiness. I hope that people see that holiness in me, but it is not from me but from Jesus.”

“I used to think we had to fight our flesh everyday to be holy. Every morning I would “pick up my cross” and “slay the flesh” and put on my garments of praise so that I would not lose holiness. I I used to go to church all the time just so I could be holy, but I never felt like I ever truly made the cut. But then I learned about grace, and my perspective changed. Jesus is what it is about, not me. And I will leave it at that.”

Next Steps

Thanks everyone who responded and made this new effort so meaningful to me!

Watch Facebook for a scheduled live event to discuss this topic and weigh in on my thoughts and also interact with more comments from all of you! Feel free to share with friends because expanding our views and understanding others is a noble idea!

Peace

On A Journey

This is an unplanned post – skipping my next installment of the Confederate Flag/Bobby story for a moment – to take you through a quick jog to review a journey I’ve been on for a couple weeks. I hope, by doing so, it encourages you.

Without going into too many personal details, my life has gone through a dramatic change which was unplanned and somewhat from left field. It included lies or at least promises that never existed in order to “blind” me, and it included being told descriptions about myself that had not occurred, or at least did not occur in the way I was told they did. For two weeks, I have been assessing myself, my recent past, asking for honest feedback from various people, going through the last couple years with a fine tooth comb…….and during that process I began to take on the yolk of a person I didn’t know. There was the horrible person I was introduced to two weeks ago, and the person those who provided feedback and who I more recognized. As is most often the case in life, the truth is probably somewhere in between.

But here’s the thing – I just accepted the horrible definition of me that I was given two weeks ago. Even though it didn’t really resonate with me. Even if it didn’t really add up to my daily approach to life or the ethos I thought defined my existence. Like a baby elephant that is chained to a stick as it is trained to be in captivity, I was slowly accepting this definition of me. Had I stayed with that acceptance process, my theoretical trainer would have been able to remove the chain from my leg and I would not wander off.

Instead, I’ve turned to focusing on my personal strength and noting how my actions align with them. You too can do this by doing to VIA Character Survey and seeing your core strengths.

My goal is doing this was to seek alignment and my true identity and not let others define who I am. To note my behaviors that feed those characteristics, the evidence that feeds those characteristics, and also to build up aspects of my character that may need some attention. To better use my character strength to overcome challenges and to remind myself I HAVE STRENGTHS. This process has been a fruitful endeavor.

You all have strengths and I encourage you to take the quiz. I am sharing my top 5 here as part of my own exercise as well as to show you that when we focus on our STRENGTHS, great things happen!

  1. Love Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing & caring are reciprocated; being close to people. VIRTUE CATEGORY: HUMANITY
  2. Honesty Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one’s feelings and actions.VIRTUE CATEGORY: COURAGE
  3. Humor Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes.VIRTUE CATEGORY: TRANSCENDENCE
  4. Social intelligence Being aware of the motives/feelings of others and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick. VIRTUE CATEGORY: HUMANITY
  5. Bravery Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what’s right even if there’s opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery but is not limited to it.VIRTUE CATEGORY: COURAGE

And just for reference, my last place character, which I confirm should be there ha:

24, Prudence Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted. VIRTUE CATEGORY: TEMPERANCE

Do not allow others to define who you are by using your character to suggest you are horrible.

For those that personally know me, I’d love to hear if you think these make sense!

The Beginning

Bobby sure appeared to mistrust me; I didn’t exactly blame him. I mean, I was a stranger, drove onto his driveway, and started talking to him about his history. When he realized the core of my questions related to his Confederate Flag, his response was what I had pretty much expected; distrust, defense, even a little scruffy anger. I quickly tried to explain myself, admitting I had been judging him for months but that I truly and sincerely wanted to understand from his point of view why he flew that flag. That I no longer wanted to be ignorant, or rely on my own perception, to paint my world view of his yard.

He didn’t immediately put his guard down.

Our first conversation was more of a harsh dance, colored heavily by today’s rhetoric of distrust and anger. References to free speech, the right to bear arms, and even trespassing were repeated more times than I could count. At one point, I seriously thought Bobby would spray me using the water hose he held in his hand menacingly. For my part, I tried to seem safe, almost casual, but the truth is – I am my mother’s daughter. I am pretty confident my words said the right thing, but my face was clearly displaying a message that was closer to “eat sh*t and die!”

But we made it through those moments.

That day, the lesson I learned was that education can be hard work. It can be scary. It can even be difficult to ignore your own “truth” that pulls you back so hard, it is almost easier to give into it than push through to seeking clarity. I learned that we, as humans, are too often controlled by opinions and rage, which comes much more naturally than by logic and calm. But despite all of that, I learned that succeeding in pushing through brings a goldmine of opportunity.

Introduction to Robert

Note: Throughout this post I refer to the “Confederate Flag”, it is in fact the Confederate BATTLE flag. I assumed everyone would picture that one, but stating it just to be safe.

I have lived in my current house just over two year. About 4 months after moving in, the location of my work office changed, thus changing my route to work. It is common to see Confederate Flag fly in the area I live in, but one house I started to pass was different; it was a beautiful house, with a super-well kept lawn, a nice large RV parked in a sizable driveway, and curb appeal that didn’t fit the stereotypical characteristics of “southern pride”. You know what I mean, I am sure….

The tall flag pole, since the first day I drove by, has always had its Confederate flag hung up, and as I usually do, I shook my head in dismay. “Why would ANYONE display that flag?” I mean, to me it was waving a cloth of betrayal – of treason – not to mention the racial overtones that come to mind to many people in this country. Each morning and evening I’d pass the beautiful yard and grimace as I’d see that damn flag hoisted as high as it could go, and I imagined the people that lived in the house. “Racist” was often at the list, followed often by “buddy, you lost the war!”

Week after week, the process repeated, until one day I wondered about the family a bit differently; I will admit I kept going back to the pristine appearance of the house and yard, and wondered how a person could make such beauty could also be so proud of what I perceived as a racist, hateful object. That train of thought lead me to wondering if their view of the flag was something all together different than mine. Could it be?

Then, about 4 months ago, I saw Robert for the first time as I drove by. I wasn’t surprised to see a white man appear in the yard, nor did his age – which I guessed was over 60 – make me immediately think nice thoughts about him. I assumed he disliked blacks, was an avid Trump supporter, and probably had more guns in his house than I had toilet paper. But still I wondered if I was viewing him through just as narrowly as I accused him of viewing the world through the white man’s world.

About 6 weeks ago, he was outside again, and something came over me. I admitted to myself that I was being somewhat racist in my opinions of him, based solely on his Confederate Flag. And, before I could talk myself out of it, I pulled into his driveway, exited my car, and introduced myself. I complimented him on his beautiful yard, and admitted that I was “a Yankee from Southern California” and would sincerely love to find out about his history, that of his family, and how it related to his beautiful home and the flag he flew.

Yeah, that went as awkward as it read!

But, it started a conversation that I will be sharing with you in this series, about all I learned from Robert, call him Bobby. Bobby is a retired engineer, he’s in his late 60’s, has been married a long time, has always lived in this area, and has dashing blue eyes below his bright white hair. He is fit, enjoys the outdoors, is very articulate, and didn’t think I was completely crazy, just maybe a little. Over the last few weeks, we had some interesting discussions, and I can’t wait to share them with you!

What I Would Say If I Could

Today, it is calm, though rainy, where I live. I have been enjoying the day move from sunny and warm to overcast….and still warm. The rain started and somehow its building rhythm distracted me from the book I am readying to thoughts of my Mother.

Most of my life, I felt a disconnection from my mom. She defined what I didn’t want to be, while I found comfort and security in my dad. She was loud, had huge mood swings, while he was always even keeled and calm. She pushed me to want to scream, and he soothed me. I always considered myself more like my dad, and I would emphasize that in numerous ways, year after year. I wasn’t ashamed of my mom, really, but the things I recognized in her I wanted to minimize, and the things I saw in my dad I emphasized.

Having the benefit of age, of days like this that allow me to gaze back on the years that brought me here, I realize so many years were wasted with my myopic view of my parents. I don’t mean to suggest the hugely important and real impact my dad has had on my life; but like many things we humans do with people, I created a fantasy of my own truth that I suppose I needed, but nonetheless fractures upon inspection. I cannot separate from the goodness and love my dad provided for me, but my mom was not the woman I believed her to be, at least not the extent I manufactured in my mind for too many years.

My mom, born in a generation where many words used were not considered racist, was the first person I really knew who accepted all walks of life without hesitation. She raised eyebrows by having friends that were black, Chinese, Jewish…..the list goes on. I don’t recall her ever saying a certain race was bad or anything negative. She never said I couldn’t have a friend due to their race. She divorced an abusive man when the stigma for being a single mom was worse than being a prostitute. She bore on her shoulders the thought that her own mother did not love her and was often a shadow in her own family history (distant relatives I’ve come across through Ancestry knew of her brothers/my uncles or even met them, but never knew they had a sister). She always seemed to want to be loved, but somehow built scenarios in which even the strongest love didn’t work. She definitely had her demons to content with, many of which I witnessed throughout my years and often ran from in dismay, but somehow always offered unconditional love and acceptance no matter how heated the last exchange might have been.

I see now that the woman I defined mostly as negative for most of my life was not this angry, irrational being. No. Instead, she was supportive. She was fearful. She was hungry for love. She was confident. She was intelligent. She was resilient. She didn’t step on those beside her, fighting to survive as she was. Instead, she shared what meager tools she had to assist them, too. Most often, she’d make a friend while doing so. I thought hard today, trying to remember when she spoke badly about someone or uttered words of judgment; I couldn’t. Even during the prolonged years of my own parent’s tumultuous divorce, she’d focus on the issues she was fighting for and never once spoke badly about my dad. Even as our own strained relationship ebbed and flowed as I grew into adulthood, trying so desperately to be anything but like her, she never told me I was not her daughter. She never made me feel like I’d failed her. She always spread her arms wide and welcomed me. Even when I exposed how broken I was, or how hurtful I could be, she loved me and shone with pride.

So I sit here, regretting the time I lost with her. How I failed to come to this realization completely when she was alive. How I failed to ask simple questions like how it felt as a little girl during World War II, or what her favorite meal was as a child, or how she reacted to her first period, or what country she always wanted to visit. How she survived such a hard life (and it was very hard) and yet come out loud, emotional, but always loving. How, in the years when she was home bound and fighting COPD, she avoided becoming a bitter, mean old woman. How, even as I overtly fought being like her, she never once said she was disappointed in me or suggested I lacked in anything. How, in fact, she built me up even if I was too ignorant to notice.

So today, I looked up at the cloudy, rain soaked sky, and spoke to her. I apologized for not asking those questions. I apologized for sitting days after her death, listening to horrible things be said about her, and doing nothing to defend her memory. I said I was proud to look so much like her, and yes, even act a lot like her, and admit I am glad that I do. I thanked her for all the unrealized gifts she provided throughout my life, feeling their weight like a gift and not regret. I thanked her for creating a model that I am just now embracing wholly, instead of as an example of what I should avoid.

I am forever thankful that she knew my love, that she heard from my mouth that she was a great mom to me before she died. I am thankful that I could feel her love once more before she left. And I am thankful that I am so much like her, even if just realizing it.



Follower of Christ

A couple disclaimers for this post:

  1.  I refer to homosexuality in my video and in this blog as sin, not because I believe this, but because it is mirroring the context of those who believe it is a sin.  The goal of this post is not to argue this view’s merits, but to focus on how the Bible describes how we should respond to sin….specifically in reference to the noted meme.
  2. While I say in my video that I am a Christian, I actually refer to myself as being a Follower of Christ.  Unfortunately, the label “Christian” has been hijacked by a loud and hurtful segment of the American religious community that is often hard for me to recognize.  You may see it differently, but I hold more firmly to Jesus than the dogma that is portrayed often in my culture.

This is the final installment for this meme I came across that was posted by a family member.  It is my most direct response to it.  Again, this involves my interpretation of scripture that is also backed up by many studied theologians.  I will ask, if your only response to this is to insist I am not a Christian or other choice words, that is not a productive conversation and therefore I would ask that you refrain (just as I will refrain from finding reasons why YOU are not a Christian).  However, if you’d like to share your interpretations of the specific scriptures involved in this, I’m all ears.

Before I get into the theological aspects of this post, I want to emphasize that memes such as this create very dangerous scenarios for LGBTQ+ people.  In today’s aggressive and even hateful rhetoric, people are actually empowered to physically harm LGBT people because of messages like this.  Also, young people struggling with the realization of their sexuality can very easily lose all hope and go as far as take their own lives.  Words have power, which is a Biblical truth, and I encourage everyone (but especially Christians) to let their words/memes be “always full of grace”.  (Taken from Colossians)

First of all, many of my previous highlights regarding how many Christians today view things through a different filter today is related to Lordship Salvation.  This branch of religion adds our requirements to salvation, sanctification, and emphasizes works over everything.  Proponents of Lordship Salvation define it this way, “The doctrine of lordship salvation teaches that submitting to Christ as Lord goes hand-in-hand with trusting in Christ as Savior. Lordship salvation is the opposite of what is sometimes called easy-believism or the teaching that salvation comes through an acknowledgement of a certain set of facts.” Quote link.  Opponents say this, “As defined by its own advocates, Lordship Salvation could more properly be called “Commitment Salvation,” “Surrender Salvation,” or “Submission Salvation” since in actuality the debate is not over the Lordship of Christ, but the response of a person to the gospel and the conditions which must be met for salvation.” Quote link

To me, and to summarize – Lordship Salvation is the unsupportable and unbiblical belief that the PERFORMANCE of good works, the PROMISE of good works, or the EVIDENCE of good works MUST accompany faith in Christ in order to establish, or provide evidence, that such faith has resulted in eternal life.  While the Bible definitely outlines parameters to assist us in being disciples of Christ, it does not say that any of these man-made conditions are necessary for salvation. However, many Protestant Evangelical churches, ministries, and pastors (especially in America) teach that concept as foundational today.  Which is super ironic to me, because many of these same believers of these “truths” claim Catholics are not Christians because they are too focused on man-made efforts. In any case, I believe this approach and belief system was behind the creation of this meme.  Further, I’d like to acknowledge that if you Google “Lordship Salvation believer’s favorite scriptures to condemn”, 100% of the noted scriptures will be listed (and not just for gays, but for ANYONE they determine have not met the additional criteria of works to be truly saved).

So, enough of my thoughts on this (though I think it is important to understand), let’s see what the scriptures indicate.  Remember, they were referenced specifically to prove that I cannot be a Christian because I am gay.

1 Cor 6:9-11

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

First of all, I am MUCH MORE condemned for being an adulterer if I took this at face value, for Jesus Himself said, “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9. I would argue that, because of these red letter words, at least 50% of the Evangelical Church would be in hell with me!  But again, the context of this meme is about BEING GAY, so I suppose they wanted me to ignore the adultery part and focus on the “who practice homosexuality” part.  I won’t get into the etymology of the word “homosexuality” in the script for today, but note this is a more recent translation and heavily disputed.

I surmise that the person who created the meme as well as the one who shared it believe that people who commit serious sins (especially those filthy homos!), or whose lives have a pattern of serious sin, won’t go to heaven. They probably also believe that “true believers” won’t commit these sins, or at least that they won’t have a pattern of any of these sins in their lives – hence the “can’t be a Christian” tag for us gays.

However, this is NOT what this scripture is saying!  This passage means that people who are not in Christ (that is, who have never trusted in Christ as Savior, aka “the unrighteous”) will not get into heaven. They are condemned because they have never believed in Jesus, not because they have committed these sins. Christ paid for all of our sins, past, present, and future, including the ones listed in this passage.  Remember when we accepted Christ He put HIS righteousness over us?  We are no longer unrighteous because of the free gift Jesus gave to us.

2 Cor 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Many Christians (but especially those who follow – even unknowingly – Lordship Salvation) believe this means that whoever has believed in Christ as Savior will have an instantaneous change, that their mind will instantly be focused only on holy topics, their will will be subdued and directly to God’s, and their affections will be completely changed from love of sin and self to that of love of holiness and God.  Because of that, sin cannot truly continue – or especially pervasive and ongoing sin – because if it does, they can’t really have accepted Christ or have been saved.

But we all just have to be honest and look in our mirrors to understand that was not the case in any of our lives or our walk with Christ.  The affections of a saved person are not automatically changed from a love of sin and self to a love of holiness and God. Changing our way of thinking to line up with God’s way of thinking takes our cooperation, as Romans 12:2 makes so clear:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Corinthians 5:17 means that whoever has received eternal life through faith in Christ has been regenerated, resulting in the creation of a new human who is a sinless, incorruptible child of God.  This new human is a result of the second birth, a spiritual birth, which all who possess eternal life have undergone. The flesh nature, which is neither good, nor righteous, does not go away when we are born again. That results in a conflict between the flesh and the spirit, which will continue until we die, or are raptured.   We are instructed to walk in the newness of life (Romans 6:4), to put on the new man (Ephesians 4:24), and to walk in the spirit (Galatians 5:16 and 25) so that we can manifest the fruits of the spirit (which are good things) and not the works of the flesh (which are evil).  This scripture has nothing to do with salvation, but a promise that we will not be forsaken and we hold a new position as a child of God that was given to us despite our position in sin.

Gal 5:24

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

To really get the context of this scripture, I am expanding it to include Gal 5:19-23

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Again, this scripture was used to prove that I am not a Christian because I am gay.  Does this show that people who commit these sins will not get into heaven?

No. This passage teaches that these works of the flesh will be manifested in the lives of Christians if they choose to not walk in the Spirit.  Not walking in the spirit is one thing, but it doesn’t mean one has not accepted Christ nor does it cancel salvation, which was a gift to begin with.  The people referred to as “they” in this passage are unbelievers. They will not inherit the kingdom of God (go to heaven), because they have not believed in Jesus as Savior.  People who are not Christians cannot walk in the Spirit, because they have never received the Spirit.

Further, also in Galatians, Paul rebukes the Jewish Christians for demanding that Gentile Christian men be circumcised to truly be a follower of Christ. 

Claiming the Promise puts it this way:

Paul refuted the troublemakers by referring the gentile converts to Christianity to God’s early promise in Genesis. God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have heirs and be the ancestors of a multitude of nations (Genesis 15:4-5; 17:4, 15-16). Those descendants were Gentiles as well as Jews. Paul referred to that early promise in order to prove from scripture that it is not God’s law but God’s promise that defines God’s relationship (covenant) with humankind. The law didn’t come until long after Abraham and Sarah had received the promise and believed (Galatians 3:17-18). Though Gentiles were never under the Jewish law, they clearly were part of God’s covenant. They did not need to be circumcised or to follow other Jewish practices.

“Those of us who are lesbian and gay Christians,” some of us observe, “are the Gentiles of modern Christianity who are being asked wrongly to renounce their/our sexual identity and live under the law of heterosexuality in order to be included in God’s covenant.  That demand is a gospel that is not really a gospel at all.”  Link to Quote, Pg. 11

1 John 3:7-10

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

So again, the premise of the meme being that I can’t be a Christian because I am gay, I surmise these scriptures were used to point out that because I continue to sin (live as a lesbian each day), I am not practicing righteousness and am instead sinning.  Therefore, I am not of God.  Is that what this scripture is saying?

No. When we love God, we will love those born of God. Loving God and loving others is not automatic in the life of a believer. If it were, we would not be exhorted to love God with our whole heart and to love one another.  But more importantly, we need to take the entire context of 1 John into account.  Go backwards and look at 1 John 2:1. There John is writing that children of God can and do still sin. Paul in the book of Romans 7:14-25, tells us that indwelling sin remains within us. Our sin nature is dead, but indwelling sin is still active.  The key to it all is understanding our identity in Christ; we have been declared righteous, however we will still sin after we have been saved. As we grow in Christ, we will learn to hate sin more and more, just as God hates sin.

Many still believe that we can lose our salvation or that because we still sin, we must not be a child of God. Remember who is declaring us justified – God Himself.  And the Bible is clear that we are not justified by works.  As such, our failure at works also do not disqualify us. So, the Bible is clear we sin as children of God, and we’d be more clear ourselves if we were more honest. Jesus has covered ALL of our sins; our will and self-effort cannot save us or keep us saved. Finding my identity in Christ has provided me freedom from bondage, and it was given to me as a gift from Christ Himself.

Rom 6:1-7

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.

This is a complex area, especially since many Bible translations (including the older versions of the NIV) create the “sin nature” argument instead of sticking to “flesh”.  These verses are often used to condemn groups of people that are viewed as sinful, thus labeling them “Not Christian”.  See Andrew Farley’s article here for expanded details

Look also at Romans 7:21 that puts the above verses into full context; our flesh so wants to contribute to our holiness. That is the flesh of self-effort or trying to will ourselves into a state of righteousness. That cheapens what Christ did on the cross! Saying that only some of our sins were forgiven (the ones leading up to our asking God to forgive our sins), would mean Christ only died for some of our sins. If He died for only some of our sins, then the cross isn’t finished, and He would need to go back on it each day to die for more sins and future sins. This is not to call out those of us who sin (which, hello, is all of us Christians) to expose us as fake, or any other focus – but to remind us that we are crucified with Christ and we need to stop acting like we used to when we tried to offset this with our own actions.  Or even worse, deny we are sinning while condemning others who sin.

1 Tim 1:8-10

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine

Again, based on the meme, I am to understand that – because I am sexually immoral – I can’t be a Christian.  But what is Paul really saying to Timothy with these verses?  Paul White says this:

Now Paul wants to make sure that no one thinks that he is against the law, so he says that it is good, “if a man use it lawfully” (verse 8). Wait a minute! If there is a lawful way to use the law, then there must be an unlawful way to use the law. Paul says, “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane…” (verse 9). In light of this instruction, why is the law so frequently used against Christians? When a saint fails, we often hear the same condemnatory remarks used, citing the Law of God, as we do against the sinner. Instead, we should edify the believer, reminding them of who they are in Christ. Only the grace of God is going to teach them how to live righteous in this present world (Titus 2:11, 12).

In other words, the Apostle Paul was saying the law is for the list of sinners.  We are not under the law, we are under grace.  Paul White goes on to say, “Saint, receive no condemnation today. Let the love of God and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son silence the voice of condemnation in your spirit. God’s Law is just, holy and good and it shows people their sins. You are clean in Jesus, so see His grace and favor, and walk therein.”  Link to article.

Conclusion

The Bible does not give us a litmus test to check if someone else is or is not a Christian.  As I’ve shared in previous posts, the fruits of the spirit can and are manifested in non-Christians as well – even Satan displayed them per the Bible!  Jesus said others would know we follow Him by the love we show.  I think the Apostle Paul’s answer would be fairly straightforward: a Christian is someone who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ”, he writes in Romans 8:9. Then, two verses later: “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” So if someone has the Spirit, they will be raised, and if someone does not have the Spirit, then they don’t belong to Christ. That sounds about as close to a definition of what makes a Christian as we’re likely to find. And for what it’s worth, I think the story of Cornelius indicates that Peter and the other Jerusalem apostles would agree (Acts 10:47; 11:17-18).

The problem is, then, how can we tell who has the Holy Spirit?  Admittedly, this doesn’t give us a cut-and-dried test we can apply to others. It is, after all, not always easy to be sure who has the Spirit and who doesn’t, but that may not be such a bad thing. If God had wanted us to know for certain whether a particular church leader, or presidential candidate, or an LGBT person was a Christian, he’d have given us a secret password which only true believers could say. But he didn’t.  So maybe we’re supposed to have assurance of our own salvation, but leave the final answers about the salvation of others with God.  And, I contend, that it is MORE IMPORTANT to love……Christians, non-Christians, sinners, even our enemies.

Reverend Dr. Kari Tolppanen put it this way:

With respect to the debate about gay marriage, people in opposite camps have shown very little real love for each other.  It is sad to see how few Christians have shown any desire to see the issue from the perspective of homosexuals.  They do not want to explore the subject or to know any gay people (GMR or show love and compassion to family members they do know).  The only thing that homosexuals hear from the mouths of these people is condemnation and disapproval.  These Christians are today’s Pharisees who cling to their view of the Bible’s teaching, but forget what is most important in the law: mercy, justice and faithfulness (Matt. 23:23).  They tie up heavy loads and put them on homosexuals’ shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them (Matt. 23:4).  They believe they know what is best for homosexuals even though they may not know any homosexual people personally.  I constantly hear stories about how cruel some Christians are towards homosexuals.  Some parents abandon their gay children and many churches kick out gay people.  No wonder many homosexuals have a very hostile attitude towards Christians and regard them as the worst kind of Pharisees. Link to article.

If you believe LGBT cannot be Christians, that is your right.  Even if you’ve read this blog, seen my other blogs, and stick to that view, that is your right.  But memes such as these are not loving.  They do not share “good news” as the gospel does, but it closes the door to relationships.  Where there is judgment, there is no love.  And, I encourage you to ask yourself, is it more important to condemn others than to love them and have a relationship with them?  Is your way better than the steps Jesus took with the sinners around Him?  Do you honestly believe that, unless someone is perfect in your moral measurement, they can’t be Christian?

I contend we are called to love.  Love our neighbors, love our enemies, and love is to have a relationship with them where they are.  And I will NEVER say someone is not a Christian because I cannot tell with any surety that they have the Holy Spirit in them.

But to those who DO know me, I would hope that you see the love I share.  I cling very heavily to the Holy Spirit to assist me in this, because I am the one being told my sincere faith is not true and I am not changed.  I rest in Christ and I know without fear that I am His, no matter that others would rather spend their time insisting I am going to hell.

Peace.