Ode to my Mother

As you already know, my mother passes away on May 16th.  That transition brought her out of suffering and into the arms of Jesus – I believe that with all my heart.  And yet, I find that this process on MY side of the peace is a bit harder.  I am way more retrospective, I am sad, and of course very thankful that I was able to say what I needed to say before she went onto Glory.

Having said that, I must share without hesitation a truth about my mom, one that I have known for over 20 years, which something I didn’t hold in such regard until recently.  She was someone with tons of flaws (aren’t we all?), but in one area she was always consistent and that was in the area of unconditional love.  She never turned away a person from her home, she never added criteria to extend love to people, and she was someone who found good in everyone.  And, she saved my life.

In my mid-twenties I came to realize that no amount of prayer was going to change the fact I was attracted to women.  By this point I had been married around 5 years and Kirstie was about 3.  I had spent agonizing hours crying out to God to heal me, to change me, and nothing had happened.  I went to seminars at my church to “build my faith”, I attended women’s conferences to become more “A woman of God”, I constantly asked for prayer coverage and I certainly laid this before the Lord in all transparency and supplication.  I even saw a special “spiritual” person who was famous for their ministry of cleansing the “sins of the fathers” so that it would not carry forward into our own lives.  And yet, I felt as though I was so steeped in some sort of sin or lacked faith or was not important enough because of some failure in my life for God to heal me.

And I wanted to die.  I honestly thought being on the earth was damaging those around me the most, especially my daughter.  I felt I was doomed to hell anyway, so what would the final straw of suicide matter?

So I ran away from my life, not sure I could go through with suicide, but determined to rid the filth that my very existence from the presence of those I loved the most.  Because, at that time all I wanted was to be love by God, be whole for Him (aka, be straight), and I knew I was failing.  So I ran from my life and somehow ended up at my mom’s house.  Without saying much, other than some story about dealing with “marital issues”, my mom knew something was hugely wrong.  And she didn’t pry.  She didn’t corner me.  She just loved me.  She made me coffee.  She cooked for me.  She sat and talked to me as she smoked her Marlboro 100’s and showed me the stray cats that ended up staying with her and her roommate.  Even as I existed with these pieces of comfort, I was not peaceful – I still struggled and determined in my mind that I had to do something drastic, and all roads lacked any sort of hope.

Then one day, I remember sitting on the curb outside her house, contemplating just walking until I could not walk one step further………and she came out and sat next to me.  She didn’t say a word, she just sat there.  She smiled, I think she even touched me.  But she didn’t speak.  And before I could realize what I was doing, I said to her “Mom, I think I am gay.  No, I don’t think it, I know it.  I am gay.”

It felt good to get it out, to say the words, because at that moment what I was looking for was to have someone outside of myself validate the fact that I was this horrible, shameful thing that needed to disappear.  I needed that one push to get me from this stagnant uncertainty of despair and get me to action.

I remember Mom not reacting.  Her fact didn’t change.  She looked at me and said, “Okay.”  I waited, I am not sure how long, and then she said, “You are Gina.  When you were just a small baby, you hated dresses with ruffles and frills.  You would cry until I changed you.  You were so different from your sister in that way, you wanted plain and functional dresses to wear.  So I dressed you differently.  You always loves playing outside and were so athletic, you still are, and you even taught yourself to ride a bike without anyone’s help.  You have always stood up for the underdog, even if the bully was twice as big as you were – remember that time that boy punched you in the mouth when you were protecting your brother? –  and you always like to sit and talk to Grandma and other people who are older than you are.  Not many young people like that.  You are a wonderful mother and a wonderful daughter and I am so proud of you.  I can understand that you might think it is bad that you’re gay, that it changes you somehow.  But I don’t think that is the case.  You are Gina.  You are my daughter.  You are so many things that are wonderful.  Nothing you can say will change any of those things.  I love you.  I will always love you.”

I remember staring out to the street, replaying those words through my head for several minutes, trying to calibrate what had just happened.  I was a bit mad at first, thinking even in my expectation of her reaction, I was way off base.  But as the words replayed over and over, I understood what my mom was trying to say.  That it was okay.  That I was okay.  That maybe I was not an abomination.  That even if I was gay, I was still something that could be loved.  That should be loved.  That there were pieces of me that brought value to the world, that not everything was measured against my sexuality.  That she wasn’t going anywhere, even after I told her the horrible truth, and that in itself made me thunderstruck.

I honestly don’t remember what I said back to her.  The days after that moment are somewhat of a blur to me.  My life was still kind of a mess and it still took me almost 10 years to tell others I was gay and 15 for me to come out and accept it truly for myself.  But in that moment, for the first time since I was about 13, I stopped hating myself.  I stopped wanting to end or damage myself.  I stopped feeling as though God hated me.  I still prayed that He would heal me, but I didn’t picture His angry face and pointed fist directed at me.  And it all started with my mom, who I knew LOVED ME, period.  I am so thankful that she gave me life, twice, and taught me in not only word but in deed how to love unconditionally.  I am sorry that it took me so long to share this memory with others, though I am glad she knew what a huge impact it has had on my life.  I love you, Mom.

lgbT

The latest hot topic regarding transgenders and bathrooms has created a lot of political and media fodder.  It is NOT my intention to discuss this topic nor debate it, but the fact remains – because of this new focus by many, new questions have been raised with me and Deana.  These have NOT been mean natured, judgmental, or within the “bathroom” realm of questioning.  Instead, people who have never really considered the “T” in LGBT have begun to seek to understand.  This is always a good thing and we welcome and applaud the idea.  However, it also opens up the need to clarify a few things – and that is the basis of this post.

First, let me get the harder part out of the way, and this is not so much because people have asked us this, but because it seems to be a prevalent correlation when the topic of LGBT comes up in general; just because someone is LGBT, does NOT mean they are a pedophile.  While I am sure there HAVE been occasions where a pedophile is gay, I believe statistically there are more straight pedophiles abusing children, based on the fact there are more heterosexuals in our population.  So pedophilia is NOT a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered issue – it is a societal issue.  (See this medical research for info on that, so you know I am not just spouting my views).

Now, for more interesting questions.  We have been pleased that many of our friends have been researching transgender information and trying to understand people who identify as transgender.  I will be the first to tell you, I have walked down the same path of inquisition.  We have a few very close friends who are transgender, some we only knew as the gender they identify with, and some as they transferred to their identified gender.  In both cases, I can’t tell you honestly that I wasn’t just as confused as you may be.  I mean, just because I am a lesbian doesn’t mean I totally understand what these children of God are going through.  And that is the first question I’d like to address in detail – Deana and I are NOT Transgender; we both identify as women and we both feel attraction towards women.  Of the two of us, I am definitely more androgynous and am more drawn to things that society has deemed more “male” in nature.  I like baseball caps, sports, cargo shorts, etc.  Sometimes, the clothes I wear were made for men, but not because I want to be a MAN, but because the style fits me better.  However, the majority of my clothes were made for women.  When my kids were younger and Mother’s Day was approaching, I’d get so irritated that the mothers were given a “tea” at school while the dads got to play in a tennis match.  I am not much of a “tea” person EXCEPT when I am in England and then look out, I am totally down for finger sandwiches, crumpets, and the like.  I really don’t like to shop nor do I prefer to wear frilly clothes that flow and swish.  But really, there are MANY women, even straight women, who are similar to me.  Deana, well she fits the more feminine mold for sure, likes to wear platform shoes and long necklaces, but can play basketball with the best of them and can intimidate others with her hispanic attitude…..and that’s okay too.  But neither of us wants to be male.  I enjoy many things that society has labeled as “female”, and pretty much I have always felt female.  Neither of us have any desire to change that.  That’s NOT to say we’ve not had those theoretical conversations where we’d say “it would have been SO MUCH easier if one of us was a man”.  But that’s a different topic.

So, that leads to the “B” in LGBT, signifying bisexual.  While it is not my intent to get too graphic on this site, nor do I want to expose details that should remain private, I often get asked if I am bisexual given I was married for 16 years to a man.  I feel it would be unfair to ignore this question.  I loved my husband and never felt an aversion to being a wife to him.  My goal, when we were married, was to be straight and to be healed of my attraction to women – it was never my intention to allow my attraction to women to develop further than the secret pull that was within me.  Other posts have shared some of the struggle I went through during this period of my life, so I won’t go too deep here.  But, I want to be clear – my heterosexual marriage was not torture for me.  HOWEVER,  I was conforming to what I felt society, my church, my family, my everything was demanding I be – a heterosexual woman.  After spending my entire post-puberty life (and 16 years with my husband), I knew I was lying.  That began my present journey that ultimately lead to meeting and marrying Deana, whom I’ve been with for 13 years.  So, despite my marriage to my ex-husband, I do not identify as bisexual.  I identify as a lesbian; I am attracted to women and feel completely fulfilled within my marriage with Deana.

Now to “G”, signifying gay.  In general terms, gay is associated with homosexual males, whereas “L” is associated with homosexual females (or lesbians).  You will see I sometimes use “gay” to describe myself.  I have shared the technical definitions, though in my own life, lesbian and gay are used interchangeably.

Now to “T”, transgender.  This is someone who identifies with a gender that does not correspond to their biological gender.  And, let me start by saying……..that’s hard for me to understand.  As someone who has always felt and liked being a female, it is hard for me to truly absorb feeling differently.  (Wait…..disclaimer…..I resented that I could not go topless on a hot day when I was about 8.  My brothers were allowed to “because they were boys” and that did tick me off.  Ha.)  It seems “weird” for me to consider feeling like a man when I was born a woman.  But, in a small way, I can see aspects of it in my life.  I mean, when I was little I resonated more with my male friends, wanting to play with hot wheels and throw a football.  I NEVER wanted to play dress up, put on makeup, etc.  And I knew, without anyone telling me anything, that I was “weird” and shouldn’t probably act that way.  How much more would the pressure be if my very MIND told me day in and day out that my body was totally wrong?  What if, as I began going through puberty, the breasts that began to develop was a significant affront to the fact I felt like a man?  (Which, side note, had I been born transgender this would not have been an issue since I was Olive Oil until after I had Kirstie!  🙂 )  In any regard, I don’t understand why people are transgender, really I don’t.  I have just as many questions as you probably do.  But I do know this – those I know and love are honorable people.  They struggle and pray and cry out to God, and they are humans and have feelings.  Not one of the transgender people I know have changed their mind, thinking “Oh shoot, I am really female (or male) after all!”.  Every one of them truly wishes they were born with the correct biological bodies so they didn’t have to struggle to align what they feel inside with what shows outside.  And every one of them feel whole now that they have started or completed their transition.  And, every single one of them are Christian.  That’s not to say ALL are Christian in the transgender community, but neither are those in the heterosexual community.  And I feel compelled to share – for those of you who are Christian, Christ calls you to love EVERYONE, even your enemies……even transgender people.  And many times, you may not even realize the person you are interacting with IS transgendered!  And that is the truth.

So, all that to say, Deana and I are not experts on transgenders.  We probably have more acceptance for them than many do.  We still shop at Target, and again……I don’t really like to shop so I guess I am stepping outside of my comfort zone to “take a stand” for those who were thrown into the limelight and I am not even sure WHY they are there.  I encourage you ALL to “seek to understand”, as Mr. Covey tried to teach us with his “7 Habits of Highly Successful People”.  Sometimes, seeking is the most important part of this thing called life.

Edify

Yesterday, my wife received a “loving message” from a friend.  This message was kind in that it clearly said, “it is absolutely up to you to live the life you see fit to live”.  In essence, this person “accepted” that Deana has decided to live her life married to a woman, though the implication was that her lifestyle is a choice.  Deana, like me, knows that is not reality, but we don’t argue the point often.  But, the message didn’t end there.  The woman, “in love”, said that she would be praying for Deana as she believed Deana’s choice will ultimately lead to a premature death, which made the writer of the note very sad.

I am obviously and admittedly reacting to this interaction in a way that is not my desired M.O., though I will do my best to do it logically and calmly.  However, I think it is important to break through the barriers and be real about aspects of our lives that exist.  Deana, for her part, reacted in grace to this “friend” and sent out love in return.  I commend her.  But I am going to be super real here for a moment and share some intimate reality with you.  This message made both of us cry.  This message, for a moment, made us wonder why we try so hard to love others, who AT LEAST EVERY COUPLE OF WEEKS reach out and do nothing but condemn us (different people, randomly).  As the tears roll down our faces, we audibly wonder why we fight so hard to remain in the Christian community.  We sit and, as we cry, feel guilty for the rage that begins to stir in our guts, praying to the Lord to please, PLEASE, lead us in His path and help us not to react in the flesh.  But, even with the shame we feel for the rage that is burning slowing across our stomachs, it is way better than the pain and anguish we feel as the slime of judgment sent by others fights its way over us.  Rage is always my preference to the pain, and yet I know we are called to love.

I ask you seriously……..think hard about this………if I walked up to a smoker and said, “I love you so much and I know it’s totally up to you to smoke.  I honestly don’t have a problem with you smoking because you’re my friend.  But I am praying for you because I know it will probably mean you will die way younger than you should.”……I would probably be somewhat accurate.  At best, their quality of life could be significantly compromised as they aged.  But in doing so, was the relationship that I so obviously have (“I love you so much”) EDIFIED by the interchange?  Do you really, REALLY think that “showing love” is telling someone “you’re killing yourself” really going to make them think about what they’re doing?  Maybe.  I think the interchange builds barriers, throws shame from one friend to another, and doesn’t really change the fact that the one friend will still smoke.  Condemnation will not cause them to stop smoking.

What if it is something that is NOT really a choice?  What if I told you I haven’t had over 1200 calories a day for weeks, that I have been way more active, and I haven’t lost weight?  What if I am just glad that I haven’t GAINED weight, but you tell me I am going to die younger because of my “poor eating habits”?  What if genetics or other health issues are causing this weight issue for me?  What am I supposed to do with your “claims of love” when you take hope and throw it down the toilet with your words?  What if I am at a breaking point, frustrated from my lack of weight loss, and then you come in and put the nail in the coffin of my efforts with your words of condemnation?

I don’t want to be that kind of person.  I don’t want to DIScourage, but ENcourage.  And telling someone they’re going to hell or going to die young is not encouragement.  It is BS.

The Bible is clear that the tongue is dangerous – it can cause fires to burn, hearts to break, and unrighteousness to befall man.  Yet, the same tongue can EDIFY others.  And I contend that the “tongue” of this friend did not edify Deana.  Instead, condemnation was the only byproduct.  And, truth be known, so many follow this supposed “love” formula and I am rather sick of it.  Stop being that way.  It doesn’t do ANYTHING except maybe make yourself feel righteous or caring and that is BS too.  You don’t give a CRAP about Deana and you don’t give a CRAP about the smoker or the fat person, but you may only feel better because now “the blood is not on your hands”.  Well, it never WAS on your hands.  I’d rather you pray for us if you truly feel compelled to do so, because we have faith in Jesus Christ and we actually TRUST in Him.  But I digress.

Ephesians 4:29 ESV says:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Deana was not built up by that message, but was torn down.  She said to me, “The only reason I will not leave the Christian Community** is because of you and (very close friend).  The two of you speak Christ to me, and I am so glad for it.  But today, it is harder to walk in that decision.”

I am writing this blog today for no other reason, from my heart, than to encourage you to think about how you interact with EVERYONE.  Are you building them up?  Do you REALLY believe telling someone they’re going to hell or will die young because of their life gives grace to them?  Think on these things, because I have met hundreds of people who have told me they do not go to church because of Christians telling them they are going to hell, are an abomination, or other hope-stealing comments.  That is not a cop out by some angry lesbian, that is the truth.  And my wife, who loves the Lord with all she is, doesn’t need to end her evening by crying about being told she is going to die young for being married.  FEAR doesn’t work, and if I may suggest, it does nothing for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are better than that.

Thank you for reading.

** This is NOT about losing faith in Christ or rejecting Him.  This is about associating with the very RELIGION and those who walk in condemnation in the name of Christ.

Fury

Today, a dear loved one reached out to me because their parents rejected them.  This LGBT young person has been out for about a year and has struggled with their relationship with their parents the entire time.  Recently, they wrote a long and very detailed email explaining how they reconciled their sexuality with their Christian faith and how they believed the Bible does not condemn them.  This was a very personal email, very open with tons of emotions, vulnerability, and hope.  Hope that, maybe with all the details and the proof that this person has been heavily in the Word and prayer, they would come to understand how much Jesus meant to their child even though they are also gay.  Days had passed and even with the history of a year of anger, rejection, and even torment from this person’s parents, the writer held out hope and trusted; in the Lord and in their parents.

But, instead the parents responded with rejection.  Hatred, and I am not just using a buzzword because “they are standing up for their religion”.  They have condemned their child to hell and used words that I would not use on my worst enemy.  And that, in a word, made FURY rise in my heart.

Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Love does not insist on its own way.  And yet, the response from the parents, in the name of Christ, made impatient demands.  Were unkind.  Insisted that the only way their child could be saved was to adopt and walk in the exact same manner established in their own heterosexual lives.  They said there was no hope for their child, that things would never work out for them.  It was filled with doom and distain.  Disgust.  Love does not do that.

FURY.  I am consumed with it.

They do not trust in their God, for the Bible they so heavily throw about says in Romans 8 that all things work out for those who love God.  I don’t think these parents lack love for God, but if they TRUSTED Him, they’d know that they need not fear for their child who is in Christ.  Yet, I am sure they think their child is NOT in Christ, which is so frustrating as well.  This human is so evidently a Child of God in word and deed, one that sacrifices for their neighbor and loves unconditionally.  In fact, 1 John says if people don’t love, God is not in them.  So, to learn of the condition of their parents’ love brings up FURY within me.  But maybe, based on their own “strong beliefs”, their child could be saved based on the Word and promises of God.  But again, it appears they don’t trust the Word.

And yet, I must take a step back and remember……I trust in the same God.  I know this will work out for this dear one, even though right now the pain is all consuming.  Even though the rejection and the harsh words and the outright condemnation being sent to this loving person is real and painful.  And my FURY, whether based on biblical verses or not, makes me no different than the parents, who used the Bible as a sword against their own child.  I am not like them.  I don’t want to be like them.  I need to LOVE, even when it is hard.

So, I am reminding myself (and everyone else)……

1 Cor 13:4-13 ESV

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Please pray for this dear one.  Please pray that their heart is surrounded by the Love of Christ, that He removes the bleeding and pain.  Pray that the Lord fills the loss of their parents with many, many more who can assist in this role.  Pray for my FURY.  Pray for the parents, who must believe they’re doing the right thing, and have suddenly lost their child by choice.  And, also, if you think about it……..love people.  Where they are.  No conditions.

Church. The Struggle.

Tonight I read an article that I came across in my newsfeed on Facebook.  I have to admit, it seemed more angry than I personally feel towards the church, at least right now.  Yet, to be completely candid, the article DID bring up some pretty good points, and focused on many of the things I have personally gone through in my own walk as a LGBT Christian.

This article did get me thinking, so I wanted to share something with you regarding “church”.  It’s a struggle for me, and perhaps you may be surprised as to why.

To knock out the obvious, going to most churches is awkward for my family.  More often than not, we can’t just go to a church to check it out.  No, instead we have to vet it out; check out their web page, see if there are any notations about homosexuality on their “what we believe” sections, and I usually email the Pastor and straight out ask if it would be a problem if we attended.  Only about 40% of the respondents indicate “no, please don’t come” (or variations of the context, some not in a mean way though some of which are pretty aggressive about sin, though those happen only about 5% of the time).  45% struggle with what to say, hoping not to offend but still unable to respond in a positive way.  These sound more like, “wow, of course we hope you come over, though we have never had any such people in our church and we are not sure how the congregation would respond.”  Some ask if “we look gay”, wonder if they could meet with us before we attend, and that sort of thing.  10% have been affirming, and 5% have been predominantly LGBT churches.

I have to say, however, that it isn’t “easy” to go to a gay church, really.  I mean, our kids aren’t gay, you know?  And, in relation to OUR experience, more often than not when we attend the 15% gay or affirming churches, they are less conservative.  And, really, we like a more conservative, non-denominational church.  But the more conservative churches that are around are apt to not want us there.  So, can you imagine the struggle?  To sum it up, we really don’t fit into either church.

But even beyond that, what I REALLY, REALLY wish for is to just be able to go to church with my family.  Period.  I would LOVE to not even have to talk about the fact that Deana and I are LGBT.  In BOTH scenarios, we just want to worship our Lord and Savior, get into the Word, be fed and recharged with brothers and sisters in Christ, and not have this layer of “us” that truly just gets in the way.  It’s like having an extra layer of clothing on each time we go to church that makes it difficult to enter into the holy of holies.  It’s like walking with a scarlet letter on our lapels and everyone focuses on that letter instead of what we really are attending church for……and that just seems so wrong.  So, personally speaking, I avoid that.  Because it just seems like a circus to me, in both types of churches. And yet, when I do that, my very spirit suffers for it as I remove myself from fellowship.  From worship.  From what I believe I was created to do.  So I attend and work though it, but the cycle continues.

So, my heart of prayer often says, “Lord, let me be authentic, yes.  But can’t it just be about You?  Can’t we just assemble and BE?  Can’t we just kneel and sing and pray and listen and encourage and interact and follow?  Can’t it just be about learning to be more like You?”

So, in most ways I’ve tried to forgive, yes.  I don’t sit here hating evangelicals or wave my fist at those who condemn me to hell.  It hurts, I won’t lie, but I don’t despise the ones who say that so much today.  But what I miss, what my soul yearns for, is to just be able to worship.  Without asking.  Without wondering if my presence is offensive or bothering someone.  Without thinking the LGBT brothers and sisters with me are more interested in getting more churches to accept us.  Without even thinking about sexuality.  I yearn to just see the face of Jesus, to hold the hand of someone hurting as I pray with them, to laugh at a Pastor’s anecdote during a sermon, to cry with joy as I consider the vast love that God provides you and me for each moment of our lives, to be more like Him, and to do it not as an LGBT anything, but as a sister in Christ.

And, well, I am still praying.

Straight Pride Parade

I am not sure about you, but I often hear comments about minorities when celebrations are held, asking why that group gets to celebrate when “others” don’t.  “Why is there a Black History Month, but no White History Month?”.  On occasion, I am asked, “Why are there Gay Pride Parades?  Why not Straight Pride Parades?”

First of all, I have to say I laugh when I am asked about Pride Parades.  I mean, sure I am a lesbian, but it tickles me that the assumption is I attend every Gay Pride Parade near me.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike them per se, and I have been to a couple in Dallas as I’ve ministered to attendees, assuring them that God DOES indeed love them.  But, if I am completely candid with you, I would admit I am kind of too boring for most pride events.  My idea of a perfect weekend would be to spend the day in my backyard with my wife and kids, have one of Deana’s great home cooked meals, and do laundry.  In a word, I am old.  More like the stereotypical white, straight married person nearing their 50’s.  Further, I have often avoided becoming a political advocate for LGBT people, as I didn’t want to turn my very life into an agenda.  I accepted many years ago that my life and my love was not a point for me to convince anyone – politically or religiously – that I am “okay” to be gay.  I have resolved that in my heart and with my Lord, and that has been enough for me.  Sure, I have moments when I feel attacked that I react, but I don’t live my life with the viewpoint of making a statement or taking a stand to insist anyone accept me.  Others feel lead to do that and I appreciate it, but that is not my M.O.

And yet, here I am.  Because the whole Gay Pride Parade question got me thinking.  Coupled with the fact that I am in the UK and my sleep patterns are all jacked up, and here I am at 4:45am local time writing this blog.

I may not be super unique in the world, but I lived as a straight woman for 35 years of my life.  I didn’t say I was straight, but I lived as one.  I knew I was different when I was around 12, though I didn’t realize what that really meant until I hit puberty (which, to my chagrin, was later than my daughters DOH!).  By around 13 1/2, I realized that I liked girls and that was absolutely not accepted and pretty much I understood I was on my way to hell.  I did everything in my power to eradicate the fact I was attracted to girls; lying to myself, being very involved with the boy dating scene (which, surprisingly, I had many who were interested in me despite my super skinny body), accepting the Lord at 16, wailing and praying for hours/days/years for Him to change me, and marrying a month after my 20th birthday.  And my husband was a good man, this is not about him.  And my children were and are amazing blessings, this is not about them.  But no matter how hard I tried, or prayed, or begged, or hated myself………I was still gay.

I don’t expect anyone who is straight to really understand this, especially if your view is that I made a choice in this realm of my life.  But for over 20 years I truly hated myself.  I hated that I was gay.  I hated that my husband loved me and I loved him, but I was not really the person he thought he married.  I hated that I was this horrible creature that must not truly love God, because if I did, He would have healed me.  I hated that every-single-moment of my life I wore a mask to be accepted, or loved, or whatever.  And as I looked in the mirror I knew it was all a damn lie.  I was not proud.  I was not happy.  No, I was devastated.  I was alone.  I was this broken person who God didn’t even love enough to fix.  And, to damn with hiding this anymore, I often just wanted to die.  I truly believed that the world would be a better place if I no longer walked on its surface.  Because I was nothing, or even worse, I was an abomination pretending to be straight.

Yet, in my charade I was celebrated every single day of my life.  I was white.  I was young.  I was married.  My marriage was held to the highest of acceptance by society, my church, my co-workers, my parents, my siblings, my pastor.  I never, ever, not once in my life worried about what people would think or do as I walked in public holding my husband’s hand.  If I mentioned we were going on a vacation or that he bought me a gift, it wasn’t scandalous.  Sometimes, even at church functions, bawdy jokes would be shared and our sexuality within our marriage was never condemned, but rather celebrated.  Even on our darkest days as a couple, when we were cranky or financially stressed or even mean to each other for no good reason, we were “living the American Dream” and no one, not even the most conservative of churches or right wing politicians could say one damning thing about our relationship.  Every singe day was like a Straight Pride Parade, and we were the center of the celebration.

That might feel like a bold statement right there.  Really?  A celebration?  Every, single, day?  Come on Gina, really?

Yes.

Because I’ve also been on the other side.  When I could not take the lies anymore, to the people I love the most (including my face in the mirror), I didn’t come out for 5 years.  I was honest with myself and of course Deana after we got together (ha, that sounds funny), but we both hid the fact that we were together, even after I divorced my husband.  And we still felt the shame and uncertainty of our sexuality.  We could not share our lives, we could not admit our love, and we were afraid not only of rejection from our friends and family, but from our God.  We could not hold hands in public, we could not profess our love in front of others, we absolutely could not celebrate our relationship, and if bawdy jokes were to arise about same-sex relationships they were derogatory in nature, we had to laugh along and pretend to agree even though we were dying inside.  Often we were around people who were very direct in their persecution of LGBT, even in our employment, so we even feared losing out jobs if anyone found out.  So I know, in completely real terms, the difference between my “daily celebrated” straight marriage versus my marriage to Deana.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Deana and I eventually DID come out, which was about 8 years ago.  It was a hard transition, and we did absolutely lose friends, family, and jobs.  But the process was necessary and we have reconciled our faith, and though that is an entirely different and much longer blog entry, today I am closer to Jesus than in all my years of knowing Him.  We married legally in New York four years ago (having previously become domestic partners in CA), and are still amazed that our marriage is now legal throughout the entire country.  But we still have to be careful holding hands, of being “too out” in some scenarios, as people can and do become belligerence and at times aggressive and/or dangerous (sad to say, but true).  But during this process of coming out, we realized we weren’t these ogres that needed to hide in the shadows and be ashamed of loving each other with our whole hearts.  We are God’s children, made in His image, and love each other with all that we are.  We are proud that we argue and reconcile and irritate each other by leaving dishes in the sink while also surprising each other with love post-it notes or dark chocolate dove bars.  And, while we understand and accept that there are still many people who disagree with our love for each other for whatever reasons, we are proud.  Proud we survived.  Proud that we have remained married even through the tough times.  Proud that our children are thriving, and don’t take to being bullied either!  We are proud that the Holy Spirit directs us and at times chastises us, as we are His children.  We are proud of each other, for we are better together than apart.  We are proud that more people view us as just a couple that are doing life just like the other couples in the neighborhood, and not “those lesbians”.  We are proud that more churches open their doors to us, even if they aren’t sure what their doctrinal statement addresses but instead want to hold church to whomsoever. And we are proud that, on many days, we can walk down the street holding hands.

And THAT is why, in my opinion, there are Gay Pride Parades instead of Straight ones.

Now, I am going to try to nap before my alarm goes off…..in 15 minutes.  🙂

Processing the Hurt

Deana and I laugh sometimes – we have, I don’t know, four thousand anniversaries.  No joke.  The day we “got together” (aka, professed our love), the day I asked her to marry me, the day we became domestic partners, the day we reunited after a small break, the day she asked me to marry her, the day we held a Commitment Ceremony, and the day we legally married.  Well, I wrote that but I am sure I am missing at least 10 more…..but you get the drift.  Some of these dates we absolutely celebrate, others we mention and maybe stop to hug one another, and some we sometimes miss entirely and laugh when we realize it.

Ah, but I digress…….

In November 2009, after years of being “in the closet” as a couple, we stood in front of family and friends and committed our lives to each other.  Our children were in the ceremony, Deana’s Mother and most of her siblings attended, as well as tons more family and friends.  It was an amazing day and an amazing night, it was foundational to so many aspects of our relationship just as a wedding would have been, and it warms my heart just thinking about it.  As a side note, we legally married in a courthouse in New York in December 2011 as well.  Boom!

But here is the thing – in the past, when I’d think of our Commitment Ceremony, there was always a residue because of those who were not there.  Not people who couldn’t make it due to distance, health, or other issues, no……the residue was related to those who chose not to be there.  Those who said they loved us, but didn’t believe in our lifestyle choice.  Those who said – in love and in whatever other adjective you can insert – that they believed we were walking in sin or at least outside of the will of God.  And, in all transparency, THIS residue covered everything for me.  I could look at videos or pictures, reminisce about some great times……but always this piece would touch every inch of happiness like an oil slick on the ocean.  It hurt me, and even with the super jolt of joy I would feel and when I’d consider how grand my life has been because of my wife……I would be this hurt person that always – always – ended up hurt.

Some people like being a victim, actually get energized by processing negative emotions.  I suppose I can be a drama queen, I am Italian after all, but I can’t say I am energized by it.  In fact, I prefer to find resolution, to implement peace and solutions and change and love and……..hurt messes that up.  Yet, I was the one who seemed to live there in key areas of my life, especially my very important relationship with Deana.

So, today I was reading an open letter a gay man posted online to his parents.  His parents had refused to attend his wedding three years ago.  I only read the beginning, because it was so filled with hurt and feelings of rejection that I reacted strongly to it.  I know you must imagine I resonated with it, and if you do I don’t blame you.  Actually, I stopped reading and immediately prayed that this man’s hurt be covered, washed away, so that he can feel the peace that Deana and I felt.  As I was doing that, I seriously stopped dead in my tracks (picture a cartoon character shaking their head violently as if to say “what the heck?!?!!?!”), and said out loud “What are you talking about?  PEACE???”

But it’s true, I have felt peace towards those close friends and family who overtly or nicely rejected our relationship.  And I hadn’t even realized it until today.  That’s not to say there is reconciliation; oh no, there are still some who refuse to see Deana or who will not add us to FB or send veiled “we are praying for you” notes that we are sure imply they are praying we each somehow find a good man to love and marry.  But I do mean that, more often than not, when I think of these people my heart melts with love for them.  I find reasons to extend empathy to them…..maybe they are too old to understand the whole LGBT thing, or maybe they don’t mean to reject us per se but they sincerely believe we are doing wrong, or whatever.  And, truly the shock of all shocks, I enjoy seeing them when I can and love interacting with them EVEN THOUGH they are missing out being around some pretty amazing people in my life.  As a byproduct, those who HAVE decided to be part of our life and all the many related memories of our interactions BLESS ME and no longer have the residual hurt that once was everywhere.  The old memories and new memories are free and clear and bring amazing joy to our hearts.  Today, realizing all of this, I was just amazed and needed to share with you, my 2.78 readers.

You see, Deana and I are not activists, though we realize some assume we are just because we are lesbians.  But we truly don’t live to convince anyone to believe what we believe.  Everyone wants to be accepted I suppose, or at least not rejected by the ones they love, but Deana and I don’t really have axes to grind.  However, today’s revelation made me see with my heart that all things DO work together for good for those who love God (my bad paraphrase of Romans 8:28).  And, I’m reminded that – had I or Deana gotten in the faces of those who we saw as rejecting us – I am pretty sure we would not have any relationship with them at all.  And these are people that we love and want a relationship with, not random people who leave anonymous packages of condemnation in our mailboxes.  But, most importantly, I thank the Good Lord that he has removed the hurt that I held so long towards those I love and pray that others can find this peace in their own lives.

For those in the LGBT Community who have been rejected by family and friends, please don’t lose heart.  I GET IT.  I KNOW how it feels!  “It gets better” is not just a catch phrase.  Feel free to reach out to me if you need to vent, have questions, or need to know more about how God truly loves you.  There IS a way to process the hurt, I promise.

Oh and Deana, Happy Anniversary Babe!  🙂

Drawing the Line

Recently I was involved with a conversation that, at least initially, encouraged me.  Then it took a turn and it made me think about a few things.  So much so, I knew I had to blog.  So here I am.

Before I start, I do have to add for those who perhaps don’t know……I am a lesbian.  As such, I am not unbiased in this topic and fully disclose that I have a vested interest in it.  I have tried to be objective, but obviously (and realistically), that is not completely possible.  Now, onto the conversation.

Recently over lunch, a topic came up.  The person starting it began by saying he believed, without reservation, that people are born gay and they don’t choose to be that way.  He added something like he wasn’t sure if it was genetics or a varying hormone level of the mother during gestation, but the bottom line was clear to him; it was not a choice of the person and they can’t be changed.  That homosexuality was something that occurred, for whatever reason, and people need to stop treating it like a choice.  I have to admit that, given the recent conversations I’ve had with friends who do NOT hold this view, it was very refreshing to hear this and not have to try to fight the urge to say……well, wow, I can affirm that it was not a choice, etc.  So it was nice to sit and pretty much not have to fight the urge and just think, “wow, cool.”

It was surprising, then, that the person turned a corner and began to add to the conversation.  He went on to say that, just like those in the LGBT community, pedophiles and serial murderers are born with a genetic or physical proclivity for their “situation” and could not help being what they were.  And at that point, he asked, “So where do you draw the line?”

So let me recap the premise raised by my lunch associate; homosexuals, pedophiles, and serial murderers are born that way, they can’t control their urges or desires, so where do you draw the line when dealing with them?

I try hard not to get pulled into debates about homosexuality – I’ve been there and done that – and made a decision about three years ago that I have not been called to convince others about my life.  That is USUALLY in the realm of Christianity, though I do make some exceptions to those who sincerely come to me to understand how I reconciled my faith and my sexuality.  But overall, it is not my job to defend myself to others.  It is not something I choose to do, to convince others that I am who I am or that I am not broken or abhorrent or whatever.  But in this case, I did speak up.  I basically said that homosexuality was most often involving adults who both consent to a relationship, often want monogamy and commitment, and that is very different from forcing children to have sex or killing people.  As such, homosexuality is not a threat to society as is pedophilia and murder, so that is where you draw the line.

Perhaps for the sake of argument, the man who started the conversation again insisted or implied; it wasn’t fair to accept homosexuals lack of choice while limiting other groups with no real choice in their behaviors.  As this person was not a friend per se and one that wasn’t aware I am gay……and since this was a larger group, I chose to leave it at that and let him proceed with his mini dissertation.  I will add, as an encouragement to me, several of those in attendance began to text me their support, which was kind and appreciated.  For my part, I worked very hard to not take it personally, and tried to consider his thought process in the matter.

So, I will admit that it does make sense that pedophiles and serial murderers may be compelled by their genetics or whatever to “be what they are”.  They may not have a choice to overcome their urges, because something in their creation made those urges a part of them.  Perhaps, even, they want to change and can’t.  I can say that I tried to be straight for a very long time, I wanted to be like the majority of Americans……fitting in and being accepted and all that.  I did absolutely live in that fronted existence, but it was a lie and hard for me.  I have blogged about that before, and I assume you get the drift.  But to suggest, basically, that we as a society are being unfair to allow homosexuals to be who they are, while NOT allow pedophiles and serial murderers be who they are, is illogical and TO ME, a manifestation of some crazy thinking.  Perhaps even a more subtle fight against homosexuality.

While I fully get that many in this country truly believe that homosexuals are damaging our country, Christianity, marriage, and probably a thousand other things; I cannot say that the vast majority of us are ending lives, physically forcing ourselves on others, or breaking laws that are accepted by most (if not all) countries.  To suggest that being in a committed, loving relationship with someone of the same sex…..who also happens to want to be in the relationship, who is also an adult and can legally consent to the relationship…….is somehow anything like an adult forcing a minor to have sex is illogical to me.  To compare a murderer to a homosexual, serial or otherwise, offends me.  My life is not forcing children to have sex.  My life is not ending the life of others, especially not in a violent way.

And that made me think…….I had forgotten that many people associate my life with these subjects.  Admittedly, maybe not in the way this conversation did.  But even two weeks later, I find myself pondering this idea.  Why do so many go here?  I don’t know the answer to that, but it does sadden me.  Not enough to become an activist, but obviously enough to write a blog.  And to maybe ask…….if you’re reading this, please consider that – if you do think this way, that they are the same things – to reconsider.  And maybe “draw a line” and admit that homosexuality is not something that damages people as does pedophilia and murder.  No gay person I know is trying to convert others, at all or by force.  No one is trying to end lives so that they can fulfill their attraction to the opposite sex.  My marriage (even my very life) does not sexually attack children or kill people.  Maybe consider that it is not unfair to limit pedophiles and serial murderers in this society while also supporting and accepting homosexuals.

That is all.

Broken

This post brought to you by ZzzzQuil Nighttime Sleep-Aid, which apparently will not help much with the time change in Australia!  🙂

For the majority of my life, I considered myself broken.  Wow.  That sentence was so short, so to the point, it almost seems mundane.  Simple.  Factual, but not that powerful.  And yet, the truth hidden behind its simplicity was such a huge part of my life, I almost feel sad that it isn’t getting the acclaim it deserves.  It’s like I want to scream “Here’s Broken Minard, she is a celebrity!  You should be asking for her autograph!”

Anyway……..this piece of me was rooted in many things; mostly the fact that I felt different most of my life, and this difference was revealed to my mind as my sexuality which clarified as I grew older.  But it didn’t JUST relate to that – I always felt like I wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t smart enough.  I wasn’t pretty enough.  I didn’t weigh enough (ah, to have that concern again!).  There were many ideas of “not enough” throughout the years and it all boiled down to the fact that someday, someone was going to find out I was a total fake.  That I would not be able to pull it off forever, and the truth would come out and the world would know I was nothing better than a broken, horrible person.  That my life amounted to nothing but smoke and mirrors.

I dealt with this part of my existence by being Broken Minard, though I am not sure when she arrived.  Truthfully, she always seemed to have existed.  My earliest memory of this person was in kindergarten.  I remember consciously thinking I was probably the dumbest kid in the class, but I was fortunate enough to be very, very polite (something I had heard a grown-up say about me) so I would use that to “hide” my lack of intelligence.  Over the years other ideas would come forward – I was funny, I was athletic…..you get the drift – and I’d factor those things in to build upon the facade to hide the “real me”.  And the cycle continued quite well as I grew.

Before I continue, the above was not all bad.  I’d have to say many of the things in my life today came out of this weird structure called my life.  I am a hard worker.  I have perfectionist qualities in some areas that help me succeed, although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to others.  I naturally am “a fixer”; within my family, with my friends, and at work.  People like to come to me because I react quickly and such.  I embrace those things now, but they are rooted in the fact that I learned early on to be many things to people to hide the fact, at the root I was Broken.  Broken Minard.

Jump to when I was 16.  I was very confused because, by this time, I kind of “knew” I was gay and yet back then it wasn’t like it is today.  Gosh, did I just sound old?  But seriously, “gay” definitely existed back in the 80’s, but I will certainly say that it wasn’t prevalent and it certainly wasn’t overtly accepted.  More progressive or tolerant people didn’t “reject” gays, but I’d say it was more “look the other way”.  My own Uncle was gay, had been with his partner my whole 16 years of life, but NO ONE said the word “gay”.  He was just Uncle and his partner was Uncle.  And to put this in context of that time……a girl won a contest on the radio and said something about, “My boyfriend and I have a baby.” and that was considered scandalous.  I mean, she ADMITTED ON THE RADIO that she had a baby out of wedlock???  By today’s standards, that ain’t no big deal.  (Note:  I am not suggestion “back then” was better or today worse or better, just sharing contextual references.)

So here I was, realizing I was an unmentionable.  And the realization made me panic, mostly because by then I had become pretty darn good at this whole “hide the fact you’re broken” technique and I knew I would have a lifetime of hard work ahead of me.  It was under this weight that I went to a friend’s church and accepted Christ.  Ah, the weight of the world of perfectionism and hiding were OVER!!!!  I had a real moment of peace and release and wow…….that moment changed my life.

However, it would appear that Broken Minard, who so ardently surrounded my being, wasn’t ready to let go.

Sheesh, I am spending too much time in the past.  I apologize, but this is not the intent of my main topic.  So now I am going to go fast forward to milestones in my life after accepting Christ at 16:

  • Knew I was gay and Christian and figured, well heck.  That can’t happen.
  • Prayed and prayed and prayed that God would heal me of my sexuality
  • To help Him, I married a godly man in my church 1 month after my 20th birthday
  • Also decided I was pretty broken and worth not much to the world, but a girl has got to make money so applied for jobs I was so not qualified for.  Broken doesn’t necessarily mean risk was not worth it.  And I suppose it paid off as I seemed to figure things out easily.
  • Had three great kids, one separation, expanded career, a divorce, and through it all I’d stare at my face in the mirror and see myself as now a liar as well as Broken Minard.
  • Fell in love with a woman, we got together, but we were not out even to family.  I was happy and ashamed at the same time.  Broken Minard was at her height.  Her zenith.  Her peak.
  • Five years into said relationship, I was “found out”.  Lost pretty much everything.  My job (which was my main positive identity), friends, and so much more.  For the first time in my life, Broken Minard was exposed.  And it was much worse than I could have ever, ever imagined.

Wow.  This is turning into a huge downer.  It wasn’t my intent, but I feel it’s important to share the reality of myself in order to better frame the message I DID want to share.  So, why DID I just rehash all of that?  Why now?

A couple days ago I referred to myself as Broken to Deana.  For the record, she is the first person I ever, ever introduced Broken to.  She was the first I shared everything with, that I allowed to see the “real me”.  In any case, I said something like, “Yeah, you know me…..Broken.” and she was like……”Wait, do you really think Broken still exists?”  And I really had to stop.  I realized for maybe the first time consciously, wow…….I haven’t even THOUGHT about Broken in YEARS.  I haven’t mentioned her in YEARS.  And then, with bells ringing and mental applause exploding in my head, I replied, “Well, wow!  I think Broken is gone!”

You see, the Most Horrible Time, when I lost everything, was like a birth for me.  And since I had Kirstie “naturally”, I can attest that birth is a very arduous, painful thing.  Honestly, I hope I never, ever have to go through anything close to the Most Horrible Time again in my life.  But, even when admitting the excessive discontent and pain of that period, at the end I really think Gina was born.  And Gina, without Broken tagging along, is a very different human.

  • There is no longer this separation from Christ that I had built.  The mote is gone.  The walls have tumbled.  And the Peace of the Lord abides.  I rest in Him now, in truth, and it rocks.  And I am glad He waited for me to realize He never, every meant for me to keep the distance between us as I did.
  • I may not be the smartest, the prettiest, the whatever, but I am this amazing creature, hand crafted by God and heck, I appreciate the gifts He’s provided for me to succeed.  And there are parts of me, formerly attributed to Broken, that are really quite cool.  Really.
  • I am out, as a lesbian.  That is not as easy to say “yeah, booya, in ya face.”  Nor does that mean I have an agenda or that this is some political stance.  I realize this whole area has become so politicized and is a huge debate platform for Evangelicals especially.  Heck, I still have some anger in this area.  I do react from rejection and certainly from perceived condemnation, which happens occasionally.  But overall, I can stand tall and be authentic and no longer feel as if I need to hide, or that this truth in my life is clear evidence of brokenness.
  • Almost as if I am mirroring the story of Job, God has restored so much to my life that, in comparison, the things that “I lost” seem almost pathetic.  Almost as if to say “really, you were upset about THAT? ”  I am exceedingly grateful for all that exists in my life.
  • I am much more empathetic.  I mean, when I was Broken, to be so would admit that there was something in me that could resonate with someone else’s pain or failure.  So, a byproduct of Broken was that I was very, very judgmental and harsh.  Oh, I am still those things now and then – don’t you think otherwise because hey, I really am NOT perfect even if sometimes I still pretend to be – but overall, as I’ve moved into this stage I am not afraid to share Gina, who is insecure, sensitive, great at mistakes and downright failures, and such. And it feels great to say “Hey, it will be okay” or share “I understand Broken, and it really, truly gets better.”  I especially love to support others coming out as LGBT, ESPECIALLY Christians, as I appreciate the tug between the two and the related pains and fears that exist in that realm.
  • I can admit I made a mistake or even say I am wrong without hyperventilating.  For reals.  It almost feels great.  Almost.
  • I do miss many people who I “lost” or that felt the need to leave my life when Broken was exposed.  I miss many very much, with a melancholy at times that borders unhealthy.  But, with each day, I smile more when I think of them.  I pray more sincerely for them and actually mean the good things I am sending to heaven.  And as I pondered this point, I can’t help but share without hesitation we have TONS more friends who are the most loving there is!

I could be wrong, but I think more people have bits of Broken in their lives.  Maybe not.  I admit my world view is most likely skewed or dysfunctional due to the aspects of my life I shared above.  But if ANY of the above has touched your life, don’t give up.  I pray that you can find at least one person to share Broken with.  I hope one day you can get to a point where Broken is no longer needed, or at least no longer powerful.  I pray that you realize that YOU, yes YOU, are an amazing human with much to bring to the table and are worthy of love from others.  That, in a nutshell, you rock.

RIP Broken Minard.  It was a good ride, though I won’t miss you!

A Response “To My Friends Who Identify Themselves As Homosexual”

This blog post is a direct reply to this post, which I came across when a friend of mine posted it on their FB page.  The friend was upset by this post, and truth be told, I was too.  My first reaction was to come out fighting, but due to the late hour and the importance of the message, I put it off until today.  I am glad I did.  

Helpful hint if you so choose:  you may want to read Mr. Howell’s blog before proceeding so that you can have a reference.  Or bring it up so that you can refer to it as I post.

Before I begin, I welcome your comments and viewpoints.  I offer this perspective not only as part of my own freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but as one who is not afraid of varying views.  Further, I am NOT interested in dictating how you should think or believe.  I just offer this as my own view on the subject.

First, the person who wrote it is an American.  As such, I affirm he has every right to write the post, express his personal convictions, and believe what he wants.  I am GLAD that he has this freedom and applaud the time that he took to write it.  He should not be censored.  That is the American Way.

Having said that, I must also say that too many people feel that, in America, everyone must follow the Christian faith to BE American.  Even as a Christian, I must emphasize that this is NOT the American Way.  Everyone in this country has a right to believe whatever they want, or nothing at all.  To impose, at the national or state level, the idea that the Judeo Christian Bible dictates the parameters in which all citizens must adhere is inherently wrong.  Further, it defies our very constitution, which states very clearly that religion is allowed but does NOT define the laws of this land nor subjugates the law to it.  This is well documented and has been ruled on in our country in great detail, an example of which is noted here (with links to the mentioned decisions if you’re interested)  Note, emphasis was done by me:

“Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief, but not to take action in violation of social duties or subversive to good order,” Chief Justice Waite wrote in Reynolds v. United States (1878). The U.S. Court found that while laws cannot interfere with religious belief and opinions, laws can be made to regulate some religious practices, e.g., human sacrifices, and the Hindu practice of suttee. The Court stated that to rule otherwise, “would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government would exist only in name under such circumstances.”[1] In Cantwell v. State of Connecticut the Court held that the free exercise of religion is one of the “liberties” protected by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment and thus applied it to the states. The freedom to believe is absolute, but the freedom to act is not absolute.[2]”

So, my first point is that Mr. Howell has every right to believe and post about his beliefs, but that in no way means he can legally impose those beliefs on ANYONE in this country, even if he believes he holds the right to do so.

But here’s the deal, I AM a Christian and hold very strong convictions based on the Bible, just as Mr. Howell does.  And I personally am brought almost to the brink of tears when the Bible is used in such a way as to condemn others, especially when the condemner appears to be doing so in what they claim is love.  And HEAR ME, I don’t know Mr. Howell and therefore I put “appears” because I honestly do not know his heart.  I don’t know ANYTHING about him.  So, in large part if he says he wrote that blog in love, we should try to accept that.  However, there are very specific things he says about the Bible I would like to talk about today, as a Christian and as an American.  This may take a while because I feel like I have to respond point to point (as my 2.78 readers know  is my modus operandi).

Mr. Howell’s assertions are in bold, my responses follow each point he makes.

First, I believe that the God of heaven, the God we read about in the Bible, created the universe and all that is in it, through His son Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-18). 

As a Christian, I affirm this view of creation (though I do adhere to the scientific idea of evolution and such) and I look to God the Father and His Son Jesus as the supreme rulers over my life.  However, I personally think it is wrong as Christians to stand like a toddler stomping his or her feet demanding that everyone else bow to the same God or belief system.  “GOD IS IN CHARGE AND YOU BETTER RECOGNIZE.”  I mean, don’t you hate it when a vegan sits in a restaurant and verbally decries how gross all of us carnivores are?  I mean, dude, why you wanna be all up in my lunch?  If you don’t eat any animal products, high five, now let me eat my steak in peace!  I think it’s taints the awesome testament of my belief system when I push my very personal and very intimate and very wonderful feelings of Christ especially to the point of making others feel wrong or guilty for not seeing things the way I see it.  And I believe that Christ never operated in that way.  If He did, he would have called His legions of angels to knock the Pharisees and the Roman Leaders down when He was being tried and ultimately crucified.  Instead, He was quiet.  He was humble.  He spoke only love to those who condemned Him.

And I contend that, if Muslim stood up and demanded that we follow his beliefs because the Quran stated this or that, many people such as Mr. Howell would have a heart attack.  Well, my friends, many in this country react the same way when we pull out the Bible and say “listen up, you gotta follow this”.

Second, I believe that the Bible is God’s inerrant communication to mankind. It tells us of his power, love, and grace, but also of his judgment. It tells us of what he wants from his creation, but also what he does not want. It is by the words of that book that the entire world will be judged in the end of material existence—even those who rejected those words (John 12:48).

First, the Bible will not be used to judge us.  Based on the Bible, CHRIST will judge us.  Now, let’s not split hairs, the Bible is clear that the Word is Jesus.  But to suggest that the laws will be used and what not for CHRISTIANS is not Biblical.  The Bible is clear that, for those in Christ, the blood of Christ will be sufficient and no other “words” of the Bible will be manifest in the judgment.

Second, the scripture shared above is clear that Jesus was saying if you reject ME, judgment will be upon you.  Again, Mr. Howell and I may believe that, but we need to accept that others may not, and often times do not.  It’s like saying I believe aliens are real, and to prove it read this book my dad wrote about aliens being real.  To insist a truth based on something that others don’t even accept is kind of silly.  Basically, you’re saying “you better believe the Bible, which I know you don’t, because it says you’re toast if you don’t!”

But, again, I DO believe the Bible, and I DO believe I am no longer “toast” because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.  But Mr Howell’s comment about “God’s inerrant communication” ticks me off, to be blunt.  Too many Christians spout off this statement even though it is bogus.  Hey, chill your heels, I am not saying the Bible is WRONG.  It may have been pristinely communicated by God, but unfortunately it had to go through humans, which has been proven for all time are errant!  Furthermore, we stupid humans have either bastardized the message over time, or may have maliciously changed it to meet our agenda.

What?

’Tis true.  My first offering of evidence is Jesus Himself, spoken thousands of years ago.  After beginning His sermon on the mount in Matthew 5 to teach His thousands of followers “The Way”, He began to RE-educate them on things that had been documented IN THE BIBLE, but which THE PEOPLE HAD COMPLETELY MISUNDERSTOOD.

Verse 38 starts with “you have heard it said”, and all the verses around that are clear corrections to misinformation or misinterpretation.  Jesus straight out says, “BUT I SAY” and I will paraphrase “you got it wrong people, let me set you straight!”

Jesus quotes SCRIPTURE that had been followed in a certain way for THOUSANDS of years, and says, “I am telling you, what was REALLY meant was…….”

Example 1 (Matt 5:38-42):  And eye for an eye, meaning you mess with me, I will mess with you (taken from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy).  This had been practiced by the Jewish nation for thousands of years and they used scripture to justify it.  Jesus clearly says in Matthew it doesn’t matter WHAT someone does to you, you turn the other cheek and leave any retribution to God.  And Jesus takes it further……they steal something from you?  GIVE THEM MORE!  Because the REAL way to being my follower is to LOVE.  When you’re good with THAT, then you can go ahead and start playing God.

Example 2 (Matt 5:43-48):  Love your neighbor, but hate your enemy.  This was how the Israelites followed the Bible and felt justified in doing so because “the Word was inerrant”.  But Jesus CLEARLY goes on to say “you have it all wrong”.  The human interpretation of the Word had been flawed, and Jesus had to correct that incorrect belief system.  Jesus is clear you love EVERYONE, even your ENEMIES.  And He doesn’t qualify that by saying “as long as they don’t sin, then love them.”  There is NO qualification.  We need to love, period.

But it doesn’t stop there.  The fact remains that the Bible was not written in English, and even after it was translated to English it has been translated many times and on too many “platforms” that often had nothing to do with God.

Example 1:  the word “homosexual” does not exist in the King James Bible, the most famous of the first English translations offered in 1611; the term homosexual was first added to Bible translations in 1946.  Some argue that the term “homosexual” didn’t even exist until the late 1800’s, so where it didn’t exist it could not be used and that the Bible is clear that the “action” was what we now call homosexuality.  However, those who are honest with themselves admit that some of the original Greek terms used, especially by the Apostle Paul, have no definitive English translation and that we – with agendas or perhaps limited understanding of God and His Omnipotence – have said “meh, Paul must have meant homosexual”.  Completely ignored is the fact that Greeks had forced homosexuality practice in place during Paul’s life (men forcing young boys to be their sex slaves) as well as non-Christian, pagan temple homosexual activities to pagan gods.  Words that were used by Paul – such as arsenokoitai – didn’t really exist in his culture’s vernacular and if we’re truthful we’d admit we know not much more of its meaning today.  And really, if Paul REALLY wanted to say “homosexual” he could have used a word clearly understood in his culture such as paiderasste.  There are TONS who understand Greek and the etymology of this, so I encourage you to do a bit of research.

But ever further, within the last few years conservatives have decided that there needs to be a CONSERVATIVE Bible published!  They said that there is “too much liberalism” in the Bible and that the “true intent of the Word” needs to be shown.  Basically, they want to make the Bible say what they believe to be the truth.  THAT IS DANGEROUS MY FRIENDS and just one example of error being added to the Word of God in print (not even talking about the errors added at pulpits day in and out! Can anybody say “Westboro Baptist Church”?)  So exclusively quoting scripture and saying it is the truth because it is in the Bible is not the best platform to have.

As to the judgment piece…..um, holy cow!  MY belief system states that every person will be judged, but NOT BY ME!  The Bible is clear when we focus on the words of Jesus that we SHOULD not judge and if we DO judge, we are toast!

Matthew 6 is clear that if you don’t forgive others, you will not be forgiven.

Matthew 7 is clear that Jesus views us as hypocrites if we judge others while ignoring the fact that WE are sinners, too.

And let’s be real, Romans 3 is VERY clear that ALL have sinned and fall short of God.  You.  Me.  People who are heterosexuals.  People who are homosexuals.

So, TO ME, calling out ONE type of group in our society and implying they have fallen short, while NOT acknowledging that truly everyone else is in the same boat, is short sided, hypocritical, and a gross misrepresentation of the Lord that I have chosen to follow.

But that’s just me.

For everyone, what the sovereign God of the universe has said are the words of (absolute) “truth and reason” (Acts 26:25; John 17:17)—even if you choose to reject them.

This means that if I am going to be consistent in what I believe, I have to speak out against sin. Just because you don’t believe in God’s existence or that the Bible is his word doesn’t mean that it does not apply to you.

If I know that God will judge the deeds of every man and woman at the end of time, then I am compelled to speak about the matter. I have to persuade people to stop doing the things that are against God’s will, and that will ultimately harm them physically and spiritually (2 Corinthians 5:10-11; Ephesians 5:11).

First, see my previous comments about using the Bible to make your point to people who don’t accept the Bible. Remember, Americans have rights in this country, and for me or anyone to say “yeah, you have rights but anyway, my beliefs trump them” is not cool.

Second, the Apostle Paul is clear that we should not judge those who are not believers and we should NOT tell them they are sinning.  How can we hold them to a belief they don’t even acknowledge?  This is clearly stated in 1 Cor 5:12, that those who do not believe can’t be held to it.  It’s like saying we Americans have to live by and accept Sharia law that is prevalent in Iran!  It does not apply to us as Americans, and it is not Biblical to demand non believers follow the Bible.

However, although 1 Corinthians is clear that believers in the church CAN be judged based on the Bible, I believe the context of this scripture are those that are causing strife and darkness in the church.  And, I truly believe those who are in Christ no longer have their sin held against them as it is covered by the blood of Christ.

You are my neighbor. If I knew that you were about to step into danger, but instead of warning you I just stood back and let you be harmed, what kind of neighbor would you think I am?

Really, do you believe that getting in people’s faces change hearts?  I have written about this before, but if a personal trainer came up to me in a restaurant and said “I noticed you’re overweight, you really need to eat less and I can show you how to get off your butt and exercise more” they would be telling the truth but I would still kick them in the face.  IN FACT, if someone came up to me and said, “The Bible says gluttony is sinful” THEY would be right.  Or that Jesus Himself said if you divorce and remarry, you are committing adultery……and oops adultery is right next to the more recent translation of homosexuals and is part of “the group” that cannot inherit the kingdom of God. But do you think, when people come up and share in this way, it would change anyone’s heart?

I contend that changing hearts is what we should be doing, and in doing so, actions follow.  But then that exposes the fact that OUR actions pretty much suck, too.  And that is not as easy to acknowledge, it is MUCH easier to point out the failures of others.

Further, why is homosexuality almost always the platform for this action when divorce is WAY more prevalent and “dangerous” to our faith community, based on many factors including the percentages that exist today in Every…….Single…..Church…….in comparison to homosexuality?

I would rather you be the neighbor, as a Christian, that Christ has called you to be.  For He called you to love me, as noted in Matt 22:39, like you love yourself.  And I am pretty sure you don’t start each day standing in front of the mirror reciting all the reasons you’re going to hell.  I would hope that you loved me as Christ loves me, as He called us to do in John 15:12.  And how DID Jesus love us?

He did not come to condemn.  John 3:17

He died for EVERYONE, even those who are the filthiest there is.  Even those that do not deserve it, and He did it with no strings attached, in that He’d do it even if no one accepted Him as savior.  1 John 2:2

Even as He lay hanging on the cross, beaten for something He was not guilty of, falsely accused and abused, even though they did not repent of their actions and certainly not because they deserved it……He said “Father, forgive them”.  Luke 23:34

And I would like some example where Jesus called out the sins of anyone that didn’t have a platform of claiming they knew the heart of God, such as the Pharisees.  It just didn’t happen.  So, as a follower of Christ, I will focus on love and not judging because the Lord I claim to follow did not call out the sins of others.

So in order to be consistent with what I believe, I must speak out against homosexuality.

Wow.  What about the other sins?  You must be hugely busy because there are LOTS of things you must speak against.  Like I don’t know…..not honoring the sabbath?  I mean, that comes STRAIGHT from the 10 commandments!  Homosexuality doesn’t even hit that level, and yet unless you start at sundown on Friday and follow the BIBLE through sunset on Saturday, you are sinning.  And since your own blog put it this way  if you follow the Bible, and the ten commandments, I am sure this is something you also talk about quite often and try to share with your Christian friends especially since we probably all meet predominantly on Sundays.

Certainly, I imagine you warn people how to handle black people (aka slaves) as that is clearly in the Bible, right?  Further, I am sure you make sure all women follow scripture and advise them to leave their homes when they have their period.  I am CERTAIN you encourage fathers to stone their daughters to death if they find out they have been sexually active before marriage, as the Bible demands.

I am sure that’s what you meant on your blog when you said your truth is absolute and unwavering and that you must speak out against sin.

Jesus is clear throughout scripture that He died to save us.  He provided GOOD NEWS, and yet most of the time all I hear out of the mouths of Christians is condemnation and judgment.  You think homosexuality is a sin?  DO NOT DO IT!  But I think the Bible has many more scriptures about not judging other’s “sin” while we all have pretty full time jobs working on our OWN sins.  And again, let’s be honest here…….we all do sin every single day.  As Christians though, we need to shut up about hell because we believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  And because of that belief, we need to acknowledge those sins are COVERED ONCE AND FOR ALL.  Homosexual or not.

I believe it is far more Biblical and important to not waste time, energy, and lives talking about our views of sin, other’s sin especially, and focus on loving each other.  We should edify, encourage, and lift up those around us – NOT condemn them and focus on penalties and hell.  Romans 14:1-13 is clear that we should not argue over things; let one believe this and another believe that, but we are called to LOVE each other and exist with each other.  In fact, I will share verses 10-13 as they sum up this entirely:

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me;every tongue will acknowledge God.’”  So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

Mr. Howell’s blog says, in essence, that he MUST be intolerant because his faith demands it, and that we need to tolerate his intolerance or else we’d be hypocrites.  I am just saying, to me the Bible is clear that we need to focus on our OWN lives and sin and stop dictating or pointing out the sins of others, perceived or otherwise.  And I truly believe, in doing so, we do more for spreading the Good News and representing the God we claim to follow.

Psalm 1:1 (which, to be clear, are DIRECTIONS to help Jews and ultimately Gentiles, not LAWS) says we should not stand in the way of sinners nor be scornful, and I will paraphrase by saying this “Dude, walk in righteousness and follow God, but don’t worry about those sinners around you.”

I’m not going to stop telling the truth. 

Again, “the truth” of the Bible has already been proven to be potentially questionable, as part of understanding or malicious tampering.  But even within the Protestant faith, WHOSE truth are we talking about?  Lutheran?  Assembly of God?  United Methodist? Should we speak in tongues or not?  Is baptism required for salvation?  Should be abstain from all wine, or is it okay as long as we don’t get drunk?  What about women in pants?

I bet there are dozens of truths just on the subjects I’ve listed above.

So, in sort of the same vein as Mr. Howell, I will share the platform of MY truth, based on two areas of the Bible and fully acknowledge others who believe the Bible may not interpret these scriptures as I do.

Matt 22:34-40 (emphasis mine):

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Gina:  basically, if you can’t love God and others where they are, then the rest of the laws should not be our focus and, in fact, do not exist.

1 Cor 13 (emphasis mine):

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  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.  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Gina:  Basically, we need to love……our neighbors, our enemies.  We need to act in ways that don’t make sense like giving those who steal from us more or letting someone who smacked us in the face hit the other side.  Because, when we’re real about it as Christians, we deserve NOTHING Jesus did for us and yet He did it, anyway.  And when we can collectively do that without focusing on sin so much, or our perception of sin and needing to “correct” those sins in others, ONLY THEN will our beliefs begin to spread into the hearts of others around us.  Love wins.  So stop using the Bible as a weapon to push others away from the very thing you want others to accept.