When I Was a Straight Guy

cropped-0815131413b.jpgWhen I was a straight guy,

I mean… when you thought I was a straight guy,

I rose to the top like cream.

You made me a missionary,

To the other sides of the planet.

You followed me into worship with joy.

 

When I was a straight guy,

We dreamed our church into existence,

Through ups and downs, joys and pains.

When I was a straight guy your community was still functioning.

 

When I was a straight guy,

my aversion to touching my girlfriend was celebrated, admired, even.

Dating was so much easier back then.

 

When I was a straight guy,

My Grandfather was so proud of me.

He drew me close and he blessed me.

 

When I was a straight guy,

I wasn’t nearly as hot as I am today.

It might be hard to believe,

but I was kind of a troll.

At least I felt that way,

When I was a straight guy.

 

When I was a straight guy,

One who wrestled with my “SAA”,

(Which is a disease-like term for “same sex attraction”),

I was a poster boy of righteousness,

One of those people who really got it,

Grace, acceptance, forgiveness, self-loathing,

The tenants of your faith.

I was proof to your tiny world view,

That there was hope to change.

Hope to change.

You never did.

 

When I was a straight guy,

I was fucked up.

And you liked it that way,

Because you are too…

 

When I was a straight guy,

You loved me unconditionally.

You loved me unconditionally.

You loved me unconditionally… when I was a straight guy.

 

Now I’m anything, everything, but straight.

I have tasted and seen,

That I am good.

 

When I was a straight guy,

I didn’t know!

How lips feel against mine,

Between mine,

How hips feel as they slide onto mine.

I didn’t know,

And you liked it that way.

 

Now I step aside,

And watch as your kingdom crumbles to the ground,

And I dance upon it,

With each pulse.

 

You see,

I never was a straight guy,

And I thank God alone for that.

Advertisements

Walls to Tables: A BMC Retrospective & Family Reunion

This weekend I had the immense honor of joining in on my first BMC (Brethren and Mennonite Counsel for LGBT Interests) event.

I’m thankful that this particular time happened to highlight the experiences and history of those who have come before me in this (sometimes violent) non-violent church tradition. Hearing about BMC’s 40-year history is exactly what I was hoping for.

(… well, that and meeting my own personal Mennonite Mr. Darcy, but that’s a given in any case.)

I was also honored and humbled throughout the weekend to be able to crash a reunion for these people who’ve worked, cried, raged, laughed, and danced alongside each other for so long.

And let me tell you, despite the pains they’ve all endured these people are a riot.  And I felt welcomed right in as a part of the family, which is more than I asked for.

img_20161010_192006

Christian, once my dad’s high school roommate, now part of my own family. (the Mennonite game at it’s finest)

This organization started back in the 1970’s and one of my biggest curiosities has been

Without the internet and social media how the heck did any of them find each other?!

I mean, being an LGBTQIA+ person wasn’t anywhere as acceptable back then as it has become (in some circles) today.  Add some really intense religious dogma/culture to the mix and I’m left truly amazed.

Despite the fear of rejection, getting outed, the unknown, quite a few of these men and women did find each other.   They not only found each other, they became family, through the AIDs crisis and through the continual efforts to be heard and accepted by their faith communities. The struggle continues for many to this day.

They were pioneers, bridge builders, lovers and activists.

Their continued presence and sacrifices have helped Mennonite, Brethren, and probably plenty of other denominations, recognize that their Queer elders, youth, mothers and fathers were not going to stay silent and that they deserve a place at the potluck.

img_20161010_191929

A recreation of some old-fashioned Mennonite drag from a Washington march. Francodia Dyck can get it!

Over the years many have formed new congregations/gatherings.

Many have been excommunicated.

Entire congregations have been kicked out of conferences (and one of them by 3??).

Some people have left, given up on the church, and I don’t blame them one bit.  May they find joy and community in safer spaces, offering their gifts to other perhaps more deserving groups.

Some have died from AIDs.  Their gorgeous pictures, memories and continued fruits were displayed and celebrated throughout the weekend.

Being a Queer Mennonite… It can be a perilous (though extremely gorgeous) journey.  But it’s richer, safer, and more vibrant because of these people. As I talked with my LGBT elders, as well as the few people of color that were there, I felt inspired, humbled.

Their eyes… hands, were holy with experience.  Their words wise with persistence and freedom.  Their feet were holy with dancing against the walls of oppression.

And here I was, a white millennial Queer young man, privileged, eager to listen and celebrate.

I cried a lot this weekend. There is nothing like doing life with family.  I got to sing in a Choir, which GCN (The Gay Christian Network) conference offers me once a year.

Communion on Sunday was unlike one I’ve experienced so far. There was a huge table full of fresh fruit and breads.  We fed each other, broken and vibrant.  We were filled! We anointed each other with oil, through tears. We watched as the goblet was not only filled with juice but overflowing, like a living spring.  I can still see it now.  The bubbling excess fills my spirit.img_20161010_202418

Anyway, I may not have come home with a Mennonite Mr Darcy, but I’ve come home with some new family, and I might add, the most fabulous, fierce, and sacred kind of family.

May we all listen more and be inspired by those who have come before us, in secular and faith settings alike.

I choose to be Holy

 

IMG_20160624_153439159_HDRI’ve been on a holiness kick lately.
I know… sounds fun eh?

The unsolicited picture that comes to mind for me, when I hear the word Holy, is of creepy white Jesus with no emotion or humanity…

All the films show him as a person who may smile at children occasionally, but otherwise is unaffected by the “earthly” details or pleasures of life.  He has one goal and one thing on his mind. (Namely, to die on a cross so that Grumpy God can be appeased and save the world).

It’s other-worldly, inhuman, and frankly, pretty silly.

Or holiness might make us think of a lack of sin or even pleasure as a whole, or good works.

But I think that this picture is limiting. Our view of what holiness entails or encompasses is really quite small. Just like the concept of God, we try to squeeze holiness into a tiny and manageable box.

We subconsciously tell ourselves (and others) which things are holy and which things are not.  Which careers are holy, and which ones aren’t.  Who is holy, what feelings are holy.

This morning I googled the definition of Holy. It is

“dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.”

I found the synonyms particularly of interest:

“sacred, consecrated, hallowed, sanctified, sacrosanct, venerated, revered, divine, religious, blessed, dedicated.”

There are some clear differences between this and my culturally developed definition of holiness.

Fresh fragrant  rose blooms are pretty holy… but the withering plant after blooming season?  Is that holy?

Yes.

All life, and subsequently death, is sacred.  From the seedling of a rose plant, that burst of creative energy, to her returning to the earth, every step is sacred. Every step is consecrated and blessed and pre-determined. I call that holy.

IMG_20160628_090000340My oatmeal this morning had nutritious walnuts, and berries that had been grown in this neighborhood without any pesticide.  That was holiness.  For me.

We tend to think of holiness as unblemished, unbroken.

That mindset has to go.

My mom and I went to a Mennonite retreat for LGBT people and their families recently.  There was holiness in the anger expressed, cutting irony of the violence endured within non-violent churches. God was in the room. God was in our tears. And in our collectiveness.

There is holiness in the continued fight against the enslavement of African peoples and the destruction of Native peoples in this country. Holiness is not unblemished.

Each person IS holy, bearing the image of God, whatever that might mean. This is one of the reasons I’ve always loved the non-violent traditions of my Mennonite roots.  Why the legally authorized killing of someone is not okay, even as punishment for a crime.

Every person is holy.  Not because they follow the guidelines of some trend in purity culture, not because they’ve done good works or because they look or believe like me… Holiness is an innate sacredness.

Holiness does not equal unblemished.

Even Jesus, the Holy of Holies, was blemished by a spear and a crown of thorns.

This morning as I sing “I choose to be Holy” I’m not saying I choose to be perfect in all my ways or to try harder… how I’ve sung it throughout my life.  I’m saying I choose to acknowledge my divinity, to abide in the all-encompassing love of God.

Today, if you want to encounter holiness, go to the mirror and see who you are.

Like Mufasa tells his son Simba in The Lion King, always remember who you are.

Remember your innate, unconditional, tenacious holiness.  Remember that you are someone to be protected, nurtured and developed.

Maybe that’ll look like saving sex for marriage or not getting married at all. Maybe it’ll look like charity work or fasting or staying as far away from religion as possible.

Because you are Holy, in all your queerness, in all your questions, in all your freckles and wrinkles and undefined abs. In your unsure future, your work and play. In your singleness or your rocky relationship.

You are Holy.

 

 

And Who is My Neighbor? – A Modern Day Parable

trans-bathroom

Last week, in North Carolina, there was a businesswoman who’s diabetic pump had malfunctioned without her knowing.  Being a busy working lady she didn’t have time throughout the day to realize something was wrong.  Before she knew it her blood sugar levels were out of control and she became delirious. She ended up on the floor of a public restroom, getting worse with each second and acting bizarrely.

A local city counsel member had been in one of the stalls and came out to wash her hands. Frightened, she made an effort to avoid talking to this crazy woman who was making such a scene.

After she left a pastor’s wife came in to use the restroom. In judgement, she saw the sick woman and assumed she was drunk. She decided to find a different restroom but planned to share in her prayer chain about all the drug and alcohol addicts who were plaguing their city.

Just then, a tall transgender lady walked in, hoping no one would notice her bad wig and become aggressive or call the cops on her. She just needed to get in and get out. But seeing the scene of the woman in need on the floor, she took pity on her. Despite the attention it might bring to herself, she immediately asked how she could help and drove her to the hospital to avoid the cost of an ambulance. She made sure she was safe and had contacted her family before leaving.

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the woman in need?

Yup.

Go and do likewise.

‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”’

 

You’re not as evil as you think you are.

 

12932716_10101134919544437_1626035791477580_n

Yesterday I was graced with a quintessential meeting with a couple of missionary guys in the cafeteria of my campus…

I know, right?… graced??  Ha ha

To be honest, I did get a little indigestion from the experience. ;D

But as I’ve journaled this morning about the experience, I am left with a feeling of deep gratitude.

Somehow, the contrast of the Gospel they teach (as lovely as they truly believe it is) really reminded me of the Gospel that I love.  There is nothing as wonderful as being reminded of the good news. The things I love so much about God.  I’m just so thankful.

My first question was, “where are you from/ who are you with?” (It helps to give you some understanding from the start.)

In typical missionary form, they seemed to try to dodge answering that question, which I’m still confused about… like… never mind.  There isn’t really time to go there.  Ha ha

They started off asking if they could pull up chairs and talk to me about my spiritual beliefs.

*my stomach immediately clenches* “Danger Will Robinson! Danger!”

…But I accepted.  And I’m glad I did.

We started with “Who is Jesus?” to which I answered that I’m still trying to figure that one out. But I think I ended up being reminded of what I believe about Jesus through the convo.

We went on to talk about how He saves us from hell and it’s a free gift, all you have to do is believe/accept it.  (Just for some context, I’m a Universalist.  I don’t believe in an eternal hell or just about any of the things fundamental Christianity harps on.  I do, however, love Jesus.)

You see, darkness cannot exist around light (which my evangelist friends reminded me of several times) But the point should not be that God can’t be around darkness, but that darkness is obliterated around God’s light.  This is what we saw when Jesus touched unclean people and they were immediately HEALED

How did that exemplary life of Christ turn into a theology that says He can’t be around you if you’re in sin?? It’s bizarre.

I must confess, I gave them a run for their money.  I challenged just about every statement they made, not because I love to debate (believe me, I hate it), but because I care so much about the good news.

Over all, what has really stuck with me since the talk was the self-hate so many Christians teach, demonstrate and are consumed by.  Both of these guys emphasized over and over how terrible and unworthy of forgiveness they are…  That they deserve eternal torment in hell. In essence, that we all do.

This is a mindset far too familiar to me.  As a struggling young Christian I carried that flag when I was in Bible College.  I tried to uphold it into missions… though, once I began to truly love “the other” it became much harder to swallow…

I can still remember a phone conversation I had with my Mom while I was at Bible College. I had a lot of judgement towards her (and probably for everyone I knew, tbh, no less for myself) at that point in my life. In that conversation she was brave enough to challenge this concept that everyone is fundamentally broken.  She said that people are generally good, while I was believing that people are generally evil AF.

I still remember the way I would weep in every other worship service, often confusing God’s grace and my wretchedness…love and shame.  It’s such a blurred line in conservative Christian culture. Self-hate is not a stranger to me, nor is it to most people who have grown up in Evangelical circles.

It hurt my heart to see these young men saying these things about themselves, beloved children of God.

I stopped the younger guy at one point, looked him straight in the eyes and said,

“You know, you’re not as evil as you think you are.”

If it weren’t so sad, it would have been funny how much they both physically reacted to that statement… They squirmed, taken aback.  Whether they knew it or not, my statement went against their most fundamental belief, what everything hinges upon.  That we’re all despicable to God.  (without Jesus) That God cannot be in the presence of sin.

We went on talking in circles for a while after that.  At the end, one of the guys asked if he could pray for me.

This is always the hardest part for me… There’s something so vulnerable about choosing to pray with a person who clearly thinks you’re a lost sinner or who pities you. 

This is the part, when I choose to engage with evangelists, that is the hard, unbeatable, type of love… The part that takes work.  But I chose to, in that moment, see them as brothers, not because of their religion, but because of our shared humanity, our shared Creator, our shared divinity. 

I was shocked by the humble and genuine prayers.

I was even more shocked that I could accept them…  Then I prayed for them, when they finished. Whatever theology or lifestyle they choose for themselves, that’s not the point, I prayed for them to know God’s unconditional steadfast love for them.

For us all.

THIS was the good news that saved me from the death of fundamentalism.  And it was my heart to share that with them and with you all today.

We’re not to be loved despite how terrible we are…  We are loved because we are good creations.  All of us.

 

Thirsty Hobbit

I wrote this a few weeks ago.  I decided at the time to not publish it because… feels.  But now my work on another piece is convicting me to just go ahead and be vulnerable.  I’ll never grow as an artist if I’m too afraid to be raw, or to start from the beginning.  So here goes. 

wpid-wp-1439062407657.jpeg

Yesterday I was walking with a friend, catching up on life a bit.  He asked, at one point, how dating is going these days… I said something like “oh, I haven’t really found anyone since my ex (more than a year ago) but I think it’s the best because I need time to move on and heal from some past relationships.”

Looking back on the conversation, I think that was a bit of a lie.

In reality in the last few months I’ve been feeling very much like I need a relationship.  Sure, life is good, and I am genuinely happy, a lot of the time anyway.

But I’ve been needing touch, needing deep intimacy, wanting a committed partner… I look at my mother’s relationship with her husband and it’s not like I feel jealous or envious… I just feel like I’m missing out.  Like I’m meant for so much more than my arms-length friendships and the way I avoid intimacy by default…

I know so many people who fear they’ll spend their lives alone.  I often inwardly scoff at them because I see something wonderful in them. I get all judgy assuming that they’re simply not having enough patience or faith… but. You know, maybe I have something to learn from them.

This blog post isn’t really about my love life (or lack-there-of). It’s about the fact that I felt the need to convince this friend of mine that I like being single, when in fact, I’m frustrated about how hard it is to date as a Queer, Universalist, sometimes prudish Christian… It Suuuckssssssssss. When, in fact, (for instance) I have feelings for HIM and it regularly bothers me that he’s in a happy long-term relationship and not available… and that when he was available I didn’t seem to catch his fancy the way he had mine.

I struggle to let people go… even people I never had to begin with.  (not to mention the people I actually dated for real.) …Talk about real talk.

My mom reminds me of myself in so many ways.  I can relate to her in a lot of areas.  Insecurity about body image, and her social life. A rough history of less than stellar relationships.  But one thing.

She realized her tendency to make bad decisions with men, and gave it up to God.  “God, I don’t trust myself and my own feelings anymore.  You bring someone to me.”

And He did. She’s never been happier than she has been for the last few years since they married.

So can I just say that now? Can I just wave my magic wand, say a special prayer, ask God to bring me and my partner together… sigh.  It kind of seems like my only option at this point.  I really don’t like online dating.  And in person I might as well be wearing a huge sign on my back which reads “not available. Don’t even try!” Dating, for someone so scared of vulnerability, often feels like a lost cause.

Why do I so often try to be strong when really I’m weak AF?

Heck, maybe it’s my insistence that I’m fine and happy the way things are that keeps people from thinking I’m available/interested… Maybe I’m too much of a robot.  A congenial silly hobbit robot.
I think those friends of mine who are open about their fears regarding relationships, as well as my mom, really have something to teach me.

honesty.

Maybe “patience” and “faith” are the last things I need right now.  Instead of being content and trouble-less, I am thirsty.  (ha ha don’t even 😉 )

But in all seriousness, I hunger and thirst for the Lord.  It doesn’t help my relationship with God to pretend otherwise…

In the same way I hunger and thirst for relationship.  It’s time to start being real.

Togethering through it.

wpid-wp-1432328498765.jpeg

I’ve been thinking lately about suffering… No, not trying to suffer.  I mean, why it happens so much…

Now, it may just be because of my Philosophy of religion course this semester, (We’re talking about the problem of evil and suffering this week) but I have a feeling there’s a little something more to it.

I’ve been more emotional lately, which is quite unusual for the last year or so… Things just get me easier.  Little things mostly.  Like why the HELL do I keep snagging my pants on the door frame!!??

“It shouldn’t be so hard.”

Or sometimes it’s bigger, like when a man on the bus has an old seeing-eye dog sitting next to him, who seems to be developing cataracts…

or when I think of the many loved ones I know who seem to be fighting a losing war against addiction, or some other neurosis.

I find myself gripping anger.  Why is there so much suffering?! How do some alcoholics find freedom, sometimes suddenly, and yet others continue on?  Why do so many of my friends have to trudge through chronic depression?

“It shouldn’t be so hard.”

I think it would be easier for me to accept if I hadn’t experienced miraculous healing myself.  Or if my mom’s husband hadn’t been suddenly freed from alcoholism.  He’s just not interested anymore… I know there is help… and yet so many can’t seem to find it.

“It shouldn’t be so hard.”

I find no easy answers, no logic.  And worst of all, no formulas.

Then I remember that people are beautiful, that life is worth it.  That addicts don’t have to get their lives together to be valuable.  That Jesus walks right alongside those who struggle with mental and physical illnesses.  That I’m okay the way I am, tonight…

I remember how much I love my loved ones.  That it has nothing to do with who I WANT them to be… (Any time I think that way it’s just my own neurosis.)  I remember how thankful I am when someone, old friend or stranger on the street, loves me.

I’ve been asking myself lately whether suffering has a purpose.

Well, it simply must, because it couldn’t exist otherwise.

…right?…

I’m one of those people who tends to believe that everything has a purpose.  I think there were times in my life that I would have lost hope, otherwise.  It has served as a survival tool.

But it has also become the way I view reality, which  I’m very careful about sharing because the last thing people need to hear in the face of struggle (and who’s not struggling?) is some cliché “I’m sure there’s a reason for it all.” *barf*

I usually like to write something that I feel will inspire people or make someone feel good.

But lately… that’s just not where I am.

I want to be inspiring and energizing for my lil church group, but I’m feeling insecure.  But even now I think of their beautiful smiles.  And I remember that they probably feel similarly about mine.

For some reason I feel that life is so worth it, so beautiful, that it somehow outweighs the suffering, the evil… but I couldn’t tell you why.  And sometimes I don’t believe that myself.

I’m sometimes really pissed… and I guess all I can say,

all I want to say,

is that we’re going through this together.
We’re togethering through.