From our friends at Believe Out Loud.
Category Archives: Devotions
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the greatest thing we will ever do. Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.
Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. The willingness to tell our stories, feel the pain of others, and stay genuinely connected in this disconnected world is not something we can do halfheartedly. To practice courage, compassion, and connection is to look at life and the people around us, and say, ‘I’m all in.’” -Brene’ Brown
Who needs original content when you can share stories as wonderful as this one?! It’s titled, “I hugged a man in his underwear. I think Jesus would have, too.”
It tells the story behind the picture you see here —————>
I don’t want to give too much away, but…
Watching people recognize our apology brought me to tears many times. It was reconciliation personified.
My favorite though was a gentleman who was dancing on a float. He was dressed solely in white underwear and had a pack of abs like no one else. As he was dancing on the float, he noticed us and jokingly yelled, “What are you sorry for? It’s pride!” I pointed to our signs and watched him read them.
Then it clicked.
Then he got it.
He stopped dancing. He looked at all of us standing there. A look of utter seriousness came across his face. And as the float passed us he jumped off of it and ran towards us. In all his sweaty beautiful abs of steal, he hugged me and whispered, “thank you.”
If the word “reconcile” isn’t already bouncing around in your brain… let me put it there for you.
Reconcile: 1) To cause a person to accept or be resigned to something not desired. 2) To win over to friendliness; cause to become amicable. 3) To compose or settle a quarrel, dispute, etc. 4) To bring into agreement or harmony.
Obviously, many of our LGBTQ friends need to find a way to reconcile their sexual orientation and their faith. Many of us also need to be reconciled with the church. But let’s not forget that while it’s important for us to be reconciled (brought happily back together with) both our sexuality and the church, it’s even more important that we be won over by, brought into harmony with, and reconciled to God.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him… For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Don’t miss that the writer of Colossians tells us that God was PLEASED to reconcile all things to himself. God was happy to do it. The word the writer used for “pleased” literally means “found to be good by means of a test.”
The point? God sat down and decided whether he thought being in a relationship with us – all of us – was a good idea… and decided that it was. The idea of a relationship with us made God happy. So God did what was necessary to make peace with us.
He didn’t make conflict, demands, or guilt. He made peace. With us. All of us. Just as we were. Just as we are. And so, perhaps we should follow the example of the underwear clad man above (and another son in another great story), and allow ourselves to be reconciled…
I took a guest with me, one of my org’s more dedicated volunteers. After the program, G. (the volunteer) and I walked across the street to get a cup of coffee and debrief our disbelief. Our program today was about LGBT history. G. and I were shocked at how little the kids knew about LGBT history. How is it that a group of gay kids in NYC – where it’s relatively safe to be a gay kid – had never heard of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and seemed only somewhat aware that LGBT folks in New York State were given the right to marry less than a year ago? *sigh* How does that happen?
My conversation with G. quickly evolved into one about a different kind of history. At G.’s prompting, we started talking about religion. G., who was raised an orthodox Jew, waxed eloquently and intelligently about how religion (both Jewish and Christian) has shaped gay life in the 21st century.
He said, “I think most people need to be reminded that religion is completely personal. People need to be given the power to figure out the Bible, or Qur’an, or whatever, for themselves and say f’you to any church, synagogue, mosque, or religious zealot that tries to invade their personal belief system. Religion is personal and it’s private.”
G.’s a smart man. There’s a lot to unpack in his thought.
I agree that people need to be given the power to figure out their holy books, their faith, and their theology so that they can stand confidently when religious people say unholy and hurtful things to them. But…
It’s pretty important that we remember Christianity is not completely personal. Christianity (and its grandfather, Judaism) isn’t an idea that people enjoy in isolation. Nope… Christianity isn’t personal. It’s communal, all wrapped up in relationships. It always has been.
Jesus drew disciples together into a community that followed him up mountainsides to pray together, across seas to minister together, and into upper rooms to eat together. The Holy Spirit draws believers together into the Church, a community of believers. Paul tells us that this church is the body of Christ – a strange Frankenstein creature with many parts that all (ideally) work together to show God’s illogical love to the world.
You and I may each have deeply personal relationships with our faith, but these relationships are meant to draw us together into what Christ called the Kingdom of God… a community.
And that may explain why churches have such tremendous power to hurt gay people. If our faith were only personal – ideas we enjoy in the privacy of our own soul – we might be able to cope with church-thrown nastiness by saying “I guess they don’t understand how my idea fits into their idea. Oh, well.”
But since Christianity is communal, the game changes. The church’s nastiness forces us to say, “They don’t want me to be a part of their community. They don’t think I fit into the Kingdom of God. They don’t want me to be part of our family anymore.”
And that hurts.
So, dear LGBT friends, let me remind you that “they” are wrong. You do fit in the Kingdom. You are a part of the family. Consider what the Apostle John said about Jesus (who, like many of us, was also rejected by his religious community for believing that outcasts should be loved rather than judged)…
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…
He gave us all the right to be part of the family. Anybody who tells you differently is wrong.
Also, please keep in mind a valuable lesson we all should have learned in high school: just because one group of mean kids won’t let you eat lunch with them doesn’t mean the band kids, drama kids, chess kids, golf kids, or whatever kids won’t let you sit at their table.
If a church has been hateful to you because you’re LGBTQ, click here to find another one who really wants someone just like you to love God alongside them.
I both love it and hate it when I read someone else’s words and think, “*sigh*… I wish I had written that.”
The blog post I just read filled me with both jealousy and delight. Delight because the writer said what I feel, and jealously because… the writer said what I feel.
As I work (with increasing excitement) through my own issues of “calling,” this post was exactly what I needed this morning. I think we all need to be reminded that as LGBT Christians we have a responsibility – a calling – to minister to the wounded. Just because we’ve been hurt doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also be healers. After all, who better than us to spread the good news of a Savior who said, “blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”
For ours is the Kingdom of Heaven, too…
All too often, we are wounded. We are hurting. Quite frankly, some of us have been so heavily wounded by the Church that we’re barely functioning. The bitterness, anger, resentment, and dejection that we feel toward other Christians is enough to poison our spirit…
That doesn’t mean we have to stay in sour relationships. It doesn’t mean we have to poison our spirit by sitting under ministries that pour bile out with every sermon.
Find the safe places. Find a place to heal. To be Christian. Where there is no expectation of “praying the gay away.” Where we can be whole. Where we can be nurtured and to be fully healed…. not so that we can rest, but so that we can carry the torch of the living risen Lord and Savior to those who truly, desperately need to know that someone genuinely cares.
We have a responsibility — if we are Christian, to BE Christian. Live with integrity. Form healthy relationships, shun promiscuity, and truly follow Christ.
We who have been wounded in the past have the calling — a responsibility even — to find those who have also been wounded and minister healing. We’ll have to continue to dodge those jagged, venomous arrows from both sides — a no man’s land where countless people are only hoping to survive.
We must find the wounded and care for them.
We must find the bullied and help them to stand firm and be proud of who they are.
We must find the tormented and help them find healing.
We must find those in despair and help them find hope.
I know, I know. I haven’t posted anything if forever. I’m sorry. I was being so faithful. Then I fell off the face of the earth. Ah, life! Why must you take so much time?
During this season of political sound bites, I offer you this gem from Mother Theresa. It reminds me that “right” and “wrong” are seldom the most important issues…
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” (-Mother Theresa)
Pass it on.
“Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence, for had you hated anything, you would not have formed it. And how, had you not willed it, could a thing persist, how be conserved if not called forth by you? You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life, you whose imperishable spirit is in all.” (Wisdom of Solomon 11:24 – 12:1)
Happy New Year, everyone!
Tom Ehrich – a man I hadn’t heard of until 15 minutes ago – just took me to church.
In an article on SJ-R.com he asks, “What if America truly were a Christian nation? Not a Southern Baptist nation, or an Episcopal nation, or a Roman Catholic nation. Not grounded in the doctrinal and ecclesiastical isms that have grown up over the centuries. But a Christian nation, doing what Jesus did…
We wouldn’t be taking votes on who gets medical care, or who gets to live, or who gets to learn, or whose rights matter more, or whose race or religion can’t be allowed to breathe freely. For Jesus gave healing to all who asked, defended the lives of sinners, taught all who were eager to learn, welcomed all to his circle — even outcasts, lepers and children. He had no regard for his own tradition’s finely tuned boundaries…
We would stand with the poor when predators circled around them. We would stand with sinners when the self-righteous picked up stones. We would join hands with nonconformists and strangers.
We would become God’s beacon to the nations. And when the tired and poor followed that light to our borders, we would greet them with open arms and make room for them in our communities.
That’s what Jesus did, and that is what it would mean to be a Christian nation…”
You should definitely check out the entire article (Tom Ehrich Asks If We Really Live Like Christians) to read all the wonderfullness the fits between all the …’s I’ve inserted in the quote above.
It’s worth your time. Trust me.
I wrote the following story several years ago, when I was still deciding if “coming out” would completely ruin my life. At the time, I was a professional minister. Several times every week I stood on a stage in front of hundreds of people and told my stories… and talked about Jesus… and tried to help people understand that they are accepted by God.
But while I was sure that God accepted me just as I was (even though I was gay), I wasn’t sure the congregations I served would follow His lead if I told them my full story… especially the parts about me liking boys.
That’s why I wrote the following story. “Zoo Cow” was an outlet… a thinly veiled metaphor. It’s about a cow that lives in a zoo. Although the Cow feels terribly ordinary, he also knows he’s completely different from everyone else. He’s misplaced in a world that doesn’t understand him, hoping someone will see him – and love him – for what he is.
As a former youth minister, I’m increasingly concerned about gay teenagers in the church who currently feel as I once felt. We read bunches about loud and proud gay kids taking their boyfriends to prom, fighting for gay rights, and starring on GLEE. But what about the thousands of LGBT kids who aren’t loud… who aren’t proud… who spend every Sunday morning hiding quietly in the pew next to you?
You know they’re sitting next to you, right?
In a study of 5,819 religious teenagers from 635 churches, a team of researchers found that 7% of religious youth claimed to be homosexual, 5% claimed to be bisexual, and 2% weren’t sure or their sexual orientation (Clapp, Helbert & Zizak, 2003).
That means that, contrary to what some church folks seem to think, gay kids aren’t just out there. They’re in here, too. Apparently, 14% of youth in our churches aren’t as “straight” as some people may think they are.
They’re hiding from us – afraid of what will happen when they’re “found out.” They’re also hiding from each other – camouflaging themselves so well that they don’t see the people just like them who are hiding right next to them.
They know. It’s hard to be a cow in the zoo…
Once there was a Cow who lived in a zoo. He lived next door to the Panda and across the path from a Zebra, but they didn’t talk much. The Zebra was always busy and the Panda never had much to say.
Plus, they were fancy and the Cow was plain.
The Panda was wonderfully white with black spots and the Zebra was beautifully black with white stripes. But the Cow wasn’t extraordinary at all. He was just regular white except for a big black patch on his back.
Black and white.
White and black.
All three of them looked like I Love Lucy reruns standing in a field.
The children loved to watch the Panda and wished they could pet the Zebra. But when they stopped in front of the Cow’s fence, it was usually just because they needed to tie their shoes or because they found a stray nickel. Most children had seen a cow before.
One child had seen a cow on a milk carton.
Another had seen one holding a sign in a fast-food chicken restaurant.
The little boy with a balloon had even been brave and touched one once when he drove from the city and visited his Grandfather’s farm.
The Zebra loved it when the children took pictures of his beautiful stripes and watched him run across his field. Their shouts and flashes made him feel special. He sometimes wondered, however, what would happen when the children realized that he was really just a horse with stripes who was afraid of lions. They would probably think he was ordinary and boring and never come back to visit.
The Panda adored the bronze plaque that told everyone she was born in a far away place called China. It reminded her that she was rare and wonderful. She spent all day pointing at it so the people would notice, but she was secretly afraid that the children would love the monkeys better than her because they whooped and hooted and threw their poop at grown-ups.
The Cow stood in his field wishing the sticky faced children would think he was something other than ordinary. He often heard their parents call him “Grade A” and “Prime,” but somehow their comments never sounded complimentary.
One day a group of children came to the zoo in a big yellow bus. They stopped to look at the Cow, but only because their teacher told them to.
“The Cow looks lonely.”
“The Cow smells funny.”
“Why does the Cow have flies on its butt?”
“Are cows stupid?”
The children were loud and asked lots of questions.
One little girl said, “Mrs. Jenkins, is that the kind of cow that makes milk like I put on my cereal?”
“No,” Mrs. Jenkins said. “That’s the kind of cow that makes hamburgers like we’re eating for lunch.”
The little girl rolled her eyes. She was a vegetarian. Her mommy said that hamburgers would give her cholesterol. The little girl didn’t know what “cholesterol” meant, but since she already had cooties, she wanted to be extra careful.
The Cow felt trapped in the zoo. Lonely. Of course, most animals feel trapped in a zoo. That’s why it’s called a zoo and not a forest or a farm.
The Cow, however, didn’t feel trapped because of the gate. He wasn’t lonely because he didn’t get to visit faraway farms and factories like the country cows did.
The Cow felt trapped because the children and their questions reminded him that he would always be a cow – different from the other animals around him. No matter how hard he tried, he would never be as cool as the Panda or as interesting as the Zebra. He would never climb a tree or race like the wind. He didn’t like bamboo, and whenever he wore stripes, they only accentuated his already round belly. The most the Cow could hope for in life was a fresh bail of hay, a vague fantasy about a stampede, and a bell around his neck ringing to remind everyone that he was a big fat cow.
And so the Cow spent every day eating his grass – ignored and out of place – feeling like a cow in the zoo.
One day a Chinese woman came to the zoo and stopped to look in the Panda’s cage. She yawned when all the Panda did was pose and point and eat bamboo. The Chinese woman wondered if the zookeeper might have any ideas for keeping Pandas out of her backyard. It made her angry every time she saw one of the black-and-white beasts snacking on her serenity garden.
An African man seemed mildly impressed with the Zebra, but in a hungry way that made the Zebra nervous.
Later that day a little boy came to the zoo wearing blue jeans held up by a belt with an impressive silver buckle. The boy walked past the Panda and didn’t care much for the Zebra. But at the Cow’s pasture he stopped and watched for the longest time.
He stood next to the Chinese woman as she tried to offer the Cow a piece of her hot-dog. She seemed disappointed when he refused.
An African man behind the boy whistled so the Cow would run and play, but the Cow didn’t want to run and play. Especially not when someone whistled at him.
But when the boy saw the Cow he didn’t take pictures or point. He didn’t poke his hand through the fence or make loud noises. Instead, he watched. He watched until long after the Chinese woman and the African man left.
The boy wasn’t afraid of the cow, but he wasn’t impressed by it, either. He knew that cows are nothing to be scared of. He also knew that it’s better to understand something than to be impressed by it. And he already understood the Cow. Little boys wearing belts with big silver buckles usually do.
The Cow ate his grass and watched the little boy watching him. It was good to feel ordinary and unimpressive. After a long while he finally realized what the Panda and Zebra never would.
When someone really understands you, your cage doesn’t seem so small.