Baltimore Pride 2018…

One thing I found challenging when my kids were young was leaving a place when they were having fun.  Every time it was, “Can we have 5 more minutes?  Pllleeeaaassseee?”  My husband and I eventually wised up and gave them the 5 minute warning before we were ready to go.  Surprisingly it worked (smile).

That’s how I felt on Saturday at the Baltimore Pride Parade.

As I mentioned in my last post, I just got back from vacation last weekend.  Although I was sad to see my vacation end, I was super excited that Pride was the following weekend.  I had been looking forward to it all year.  I have to say it’s one of my favorite days of the year.

We had a lot of new PFLAG parents join us this year for the parade.  It’s like watching your child experience something for the first time.  It reminded me of what my first parade was like and how emotional I got when the crowd cheered for the parents.  It’s also heart warming to see the support they are giving their children.  I’m not sure if they realize yet how important this is to their child and how much their kids appreciate their support.

But just like last year, the favorite part for me was giving out mom hugs.  It can be a little chaotic.  We had a group with drums with us again this year which makes it hard to hear (but really fun to march to!).  Some people just want to show appreciation for being willing to give hugs (not everyone is a hugger – smile).  So as I’m going along I try to discern who is asking for hugs.

Some people make it really obvious because they open their arms wide.
Some run up to me.
Some are shy about it.
Some call me mom.
Some ask for a hug just for fun.

Then there are the hugs where you can tell the person doesn’t want to let go.

Even though I’m moving along in the parade, the hugs are full embraces.  In some of those embraces, the person thanks me.  In some of those embraces, they tell me that appreciate my willingness to hug them.  In some of those embraces, since they are of all ages, the person will tell me that their mom has died and it’s been a long time since they had a mom hug.  And in some of those embraces the person will tell me that their mom doesn’t accept them.  I hug them extra tight and when we pull away from the hug I tell them that I’m sorry.  And then I tell them that this mom loves them.

It’s in these precious moments that I want to whine and complain…it’s not enough time!  Five more minutes…pleeaasseee!  I fight back the tears and catch back up to my group.  I smile through the emotions that are catching in my throat since Pride is a happy time.  And I happily give the next hug.

If you’ve been a follower for some time, you know that I left my position as a staff member at my church last June.  I still do work for them, but on a much smaller scale.  I’ve been contemplating what my next adventure will be.  I think God has finally revealed to me what that might be.  Stay tuned!

As I mentioned, not everyone is a hugger.  But everyone should be a lover…because love matters.

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Love matters now more than ever…

I wanted to reblog this post as a reminder of those who lost their lives in the Pulse shooting. Also as a reminder of what it means to show love to the LGBTQ community.

Love Matters

fdaaa725e646d03892cb48babf8124ffI don’t know what it is about Sunday’s lately.  Last week I woke up to unsettling news from someone I know who has a gay child.  While at a pride event in her town, she came across two men who were there to protest.  One of the men had on a shirt that said “Jesus is Enough,” and they were standing behind a sign that read:

We are ambassadors of Jesus Christ pleading from God a message of reconciliation.  Repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

They had a bullhorn and were yelling “you’re disgusting” at the people enjoying the event.  When the mom went over to try to reason with them, they spit at her.  Really??  Ambassadors??  The Sunday before that I woke up to the news that two gay kids of one of my friends were severely beaten.  Both events were deeply upsetting to me.

But this…

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It’s not about the cake…

I just got home from a week away down in Avon, North Carolina.  My husband and I went down with friends that we’ve known for some 30 years now.  We rented a house right on the beach with the most beautiful views.  Sunrises over the ocean every morning and sunsets over the sound every evening.  We had picture perfect weather every day.  The only rain we got was in the evening once we were finished with our activities.  None of us wanted to leave our little piece of paradise, but alas we needed to get back to real life.

I tried to take a social media break while away.  I promised some friends that I would do that to decompress as a way to take care of myself.  I did pretty good.  I mainly posted pictures of my vacation and some quotes from books I was reading that I thought were really good.  However, on Monday while down at the beach I received a text that the supreme court sided with the Colorado baker.  My phone started buzzing as news was getting out about the decision.  I hopped online during lunch to try to discern what the facts were in the case.   There are many articles out there about this so if you want more info you can google it, but here is some info on what this case is referring to.

My friends and I with gay kids were somewhat dreading this decision.  It could mean major discrimination for our kids.  The outcome wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but the fact that the ruling was in the baker’s favor has already caused people to feel more inclined to discriminate.  Some of our kids (in my mom’s group) have already been denied service.

Sign in hardware store in Tennessee. It’s legal there to do this.

The baker stated that baking the cake went against his religious beliefs because same-sex marriage to him is a sin.  I’m just wondering where it would stop.  Should the baker have a checklist so that they know who they can biblically bake the cake for…things like…have you ever been divorced, have you had sex outside of marriage, do you live together? Where does the questioning stop to make it biblically acceptable? Should the baker refuse to sell to someone overweight because gluttony is a sin?  Should it be 10 pounds overweight, 50 pounds, 100?  Who decides?

We can argue over this and debate this until the cows come home.  It’s messy…I get that.  But here’s the thing…I think Jesus would have baked the cake.  Even if Jesus considered gay people his enemy (which I don’t think he does), I think he would bake the cake.  In fact, maybe he would bake two (wink).

As I mentioned, I have been posting some good quotes from a book I’m reading called “Tattoos on the Heart” by Father Gregory Boyle.  It’s excellent and I highly recommend it.  Here is one of the quotes that I posted:

“The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on issues, but rather in standing in the right place – with the outcast and those relegated to the margins.”

I got this response from one of my son’s good friends:
“So you know me, I’m not a religious person, but I find myself liking more and more of your posts that include religious themes, mostly because they’re about being a good person and standing up for what’s right ”  

And this was my response:
“You know I think Jesus’ message has been hijacked by religion. He didn’t come here to start a religion. He came here to show us God’s love and how God wants us to treat others. I think humanity was getting it wrong and God sent Jesus to set it right. He was always for the marginalized, the outcast, the poor and sick. In fact, his harshest words were to the religious people of his day. So, I guess you could say I’m glad you’re not religious because that’s not what being a follower of Jesus is all about. 

“Being a good person and standing up for what is right” is what draws people to Christ.  Making a stand and not baking a cake turns people away from Christ…in my opinion.  Is humanity getting it wrong again?

So you see…to me it’s not about the cake.  It’s about giving people permission to discriminate.  It’s about not showing Christ’s love.  It’s about bearing bad fruit instead of good.  People are watching and listening to how you treat others.  Are you going to attract them to Christ or push them away?

I’m gearing up for Baltimore Pride coming up this Saturday.  I think we are going to need to spread a little extra love that day.

A little project my hubby and I worked on while on vacation.

Because love matters…

Why I stay…

Recently I wrote a post about the difference between welcoming and affirming churches.  You might be surprised to know that the church I go to is not affirming.  I get A LOT of questions as to why I stay.  It’s easy to talk about in person, but much more difficult to answer when chatting with someone online so I thought I’d address it here so I have something I can refer them to.

I’ve seen other people attacked for staying in non-affirming churches.  The discussions can get very heated.  I have received some criticism for staying.  There are many layers to this topic as with most of the things I’ve shared here so this is just scraping the surface.

Unfortunately, I know many people who have been deeply hurt by their church when their child has come out…or when they themselves have come out.  Some have even been kicked out.  And others have suffered down right abuse from their church.  I would never suggest that anyone should stay under any of these circumstances.  I also know people that have left the church because their children are not totally accepted there.  They may not have been mistreated, but they can’t stay in a place that their child is made to feel less then.  And if you aren’t completely accepted for who you are it makes you feel like you are being  tolerated…not accepted…and that is not a good feeling.   I completely understand why many in the LGBTQ community and their families will never step foot into another church.  I myself struggle with many of the things that they feel at times.

So why do I stay?

When my son came out, I had been attending my church for about 7 years.  It was so scary.  So many thoughts and emotions were swirling around in my head.  I didn’t know what to think.  I didn’t know what to believe.  I didn’t know where to turn.  After about two weeks, I let our church staff (which I was a part of at the time) know what was happening.  Our family was treated with love and respect.

We waited quite some time before we let others in the church know that our son was gay.  When we did eventually start to tell people, we were always met with compassion.  Were there ever things said about gay people that were unkind by people who attend?  Sure.  Was there gossiping when people found out?  Some.  But what I have found, is that most people want to learn how to do better.  Because I share what I’ve learned and what I’ve experienced, there are some that are eager to help and make things better.

As I’ve been on this journey, many of my beliefs have changed from the research that I’ve done.  I’m on a different page then many in my church.  Is that hard?  Yes…at times it is.  There are Sundays that I weep during worship because my LGBTQ brothers and sisters are missing from the seats surrounding me.  I know what it’s like to worship with them and I long for times to be with them again.  But even though I’m at a different place, I still feel heard.  I still feel respected.  In fact, my pastor had me share my journey on a Sunday morning back in 2015.  If you listen to the message, you will hear his heart at the very end.  This is one of the reasons why I stay.

It is possible to be in relationship with people who believe differently than you.  But I know this is not for everyone, and if you can’t do it that is ok.  For some, there has been too much pain.  There is no right or wrong here because we are all coming from different backgrounds, different stories, different experiences.  For some, the best thing to do is leave.  And for others, it is possible to stay.

I stay to be a reminder that we have a whole population of folks that are missing from our congregation.
I stay to be an advocate for anyone that might walk through our doors who is LGBTQ or discovers they have a child that is LGBTQ.
I stay to share what I’ve learned.
I stay to keep the conversation going.
I stay because my child thanks me for staying so that he isn’t forgotten.
I stay because God hasn’t called me to leave.

I took this picture when I was at Longwood Gardens last week.  There are several reasons why it appeals to me.  The first thing I noticed were all of the hearts in the scroll work.  I have a thing for hearts (smile).  I also liked how every piece of iron seemed to be connected to the pieces around them.  Together they make a beautiful decoration.  I also like the perspective of taking the picture towards the sky with the sun shining through.  When I look at this picture, I am reminded that we are all interconnected…with each other and with God.  It’s this closeness that helps us to understand each other.  If a chunk of this iron work was missing, it wouldn’t be as beautiful.  When we are missing a part of God’s creation, we are missing out on the beauty He designed for us.  Let’s keep the conversations going.  Let’s love one another.

Because love matters…

Wow…ten years…

I got to see my great-nephew this week.  He was born in Belgium and my niece and her husband just moved back to Maryland.  I was able to see him briefly when they were here for the holidays when he was just a few months old.  Boy has he gotten big!  It was so much fun sitting on the floor playing with him.  I was able to get that wonderful baby giggle/cackle out of him.  There is no better sound!  If you are friends with me on FB, look for the video of us.  And can I just say that I’m secretly loving that when other people tried doing the same thing I was…he didn’t laugh.  It’s our special play time.  Well…I guess it’s not so secret now (smile).

It seems like yesterday that my kids were that little.  It’s incredible how slow the days are when they are little, but how fast the years go by.  I find that sadness creeps in every once in a while when the realization smacks me in the face that they are grown now.  The memories are so vivid that at times I forget that those days are gone.  Have you ever caught the eye of a parent in a store whose little one is giving them a fit?  When that happens, I tell them that although this moment is hard it will fly by and before they know it they’ll have a teenager.  This is the easy part (smile).

Easy…should that word ever be used when referring to raising kids (smile).  In April of 2008, ten long/short (it seems like both at times) years ago, I learned a had a gay son.  The first 5 years were HARD.  There weren’t as many resources back then as there are now.  At least I wasn’t finding them.  But then again, I had myself in a Christian bubble that I wasn’t willing to break out of at the time.  And it wasn’t helpful AT ALL.  It seemed that the only “help” I was finding was conversion therapy and the realization that I had done something wrong.  Of course I know now that isn’t true.  Thank goodness!

Just like I remember the little belly laughs of my son as a baby, I remember the sadness, anxiety and depression that he lived through as a pre-teen, teen, and into young adulthood.  I remember his screams as we walked out of a psychiatric hospital while leaving him behind because he was suicidal.  I remember the sleepless nights listening for any sound coming from the hallway when he got home from the hospital…and long after.  I remember the morning texts when he was away at college wishing him a good day and the gut wrenching wait to hear my text alert go off on my phone so that I knew he was still alive.

Five really long, hard years, but things started to turn around.  I got my hands on the book Torn by Justin Lee.  I wasn’t ready to accept everything in it at the time.  It didn’t take long for my thirst for knowledge to take me down several paths of discovery.  I started reading material about the history of the Bible, the context of what was happening historically during the time it was written, the political climate throughout history, the medical discoveries, the original language within the clobber passages.  But most of all, God opened my eyes to how big He is and how much He loves us.  All of us.

I have watched my child blossom into a confident young man.  He is so outgoing (we used to think he was shy)!  He has great friends all over the United States.  He is happy.  I couldn’t ask for anything more than that!

I never for one minute thought that he chose to be gay.  Unfortunately, I did think it was a product of something that happened along the way and needed to be fixed.  I’m so glad to have outgrown that thinking.  I’m so glad that God plucked me from the mess.  It’s made me a better person.

I can look at this anniversary with thankfulness now.  It’s stretched me out of my comfort zone in so many good ways.  I look forward to walking this journey with the amazing parents and LGBTQ people who I’ve met along the way.  My life is so much richer with them in it.

I love the double rainbow pictures.  I see it as the LGBTQ community and the allies that have their back.  You don’t have to walk this road alone.  I look forward to the next 10 years.  I look forward to spreading the message that you matter and you are loved.

Because love matters…

 

 

 

Looking for love…

While I was running errands last week, an old song came on the radio.  It’s called “Lookin’ for Love” by Johnny Lee.  I’m an 80’s girl so of course I knew the song (smile).   I think it was in the movie Urban Cowboy.  In one of my recent posts, I asked if anyone had questions.  It seems people really struggle with stereotypes.  In the crazy way that my brain works, this song reminded me of that struggle and something that happened a few years ago related to it.

If you watched the mini series “When We Rise” last year, you got to see what being LGBTQ was like throughout history beginning back in the 70’s.  It ended with the supreme court’s decision in 2015 to make marriage a right for the LGBTQ community.  It was a good series.  Parts of it were difficult to watch.  Saying it was rough for the community is an understatement…on many fronts.  I am so very thankful for the people who fought so hard for their rights.  We still have much farther to go, but things are better than what they were back then.

Since I was born in 1967, I wasn’t aware of what was happening to the LGBTQ community back in the 70’s and even the early 80’s.  Watching the series helped me to understand where that generation got their ideas about the LGBTQ community.  Unfortunately, those ideals were passed down to younger generations.  Until I met gay people as I got older, the only information I had about them was what I heard the older generation say about them and it seemed to me that it all had to do with sex.

In many areas of our country,  it is still hard to be out even today.  Back then, however, it was even more difficult.  The LGBTQ community had to hide.  The series showed what it was like for them.  There were bars and bath houses that they would frequent to basically find people like themselves.  I am sure it was a very lonely existence.   Alcohol and drugs flowed in these places.  It seemed that promiscuity was the norm.  If you look at that era in general though, I think it’s safe to say that this was across the board…straight or gay in many places.

When kids come out, I have found that a big concern for parents is they wonder when their kid is going to start with the behaviors that they’ve been accustomed to hearing about the LGBTQ community.  They think their kid is going to change.  This is why education is so important and something that our PFLAG  chapter stresses to parents new on this journey.  We assure the parents that their kids are the same as they were the day before they found out they were LGBTQ.

A couple of years ago I was reminded of how big of a hurdle the LGBTQ community has in overcoming old stereotypes that are out there about them.  I shared my journey of having a gay child at my church on July 5, 2015.   I talked about our journey, this blog, and the mom’s I’ve met along the way.  My message was about love.  The following Sunday, one of our church members stopped me with a question.  This person went home and did some research on gay people.  I’m not sure what kind of research they did, but they focused on sex.  They were surprised that statistically gay men are having more sex then straight men.  They asked me if I knew why.

As you can imagine, I was quite taken aback by this question.  I felt defeated.  Is this really all this person walked away from when hearing my story??  It took a bit for my brain to catch up to answer their question.  At first, all I could think of was…

Why?
Where did they even find a survey like this?
And Lord help me be gracious as I answer because deep down I wanted to scream, “Why does everyone make it about sex?!”

I reminded them that I wasn’t an expert, but I had a few ideas.  I turned things around and asked them a few questions:

Do you think the research you read took into consideration the kids that have been kicked out of their homes?  Do you know what they often have to resort to in order to survive?  Many of them have to work the streets as prostitutes in order to have food or a place to stay.

If you were told over and over again that you were disgusting and didn’t deserve to live, how do you think you would feel about yourself?  Do you think you would look for love in healthy ways feeling that way about yourself?

If you came from a faith background and were told you were going to hell, would you care about how you lived your life moving forward?

If you were told that love was not for you and someone paid attention to you, do you think it would be easy for that person to take advantage of you?

They admitted that they hadn’t thought of things that way.

Taking all of these things into consideration is another reason why the number one piece of advice that I give parents new to this journey is to make sure their kids know that they are loved.  Granted that isn’t romantic love which many of them crave, but it will help them to have a healthy view of themselves.  Straight or gay that is helpful.  And it doesn’t matter what their sexual orientation is when it comes to whether or not they are going to have sex, when they start having sex, or how often they have sex.

The chorus of the song I heard last week is this:

I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places,
Lookin’ for love in too many faces,
searchin’ their eyes and lookin’ for traces
of what I’m dreamin’ of.
Hopin’ to find a friend and a lover;
I’ll bless the day I discover 
another heart lookin’ for love.

The only way to break the stereotypes that we’ve been taught is to enter the stories of the LGBTQ community.  They need our understanding.  They need our love so they don’t have to look for it “in all the wrong places.”

Because love matters…

Welcoming AND Affirming…

I posted an article on my Facebook page this week and got a good question in response.  Since I’m sure others have thought this, I thought I’d answer my friend in a blog post.  The article that I posted was in the Advocate and you can read it here.  If you don’t want to take the time to read it, the article explained why the difference between an affirming church and a welcoming church is huge.  The person sharing their story had been through conversion therapy.  Here is the question that I got:

It could be 300-600 or more people sitting in a church for mass or service. Who would know who is different, in what ever way? 
Why does there even need to be a necessity to know anyone’s sexual preference, in a crowd, a bus, or in a church? 
This always confuses me about how people complain about not being accepted. 
Isn’t it someone who is unsettled or self-conscious about something that has the feeling of being unwelcomed?

I’m genuinely interested in the feelings people go through. 
I’d feel unsettled or self-conscious say… if I’d enter a room of tall, slender runway models. 
Of course, at my age now, it wouldn’t bother me as much because I’m much more comfortable being me. Authentic, shortness and all.

Great question right?  And I love that this person stated that they are genuinely interested in the feelings that other people go through.  Just like a skinny person may not understand why it might be a bit awkward to walk into a room full of runway models if you aren’t skinny…a person who is straight is not going to understand what it’s like to be LGBTQ walking into a church.  So it’s good to have conversations to try to understand each other.

First let me say that I am straight.  So I also don’t understand what it’s like to walk into a church being LGBTQ.  I do, however, have some experience as a parent of a gay child.  I’ve also been on this journey now for 10 years and I’ve been in lots of different situations, met lots of people, and heard countless stories of what others have been through.  I just want to make it clear that I’m not an expert, but I think I can speak into this question at least a little bit.  I am just going to scratch the surface on this because there are too many layers to go into in one blog post, but if you’ve been following me for a while you know that I’ve touched on many of these things in other posts.

We first need to understand the terms we are talking about.  Churches may understand these terms in their own way, but generally this is what they mean:

A church that is welcoming, in the context of the LGBTQ community, is open to welcoming everyone.  There is a distinction because there are churches that would not allow an LGBTQ individual to cross their front door (I will go into the question of why does anyone need to know in a bit).  So if a person sees that a church is welcoming, they know that they can attend there if they are LGBTQ.

A church that is affirming is not only welcoming, but they are accepting of the LGBTQ individual completely.  The church does not believe that it is a sin to be LGBTQ.  The church would allow the individual to be married, and they can serve in whatever capacity God has gifted them.

Now to the question.

If you are LGBTQ, you have the right to keep that to yourself.  No one expects you to announce it to the world…let alone the church.  But not knowing where a church stands  can be harmful.  For instance, there have been pastors that have said that all LGBTQ people should be thrown in jail, some that have said they all should be hung, and some that praised the shooting that happened at the Pulse nightclub almost two years ago.  These are normal, run of the mill churches…not extremists like Westboro Baptist that we are all so used to hearing about.  If you know that a church is welcoming, you at least can be somewhat guaranteed that you aren’t going to hear something like that from the pulpit.

I was incognito as a parent of a gay child in my church for some time.  If you asked people at my church what they thought about gay people, I think they would tell you that they loved them.  But yet, I heard things like:
“Gay people are freaks.”
“Gay people are going straight to hell.”
Referenced as “He, she, it…whatever they are”
“It’s just gross…we don’t need to hear about that or see it.”

That doesn’t feel good.  Call me names all you want, but don’t mess with my kid.  I’m an adult and I’m not gay.  Imagine hearing those things as a young person who is gay.  So yes, they can sit in a pew of 300-500 people incognito, but is it a healthy environment for them?  And what about when they do finally tell someone their secret?  If it is not a welcoming church, they could be kicked out.  Young teens have been kicked out of youth group when they come out because leaders think it is somehow contagious.  People have been fired from their church jobs.  So you could potentially attend a church for years…build friendships, and that is all stripped away when they learn this one thing about you.

So let’s now say that someone is in a welcoming church.  People know that they are LGBTQ and they have felt loved.  No one has said anything mean to them.  There haven’t been any condemning messages from the pulpit.  Life is good.    People tell them all the time they have a beautiful voice and they really like singing.  They decide to audition for the worship team.  They are told that although they have a lovely voice they can’t be on the worship team.  The church doesn’t want someone who is LGBTQ upfront on Sundays.  Although the church is welcoming, they believe being LGBTQ is a sin and you must have your act together if you want to represent the church on stage.

That hurts, but you really feel connected in this church so you try to let it go.  God has given you a passion for the homeless and the church has a ministry with the local homeless shelter.  You sign up and once a month you serve this important ministry.  God has grown you in ways that you couldn’t have imagined through your service there.  Your life outside of church is going really well too.  You’ve met someone and have gotten quite serious with them.  When the church finds out, they tell you that you can’t serve any longer.  You are welcome to serve if you stay single, but they can’t condone your relationship.  You are willingly sinning and they can’t overlook it.  In this church, that kind of love is not for you.

This is what it’s like to not feel accepted.  It’s not a matter of being comfortable in your own skin.  It’s dealing with this over and over again.  It tears a person down.  This is why affirming churches are so important.  These things don’t happen because the person is fully accepted.

To go back to the article…this person had been through conversion therapy.  The comment that someone from the welcoming church made to them reminded them of the horror they went through in that kind of therapy.  Conversion therapy has many different forms.  It could be “praying the gay away.”  Being told that you just aren’t praying earnestly enough.  You don’t have enough faith and that is why God isn’t “healing” you.  It takes much darker forms as well.  In some forms, they give the LGBTQ person a drug that makes them physically ill while they show them gay porn.  And in others, they put electrodes on their genitals, show them gay porn, and shock them if they get aroused.  Conversion therapy has been outlawed in several states, but there are many that still allow it to continue.

So that was a lot of info and it is just scratching the surface.  I hope that this gives at least a little bit of a glimpse into why this is important.  A church has the right to believe what it believes.  Although I would love to see all churches be affirming, I know that isn’t going to happen.  My son said he would never set foot in an non-affirming church.  I wouldn’t want him to.  I don’t want him ever to receive the message that God thinks less of him.  I don’t ever want him to get the message that he isn’t loved completely.

Because love matters…