Friend or foe…

I got the sad news recently that a classmate passed away last month.  We went to middle school together.  We had reconnected three years ago at Mike’s 30th high school reunion because they also went to school together.  We became Facebook friends and caught up via social media.  He got cancer about a year after the reunion.  He left behind a wife and young daughter.  He sure did love his girls.

I was going through my messages yesterday and saw a private message from him on FB that I had saved.  In the message, he asked if I had a gay child or a close loved one that was gay.  He knew something was up from my posts on social media.  I told him my son was gay and shared a little bit about our journey.  He shared that he was an ally.  He actually owned a barber shop and told me that they were LGBTQ friendly and actually helped transgender people with their transitions.  It was so sweet.  I saved it so I could refer people to his shop.

Sometimes you find allies in the least expected ways or places.  Looking back at our time together in school, I would have never guessed he would become an ally.  In fairness, my memories of him were of being a bit of a trouble maker in school.  Not in a mean way…but he tended to be mischievous.  You kind of forget that people grow up and mature (smile).  It is also equally surprising where you find opposition.

Being harassed at work seems to be a theme lately.  I know a young man down in Florida who was treated poorly by a customer he was helping.  She had overheard he and a co-worker talking about their significant others.  He mentioned the name of who he was dating.  His love interest has a name that could be male or female so the customer asked him if this person was a boy or a girl.  He replied boy and she proceeded to tell him that he was going to hell and she did not want him to ring her up.  She got the manager involved and caused a scene right in front of this young man.  Luckily his manager told the customer that they don’t discriminate at their store.

I know another young man who was loudly shamed at his place of employment by a customer.  In this case, however, the manager did not stand up for him.  Things became so miserable for him there that eventually he quit.  These are both disturbing incidents, but I think the most disturbing is from a friend who lives in Virginia.  Her daughter has been harassed at work by former church members.  They come into the store and ask her how her walk with the Lord is going and then proceed to tell her that she is going to hell.  While she is at work!  She has come home more than once in tears.

What makes someone think it is ok to talk to a child this way?  How is that Christlike?  It isn’t.  And people wonder why the LGBTQ community is angry at the church…why many have stepped away?  It’s no mystery to me.  Did God really task them with being judge and jury?  And where does it stop…just with the LGBTQ community?

I don’t know about you, but when I was a teenager and young adult it took me time to develop confidence in myself.  Those first jobs were nerve-wracking.  I can’t imagine having someone confront me in this way while I was at work.  It is wrong on so many levels.  It is disturbing and shameful.

This is one of the reasons that allies are important.  Thank you to those of you who have searched God.  Done your own research.  Realized that many are going about things the wrong way.  Your kindness…your love…could literally save a life.

And I hope if you ever encounter one of these horrific scenes in person, you will stand up for the person being shamed.  Show them that not everyone is like that.  Show them some love….because love matters.

 

Expecting the unexpected…

It’s been a while since I’ve been here.  As I mentioned last year, I left my admin job at my church. The young gal who took my place had a baby in October so I’ve been filling in and will be there until early January.  That’s part of the reason why I’ve been extra busy lately.  It seems like there have been lots of babies born or announcements of babies coming next year.  It brings back so many memories of when I was expecting.  I heard SO MANY stories…some good and some horrific…to the point where I was afraid to give birth (smile).

When I was pregnant with my son, my go to book was “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”  Not sure if that book is still around, but it was chock full of information from the day you found out you were expecting until you gave birth.  But I have to say…no person and no book can really prepare you for what’s to come.  You realize that you are going to be sleep deprived.  You realize that your time is not going to be your own any longer.  You realize that you are going to love your child.  But there really isn’t any amount of preparation that can truly get you ready.  Mainly because every body and every baby is unique.

I had no idea that my baby boy would be so stubborn about being born.  I didn’t know that I was going to have to be induced…twice.  I didn’t know that my labor was going to take 22 hours…that I would push for 4 of those hours.  I didn’t know that the doctor would have several young residents in the delivery room showing them how to deliver a baby with forceps.  I didn’t know that my little baby boy would have colic so bad that he would cry for hours on most days.  I felt so helpless and many days cried along with him as I paced the floors with him.  I didn’t know what tired was until I had my baby boy.  I didn’t know that I would feel the intense protective feelings that I had for him.  I didn’t know that I could love someone with such fierceness.  It’s a different kind of love.

No amount of reading, video watching, or people talking prepared me for what it was like to be a mom.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t do all of those things because it is helpful.  Just expect the unexpected along the way.

I can tell you that I never expected the journey that I’ve been on once that little baby boy got to adolescence.  Talk about being unprepared!  I’ve shared the beginning of that journey with you already, but there is a part of that journey that I haven’t shared.  My husband and I didn’t know what to do with the information we learned about our son.  We wanted to help him because it was so obvious that he was in desperate need of help.  So we read books, and visited websites, and talked to elders in the Christian faith.  The thing that was recommended over and over again is what we later learned to be called conversion therapy (or reparative therapy).  A simple definition of it is this:

Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions.

Specifically what was recommended to us was an organization called Exodus International:

Exodus International was a non-profit, interdenominational ex-gay Christian umbrella organization connecting organizations that sought to “help people who wished to limit their homosexual desires”. It was founded in 1976 and ceased activities in June 2013.

Remember the feelings of protecting my child I mentioned earlier?  Well I was willing to do whatever it took to help him change… because that had been his prayer for years.  I’ve mentioned before that I never thought being gay was a choice.  I had known too many gay people along the way to hold that belief.  I did, however, think that something happened along the way to cause them to be gay.  The problem was that I had been wracking my brain for how this happened to my son and I was coming up empty.  So some help from an organization that dealt with this issue seemed reasonable.  My husband spoke to someone from Exodus for several hours one evening.  He relayed the conversation to me and something in our spirit told us this was not the route we should take with our son.

This type of therapy comes in many different forms.  It wasn’t until years later when I actually met people who had been through conversion therapy that I realized the disaster we had avoided.

I know a young man who went to his pastor and told him of his same-sex attractions.  His pastor told him to attend a meeting at his church.  Here he met other men from his congregation that struggled…with pornography.  He was confused because he didn’t struggle with pornography.  It wasn’t helpful to him at all.  He was told that his “sexual sin” would be cured if he would just marry a woman.  “Fake to you make it” school of thought.  So, he started dating a young lady from his church and they did get married.  He stayed in the marriage for several years until he just couldn’t take it any longer.  He loved his wife…but not in the way a wife should be loved.  She was more of a friend.  He had zero sexual desire for her.  She was devastated when he asked for a divorce.  It wasn’t easy on him either.  He felt terrible hurting her.  Yet his church is what got him into this mess.  It’s what his pastor recommended he do.  When he went to his pastor to let him know he could no longer pretend, he was promptly told he could no longer worship there.

I know a woman who went to counseling for same-sex attraction and gender confusion.  This was many years ago.  The solution they had for her was shock therapy.  Imagine signing up for that!  Yet she did.  She was desperate to change and her prayers weren’t working so she didn’t know what else to do.  She trusted the therapist.  I forget how long she subjected herself to the therapy, but it didn’t work.  It took her decades to step into another therapist office.  She was terrified.  But hiding her identity was killing her, so she felt like she had no choice.  Thankfully she got one that knew conversion therapy is harmful and she is doing much better today trying to live out her last years as her authentic self.  She is in her sixties.

I know of another person that went through 30 exorcisms to not be gay.  30.

If you look, you will find very severe cases of conversion therapy and then some that seem less harmful.  They are all harmful.  It has been proven to not work.  Yet this practice is still legal in many states…even for minors.  Alan Chambers, one of the leaders of Exodus International issued this apology when they closed their doors.

Last month, I went to see the movie Boy Erased based on the book by the same name written by Garrard Conley.  I found myself holding my breath as I watched knowing that we came so close to exposing our son to this kind of treatment.  The program was called “Love In Action.”  Sounds good right?  It wasn’t.  I’ve read articles whose authors say that the movie took liberties and it was over-dramatic.  In an interview, Garrard tells the audience that they left things out because they didn’t think people would believe it.  In fact, he said the scene where his mom comes to take him out of the program was much more dramatic in real life.  In the movie, his mom played by Nicole Kidman, says, “A mother knows when something isn’t right.”  I totally agree with that statement.  It was an informative movie.  It was hard to watch, but I think it’s important for the information to be out there.

The critics say that there are people who have changed.  I say check with them several years from now.  Alan Chambers from Exodus admits that he still has same-sex attractions even though he is married to a woman.  And John Smid, the leader of Love in Action, left the program and married a man.  Mel White, the author of “Stranger at the Gate,” was married to a woman for 25 years.  He was counseled, exorcised, electric shocked, prayed for, and nearly driven to suicide trying to be straight.

Praying the gay away looks good on paper.  It seems simple.  Love God, believe that He can guide you, have faith that He can change you and you are good to go.  Follow these steps and you will be on the path to happiness.  What works on paper or in theory doesn’t always translate to an expected outcome.  Sometimes we are faced with the unexpected.  Like when a person embraces how God made them to be and the bad fruit is cleared away and good fruit sprouts and grows.

There really is SO much to this topic.  Even I don’t completely understand it because I have never been through it.  I can tell you that I’ve seen first hand the damage that it has done.  I’ve seen people try their best to do what was expected of them and it brought them nothing but pain and almost (and in some cases did) destroy their relationships with God and their families.  Let’s let God be God and not assume we know His plan.  Let’s expect the unexpected.  And let’s love with an expectation that it will heal those who have been hurt.

Because love matters…

 

What would you do…

Some day…when you least expect it…someone who has been in a lifeboat for years may show up at your front door.  What will you say?  What will you do?

I’ve talked about the amazing B.T. Harman (Brett Trapp)  here before.  You will find his story on my resource page.  He has it in written form and as a podcast.  It’s called “Blue Babies Pink.”  Weird title…right?  I had that title in the back of my mine the entire time I read and listened to his story.  When he reveals the meaning at the very end (don’t cheat if you ever read or listen to the podcast!), I wept.  It perfectly described my son.

Well I am very excited that Brett has turned one of my favorite episodes into a short film (it’s less than 5 minutes – you gotta watch it!).  I can’t read, listen or now watch this episode without crying.  I have the written form of it printed out and I take it with me to every PFLAG meeting and event that I go to where I may run into a parent who has just discovered a child who has stepped out of the lifeboat.

Please watch this powerful film and share it far and wide.

Brett talks about love in this film…it matters.

Here’s the film…

It will get better before you get married….

This was my dad’s mantra growing up.  Actually there were two…

Don’t do that…
And
It will get better before you get married…

If you went to him with an injury and said something like, “Dad it hurts when I bend my arm.”  He would respond with, “Don’t do that then.”
Or if you went to him with a bruise, cut, or some other minor injury he would respond, “It will get better before you get married.”
Or if your friend got mad at you…he would just simply say, “It will get better before you get married.”  Sigh…
(He did take care of serious things…these were minor)

I have no idea where he got this saying.  Knowing him he made it up because he didn’t have a solution.  His answer could be annoying at times, but at the same time it seemed to be a sufficient answer for my sister and I.  Since neither of my kids at this time want to get married, I can’t use this “cure-all” for them.  For those minor ailments or problems I’m left with something lame like, “I don’t know what to tell you.” (smile)

It will get better before you get married…

What if the fact that you are getting married is what causes the problem?  What if those closest to you aren’t happy with who you love?  What if they refuse to attend the wedding?  Even worse…what if they cut you out of their lives because of it?

Some say that gay people getting married is ruining marriage and family values.  One thing I know for sure…the legalization of same-sex marriage three years ago has not impacted my marriage at all.  In fact, in about four weeks Mike and I will be celebrating our 30th anniversary.  What I have seen is families torn apart by not accepting who their child or family member loves and intends to marry.

The thing most often said in these situations is…
“I love you, but I can not accept this lifestyle that you are choosing.  I can not go to your wedding because that would mean that I’m ok with it.”  People will defend their stand saying that they can love someone and not be ok with everything that they do.  Well I think it’s pretty safe to say that just about everyone that we love does something that we may not agree with at one time or another.  The difference here is how differently the person who is LGBTQ is treated.

Once again, I would like to point out that people do not choose this.  It is not a lifestyle.  It is who they are and when you don’t accept all of who they are…when you don’t accept who they love…it doesn’t feel like love at all.  Your words are hollow and meaningless.  You can argue your love to the cows come home.  It won’t matter.  You just don’t understand the depths of pain you cause them.

And it saddens me because so many don’t try to understand.  If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say, “I just want to follow the truth of the Bible,” I would be a very rich woman.  As if those who support the LGBTQ community have just completely thrown the Bible out of the window.

I can give you examples of thousands of parents and LGBTQ individuals who have scoured the Bible on this topic.  We are accused of listening to what our “itching ears want to hear”.  We don’t research the Bible trying to figure out how to be “ok” with having a gay child or being LGBTQ.  I would say for many of us we start out trying to figure out how to “fix” our loved ones or ourselves.  What we learn is that it isn’t something that needs to be fixed.  You don’t have to agree with that, but knowing that may help you to understand why your love isn’t felt.

So many people I know join Bible studies.  People (some famously known) who have studied certain topics or passages and develop classes, DVD’s,  or books with study guides to explain what they’ve discovered.  People flock to these things.  I’ve been part of some of them.  Learning the original language and historical context of a passage is exciting.  Sometimes you learn that looking at a particular verse in the historical context looks completely different from how you were applying it today.

Sadly many of these same people won’t touch a book that delves into the scriptures used to condemn the LGBTQ community.  We refer to them as the clobber passages.  These books also look at original language and historical context.  These books, however, are seen as un-biblical.  Did you know that reading a book like that shows love to an LGBTQ individual?  The fact that you are willing to even look at them?  You can read them and still not agree with them.  You might be surprised, however, at what God will show you.

I’ve seen too many families broken.  I’ve seen too many children take their lives.  Too many kids kicked out of their homes (two just in this last week).  There have been too many empty chairs at weddings.

God loves these children…are you better than God?

There’s hope…If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have support, there is an ever-growing group of mama bears that are willing to step in and offer that support.  Just send me an email via my contact page.

It will get better when we all learn how to love better…

LOVE MATTERS

 

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…

Ebb and flow…

Growing up I was fascinated by the jade plants that my grandmother had growing in her kitchen.  Their leaves were fat….like you painted them onto the stems with puffy paint.  When I went out to San Diego back in 2016 for my niece’s wedding, I fell in love with the succulent plants that were in abundance there.  I found them to be so beautiful and so interesting.  They weren’t flowers, but some of them formed patterns that looked like flowers.   Just when I thought I had seen them all, I would discover a new one.   Such a variety of textures and colors.

I was really excited when I saw that our local craft store was starting to get some pretty realistic looking succulents.  I can’t have real ones because my cats will eat them.  I picked some of my favorites and put this together.  I love it because it reminds me of my trip out to California.

Last week I thought about faith a lot.  I was preparing for Easter.  There was a time when all of this faith stuff was much easier.  I hate to admit that I didn’t think of it much…it just…was.  Yes there were questions in the back of my mind, but I pushed them aside.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe I was afraid of not having the answers.  Maybe I was afraid of where the questions would take me.  Maybe I was afraid of the answers I might find.

As I reflected last week, I realized that faith wasn’t easier then…it was more that I was just simply being lazy about my faith.  I’m so thankful for God bringing me…dare I say dragging me at times…out of the ditch my faith was stuck in.  I found that I’m not afraid of the questions any longer.  And even better…I’m not afraid of the answers…or the lack of answers.  It’s in the not knowing that we truly find the mystery of God.  It’s there that you discover how vast His unconditional love is for us.

Like the succulent plants that I discovered on my trip to California, my faith has more richness, more layers.  And I’m discovering something new at each turn.  It’s opened me up into a messy, deep, ebb and flowing kind of faith and I wouldn’t change it for anything.  It’s brought me to people I would have never met otherwise.  People that I love with a depth that I don’t even understand.

I had someone tell me recently that I felt like family.  That’s a good way to describe it.  My family has increased.

I know Easter was hard for many in my new family that has grown over the last 10 years.  Traditions of going to church have been replaced by new traditions because they are no longer welcome or they no longer feel safe there.  Families by blood being rejected by each other.  Pretty sure that grieves God deeply.

For God so loved the world…

Love each other…it matters.

 

 

Figure of speech…

The English language is a complicated thing to master.  Think about it.  We have so many words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings:

pair, pear, hole, whole, their, there, right, write

The list goes on and on.

In spelling class, we are taught “i” before “e” except after “c”…
and here’s a sampling of that not working out:

beige, height, leisure

Weird right?  (see what I did there – wink).

How about the figures of speech?  Yikes!  These were interesting when my kids were younger.  I would forget that they hadn’t quite mastered all the nuances of language yet.  They took things quite literally.  Like the time my daughter told me her leg was hurting.  I had her show me where and then I asked what the pain felt like.  She couldn’t quite explain it so I asked her if it was a constant pain, was it achy, or did it feel more like a shooting pain.  She looked at me with eyes opened wide and said, “I don’t know mommy…I’ve never been shot.”   Not exactly what I meant.  We were at the beach on vacation and we had just eaten lunch.  The rule was that you had to wait a half hour before you got in the ocean to give your food a chance to settle so you wouldn’t get a cramp.  I have no idea if that’s a thing, but that’s what I had to do as a kid so I passed it along to mine.  I was standing at the shore line with the other adults and my son kept coming up to me over and over again asking if he could get in the ocean.  Finally in exasperation I said, “Go ahead…knock yourself out.”  He looked at me with his little head cocked sideways and said, “Why would I do that?”  I just knew that figure of speech was going to land me on Dr. Phil one day.  “You know Dr. Phil…the trouble with my mom began when she told me I should knock myself out.”  The audience gasps.

Figures of speech can end up in some funny misunderstandings.  There are times though, where speech isn’t so figurative.  This type of speech has the ability to cut someone to their core.  I saw the effects of this first hand recently.  I can’t emphasize enough that entering someone’s story is the best way to gain understanding.  The labels just don’t stick when you are sitting face to face with someone you thought you had all figured out.

I had an opportunity to meet two young ladies who identify as LGBTQ.  They were both in their 30’s.  They both discovered that they were LGBTQ in their early middle school years.  I listened to them as they described what it was like to discover this about themselves.  They talked about the fear they felt of being found out.  So I asked them how they knew it wasn’t safe to come out.

For one of the women, it was when she was watching a movie with her mom.  The movie showed two men kissing.  She said it was a quick kiss, but her mother’s reaction let her know it wasn’t safe.  She was around 12 when this happened and her mom said, “That’s disgusting!” when the kiss happened.  She immediately thought, “Oh my god!  I’m disgusting!”  For the other woman, it was during a church sermon that she realized it wasn’t safe to come out.  The preacher yelled from the pulpit that being gay was an abomination.  She didn’t even know what that meant so when she got home she looked it up.  From that moment on she knew that people would think she was disgusting and would hate her.  She attempted suicide.

I could tell that as they were telling their stories that those feelings had stuck with them.  Even though they had moved on and were in loving relationships, the damage of those reactions and statements were being carried by them to this day.  I could feel it.  They took these words to heart.  They took them literally.  This was not a figure of speech misunderstanding.  Because of this, as I’ve stated before, coming out is a scary endeavor.  I am amazed by the harsh statements people make when someone comes out.  This is a very personal aspect of someone and they are trusting you when they come out.  Most of my experiences of telling people I have a gay son have been good.  But I have had people respond with, “I don’t agree with that.”   Really?  I was not asking you if agreed with it.  Then they go on to tell me that he is going to hell.  Well I don’t think I asked you about that either.  It’s happened to countless parents that I know and their children unfortunately.  I just can’t imagine saying this to someone.

How do you think things turn out for kids that don’t have support?  Being told over and over again that you are going to hell, that you are an abomination, that you are disgusting.  Do you think it ends well?

There are several passages in the Bible that warn about the tongue.  Maybe people should heed that since they can apply it to themselves and worry less with others.  Let’s leave that up to God.

Words stick with people.   Respond in love…because love matters.