Lightning bug or Firefly…

Ahhh…summertime as a kid.  No school, no homework, no worries.  Playing outside until the streetlights came on, swimming in the pool, or jumping through a sprinkler.  Those were the good ole days!  But nothing was as special as waiting until dusk and catching lightning bugs.  At least that’s what they were called in my neck of the woods.  And by that I mean Baltimore City (smile).  I know further down south they are known as fireflies.  I recently learned that these fun bugs are not native to all parts of the country.  I feel bad for those who have missed out.

Catching lightning bugs was one of the highlights of summer.  First you had to search for the perfect container.  Once you had that, you carefully punched holes in the top so that the lightning bugs could breathe in their new habitat.  Collecting sticks, grass, and various types of leaves made for the perfect little living space for your prized bugs. The next step was the fun part…catching them.  You had to keep your eyes peeled in every direction.  You would see one blink and then disappear into the dark sky.  You tried to follow with your eyes where they may light up again.  Sometimes we would run in circles after those things, but it was so much fun.  They were magical.  I mean…how and why does a bug’s butt light up?!  And since they only came out in the summer, they were special.

My last post was about the Pride parade and what a fun time that was for everyone.  I’m so thankful to have had that special time because things have been tough lately.  I have been bombarded with so many heart breaking stories, kids in crisis, families seeking help…it’s been a bit overwhelming for this mama’s heart.  I guess you could say that comes with the territory of being an ally, writing a blog, and especially helping to run a PFLAG chapter.  Our chapter is a place where the LGBTQ community and their families come to get support.  Just like those containers we prepared when we were little kids, we try to prepare our space to be a welcoming and loving environment.  We take great care to be present for those who attend because they are special and deserve to be treated as such.

Recently our space has been jeopardized.  We learned on Thursday that we can no longer meet in our space at the church where we’ve met the last two years.  They gave us six days notice before our next meeting.  Can you say panic?!  It seems that an AA group has approached them and they took priority over us.  We were offered a classroom, but that’s where we originally met and we have outgrown it.  They also offered a different night which is what we are going to have to do…even though many have adjusted their work hours to accommodate our meetings.  We really don’t have a choice.  The church where we meet is an affirming church.  And although they suggested we try the church down the street if we want to keep the same night…we aren’t welcome there.

I consider it a bit of false advertisement actually.  You see…if you check out church websites, many will say that “all are welcome”.  But for some, all doesn’t really mean ALL.  In some cases, they mean you are welcome if you deny or hide who you are, and in other cases it means you are welcome and will one day meet the real Jesus and be “healed.”  Since PFLAG is LGBTQ affirming, we are most often not included in the ALL. There aren’t a lot of meeting options in our area.  We were lucky to have an affirming church in the area where we wanted to hold our meetings.  I know they have to do what they have to do…I just wish they would have given us more time.  It does make me sad though that they are one of our only options.  There are some pastors that are affirming, but their congregations are not and it would cause problems for us to be there.  Of course, we don’t want to cause problems for a church.  If it takes meetings and debating, then maybe that isn’t the place for us.

I’m guessing there was a time when an AA group wouldn’t have been welcomed in a church.  Before there was much research into it being a disease, I’m sure people looked at it as a sin that people just needed to get under control.  Although some people have done some pretty drastic things due to their addiction, and some have fallen off the wagon and dragged themselves back onto it, they are welcome.  And I’m glad.  Alcoholism runs in my family so I am very familiar with the disease.  I’m glad that AA is there to help.

The same can’t be said of the LGBTQ community.  This is a community that is turned away.  Part of the problem is that they are reduced to a sexual act.  But even if we did that…if we boiled it down to that one thing…there are many heterosexual people sitting in churches that aren’t following what the church would consider a godly sexual life…yet they are welcome.

I looked up the mission statement for AA and here’s what I found…

AA Mission Statement:
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Here is the mission statement for PFLAG…

PFLAG Mission Statement:
By meeting people where they are and collaborating with others, PFLAG realizes its vision through:

  • Support for families, allies and people who are LGBTQ
  • Education for ourselves and others about the unique issues and challenges facing people who are LGBTQ
  • Advocacy in our communities to change attitudes and create policies and laws that achieve full equality for people who are LGBTQ

Would you attend this church if the following were their values?

We believe that lives are transformed by unconditional love. To help people achieve this, we recognize we must exercise compassion for ourselves and others willing to take the journey toward love and acceptance.

We believes in the responsibility of leading by example. To do this, we commit to listening, supporting and responding in building relationships with those we serve.

We believe that the things that make us diverse are what makes us powerful. To ensure that we are being  respectful of everyone we serve, we commit to listening, learning and engaging with diverse communities. We believe true inclusion means to meet others where they are, acknowledging and embracing their stories.

We believe that we are measured by our words and actions. We commit to empowering people in our communities to join together to transform the places where they live. 

We believe learning is the key to positive change. Therefore, we commit to providing and involving ourselves in ongoing learning opportunities to continually broaden our worldview, overcome misinformation and bias, in order to live our values.

If you ask me…sounds like a good church.  In reality, these are the values of PFLAG…yet we aren’t welcome.  (I took out the word PFLAG and words like inclusion – to see the actual list you can visit our website).

I am trying not to lose hope.  Like I mentioned, there have been so many stories of hurt…and honestly this just adds to it.  My mission is to keep educating and advocating, with all the others who have a passion for this community, with the hope that one day the LGBTQ community will be welcomed into every church.   I long for the day that the church takes the time and care to prepare the space.  The day that they extend the love and acceptance that this community so desperately wants and deserves.  I long for the day that they don’t have to hide or deny who they are, but instead can shine brightly for all to see.

Just like my favorite summer time bugs (smile).

This matters…love matters…love well.

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.

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…

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…

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.