Lesa did you know?…

I can’t believe another year has begun…and we are past the middle of the first month already.  Maybe it’s because Christmas hasn’t quite been over for us yet.  We just had our family Christmas with my in-laws this past Saturday, and this coming weekend was supposed to be Mike’s holiday party at work, but because of all the snow they are calling for it is now going to be at the end of February.  So, I guess the holidays are going to last a bit longer for us.

Have you ever had a year where you just couldn’t get into Christmas…maybe even felt a little sad?  I had one of those this year.  I’m not even really sure why this year bothered me.  I know people who struggle with depression during the holidays and although I miss my loved ones who are no longer on this earth every holiday, I don’t usually get the blues.  I didn’t get as much quite time with God and that may be why…but for whatever reason…I was pretty weepy…and certain Christmas songs sure didn’t help.

One of my all time favorite Christmas songs is Mary Did You Know? written by Mark Lowry.  Right now my favorite version is by Pentatonix.

As a mother, it isn’t hard for me to connect to this song.  I try to imagine how Mary must have felt raising Jesus.  There is a scene in the movie Passion of the Christ that will forever remain with me.  It’s when Jesus is walking with the cross and he falls.  Mary is in the crowd and as she watches him fall she has flashbacks to when he was a toddler learning to walk. They show him falling as a toddler and then they go back to the scene of him as an adult.  That scene hits me right in the heart.  Our children are our children until the day we die…no matter how old they get, and when they hurt…we hurt.

As I listened to the song this year, I couldn’t help but wonder what life would have been like if I’d known sooner that my son was gay.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Lesa did you know that your baby boy would one day discover he was gay?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Lesa did you know that your baby boy would be called an abomination?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Lesa did you know that your baby boy would be discriminated against? (there are currently 115 anti-LGBT bills that have been introduced in state and local legislation)
Mary did you know that your baby boy would calm the storm with his hand?
Lesa did you know that your baby boy would have preachers calling for his death from their pulpits. (these aren’t outlandish Westboro Baptist type churches – they are every day churches – I won’t put their names here because they could be a trigger for someone, but if you want more info you can contact me.)

Would I want to know these things as I held my baby boy?  No, I have to say that I’m glad I didn’t.  As much as I wish I could have prepared him for what he was about to face, I wasn’t prepared to handle it back then.  I, of course, wish I could have protected him from the pain he went through with the coming out process, but I know that it has shaped him into the strong person he is now.  I am a different person now having gone though this with him.  I shudder to think of how I may have handled it if I had known back then.  (please understand that I am not comparing raising a gay son to raising Jesus so don’t email me about that – smile).

There were a lot of engagements happening this Christmas…and maybe that was part of my sadness.  It’s a reminder that my son may not have the same joy of that occasion.  Yes, he can get married at the moment…but…

Will he have a clerk refuse to sign his marriage license?
Will he have a baker refuse to make his cake?
Will he have a florist refuse to create his flower arrangements?
Will the venue find a reason for him not to have his reception where he would like it?

These are the kind of things that our kids are faced with on a daily basis.

So, these have been my holiday musings.  I hope one day I won’t have such things to ponder.  I share them with you as a reminder that there is still work to be done.  Because whether or not we agree on things, the one thing I know for sure is that everyone should be loved.

There’s a line in the song that pertains to Mary and myself:

This child that you delivered, will soon deliver you.

My son has delivered me from the box I was living in, and had God stuffed in there with me, and helped me love others unconditionally.  I am forever grateful for that and it makes the journey a little less painful.

So let me ask you…

Do you know…that you are loved.  If you don’t, contact me.

Love matters…but how we love matters even more.

A place to belong…

When I was little, I had an addiction.  Not a dangerous one, but one that had a social stigma to it nonetheless.  As a baby, I never took to a pacifier…instead I preferred my thumb.  And since this habit went beyond my toddler years…boy oh boy did I hear about it from my extended family.  When I was about four years old, my grandfather used to tell me that if I didn’t stop sucking my thumb he was going to put duck poop on it.  Ewww….right?.  But since we lived in the city and I had never seen a duck wandering around, I was pretty sure that he was bluffing (smile).  It was a habit that brought me comfort.  I had it so bad that when I was in kindergarten I would go over to the water fountain to get a drink, but instead would sneak a quick “hit.”  Like a smoker going out for a smoke break.

Now breaking a child from the habit of using a pacifier is tough…I did it with both of my kids.  But a child who sucks their thumb…even tougher because let’s face it…it’s not like you can cut their thumbs off to stop them.  I eventually got to the point where I was able to go all day without sucking my thumb (no more sneaking to the water fountain).  Bedtime was really hard though.  It was how I was used to falling asleep.  When I was six or seven years old, my aunt was babysitting me at my house with her boyfriend.  It was time for bed and she tucked me in for the night.  She asked me if I still sucked my thumb and I assured her that I was a big girl and no longer needed to do that.  I guess she didn’t buy it.  She went downstairs and waited a few minutes before sneaking back up the steps.  The next thing I knew she burst into my room, turned on the light, and exclaimed, “Ah ha!” She had caught me in the act and I immediately began to cry.  For one thing, she scared the bejeebies out of me.  Secondly, I was embarrassed.  The last thing I wanted was for my aunt to think badly of me so from that day forward, I never sucked my thumb again.

I didn’t need anyone to tell my five-year old self in kindergarten that sucking my thumb in public would not be a good idea.  I didn’t need anyone to tell me that I might be made fun of, or might not have friends because of it.  My classmates weren’t doing it, and I wanted to fit in.  I wanted to belong, and I knew that belonging was important.  It wasn’t something that I was taught…the sense of belonging was just a natural part of me.

As human beings, we have a strong desire to belong.  I’m sure it’s because that is how God wired us.  We, of course, belong to Him…He created us…but we have a deep longing to belong with people too.  As I reflect on the holiday season, I am reminded how important belonging really is to us.

This Thanksgiving was really tough for some of my friends with gay children.  Decades of family traditions have ended because their children were no longer welcome and so they in turn were not either.  Can you imagine not feeling a sense of belonging in your own family?  Recently I’ve learned of two teens that have been kicked out of their homes because they are gay.  Rejected so easily.  No one to belong to in an earthly sense.

This deep desire to belong is one of the reasons that suicide is so prevalent among the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, when I speak with people about this they attribute it to the person not knowing God and turning to evil things.  It is quite the opposite.  Most of the suicides that I know about are Christian LGBTQ people.  They know God and have a deep love for Him, but the ostracism they face from fellow Christians is too big a burden for them to bear.  They have no sense of belonging.  Has someone ever said to you that they are a Christian, but they don’t feel the need to belong to a church?  What have you been taught to say to that person?  Are we taught to tell them that being part of the body of Christ is important? That’s what many LGBTQ people that have grown up in the church have been taught as well…and then suddenly they find themselves being turned away from the very thing that they are trying to obey.

This desire for belonging is not to be taken lightly.  It’s in our DNA.  The church needs to get better at this.  I have found that there are churches that are welcoming to the LGBTQ community, but there are conditions.  No one feels welcome when there is a “but” associated with it.

Welcoming with conditions does not give a sense of belonging…it gives a sense of being tolerated…and that my friends is completely different.  My heart goes out to those who have been separated from their families…especially during this holiday season. We may belong to God, but we need His people to show up and love as He calls us to do.

Belonging matters…love matters…but how we love matters even more.

Say what?…

I recently watched a funny YouTube video of a comedian.  He was explaining how he and his friends like to go out to bars on karaoke night.  They like to sing and this gives them the perfect opportunity…you know…since they aren’t in their own rock band and all.  He talked about how surprising it is to him when he picks a song that he thinks he knows inside and out…only to find out that when the words start to scroll on the screen he has the lyrics completely wrong.  It was hysterical hearing what he thought were actual lyrics in songs I know.  (I would share it here, but it had some bad language).  He would mention what he thought the lyrics were in certain songs and then he would play them for the audience.  It was really hard to hear the right lyrics once he told us the wrong ones!

It’s happened to me before too.  For the longest time I thought the Age of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks lyrics were “just like the one winged dove” instead of “white-winged dove.”   And the GoGo’s song Our Lips are Sealed I thought for sure said, “how does it feel.”  And then there is Blank Space by Taylor Swift that I could have sworn said, “list of Starbucks lovers” instead of “got a long list of ex-lovers.”  Maybe it’s because I love Starbucks (smile).  This is why as a teenager I loved when an album came with the lyrics.  Score!

I think this type of thing happens in other areas of life as well.  How about when it comes to the Bible?  Do you think that there are times when people read something and think it means one thing when in fact it means something completely different?  This happens a lot when people take a verse from the Bible out of context and use it to make a point.  That verse can completely lose its original meaning when we do that.

If you look at history, you will find some pretty significant controversies about misunderstanding the Bible.   For instance, there was a time when people believed the Bible taught that the cosmos was geocentric (Earth is at the orbital center of all celestial bodies).  Nowhere in the Bible are we told that the Earth is the center of the universe yet for centuries people believed it.  Here are just some of the passages that they thought proved geocentrism:

Ecclesiastes 1:5
The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.  

They believed that if the sun moved, the earth must not move.  And they had passages to prove that as well.

1 Chronicles 16:30
tremble before him, all earth; yea, the world stands firm, never to be moved.

Psalms 93:1
The Lord reigns; he is robbed in majesty; the lord is robbed, he is girded with strength. Yea, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Psalms 96:10
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yea, the world is established, it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”

It’s easy to see why when Copernicus and, later, Galileo, who taught the sun-centered (heliocentric) theory, came along they caused a controversy in the church.   People were considered heretics for believing them.  Now if you believe God created the universe, and you believe that scripture is God-breathed then this can cause a real problem for you.  Obviously God knew how He created the universe.  He knew how He set the solar system in the sky.  It was man who misinterpreted the scripture. Bad lyrics if you will.

One of the things that comes up often when I discuss the subject of homosexuality with people is that they tell me they want to follow the “true” scripture.  They want to follow the truth.  My question to them is, “Whose truth do you want to follow?” And they respond, “God’s of course!”  Since we don’t actually know the mind of God, we kind of have to go by how we interpret the scriptures.   And history shows that we don’t always get it right.  It’s hard to get an accurate count, but as of 2012 there was an estimated 33,000+ different denominations in the world.  This doesn’t mean that they all believe completely different things about God, but there are enough differences in theology that they separate themselves from one another. Even if that number isn’t accurate (you know…not everything you read on the internet is true) smile…having even 10 different denominations proves that we can’t agree on everything.

Another thing that comes up when I talk to folks is they tell me they don’t want to look at outside sources…they only want to look at the Bible on this topic.  Since I don’t know the original language that the Bible was written in, I’ve had to look to Biblical scholars for some of what I’ve learned.  However, I don’t look to them as my authority…that’s God’s role in my life.

I’ve read many books along this journey and they have been really helpful.  But I think people misunderstand when I say how much they’ve helped me to mean that they have become my “bible.”  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  For instance, the book Torn by Justin Lee that I mention a lot helped me to realize that you can be gay and a Christian.  I never understood the teaching on that, but I believed it because it’s what I was taught.  It was so refreshing to read Justin’s journey.  He writes about the controversial Bible verses in his book also, but at the time when I read it I wasn’t ready to delve into that part of things.  That came later in my journey.

I’ve done tons of research, but when it comes right down to it…I don’t know what God thinks about this topic.  I know what He’s spoken to my Spirit.  I know without a doubt what He wants me to do.  I have my beliefs…how I now interpret certain passages.  Could I be wrong?  Absolutely…but so could you.

I am so thankful that the disciples asked Jesus the question they asked in Matthew 22.  It is a question I so would have asked. I would have been like, “Jesus…it’s been great hanging out with you.  A lot of cool things have happened and you’ve taught us a lot, but I have to say…sometimes the stories you tell I just don’t understand.  What is the one thing I need to be doing?  Like…if I can’t do anything else…what should I make sure I get right?”

Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

When the lyrics of life get complicated and are hard to understand…
This I get.  This I understand.  This I can do.

Love each other…because it matters…a lot.

Abracadabra…

When my husband and I were dating, he shared a childhood story with me that made me heart ache for him.  He was in the 5th grade and his school was having a talent show.  He was really into magic at the time so he decided to do a set of magic tricks.  He had the costume, the gadgets needed, and a handy-dandy assistant to help.  Everything was going well until he got to the grand finale.  The trick was to pour a pitcher of liquid into a hat and then turn the hat over and place it on his head with the liquid magically08694ef872b480b865a5aad55437c710 “disappearing.”.  He chose milk for the liquid in the pitcher so that it could be seen from a distance on stage.  Little did he know that his assistant had previously fooled around with the hat breaking the device that kept the liquid from escaping.  He proudly poured the milk into the hat…and you guessed it…put the hat on his head only to be instantly dripping in milk from head to toe. He was devastated AND totally embarrassed.  I’m pretty sure tears were involved.  I think at that point he wished he could make himself disappear.  I can’t imagine how he must have felt and I just wish I could give that little 10-year-old boy a big hug.

Did you know that gay people are good at disappearing?  Well…not really, but it seems that way.  A phenomenon that happens to many parents of LGBTQ children is that our kids seem to no longer exist.  You run into someone at the grocery store that you haven’t seen in a while and they ask you about all of your children except your gay child.  They know how many children you have…they just don’t ask about the gay child or children. I hear this all the time from the parents that I speak with that have LGBTQ children.  It’s happened to me as well.  In fact, it happened just recently.  A member of our church that heard me speak on a recent Sunday about having a gay son came into my office the other day.  I have a bulletin board above my desk with pictures of my family…my husband, son, daughter, and my dog Lucy.  This person stopped in for something and took notice of the bulletin board.  They commented and asked questions about every picture on that board…except the picture of my son.  They even mentioned my dog.  Poof! Invisible.

I’m not sure what people think we as parents are going to say about our gay children if they were to ask.  Maybe they skirt around the questions because they think we are ashamed?  I’m not sure, but I can assure you that we are not ashamed. We are proud of our kids.  And…we would tell you the same sort of things we say about our straight kids.

People who have known my son over the years have said things like this:

“He is a fine young man.”

“I really enjoyed spending time with him.  He is a delight.”

“We just love him.”

“He is so funny!”

“Man he is smart.”

“He is a loyal friend.”

I could go on and on.  It makes me a proud momma (smile).  At the time these things were said, the people saying them did not know he is gay.  For some people when they found out, it didn’t make a difference.

For others, their response when they found out was, “But he’s so nice.”

This is a common response when people find out you have a gay child.  They can’t compute what they know of the person with this new information about them.  I’ve heard it and I know many other parents who have heard the very same thing. I want to point out that the person hasn’t changed.  They are the same person that you knew just moments ago.

I admit that I struggle with this when it happens.  I have a sarcastic nature and my tongue can be sharp.  I have to really watch my response when people insinuate that somehow my child being gay makes him a bad person.  He is the same awesome person you just thought he was before you knew.

picture-110
Please think before you speak or comment on something about a person…or a person’s child.  And don’t make people feel invisible.  They matter to God and they should matter to you.  Love them…because love matters…and how we love matters even more.

 

No need to defend…

When you share from the depths of your heart, and put it out there for the whole world to hear, you are bound to get some feedback.  Between our church website, and the YouTube audio video that was created, the sharing of my story that I did at my church back on July 5th has been listened to 424 times.  Pretty surprising considering it’s about an hour and a half long (smile).

Some of the feedback that I’ve gotten has been really amazing.  It seems that listening to my story has helped some people in profound ways.  God uses our stories.  There are some, however, who have felt the need to tell me how wrong I am in my beliefs.  I find that surprising since none of these people have asked me why or how I’ve come to what I believe…or even what I actually believe.  They feel they are right and I am wrong.

I was having some trouble reconciling this in my spirit.  It’s like my brain knew all the right things to tell myself, but once my heart was bruised by people’s opinions of me, it was hard for my heart to get the message.  Through the amazing support of some moms in a private FB group, and a telephone conversation I had with John Pavlovitz last week, I’ve been able to pull myself out of the funk.  John referred me to a post he did on the topic of defending your faith and it was helpful to me so I thought I’d share it here because it’s something that a lot of us go through on this journey:

John Pavlovitz – Stuff That Needs to Be Said

Again…my head knows what I should do, but my broken heart isn’t always on the same page.  Part of this journey has been feeling the need to defend my beliefs.  Really there is just one authority that I need to be concerned with when it comes to my beliefs…and that is God.  He is the only one that has been intimately involved in this journey with me.  Not even my husband Mike knows the depths of prayer and searching I did with God as I do not know the depths of his journey with God.  When I share with people, I tell them I don’t expect them to believe the same way I do.  I get it.  They haven’t experienced it personally.  I just wish that some would extend me the same grace.

photo-2Love matters…but how we love matters even more.