The search is over…

Would you be willing to save a life?

Have you ever lost something and had to search for it?  The older I get the more often this happens (smile).  How about losing something precious to you?  Ever have that happen?

When my dog Lucy was a puppy, we called her the Houdini dog.  She could escape through the smallest hole in the fence.  In fact, she could escape even when there wasn’t a hole in the fence…she would just dig her way under it!  There were times when I would let her out and moments later find her in my neighbor’s yard “asking” if her doggie friend could come out to play.  She loves their dog.  Sure enough I would see a fresh hole dug under the fence.  Then there was the time when I thought I lost her forever.  She wanted to go out and just as I let her out the phone rang.  I stepped back inside to grab the phone and when I went back out…she was gone.  And she wasn’t in the neighbor’s yard this time. My heart sunk.  I always hate seeing the “lost dog/cat” posters on the street light poles in the neighborhood.  Makes me so sad, and I didn’t want to see my Lucy girls face on one of those posters.  I immediately ran out to try to find her, but she was no where in sight.  I grabbed her leash and made my way around the neighborhood calling her name.  I walked the same streets looking for her as I did when we would go out on our nightly strolls together.

It was a very stressful time when we got her, but she was a good distraction.  Training classes and the homework we were given kept my mind off of things.   We got Lucy about a year after I found out my son was gay, and I didn’t know anyone else with a gay child…it was very isolating.  The people I once felt safe with I was no longer sure I could trust with this piece of news.  Walking Lucy each night, I would look at the houses and wonder if the people living there had a gay child.  I would walk her in the evening so no one would see my tears as I pleaded with God to change him.  It wasn’t just that I didn’t want him to be gay…I didn’t want him to suffer…and he was suffering badly.  As strange as it may seem to those who aren’t dog people, Lucy kept me sane back then. She could make me smile no matter what the circumstances were because she just simply loved me no matter what.  I could tell her my secret and she didn’t care.

Halfway through the neighborhood, my phone buzzed with a text message.  It was my daughter McKensie telling me that she found Lucy.  Relief!  I thanked God the whole way home.  I just couldn’t imagine losing what felt like part of my lifeline back then.

June is Pride month and this time of year seems to be a common time for kids to come out.  They are going to be searching for someone safe to share this truth about themselves.  If you are chosen, how you respond is important.  I invite you to read Brett Trapp’s words about what it’s like for them to tell you.  He wrote his coming out story in “Blue Babies Pinkand this is an excerpt from it about a child coming out to a parent…but kids (or adults for that matter) don’t always choose to come out to a parent so the person they choose may be you. Here are Brett’s words:

I think a lot of really good parents act really terribly towards their gay kids because they’re reacting out of their own pain.

The news has a victimizing effect on parents I think. And victims don’t empathize well with other victims. This is tragic because a child never feels more like a victim than they do in that very vulnerable moment. And victims need help. They need someone to listen and ask them what they need. They need long, enduring empathy and tears from someone who is trying—albeit imperfectly—to understand their pain.

I wish I could find every parent who will eventually have a child come out to them, look them in the eye, and tell them:

When you least expect it, a battered child who’s been lost at sea will show up on your doorstep. This is your child, but it’s a version of them you’ve never met.

They will be haggard—long tangled hair, skinny, ragged clothes, dirty feet. They look like this because they’re worn out—exhausted—from many years at sea, alone in a lifeboat with no water, no map, and no paddle. You had no idea, but that’s not your fault. 

Next, welcome them inside. Offer them a drink.

After a few moments, they’re going to swallow hard and tell you they’ve been on a journey. Know that by the time they get to your doorstep, they will have had to muster every last ounce of courage and energy. In fact, getting to your doorstep may have been the hardest part of their journey. 

Your next job is to listen. And believe what they tell you. 

When they tell you they were on this journey for all those years, alone and scared, believe them. 

When they tell you they never asked to be on that boat believe them. 

When they tell you they tried to get off that boat many times and swim to shore, for God’s sake, believe them. 

If they feel like talking, ask them what it was like out on those seas . . .

Ask them about the storms. Ask them about the wind and the rain and the swells. Ask them if they were scared. Ask them what they did to survive. (Remember, this child of yours is very strong, otherwise they wouldn’t have survived this journey.)

Ask them about sleeping in a raft alone under midnight skies.

Ask them if God was there—if they felt him, if they talked to them. (They might have, but you must remember that God feels very distant for people in lifeboats alone at sea. They might even be mad at God or think he doesn’t exist at all. That’s okay.

Remember that theology lessons aren’t helpful when their clothes are still wet with seawater.)

Regardless, remind them that God loves his little lost sailors very much, and that he never stopped loving them, even on those nights when it was just them and no moon and big shadows circling in black water. Remind them. 

And dear parent, whatever you do, don’t lecture them.

Don’t shame them for being in that boat. Don’t tell them that God hates people in lifeboats. Tell them that God loves those few souls in rafts just like he loves the rest on land. And remember, that you aren’t the survivor here. They—THEY—are the ones that have been on a long, lonely journey. Remember this.

Ask them if they ever saw land in the distance.

Ask them if they ever saw land-dwellers on the horizon and if they ever screamed for help. Apologize for those people that didn’t hear them or the ones who held up giant signs saying, “GOD HATES PEOPLE IN LIFEBOATS.” Tell them you’re sorry they had to see that and that you would have ripped up those signs if you could. 

Ask them if they ever put a message in a bottle and tossed it into the sea, hoping it might reach someone on land.

Tell them you wished you’d found that message. In fact, grab them by the shoulders, look them right in the eye, and tell them you would have done anything to find it if that meant getting to you sooner. Tell them you would have drowned yourself to get to them. Then tell them you wished we didn’t live in a world where scared kids had to put messages in bottles. Tell them that’s unjust. 

And finally, tell them they’re no longer alone, no longer out on those high seas.

Tell them they’re on land now and land has homes. And homes are filled with love, and love is the thing that makes the boat stop rocking. Love is the thing that calms those storms. Love is the thing that scares off black shadows in black waters. And that as long as they are breathing, they will have a home, and they will never ever be alone. 

I wish everyone would read Brett’s story.  I encourage you to do so…even if you don’t have a gay child.  It is a quick summer read (way shorter than a book)….just 44 of what he calls episodes.  You can also listen to it as a podcast.  Many people ask me for resources, or ask how they can get involved in helping the LGBTQ community.  I say start here.  Read his story.  And if you do…let me know what you think.  I would love to chat about it with you.

Losing my dog for that brief time was hard, but I can’t even begin to imagine losing the very people who are supposed to love me.  As you can see, this coming out process is a tough one.  And the people coming out are searching for a safety net or life-preserver to cling to.  Some will lose the very people they love and trust the most in this world.  They will search for a community that they feel comfortable in…somewhere they can be their true authentic selves.  Something precious to them.  Be that person.

How you respond can save their life.  Will you be their life-preserver?  Can they step out of the lifeboat into your loving, caring arms?  I hope so. They are searching to be understood…and most of all loved.

Because love matters.

*If you find yourself without a safe place to land, please know that you are not alone.  In this world of modern technology, there are ways to communicate that are more personal than a letter in the mail, or a text message on your phone.  Contact me via my contact page.  I would love to chat with you.

Advertisements

A picture is worth a thousand tears…

Well that isn’t exactly the saying is it?  It should be, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but this morning that wasn’t the case.

Pictures are amazing things.  They can transport us back in time in a blink of an eye. Sometimes they are memories that make us laugh.  Sometimes they are memories that make us swell with pride.  Sometimes they reduce us to a puddle of tears.  That’s what happened to me today when Facebook decided to remind me of a memory.

The picture that greeted me this morning was one that most people would think would be a happy memory.  After all…it’s a picture from a vacation 8 years ago.  But it was a reminder of one of the darkest times my family has experienced.  And in light of losing another young person to suicide this past week, it hit me hard.

Here’s the picture.  We are at the beach having our yearly end of vacation bonfire. img_1193Roasted hot dogs and of course smores were on the menu.  You can see how happy McKensie is with her marshmallows.  Now look at Kyle’s face.  Can you see it? When I look at this picture, the pain I see is palpable.  It crushes me.  And it brings me back to the fear and desperation I felt.  This was taken 3 months after we learned he was gay, and just four months before he landed in the hospital for suicidal thoughts.

I share this because of the suicide I mentioned that happened this week.  The young man who took his life was afraid to tell his parents that he was gay.  I don’t think people understand what a traumatic experience this is for the LGBTQ community.  I posted this on Facebook, but wanted to share it here as well in hopes that it might prevent another tragedy.

Why would a child be afraid of their parents?

  • They may hear them speak about the subject of being gay in an unfriendly, unloving manner.  Watch how you speak about it.  At least 50% of the parents I come in contact with had no idea their child was gay.  It totally threw them through a loop.  Why?  Because they have a stereotypical idea of what being gay is in their minds and their kid didn’t fit that mold.  Be careful what you are against because it could be the very thing you love most in the world.  Our.Kids.Are.Listening.
  • If they come from a Christian home, they may have heard that it’s a sin and that gay people are going to hell.   Let’s commit to love our kids towards God…not away from God.   Let your kids know you love them without putting the word “but” in the sentence.
  • They may know kids that have been kicked out of their homes for being gay, and they are afraid their parents will do the same thing.

There could be many more reasons.  Silence can be deadly as well. Talk to your kids. Having a difficult conversation with them is sure as heck better than burying them.

Of course parents can do all the right things and still may face the tragedy of their child taking their lives.  I’m not here to place blame or shame anyone.  I just ask us all to think about how we treat others.  This could have very easily happened to my family and I want to prevent it to happening to any others.

Fast forward almost 9 years and look at this picture.

15873064_10210942955391587_3781901443963125537_n

 

I hope you can see the difference that I see in Kyle. This is the face of love and acceptance.  Not just our love and acceptance, but the love and acceptance that he has for himself.  He couldn’t have gotten there without our love and support.  We went through such a dark time. This is what love, acceptance, and freedom look like. You can get there too.

 

If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life and feel like you have no one to turn to, contact The Trevor Project.

trevor

 

 

 

Again, this post isn’t to place blame on anyone.  It’s just a reminder that words matter. Attitudes matter.

But most of all…love matters.

 

Sticks and stones…

Did you have a nickname when you were growing up?  Maybe you still have it to this day.  I had several…the first of which I gave to myself…unbeknownst to me.  My name is Lesa Page (yes my parents spelled both my first name AND my middle name incorrectly).  When I was little, I couldn’t quite pronounce the two words and they came out as Esa Peach.  So, Esa Peach was my very first nickname and some family members to this day will sometimes call me by that name.  When I hit my teenage years, my nicknames became more related to the fact that I am vertically challenged.  A few of those names were:

Little
Little L
Stump – I of course didn’t care for this one too much
L – my dad calls me this today – I think he’s just lazy (smile)
Lesa Page – as a teenager there were so many Lisa’s that my friends called me by my first and middle name.  Kind of wish I would have stuck with that as an adult…I kind of like it.

When my son was a baby and toddler, his nickname was Booper.  My mom was so afraid that was going to stick.  I’m not even sure how Mike and I started calling him that, but it just seemed to fit him.  He was a pudgy little guy and Booper just seemed to work.  I’m sure he is happy that it was short-lived.  His nickname now is Kai (his name is Kyle).

It seems like yesterday that he was that little baby.  I remember holding for the first time.  To be honest, he looked like a little old man…kind of wrinkly and very little hair.  He quickly grew and like I said was a little pudge.  He unfortunately had colic as a baby.  And not the kind where the baby would cry during a certain time of day…it seemed to bother him all the time.  It made me feel so bad for him.  As I held him, his little legs would bunch up and he would throw his little head back with the most heart wrenching cry.  There were many days that I would cry right along with him as I bounced and paced the floors with him.  Man did I do a lot of pacing.

He eventually grew out of that and became a happy little guy.  I can still see his little face when I would walk into his room in the mornings to retrieve him from his crib.  He would say my name with his pacifier pushed to one side of his mouth and would give me the biggest smile.  It was as if his whole world just walked through the door.  I remember his first steps…arms stretched out like Frankenstein, teetering from one foot to the other with the biggest grin on his face.  He was so proud of himself.  He was a stubborn little bugger too.  The terrible twos are an understatement.  He was so smart which I swear made it worse.  Once he got something in his mind, boy was it tough to re-route him.  And the older he got, the harder it got.  Once he hit the elementary school age, it took a lot of creative thinking to stay one step ahead of him.  And when we really got stuck in a battle of the wills, it seemed like humor was the ONLY thing that would snap him out of it.  Good thing I’m a goof ball (smile).  It just took a little humor to break things up and then you could have a conversation with him.

He was always well liked in school by his teachers and classmates…especially the girls.  He was a straight A student all the way through high school.  I think he got a B or two in college, but seemed to always make the deans list even though he struggled terribly with anxiety and depression.  I’m really not sure how he did it.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, we noticed a change in him around the age of 14 and things came to a head when he was 15 and we found out he was gay.  My friendly, preppy, kind boy turned into an angry, depressed, anxiety ridden boy.  The music he listened to changed, the clothes he wore changed, the kind of friends he had changed.  It was as if the internal struggle that he had been going through for years that we were unaware of came out to the surface in every way.  It was terrifying.  It was as if aliens had come in the middle of the night and replaced our child with someone who we didn’t recognize.  All of the hurt that he had hidden for so long was now out in the open.

I wish SO BADLY that I had the resources back then that I have now.  I would have done things SO differently.  I know I hurt him…before I knew he was gay…and after I found out.  You see, I lived in the place where I thought being gay was something that needed to be fixed.  I felt that way because that is what I had learned from the resources I had at the time.  I was given a lot of hope from those resources…unfortunately it was false hope.  Stories of change that were told later turned out to be lies. And I transferred that hope to him.  It gave him hope and when things didn’t change it only added to his frustration, hurt, and depression.

Society gives gay people a lot of grief about being gay.  Names are hurled at them like butch, fag, dyke, fairy…not exactly endearing nicknames.  And despite the little saying of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” they do indeed hurt.  The hard part though is when a gay person’s family is the cause of the hurt…not by name calling necessarily…although that does happen, but by attitudes and statements that are made.  Something I’ve heard more than once from a young gay person before coming out in regards to their family is this….

“They don’t like me….but they don’t know that they don’t like me.”

What we need to understand is that they are absorbing every remark, comment, facial expression, body language, etc. when it comes to our attitudes about gay people.  The first time I heard that from someone…my spirit was crushed because I know that my son felt that way before he came out.  Looking back…it explains a lot.  I’ve never said anything bad about gay people. I’ve worked with them, have a gay family member in my extended family, etc. and I’ve never felt anything but love for them.  But when you come from a place where you think they are broken and can be fixed, it is hurtful.  And I know my son overheard comments from me regarding this.

I don’t write this to make you feel guilty if you have a gay child and have gone about things differently then you would have like to or feel like you have messed up.  I can tell you that I messed up.  You can move past it.  You can ask for the person to forgive you…and then do what is hard and forgive yourself.  I still struggle with that part.  This post is more for everyone else who may or may not have a gay child, family member, or friend.  Be careful what you say and how you say it.  You never know who is listening…and if they are struggling they will be hyper sensitive to your speech and demeanor.  Let’s not have another child think…they don’t like me…but they don’t know that they don’t like me.

Today my son is a young adult.  The other day we were leaving for work at the same time (he is living at home to save money to one day move out).  I was sitting in my car as he walked down to his car that was parked in the cul-de-sac.  As I watched him in my side mirror with his slouchy hat (to control his curls), skinny jeans, and messenger bag slung across his shoulder, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for his forgiving spirit for a mom who didn’t have a clue when he first came out.  I’m so thankful that his spark is back and I once again have my funny, happy boy.  He knows without a doubt that I love him.  But he can also say…

She likes me…and I know she likes me because she shows it in her words and actions.

Love each other…because it matters.

I’ve had the radish…

When my family planned a trip to New England a few years ago, my friend from Vermont taught me a few of the sayings that are from there.  Her family was traveling with us so it was really fun to have our very own tour guide.  We visited Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine both times that we vacationed together up there.  The saying, “I’ve had the radish” was the funniest to me.  I mean…what do New Englanders have against radishes (smile).  She explained to me that when her mom was at her wit’s end with her and her brothers she would let them know that she’d had the radish.  They knew then that they better settle down or they were going to get it.  They would also say it when something was worn out or ready for the trash.  Pretty funny, but then again being from Baltimore has its own little world of sayings as well.

This is how I’m feeling right now…I’ve had the radish.  I’m wondering seriously if this is even real life.  Am I living in one of my crazy dreams?  It feels like it.  My chest physically hurts, and the only thing that keeps going through my mind is what breaks God’s heart is breaking mine.

broken-heart-with-hammer

A young man who I met about a little over a year ago took his life yesterday.  I remember hearing his story.  I remember sitting with his mom as she tearfully told my group that her church refused to baptize her son.  How distraught she and her husband and her son were about that….rightfully so.  I can’t get his face out of my mind.  His shy demeanor, his intelligence, his compassion.  The church was going to meet with them to discuss this with them further.  After many attempts to do so…and simply just being blown off…I guess they waited too long.  I wonder if these leaders will sit down with this family now.  (he suffered from depression, but I promise you the church’s response did not help)

The church and their statements…their policies…I wonder as they sit in their meetings if they consider the consequences of their decisions.  Do they know any LGBTQ people?  Have they learned their stories?  Asked what they needed?  I am often asked, “Why don’t the LGBTQ people who aren’t happy with their churches find an affirming church?”  The answer is simple…in many areas of our country…there aren’t any affirming churches.  There are the churches that will say they are welcoming, but they don’t have anyone LGBTQ attending.  If you were truly a welcoming congregation, you would have them attending because they would know that you were welcoming.  In many cases, churches tolerate the LGBTQ community and then pat themselves on the back that they let them attend.

The Mormon church recently introduced a policy in November regarding the LGBT community.  Since then there have been 32 LGBTQ suicides in the last 81 days.  Let that sink in…  While it’s impossible to know whether the new policy triggered the reaction of these suicides, the circumstantial evidence can’t be ignored.  The church was asked about this and they replied, “they do not reject LGBT members.” Really?  Have you asked them how they feel about your new policy? Clearly there is a disconnect.

I gotta be honest.  I feel sick…I feel hopeless…and I feel helpless.  It makes me want to have NOTHING to do with the church.  I know that’s harsh.  I know there is a good possibility that we all may never agree, but making people feel as if they are unworthy of love…thrown away…is not how we should handle that disagreement.

If you have a conversation with someone about God, Christianity, the Gospel…whatever the topic regarding faith…and they leave feeling less than, unloved, belittled, etc…you are DOING IT WRONG.  As Christians we are to bear good fruit. What kind of fruit are you bearing?  How many lives must we lose?

For now I will remind myself of Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

beauty-from-ashes

Lord bring us beauty from ashes.  Love each other…love matters…and how we love matters even more.

 

 

 

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.