Category Archives: Faith
Feeling the impact of being sad, alone or depressed is not uncommon. We live in what I call a ‘Microwave Society‘; a world where we expect everything fixed fast. When we don’t get things ‘our way right away’ it can even compound our frustration. We have microwaves, fast food and drive-thru expectations that overflow into every aspect of our lives.
We have to take time to slow down our expectations on fixing the things in life that bring us down – we need a reality check. In a world where science, medicine, social support and faith collide, we have to take time to let all of these things work together.
Many people have the disposition of having depression because of a medical conditions. I fully support and encourage people get medical treatment from a doctor and have a treatment plan for depression and the countless mental health issues people may have.
Personally, over the years, I have gone to my doctor countless times trying to find the right medications to help me with anxiety and depression. It took time, lots of trials of various medications, until I found what works for me with the least of negative side effects.
Besides medications, I also began to take personal responsibility for taking control of my depression and anxiety issues. Medical science tells us that we are nine times more likely to focus on things that are negative in our life than something that is positive in our life. So, even with medication the odds are stacked against us, but with practice and time we can increase positive energy flowing in our lives.
Romans 8:28 (NLV) We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are chosen to be a part of His plan.
All of these things work together for our good – the medical help we get, developing friendships with those that plant encouraging words into our life, and even simply collecting and practicing positive thoughts – as we actively fight off negative thoughts, moods and energy around us.
Not every answer in life is a fast fix. If you are reading this and can relate to it, I encourage you to plant seeds of encouragement into your life everyday. Treat it like a tree that needs water everyday to grow. Take time to tend the garden of your life and create an oasis – a fertile spot in a desert where water is found.
I encourage your feedback; share something that has helped you or additional thoughts you may have on this topic.
Today my heart is heavy, my friends. Being a 41 year old gay male who was
raised Catholic, I have dealt with plenty of judgment, both self and certainly
otherwise. The greater half of my life has been spent in denial, guilt, and in
shame for having feelings and simply being me. The best I could do as a teenager
was to reject my faith in God and especially the church and all that it stood
for. This culminated in raging alcoholism and a total sense of worthlessness
which I turned to numbness through drink. One day I woke up and decided that if this was how life was meant to be lived, I wanted no more of it.
Luckily, some sanity crept in, and I called my doctor, who diagnosed me as an
alcoholic and sent me to treatment. He saved my life, and I am forever grateful
to him for that.
In AA, I heard the word God and recoiled. I almost left AA because I just
“knew” it was just more religious nonsense, and that this time, as an alcoholic
seeking help and being desperate, my life REALLY depended on it. Simply
fantastic; “just my luck” I thought. Luckily for me, I had a friend who was
also an addiction counselor who worked with me on the concept of a Higher
Power. He reassured me that whatever I chose or believed was OK, just as long
as it was a power greater than I was. Wrought with angst, I struggled with this
simple task for months. My friend wouldn’t let go, and finally asked if I ever
felt connected with anything outside of myself that gave me sheer joy. He was
on to something, as the light bulb began to glow. As I searched back, there was
one thing in my life that made me feel serene and whole. And so it was; music
became my Higher Power. I dove into the music of J.S. Bach and fell in love
with the pipe organ. The sheer power and precision of his music helped me reach
an almost trance like state, which today I know as meditation. As my life began
to flourish, my tastes expanded, along with my concept of a Higher Power. On
through Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, well, you get
the idea. My mind began to open up and grow, along with my concept of a Higher
Power. As a result, I got better and remained sober. I even reached a point
where I could begin to refer to my Higher Power as God. It was a God unique to
me, one that really worked in my life. Bits and pieces of other Gods and
religions were added to these fledgling beliefs and felt, later to be absolutely
known as truths. There now was finally a God that worked in my life. A God that loved, nurtured, and accepted me for who I am, shortcomings and all.
Fast forward 20 years. My life was a complete wreck. My health, emotional
state, spiritual state, finances, friendships – it indeed seemed as if
everything in my life had gone sour somehow. The worst of all was my health.
But what was I going to do? There is an old saying in AA that goes “Faith
without works is dead.” Perhaps I was dying because not only had I lost faith,
there was no real effort on my part to seek it and keep it alive all along. This was a
crossroads very similar to when I decided to stop drinking. Action needed to be
taken, and urgently. But where to start?
At Thanksgiving, my favorite aunt asked if I would consider volunteering with
her at a local homeless shelter. Amazed, I told her I had been thinking of
doing the same, but just never did anything concrete about it. We made a pact
to act rather than debate it any longer. I took the orientation a month later,
and started in February. She followed soon after. Instantly, I felt connected
to something more powerful than myself, and to be able to give something back
to the community and those in need made me feel good inside. Finally, I was
once again practicing a faith that worked. Their mission was based on the works
and faith of Jesus Christ, and I jumped right in with both feet. To me, it
didn’t matter what denomination anyone claimed to be. Love and joy was evident in their lives through their faith and daily works.
My main fear and obstacle to my physical health was my smoking. So, after 25
years of heavy smoking, I stopped on December 1. It was difficult at first, but
soon just went away, as if on its own. Next, I focused on exercise by walking,
a bit more, little by little, until I was going 30 minutes per day. I went to
my doctor, and made some suggestions about major adjustments to my medications. She listened and cut the number of meds in half, and then halved the dose on several of the remaining meds I did still take. I felt better by this time, and reworked my diet to include 80% fruits and vegetables. Twelve pounds was
dropped almost immediately, and I increased my exercise to 45 minutes a day. My mind and mood improved dramatically, and I reached out to several Facebook groups, especially one called Gay, Disabled, and Happy. My life once again soared, and I was reunited with a man I was friends with and loved since my college years. He called me one day to say hello. Let me tell you, he had me at hello! I don’t need to tell you that when a miracle happens in your life as he did in mine, you don’t wait around another 20 years to see if the chance comes back a second time. Everything had truly come full circle in my life. My life was so full of love and acceptance that I realized I no longer had room for judgment, negativity, and being critical of self or others.
One day last week, while volunteering, some elderly volunteers were asking me
some rather pointed questions, which I have come to know as “fishing” about my
sexuality. I mean, a forty something single male that worships his dog and has
never been married or had any children? I let them ask, and answered
their indirect questions directly and honestly,letting them think they were
being crafty about pumping me for information. Let them think what they like.
All of a sudden, the man started preaching about “Sodom and Gomorrah” and had this crazy look in his eye. The games were now officially over. I went to the
manager and explained what happened and hinted at that I was gay and didn’t
appreciate how I was just treated. She didn’t get it, so I told her outright,
and said that I didn’t like them asking questions, and that my being gay was
none of their business. She said to simply tell them that I had not found the
right person yet. I countered, “But I cannot lie. Yes, I finally have found the
right man after waiting for 20 years.” I felt good about telling her, as I like
to be honest. She and I then prayed together. Before I left, I asked what the
policy was on gays and lesbians who volunteer. She simply said that she was not
aware of any particular policy, but that it probably would NOT be a good idea
for me to bring Michael around, ever. What…? We are both there serving God
as his humble servants. What if I came in off the street, was addicted to alcohol, drugs, was penniless, hungry and homeless? What if I were those things and reached out to this organization for help? Would they help me as a gay man, or would they let me slide because I would not deny who I am? The answer became clear after a moment. I already was here in the trenches giving what I could to help those in need, and the door had just been slammed shut in my face anyway. Take away our money, food, clothing, shelter, and pride, and we are all still children of God.
Well, today I spoke with my aunt, and she was tickled to hear my good news
about Michael. After she left, I was whistling and just feeling great. The
manager came into the room to work with me, and without thinking much about it, I asked her point blank how she felt about my being gay. She looked right at me and said, “Well, I have to believe that the bible is the word of God. We know
what the bible says.” I countered, “OK, but doesn’t it also say that you should
kill your wife if she is unfaithful?” “That was in the old testament” she
explained. She then went on to talk about the choices we make every day. She
told me a story about how a long time ago, she thought it was God’s Will for
her to have an affair with a married man. She warned me that sometimes what we think is the will of God really isn’t, and is just our will instead, which comes
with consequences. She needn’t preach that one to me as an alcoholic! I
explained, “I have been gay my whole life. God doesn’t make junk. I struggled
with this as a Catholic for years. And, God brought Michael back into my life
when I was finally ready for him.” It was on this note that I left for the day.
So, therein lies my dilemma. I know that I am not the type to bite my tongue
and take a religious lashing from anyone twice my age when I am showing up to
try to do God’s work and simply be a servant and of service to others. I
cannot and will not exclude my boyfriend from anything in my life, let alone
something important to me. Likening my relationship with Michael to her affair
with a married man really makes me feel sad for somebody who I have looked up
to as an example of faith and humanity. Moreover, I know that if I continue,
the behavior will only get worse with time. I defended myself for a long time and
transcended that area of my life. Now, you can either like me or not. I don’t
want or need validation as a gay male, let alone as an adult. I have paid my
taxes as well as for my true sins, and know that only myself or God can judge
me. Today I want to thrive and be where I am celebrated, not merely tolerated.
Don’t dangle the carrot in front of my face today to control who I am to suit
your needs. Control through religion just doesn’t work.
I know as sure as I sit here that God made all of us in his own image. I also know that God wants us to be happy and to serve himself and others. God is also loving, kind, and forgiving. The only sin I see in my situation is if I would continue to volunteer where I am merely tolerated for who I am, and to not be true to myself and my partner. Anything less would be a slap in the face to us both, the gay community as a whole, and even to God himself. How dare I not fully celebrate miracles once God reveals them to me? The past 6 months have been full of miracles in my life, and I owe each and every one of them to the glory of God. I pray that I never, ever forget that.
Yes, sometimes there is a crossroads where faith meets truth. Only we know
which way is the right path. Today, for me, the truth comes first. Only then
may I accept and begin to regain my lost faith. The moment I lose my honesty
with self and others, I begin to lose my faith as well. Without faith, I
truly have nothing.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.”
Authenticity is difficult to come by these days. It is so easy to respond to people in a superficial way. For some people, having a transparent heart is simply a hard thing to do. A glass of clean water comes to mind when I think of transparency. Transparency or authenticity can so easily be clouded in our lives. Although, I don’t just go around sharing every problem, difficulty, or sorrow that comes my way, there are times when I am able to open up. The problem is – I feel as though I’ve been programed by society and even the church to put on a mask when it comes to sharing my pain or sorrow or just being real with people.
For several years, I was attending Westmoore Community Church (WCC aka the flock that rocks) in Moore, Oklahoma. I started attending this church after an exchange of emails with the head pastor. I addressed my concerns about how we would be treated by attending there, my husband and I being gay. The pastor stated his position on what he believes the bible says about being gay and gave a blanked statement that we are all sinners.
I made it clear in the emails we exchanged that I have come to a different interpretation of those scriptures. I was not specifically attempting to change the pastors mind on the topic. I just wanted him to know where I was coming from in my belief. So, I was not wielding for a theological battle, but I did want to be known for who I am and what I believe. I wanted to be known, therefore, I had to be transparent in an authentic way as made my attempt to reach out and make a connection. We started attending the church for a few years.
The pastor commonly greeted people before the service. One of the things I told the pastor is that I liked the transparency of his heart he shared in one of the services. His response was that kind of transparency was difficult. This is one of those things that I figure most pastors try to avoid. As a pastors fight the authenticity of the heart, they will produce a heartless flock.
While being greeted by the pastor before a few of the services and being asked how I was doing, I responded with something like, “Having a rough week, but I’m hanging in there.” There were a few weeks I answered with variations of that response. It seemed uneventful and we entered the service. Little did I know, the pastor was about to take the time to educate the flock on the right way to respond to “How are you doing?”. His cold response and way to put things into order was to tell the people the correct way to respond to such a question is, “I’m fine. How are you?” – Wow! The authenticity I had previously thanked him for was apparently out the window. We were well on our way to the fake church of the petrified society. I’m sure my husband and I weren’t they only ones that greeted him and express our burdens. Overall the church was okay to attend; good rock style of worship music and decent preaching. Due to getting a home further away we eventually stopped going to The Flock that Rocks.
When we moved, we were within miles of about five gay affirming churches. We considered attending one of them. I guess the reason we did not attend one of the gay affirming churches was that we were looking for a church that was integrated more. It makes me think of the black and white segregation and Jim Crow laws – the “separate but equal” feeling did not set right with us. We most just worshiped on our own and kept our faith intimate and personal. Looking back, I see that God wanted us to have the season to teach us. Even when we come together in groups of corporate worship, if we loose our focus on direct intimate worship, then we create barriers between us and God.
Authenticity in faith comes from going where Jesus would go in faith. Jesus faith was authentic because it was direct fellowship of His humanity to His Father. When He took that fellowship to the weak and the broken hearted, the presence of God was there. He told us that when we are authentic to those who are poor in spirit that He is there in the midst of that pain and brokenness and He shares not just time, but His presence with us when we do not turn away the burdens of others. When we have sorrow, He shares in our sorrow and gives us hope for the a future.
Even when I’m going through joyous times, my personal worship time includes worship songs that say things like “Sometimes, I can not hear your voice, my God.” We have to connect emotion to our worship and our fellowship with God. It gets too easy to worship with songs that show no human emotion. Some of those songs are very beautiful say things like “You are Holy…. like no other … You are Holy … there is no other like You”. And we need those kind of songs too.
Our fellowship with God, as well as, our fellowship with others has to reflect both our emotions of being lost as well as our thankfulness of being found, else it will become hollow over time. When we begin to connect our emotions back into our faith, we will over time undo the emotionally dissociative disorder that has held so many churches captive all over the world.
What is the word? Who is the Word? I’ve had this conversation many times before with people. In the verse John 1:1 the use of the “Word” here comes from the Greek transliteration “logos”. When checking out Logos on Wikipedia it also says, it is Greek for “word’, “discourse” or “reason” and points out the divinity of Jesus Christ. If you ask any Christian believer “Who is the Word?”, you’ll very easily get the answer Jesus. In short I would simply agree, but there is always more to an answer then the short version. Because the characteristic of God being a Trinity of three in one to just say that Logos is Jesus is way to simply of an answer. In all the descriptions of the use of Logos one thing that is common is that all of the definitions refer to an utterance, words being spoken but not words being written down. Most of the time people get the difference between how the scriptures “Word” as compared to “word”. Theologians in their wisdom in translating the bible into English capitalize it like you would a proper name.
I was having conversation of discourse with a pastor that had another pastor sitting in and listening about the difference between the bible being the word of God and God being the Word (or Logos). The first pastor wasn’t getting the difference. Then I asked two questions, “What is the word?” and “Who is the Word?” The second pastor who was taking a passive role in the conversation spoke up to say, “Jesus is the Word”. “Finally!”, I exclaimed. So, now we were getting somewhere.
The conversation continued with what level of divinity we give to the bible as compared to the Word (Logos or Jesus). The conversation was not an easy one. I believe the reason that it is difficult is how much we lean on our limited understanding of God because His nature is far beyond our ability to understand with our human spiritual capacity. When we have “discourse” about things of faith we are experiencing a lesser form of logos. Conversational discourse should be used in exploring and changing or challenging our thoughts and beliefs. In those times, we should welcome the tension of different ideas.
1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NIV1984)- Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
Often called the “Love Chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us some important things to consider in theology or our thoughts of the Father, although prophetic word, scripture, or even special revelation from God will always be less than God. It is all childish play in comparison for seeking His face or even better yet when the times comes that we actually see His face, then we will be seeing the Word.
It has always bothered me when I hear churches proclaim we are a bible believing church and there is very little value placed on seeking His voice in the present. I’ve heard other pastors pray right before preaching, asking for God’s blessing and for Him to speak “even in spite” of what they have to say during the service. It has been my experience that no matter how good or bad someone does a preaching that the Father is speaking at the same time delivering a message of His own. I’ve heard many people say that, “It was like the pastor was speaking right to me.”
There are many kinds of words or spiritual impartations I could talk about, but the one that comes to mind is another Greek word “Rhema”. The way I understand, Rhema is a teaching or utterance in which God through someone declares the heart of God. Generally, I think of a Rhema as also being a revealed word; a new revelation about a scripture or concept of God that opened your eyes and ears in away that made it come alive like never before. In some evangelical church circles people give a prophetic word in a public setting. I don’t think that we should get overly mystical about hearing from God. Just recently after a service someone came up to my husband Robert and I and said God had a word they wanted to give us. They acted like we might be offended or weirded out by it, but this is the spiritual world we try to walk in everyday. So, we listened and walked it out. It was just a message to pray and meditate for the Holy Spirit to speak a single word to our heart and that would lead us to a verse we needed.
People of faith operate in the gifts of the spirit all the time without even knowing it. When it happens people usually use words like, “Maybe we should start a Church”, as my husband said one day. Immediately, I sensed the prophetic-ness of it, and a holy fear came upon me. I didn’t understand it, “You know how complicated it is to start a Church”, I said. But I knew it was real word in the spirit. It must have been less that 48 hours before we were contacted by a friend of Robert’s that is a pastor about helping to start a new church plant. So, we know the Holy Spirit has plans and we are prepare to be awed and be apart of the mystery of it all.
The Heart of the Word or Logos is something that is living and moving. It can be unpredictable and exciting at times, it can be fearful in an awesome a Holy way. It can call you to be softened, broken and healed. It can take you through the mountain and through the valley. I’ve heard it said, “New levels of glory are usually a step down before they are a step up”. As spiritual people we have to expect change if what we really want is to really hear His voice. So, fear not, because He is with you every step of the way. We need our faith to be conversational so that it is more of a faith of relationship.
PS. As with most times when I sit down to write, I was not sure how to begin or structure my thoughts. So, I wanted to also share my process briefly for this post. The main thing I do seems just practical as a Christian, I go to the Father in prayer. My faith is very worship centric. So, I turn my Roland keyboard on and my recording software on and begin to play the keyboard and sing my prayer to God. I’ve been using this musical prayer process for about 30 or more years. Worship leader, Kent Henry, said it this way, “Anything that can be spoken can be sung.” Most of the time before writing a post, I’ve been meditating on it for weeks for months before I put my thoughts down. To listen the prayer / song that I sang just before writing this post, click here for song.
Back in the days of the tabernacle system, there was a series of priest between us and the Father. Along with the priest came all the laws and rules for rituals of how to make things right on our behalf. Having the in between priest was a long standing tradition of the church. Jesus threw out that system as being flawed and became our High Priest. He shed His flawless blood to put alway the law which was flawed, and then He told us it was better that He should leave us the Holy Spirit to lead us to the Father. Jesus showed us ‘the way’ to the Father. He gave us guidance and showed us that we have direct access to the Father; this beauty is our new covenant.
I love listening to good teaching, I love listening to good worship. Too many times, the knowledge of others experiences have become my good friend. I’m always brought back, deep in my heart, to the place where the vail of the tabernacle was tore into two pieces. The two pieces of the vail remind me of the two covenants, that we should be aware of them and that still people can live by either of them; either human effort or divine promise; the slave woman or the free woman.
Those that live by human effort still live with the in between priest, even though they know that is the old way; we all do it from time to time. It reminds me of the parable of the man that finds a treasure in a field and the man sales everything he had to buy that field; such is the kingdom of heaven. I’m not sure how we can do that, I’m mean really do it. It seems that the teaching paradigm we should have is when someone has a question about heavenly things, that we should stand on the opposite side of the in between priest and nudge people towards the Father and tell them, “Go ask Him?” and then ask, “What did He say?” Listen and take it in real deep, then let the earthly dialogue begin. Since we all know in part and prophesy in part, we can then come together and attempt to more fully know the Father and keep our prayer as “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” This kind of prayer lends itself to us always being children that seek and hopefully children that never loose our desire for the Heart of the Father. Those who have lost the desire have deceived themselves into thinking they are helping God. My personal challenge to myself and others is never loose the desire to seek Him.
The disciples were led by Jesus, they left everything behind like the parable of the man that found a treasure in a field. I’m beginning to take stock in the fact that just like the disciples, often I have no idea where I’m going. It was that way with Jesus and it is that way with the Holy Spirit; you often don’t know why you are doing what He has asked you to do until much later when it seems to makes sense, just don’t make an idol of what we perceive to be a pattern. We’ve been given good instruction that following the Holy Spirit is as unpredictable as the wind. There are some sure things that Jesus made clear, be faithful to keep the ones He has given us and always point the way to the Father, just as Jesus did.