What makes up a family?
Family is commonly thought of as a father and mother with children. But, the idea of family is better defined by the heart of those that makeup the family.
Families have many variations of how they are formed. Single parents, those without kids, gay couples with or without kids.
The idea of family extends to community groups too. There are churches and closes friends that identify as family as well. And the important thing about those you call family is the deep bond you have with each other.
Family and community can be a deep tie that bonds us together with love for one another.
For myself, I don’t have a close relationship with most of my biological relatives as I did when I was young. But, as a man on my 40s that is gay,, I have discovered a new family with my husband’s family.
These days family is a what is made of love, community and all the typical things that glue people together with other people.
Simply put, what makes up a family is love.
The psalmist David wrote many songs and back in those days they would say, “Lookup” to the Lord. There are many songs even now that have that theme of looking up to God. Thankfully, we understand that Jesus, God, Spirit lives on the inside and not the outside of us. So, when you look up, you are calling to look up to a higher spiritual places within you … within your spirit where God dwells.
Set aside the time: I don’t know about you, but most of us are a lot the same – and I need to look up… to find encouragement from the usual things in life that can bring us down. Just set aside the time to be encouraged. That could be once a week at church if you go, ever three days, or every day – Just make it a habit to set aside the time to
lookup and be encouraged.
Where do I start?: Take inventory – sit down and write out a list of things that encourage you. It could be hanging out with friends, pray time alone, exercise, music. I know that when people go running or walking it activates the creative center of the mind. You might need time to just reflect on life or the last few days while you walk. Creativity is so important to being encouraged. Set aside the time to encourage yourself and take creative inventory of the things that keep love, life and joy flowing within you and keep you looking up.
The Hurt in Our Lives: Are you hurting? You are hurting. I’m serious, we are all hurting. If we weren’t hurting then we would’t have to take control of our problems and find joy by looking up within us. Sometimes it is easy to block out the reasons we are hurting. For others it is very obviously what is causing hurt in our lives and the problem with that is it becomes us the only thing in our focus. And setting aside time to take inventory of the things that gives of love and joy has to be very intentional. So, that hurt can be dealt with in our lives and for us to come to a place were we are at peace with problems in our lives without it consuming us.
Where are we headed?: Let Love consume you. If you don’t let love consume you then the hurt in your life with consume you. Hurt will distort your vision of the world around you and your perception of people. You’ll find that you hate people more than you love them — and that has to change in your life if you want to be whole and healed. If we want to be healed, then we have to be headed toward love. The thing about love is you can always have more. Love is like an ocean — it is deep, it is wide and the size of it is infinite and so large that it can not be calculated. Perhaps you need to connect to someone you’ve lost contact with from the past and show them love — give them some of your time and let it be about them. Don’t make it about you. Just give love to them. Give them a call and see how they are doing. The Spirit will speak to you because of that time that you give.
In closing, find out what you need to do this week to set aside time, heal the hurt with in you just a little bit more, and dive in deeper to love and lastly share that love with someone and watch it grow in them and within you.
With all my love,
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.”