Turning Grief Into LifeGiving Action – Remembering Michael

park bench sunlight

Hello, friends. I hope you are doing well this morning. Today is a somber one for me and anyone who knew and loved Michael. Today marks the third anniversary of his taking his life. The memory is still as fresh and painful as the day it happened but my understanding of it has deepened over the past three years. While there are still, will always be, plenty of tears at the memory, my resolve to focus on the many loving memories we had over 23 years of friendship strengthens. I remember Michael’s great capacity to love. I remember his bright and unique laughter;  those big brown expressive eyes. It’s easy to remember his compassion and his many ways of bringing beauty into the world.

I also want to honor Michael by also asking you to consider two things.

First, please consider supporting The Trevor Project,

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.

I have researched and talked with the incredible leaders there, and The Trevor Project is an amazing resource that is saving lives.

Secondly, please think about and do what you can to help end religious discrimination and stigmatization of LGBT people. If your church or religious organization is not willing to affirm all of who you are, including the LGBT part, and offer you equal access to resources and opportunities as any other son or daughter of God, it’s time to lovingly, graciously, take a stand. Specifically for my siblings in Christ, our faith in Christ is as authentic as anyone sitting next to us in the pew, and it’s time to take our rightful place in the Body of Christ.

Some of us may have the courage to take our talent, energy and donation money elsewhere. Good! There is plenty of need and opportunity in this great big world. Some may boldly choose to engage church or denominational battles. More power to you; how can we help? Others of us will bravely leave invalidating and sometimes abusive environments. How can we best support you and your transition?

Let’s choose to invest in “the Kingdom” by living honestly, loving God with our whole being and loving others with sacrificial service and humility.

Do what you have to do, but please do something.

In closing, I want to share this dream again. I had a dream shortly after Michael’s passing that completely reframes how I see this situation. In it, Michael came to me, held my hand, and we sat on a bench in a beautiful park surrounded by sunlight. He was radiant, and he sang the most beautiful otherworldly song. I believe our Heavenly Father allowed that to happen so that I would remember the beautiful Michael and not let the tragedy of suicide define him in my mind. Holding his strong hand, hearing his amazing song.

Michael’s song, his life in this world and the next, is so clear, so vivid, and beautiful, … just like him.

randy_sig

For a variety of reasons, I have turned off the comments section on my blog. I *love* discussion, but I have found that those discussions work best on social networks. So please join me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. I would enjoy connecting with you there.

Respecting Each Other’s Journey & Process

sunrise

Last week I came out pretty strong against current ex-gay ministry networks, especially the Restored Hope Network (RHN). As a result, some good conversation happened on Facebook and especially in private messages. Today, I want to make it clear that I have total respect for someone’s personal journey. What I don’t respect are organizations who feel the need to perpetuate cultural bias and stigma in the name of spiritual growth, and “biblical truth.”

I still have conservative Christian friends that I love dearly. Some of whom are ex-gay, same gender attracted and married to the opposite sex, or gay and/or celibate because of their spiritual beliefs. I would do anything to help them and make no apologies for supporting them in the ways that I can. Some of these friends have been my friends since my early 20’s. I love them; they love me… that’s what matters.

If someone tells me, I am wrong and that they can’t live with the “gay” label. Ok, thanks for or your opinion and more power to you. I am more interested in you than labels, too. If they share that they believe that same gender physical expressions of love within the context of a committed, loving relationship are sinful, ok, again thanks for your opinion. If they want my thoughts, which isn’t always the case, my views are clearly expressed on this blog or we can have a conversation.

However, what I won’t do is judge them in my heart and try to manipulate my way into changing their mind. <–period. Where appropriate (like this post) or asked, I will share my experience but not try to impose it as a template for anyone else to follow.

For example, if someone believes they are called to celibacy, great. I did too and lived it for 23 years. I learned MANY things about celibacy scripturally and in a real practical application sense. I believe living that way helped me think through things, have *amazing* spiritual intimacy with God, and develop real lasting character strengths. I also lived that way because of a ton of overwhelming fear and idealization. My motivation and experience were a mixed bag, but I don’t regret that decision because of the truly aforementioned benefits. Overall, I do not regret my time, two decades plus, as a celibate person. I believe it worked to make me a better person. However, people have to decide for themselves if that way of living is going to be a life-giving decision or lifelong commitment or not.

Also, one of my best friends is Alan Chambers. He has shared that he is attracted to other men and also attracted, much more so, to his wife, Leslie. I have known Alan for almost 21 years and met Leslie right after they married 18 years ago this month. Their marriage is beautiful and if two people were ever made for each other… I believe they are. Because of Alan’s same-sex attractions, some people don’t understand their marriage and unfairly criticize them in various ways. That’s not just unfair, it is unfortunate for the person falsely judging them. They are missing how love and relationship aren’t limited to our modern perceptions of what’s possible. Alan and Leslie are amazing friends as individuals, but they are also incredibly life-giving to each other, their kids, and their community… I am so happy for and blessed by them. They have become like family to me.

The problem with groups like RHN is this, they make a career out of repeating the cultural bigotry against gay people of faith and distort the above two examples (celibacy and opposite sex marriage) as the ONLY way gay people of faith can properly live in relationship to God. Not only that, they say that if you are not happy, healthy and whole living as a celibate or married to the opposite sex, then you still need *them* to help fix whatever else is still broken. Because in their world (that I used to be a part of) you wouldn’t desire “sexual sin” if you were truly healthy and in relationship with Christ.

Here’s the truth. Gay people aren’t broken because they are gay. Just like the rest of humanity, of course, we have issues, but being gay is not a negative, it is a gift. Gay people of faith don’t need to be fixed to be “right with God.” We need the same respect, opportunities, and resources straight people and couples have access too. That’s it.

I have often shared that when I was thrown out of the house at the age of 19 (the first time I came out), I was suicidal. What I don’t often share is that I was also suicidal at the end of 2013. Also, we are coming up on the third anniversary of my beloved friend Michael taking his life in January of 2013. In some ways, his decision to do that dissuaded me from doing the same later that year. And now, I am incredibly grateful to be alive.

I was suicidal because I realized I had been living a legalistic lie on many levels. I couldn’t see the good of the past (and there is plenty) and was spiraling into despair. Living a celibate life was no longer life-giving to me. Intimacy with God was still there, as it is now, and I felt Him guiding me to question … everything. He’s always made it very clear that I could trust Him; that He loved me for all of who I am including that I was gay. I knew in my heart and soul that the season of living celibately had ended, and initially I was deathly afraid of what that meant.  I had been taught for over two decades that all I could do was be celibate or find a wife. Yet, in my heart, my desire for my future husband was stronger than ever before.

I fought it tooth and nail, but I fell in love with my future husband without even knowing who he would be. I found my eyes were constantly drawn to the horizon in search of him. Then the Spirit removed my blinders and showed that the yearning and desire I had in my heart was a beautiful expression of love. One that I was afraid to look at honestly. Instead of being scared and alone, I could see it as a genuine healthy extension of the whole person in Christ I had grown to be.

My transformation in Christ has been comprehensive, across the board, amazing. This includes being set free to love as He created me to love. To serve as He created me to serve. To move from one finished season of life to the next amazing chapter still in love with and trusting Him to be my Good Shepherd.

I can also trust Him to take care, protect and shepherd the man of my dreams. That when I look to the horizon, one day he will be standing there with Jesus pointing him to me and drawing me to him.

That said, my process and journey are my own, and I have zero interest in trying to make my life a template for someone else to follow. I only seek to be the best friend I can be as you seek to live in a manner you feel compelled to live. I trust in a God, who is the Author of every single breath. I trust in His gift of you to us, and His gifts in you to manifest beauty and grace in the world.

Let’s look for the beauty of God, not the faults of others.
randy_sig

For a variety of reasons, I have turned off the comments section on my blog. I *love* discussion, but I have found that those discussions work best on social networks. So please join me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. I would enjoy connecting with you there.