8.02.2014

The Naked Truth

From the moment I started having feelings for Krista I felt ashamed, dirty, scared, unworthy, and any other adjective you can think of. I remember sitting at breakfast with a close friend when I let her in on the news that I liked someone. She instantly got so excited for me and then I said “It’s a girl”. I’m thankful that in that very moment she fully embraced and comforted me. She reminded me that I can’t help who I love. I began to cry and I said to her “Do you think I’m going to hell?”
As a Christian we know there is nothing we can do to lose the gift of salvation, and yet I still cried every day thinking that I was a monster for what I was feeling.  
Why do I share this with you? Because a lot of Christians today who struggle with their sexuality are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place. Most of us feel like you have to choose between having a relationship with God or being gay. As I shared my news with my friend she said that she has a gay friend who is very involved in her church. What? A gay person who goes to church and is OPEN about it AND she can serve and be involved? I’m confused.
Enter: The Gay Christian Network
A lot of people have been messaging me asking questions on how I biblically came to the conclusion that so many Christians have it wrong when it comes to being gay. Like I said in my first post, I’m not here to sway you in one direction or another, but I will provide for you the top things that have helped me open my eyes to a completely new world.
The Gay Christian Network has helped TREMENDOUSLY. It has resources that include essays, books, videos and testimonies. One of the things that has really helped me through this is reading the book TORN by Justin Lee. Here’s a brief description:
“As a teenager and young man, Justin Lee felt deeply torn. Nicknamed "God Boy" by his peers, he knew that he was called to a life in the evangelical Christian ministry. But Lee harbored a secret: He also knew that he was gay. In this groundbreaking book, Lee recalls the events--his coming out to his parents, his experiences with the "ex-gay" movement, and his in-depth study of the Bible--that led him, eventually, to self-acceptance.

But more than just a memoir, TORN provides insightful, practical guidance for all committed Christians who wonder how to relate to gay friends or family members--or who struggle with their own sexuality. Convinced that "in a culture that sees gays and Christians as enemies, gay Christians are in a unique position to bring peace," Lee demonstrates that people of faith on both sides of the debate can respect, learn from, and love one another.”

This book really has helped and challenged me to the core. Justin Lee breaks down every scripture that most Christians today misinterpret and regurgitate with no problem. Like I said, I was one of them so I know how it works.

I also watched the documentary “For The Bible Tells Me So”
“Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families -- including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson -- we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard's Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.”
This movie was one of the breaking points where I sobbed while I watched it. Not just because it made me feel better about my situation, but because it showed me how judgmental I was. I should probably go as far as to say that I wasn’t just judgmental on the topic of being gay, I was judgmental about everything and everyone. It may not have seemed like it on the surface but on the inside I was self-righteous.
I am currently reading God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships
As a young Christian man, Matthew Vines harbored the same basic hopes of most young people: to someday share his life with someone, to build a family of his own, to give and receive love. But when he realized he was gay, those hopes were called into question. The Bible, he'd been taught, condemned gay relationships.

Feeling the tension between his understanding of the Bible and the reality of his same-sex orientation, Vines devoted years of intensive research into what the Bible says about homosexuality. With care and precision, Vines asked questions such as:

* Do biblical teachings on the marriage covenant preclude same-sex marriage or not?
* How should we apply the teachings of Jesus to the gay debate?
* What does the story of Sodom and Gomorrah really say about human relationships?
* Can celibacy be a calling when it is mandated, not chosen?
* What did Paul have in mind when he warned against same-sex relations?

Unique in its affirmation of both an orthodox faith and sexual diversity, God and the Gay Christian is likely to spark heated debate, sincere soul search­ing, and even widespread cultural change. Not only is it a compelling interpretation of key biblical texts about same-sex relations, it is also the story of a young man navigating relationships with his family, his hometown church, and the Christian church at large as he expresses what it means to be a faithful, gay Christian.”

I am about half way through on this one so I can’t give my full opinion, but so far I think it’s a good read.

All that to say, DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. I used to tell my students that they should ask questions, research and seek God on their own. That we shouldn’t rely on being spoon fed but instead we should be on solid food feeding our spirit. I’m always open to conversation and debate, but I am never open to criticism and judgment if it comes from a negative place.

7.30.2014

The Rumors are True

"But…you CAN'T be gay AND be a Christian!"

"That's GROSS"

"I will never be happy for you"

These are a few of the things I have been told in the last two weeks of slowly coming out to friends and families. If you haven't guessed what this blog post is about, let me get it out there now.

I'M GAY. 

oh… and we're engaged! 

Now that you have gasped at the initial shock of this news, let me break it down for you to hopefully give an understanding of how I got here.

For as long as I could remember, I used to have crushes on boys. I was always the girl who never dated because she wanted it to be special with someone she REALLY liked. My first date wasn't until I was 23 years old, as well as my first kiss and my first boyfriend. I was always the type of girl who was confident in admitting that other women were attractive. I just always thought I was the cool girl in the group who could admire the beauty in the same sex; or any sex for that matter.

My agenda in our initial friendship from day 1 was to "straighten her out". I felt that I was supposed to mentor her and steer her in the right direction. I was asked to show her the error of her ways and show her that God could make an incredible Godly woman out of her.

For the longest time I never brought up her past relationships. Anyone who knows my ministry style knows that I won't dig for information unless someone feels comfortable enough to share their life with me. It took quite a while for her to trust me with her past. I listened of course and gave encouragement that God could heal her from her impure ways if she really wanted Him to.

Krista wasn't the only student I would tell that she was in the wrong. A former student came to me saying that he has had feelings for the same sex for as long as he could remember.  I remember sitting with him and telling him that God didn't make him that way, and that if he really wanted to he could CHOOSE to stop those feelings and some day date and marry a woman. How naive and arrogant of me. He used to say "but where exactly does it say that in scripture?" and I always went blank. I always referred back to "well God created Adam and Eve…". I'll never forget the day I told him that he could no longer serve on my team if he continued to go against what God wanted for him. That if he continued to believe that this was ok that he would need a break from serving.

There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of him. I can now say that I know even a small bit of what that must have felt like to have the person you look up to tell you that there is something wrong with you and that God didn't design you that way. To him I publicly apologize and I ask for your forgiveness.

My relationship with Krista grew past the average pastor/worship leader relationship. It wasn't just about the business of ministry. We genuinely became best friends. I found myself wanting to spend more time with her than with my own friends. There was this magnetism and electricity about her. Anyone who knows her knows that she can light up a room just by shining that perfect smile. She can tell you a joke and have you laughing until you can't breathe and your stomach hurts.

Slowly I found myself being physically attracted to her. I can still remember the day when I was driving home from work and couldn't stop thinking about her. Not just her, but being WITH her. As a couple. As partners. As wives. You can imagine my initial shock when I had never found myself being attracted to the same sex (or at least not admitting it). I prayed every day that God would take my feelings for her away. That God would cleanse my heart of such sinful ways. The agony that comes with something like this is almost unbearable. I spent days and nights wishing that I could wake up from this crazy dream I was having.

So you're probably asking yourself "If you felt so sinful about it how are you two now ok with being together?" The answer isn't a simple one. It's been a year journey of prayer, meditation, researching, reading, seeking counsel, you name it. I do not believe sexual orientation is a choice.  As much as you didn't choose to be attracted to the opposite sex, I didn't choose to be attracted to the same sex. I believe God made each of us to His own liking and I believe that He makes no mistakes. I do of course believe that God will always want us to become more holy and become more to His image, and for this I am grateful for the example of Jesus.

From the moment Krista and I confessed our feelings for each other I knew that my position at the church needed to come to a close. To clarify, I did NOT leave the church solely on the basis of my new relationship. I had already been feeling for months that God was stirring something inside me that was already leading me out of this position. Once my relationship began I knew it was confirmation that I needed to go. I resigned and I exited in the most respectful way possible.

I am not here to change your mind on the topic of God and the being gay. The only thing I am here to do is to be honest with those I love and care about that this is my life. I have never been more happy in my entire life. I never knew that I could be in a relationship with someone who compliments me so well, someone who will pray with me, seek God with me, correct me when needed, encourage me, cry with me, and defend me. Someone I want to build a life with forever honoring God in the process. I don't believe her and I met by mistake, I believe I was sent to her to open my eyes of all that I never know could be. Like Dorothy coming into Oz, from black and white she opened my eyes to COLOR.

God is so much bigger than I ever imagined. I've never felt more hopeless, yet hopeful, more challenged, more defeated, and yet more full of passion to help a world see that there is so much more beyond our understanding. To help the world see that we are in no place to discriminate against someone just because of their sexual orientation. I will challenge you to see the individuals heart for God.

For many of you this is going to be a difficult thing to take in. While you are processing things, I want to be clear on a few things that might help you figure out how you will respond to this:

I do not EXPECT you to support us
I do not EXPECT you to be happy for us
I do not EXPECT you to let go of your beliefs just because we are friends

I do however, EXPECT you to treat us with love and respect. 


Before you decide to cast the first stone, I challenge you to remember that no one is perfect. You can have your opinions and you can have your beliefs, just as I have mine. I won't force mine on you, just 
as I ask you to not force yours on mine. 

I leave you with this...

John 13:34

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 


1.09.2013

#2013

I've spent most of my years planning out exactly how I think my life should be. Some people would say that I am OCD about it. I wouldn't disagree with that statement. The first step in the process is admitting you have a problem, right?

With 2013 having officially kicked off, I took some time out to focus on what I want this year to look like. A lot of what I wrote out wasn't much out of the ordinary.


Love more

Read more
Write more
Eat healthier
Spend more time with family
Travel

The list goes on.


As I was writing this out I sat on the beach watching the waves crash on the shore. The thing I noticed is that no two waves were exactly alike. Some small, some big, some not even noticeable. Like the waves, I don't want 2013 to be like the year before. I want it to be its own. I've vowed to leave 2012 in 2012.


The reason I didn't write out more of what I wanted was because I felt like I didn't want to limit God on what He was going to do. When I try to map out every detail He shows me something new. I am expectant that He will surpass whatever I think this year will be.

I don't say this to excuse planning, but what I realized is that I need to leave ROOM for Him to do what He does. I'm seeking Him for the next step.

Isaiah 43:19
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

God is doing a NEW thing! It's feeling more and more like this will be the year of new. It's already started to take that route, new job, new home, new friends, and new adventures. So much happened in 2012 that kicked off the beginning of all of these new and exciting blessings. Now I believe it's time to start unwrapping these gifts that He has given me. 

Above all, I am marking this the year that I go deeper. Deeper in my faith, deeper in my understanding of who God is. Deeper in my knowledge of His love for me. I want to get deeper into the heart of my creator. 


12.13.2012

Leading By Example


The word transparent keeps hovering over me lately like a helicopter.
Webster’s Dictionary defines transparency as fine or sheer enough to be seen throughfree from pretense or deceit, readily understood.
I quickly put the word to leadership principles. My ultimate goal will always be to lead by example. Because lets face it, when it’s “do as I say, not as I do” we are not as effective as we could be.
Jesus was and is the perfect example of leading by example. He will never ask us to do something that He himself has not done. In the same way, I will never ask my students or leaders to do something that I myself have not done or am not willing to do.
I recently read John Maxwell’s “The Five Levels Of Leadership”. In the book he talks about leading by example and the effect that we can have on others. He shared this quote that will forever be in my mind and heart.
“Be the change you wish to see in this world”. –Mahatma Gandhi
It followed up with this story about a young boy and his obsession with sugar.
During 1930′s, a young boy had become obsessed with eating sugar. His mother was very upset with this. But no matter how much she scolded him and tried to break his habit, he continued to satisfy his sweet tooth. Totally frustrated, she decided to take her son to see his idol – Mahatma Gandhi; perhaps her son would listen to him.
She walked miles, for hours under scorching sun to finally reach Gandhi’s ashram. There, she shared with Gandhi her predicament. -“Bapu, my son eats too much sugar. It is not good for his health. Would you please advise him to stop eating it?”
Gandhi listened to the woman carefully, thought for a while and replied,“Please come back after two weeks. I will talk to your son.”
The woman looked perplexed and wondered why had he not asked the boy to stop eating sugar right away. She took the boy by the hand and went home.
Two weeks later they revisited Gandhi. Gandhi looked directly at the boy and said,“Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.”
The boy nodded and promised he would not continue this habit any longer. The boy’s mother was puzzled. She turned to Gandhi and asked,“Bapu, Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?”
Gandhi smiled,“Mother, two weeks ago I was eating a lot of sugar myself.”
We won’t always get it right; in fact we will inevitably mess up along the way. Ever find yourself telling students to do things that you yourself fall short on?
You should read your bible everyday  
You should spend daily time with God
You should serve and be involved
Seems so easy to tell our students to do all of the right things, but to be completely honest I find myself falling short of these things at times. This is where being transparent comes in handy. I always remind my students that I am not perfect, and that I, like everyone else will fall short of the mark.
Does that give them permission to stop trying? No. But it shows them that even their leader struggles. The struggle is what ultimately will make us stronger and better people. Our character is constantly being tested and put through the fire.
We need to be reminders to them that they are not alone.
My pastor has always said to me that we should be the same person on stage as we are off stage. I will continue striving to be the leader that is consistent in all she does and all she is.
To lead by example in EVERYTHING I do. That means being conscious of what gets posted on social media, who I spend my time with, what I spend my time doing, most of all that my words and my actions would consistently match up.
I leave you with this; “If your actions inspire others to dream more, earn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”-John Quincy Adams
Be the leader that pushes others to be the best they can be. 

12.09.2012

Sweet Tooth

Recently while in prayer I had this picture of a child asking for an ice cream sundae before bed. Not just any sundae, but a sundae with all the fixings. Chocolate, strawberry, vanilla ice cream with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and a cherry on top!

The parent in this scenario told her son he couldn't have the sundae before bed. The child threw a tantrum as any child would when they don't get what they want. The parent knew best that sweets before bed was a bad idea.

To me the sweets represented things that we ask for in our lives. Whether we ask for certain jobs, relationships, or even material things. Like the ice cream sundae, none of those things are bad. But they can be harmful to us if they are given when we are not ready for them. 

As good as that sundae is in that moment, that poor kid is going to have a rough night of being wide awake with a tummy ache. Something that can be so good can hurt us when consumed at the wrong time.

I see myself as that child at times. Wondering why I haven't received what I've so faithfully asked for. I fully believe that when God says its the right time that He will provide. Because without His timing, even the best of things can be the worst of things.

The right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing.

When you find yourself throwing a fit because you feel God is playing keep away. Remind yourself that He knows the why behind the what. Trust that He's saying "not right now, just wait" for your own good.

11.17.2012

Learning to Say No


Recently I had a conversation with my pastor (Moses Camacho), where he said to me “you have to learn to say no”.
Anyone who has been in ministry long enough knows that regardless of whether you are a volunteer, part time, or full time staff that you spend more hours on your work than your time card says. 
Why? Because you love what you do. When you love what you do it doesn’t feel like work. 
The problem comes when you have a full plate and yet you still find yourself saying yes to any request that comes your way. Most of us say yes because we genuinely love to serve and help others. 
One of the biggest struggles I’ve seen with people in ministry is their inability to say NO. Unfortunately in most cases this leads to burn out. 
Last year I ended up in the emergency room multiple times for ongoing pain. Every time I went to the emergency room I was hooked up to an IV with some painkillers that would put me out for the rest of the day. One of the times that I went in I said to the nurse “would you mind not giving me so much of the pain killers, I have a lot of meetings to be at and I don’t want to be knocked out”.
The nurse’s jaw dropped. As did my heart when I heard the words I was saying. She leaned over to me and said “sweetie I don’t know what it is that you do, but I do know that if you don’t take care of yourself you can’t take care of anybody else”. Those words will forever be embedded in my mind.
A lot of times we get too caught up in the work of God and we put our relationship with Him on the back burner. We trick ourselves into thinking that if we are working for Him then it’s just the same as spending time with Him. It’s not. 
He wants you. Just you. Not your power point presentation. Not the curriculum you wrote for the new series. Not even the awesome sermon you wrote for Sunday. He just wants you. 
As people in ministry and as Christians we are called to be there for others. However, we aren’t called to lose sleep, get stressed out, or get sick from not resting. 
Saying no isn’t a bad thing. Saying no to something that isn’t right for you now, opens you up to say yes to something in the future. 
Saying no opens up the opportunity for someone else to rise to the occasion an serve. We have to remind ourselves that we are part of a body that needs each part to work. We cannot fill every role 100%. We weren’t built that way. We were built to need each other. Don’t rob someone the blessing of serving. You saying no could be an answered prayer to someone waiting for an opportunity to help out. 
Be encouraged that you’re not alone. I’m the biggest offender when it comes to wanting to say yes. But contrary to popular belief, I am not Wonder woman, and I can’t do it all. 

9.14.2012

Goodbyes and Brownies

This is it... my last night in B205.

As I was going through my mental check list of everything that needs to be packed and ready by 730am. I got a text from my neighbor that lives below me. His name is Jay and he asked if I was home and awake. I of course said yes and within minutes I heard a knock at the door. He and his sister brought me a good bye card and a box of brownies.

It could be that I'm overly emotional because of so many changes happening, but I was really touched by the gesture. When I first moved into this apartment complex I baked batches of brownies for every neighbor around me as a "Hi, I live here and I want to get to know you". After knocking on a couple doors the thought occurred to me that these people might think I'm crazy.

In the card he wrote how I was the only person he ever connected with out of our neighbors and that he was sad to see me go. We never had deep conversations, it was mostly a hi's and bye's, the occasional how are things going or a "Hey can you turn the music down?". Ya, I was THAT neighbor. I'm getting old people. I never really realized what an impact was being made by our interactions.

MARK 12:31
31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] No other commandment is greater than these.”

God has called us to love our neighbors as ourselves. In my case He meant literally love my neighbor as myself. But I confess that I didn't always want to, nor did I always do it. I felt an instant conviction upon receiving that gift because I felt like I could have done more to reach out and build a better relationship.

Relationships will always be the root of what brings someone to Christ. Regardless of where you are in your relationships with non believers, don't give up. Keep pursuing, and keep interceding on their behalf. Plant the seed, water the seed, and let God do what He does best.

My point to this is that you never knows who's life you could be effecting. What may seem small to you could mean the world to someone else.