Monday, July 24, 2006

Fooled Again

As I grow older I become more and more appreciative of what I'll call "humbling moments"--those times when I am forced by the sheer weight of facts to admit that I've been fundamentally wrong about something that I was insistent about. They don't engender the feelings of insecurity that I used to experience as a 20-something when I felt that if I didn't know something I wasn't worth anything. I don't have as much to prove these days, so I can take some pleasure in instruction and in the process of unlearning.

So rather than the optical illusion above being something in the vein of "hey, look at this cool new thing I found on the web," I want to use it as a teaching humbling moment: both Square A and Square B are the same color. No, I insist: they are the same shade of gray. See here for confirmation. And then there's this.

It's liberating to discover errors. Didn't Jesus say it would be so?

So the thought for the day: what religious, cultural, ethnic or political illusions hold us in their bind? God, I pray you give us an unending series of humbling moments until we see the truth--and are truly set free.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Zeke at One Year: 365 Days, 220 Posts, and a Changed Life

When I started this blog exactly one year ago on my 40th birthday, I felt at a crossroads of sorts. Like everything was up in the air and I didn't know what to expect, only that things had not turned out like I expected. And that's allright; while I didn't end up a college professor, foreign service officer, or rich from some other occupation, I did find myself with a loving family and a promising if difficult career.

In the intervening year, I've lived through an involuntary separation from my wife and daughter while they cared for my mom in Arizona, through her death; I've reconciled with my two brothers with whom I've had little contact the last six years; I've completed four years of service on the board of a church that I no longer attend on anything like a regular basis; I've ran into conflict with my old church over the issue of gay Christians and have found myself questioning a great many things about the culture if not the faith that I've belonged to for many years. And I've turned the corner professionally and financially, restoring a good part of the income I lost in the tech crash.

I've made many new friends along the way, none of whom I will mention here for fear of missing someone just because I'm rushing this post. You know who you are, and I love you.

Thank you all for being alongside me over the last year, and I hope that this next year is for you as satisfying and as full of promise and mystery as the last has been for me.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Things to do in Denver When You're Sleeved

Does everyone in Denver wear short-sleeved shirts? After having to extend my current business trip there another day, I needed to get a new shirt. Dillards and Nordstroms at the local upper-middish class mall had the usual open-package-remove-pins dress shirts, but I like the ones you get off the rack. Here, the racks are FULL of short sleeved shirts. Never seen anything like it. It's like all of Denver wears golf shirts.

I know who's to blame. It's all the evangelicals. And here's my evidence.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

More Correspondence

Pastor Dan (G.F.P.) sent the following email to his congregation:
A few months ago a good friend of mine, Zeke and his adult daughter visited ODM's Interact service. This man and his wife were in the leadership of a church here in Long Beach that I was serving as a staff Pastor leading worship.

When Zeke and his family discovered I was pastoring Open Door Ministries, an open and affirming church, with loving care and concern they invited me to sit down with them and discuss my views on being Christian and gay. These are people who have attended and been leaders in conservative fundamental churches for years. Through the time I spent with them and in their earnest interest in knowing truth they have become rather outspoken at times about the harm that the religious world has caused the Christ-followers who are also part of the LGBT community. A few months ago Zeke also did a podcast interview with me to further educate Christians who oppose the idea of gays who love God.

Zeke's mother died last week and he asked if I would preside over her memorial service at their church here in Long Beach where I served as Worship Director. The board would not allow Zeke to have his mother's service in his home church because the Pastor he selected to reside over the memorial is gay. [Zeke note: this isn't technically accurate; it never went to a vote before the Board, as the pastor was not comfortable forcing the issue and preferred that I find another minister.]

I'm writing asking for your prayerful support for Zeke and his family not only in the loss of Zeke's mother but also for people who name themselves followers of Jesus, who, out of ignorance pass judgment on fellow believers. May I ask that this very moment you pause to pray blessings on the Zeke family and that you ask God to clear a path for the needful healing of all Christian people and churches worldwide who are judging and even hating in the name of God. We know this must grieve the heart of God.

I will be officiating this Saturday over Mother Zeke's service that has been moved to a private location. The Zeke family is experiencing the same prejudicial judgment we have simply because of their association with me.

God is on the throne and works in all of these things to serve His ultimate plan for good.

-Pastor Dan

Supportive emails began to rush in from Pastor Dan's congregants. Here's a sampling:

"Peace and God's merciful love and blessings upon the Zeke family, you and all of our brothers and sisters, gay and straight. May the mote be removed from the eyes of those that judge, that they may truly see love...."

"I can understand this oh, so very well, especially now when I have a mother who says she loves me but wants nothing to do with me or mine. A lifetime of heartache often follows us, not because we're different but because others make sure we know we're different. I think one of the most hurtful things my mother said to me in our last conversation several weeks ago was, "No wonder you've been so miserable in your life--look at the life you lead." This comes from a woman who has witnessed my love and care and concern for her and my father and my sisters. She knew that I and my partner, took turns in staying up all night with my father there in the hospital night after night, abandoning our own needs, tending to his needs whenever we could. She witnessed my commitment to Christ, my baptism, my profession of faith. She and I have prayed together, studied God's Word together, fellowshipped together at the same church, attended Bible Studies together, and sung praises to God in choir together for years. She knows my love for Jesus and yet says she cannot understand how I could say that and still live the way I do.

I have taken great care to honor my mother and my father and to show them I love them inspite of all the painful words they've said to me over the years. My dear mother honestly thinks that the "misery" comes from my being gay...not from the painful words and the broken fellowship...not from the pain she, and others like herself inflict. Yes, I have prayed for your friend and will continue to do so, have no doubt..."

"Thank you for sharing this prayer request with me, and others. What a heartbreaking situation for the family. It is so sad when those who name the name of Jesus don't get his message. Years ago I saw a T shirt in We Ho that read: "Jesus, protect me from your followers!" How sad. I will be praying for them, and also for you, my friend. I'm sure this is challenging for you too."
I'll be writing much more about this over time and as things develop, but it's worth bringing you all up to speed for a moment here. Pastor Dan officiated today over my mom's service in my cousin's back yard, and it was simple and beautiful. He walked us all through the heavily metaphorical 23rd Psalm under the bright California sun, I said a few words, and we shared stories for hours with each other while we looked through boxes of family photos. Pastor Dan lingered and we talked about the drama at our old church. I shared with him how angry I am at what happened, and how that could be a serious obstacle to actually affecting change. He was sympathetic; living among a hostile culture your whole life provides a lot of perspective on how to remain patient and forgiving.

I wish this had never happened, but through it we've won the opportunity to be prayed for and encouraged by those who I had, for many years, a hand in being a discouragement to.