Recent doings

While neglecting this poor blog for quite some time, I’ve been maintaining an active Tumblr and today guest posted at Registered Runaway! Check it out if you get a chance! I’ve titled it Arid Faith as part of the Love Letters guest post series at Registered Runaway.

Blessings!


GALA 2012 – aka. gay choir camp

This last week, I traveled with KC’s Heartland Men’s Chorus to Denver and immersed myself amongst 6500 other choir participants from LGBT choruses around the nation and world. We pretty much saturated downtown Denver creating a surreal alternate reality where being gay was the norm and attempting to blend in with heterosexuality was but a distant nightmare. It was such an odd feeling to find myself in a situation where my orientation was really the least interesting thing about me. I’m pretty sure it was the least gay I’ve felt in a long time. Somehow, when everyone is gay… no one is gay. Its just a non-issue – much like how most of my straight roommates don’t think daily about the fact that they have a straight orientation.

Some glimpses of the week through my eyes:

Our final number faded to the thunderous applause of a fullhouse standing ovation followed by a cheering gauntlet of a reception in the lobby of clapping, smiling, teary eyed men and women. I’d never experienced such an engaged audience on this level before… as we’d sung our stories, we’d sung theirs as well.

“I couldn’t help but enjoy your beautiful smiling reactions to our show!” I turned from Jason to the red shirted man on my right sporting bright glittery blue nails. The LA Chorus boy persisted with casual pleasantries before insisting I let him buy me lunch to the tune of, “I’d love to get to know you better!” How weird is it to be in a setting where the question, ‘is he gay,’ is obsolete – rather, I found myself attempting to ascertain through casual conversation, “but does he love Jesus?” The reality of being a Christ-loving minority within a gay minority is striking.

An ocean of candle lights glowed to life across the stage as SF Gay Men’s chorus performed a piece initially sung so many years earlier by their predecessors at a vigil held on the night of Harvey Milk’s assassination. A hair raising chill flooded through me as I reflected on the courage of those men who stood up in song and solidarity to bring attention to the very real and present problem of hate crimes driven by societal discrimination and prejudice.

There wasn’t a whole lot that seemed apparently significant about this next chorus… my 12th I’d seen so far. Yet something was different. As my eyes scanned the 100+ faces of singing men, I tripped. My heart stuttered, my eyes snared by his – something about his presence in song and the bright inner personhood shining through those windows. I lost him after the show in the milieu of 6500 other men and women – but for a few minutes, I shared a precious moment of soul to soul communication with a complete stranger.

“For Jesus is my portion, my constant friend is he. His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.” Columbus Gay Men’s chorus delivered a message of hope and trust (whether they realized it or not) in the sovereignty and redemptive love of Christ. I felt His gentle touch reminding my heart of His constancy and place in my life as my first love… the one and only being who will ever be able to truly satiate my every longing.

I returned to Kansas city with a real sense of renewed joy in my identity of sonship in my Creator. For those brief few days in Denver, I’d felt so very liberated from the common angst of feeling different because of my orientation and instead focused on the things that felt closer to God’s heart. What does it look like to pray  and converse more intentionally for my brothers and sisters within the gay community who so desperately need to know Him as their Lord and Savior? How do I daily learn to reset my gaze on Christ, my true source of joy and satisfaction, the author and perfecter of my faith?


Family

Photos by Erin Watson & Sigurour Gilbertsson

I’ve got to say, for being a single dude, God has really blessed my life in some pretty fantastic ways. I’m surrounded by a lot of amazing people who walk with me daily through life’s joys and fears. I’m never bereft of company or something to do. And should I ever feel overwhelmed in any way, I need but utter the word and I have the support and comfort of any number of caring friends.

Even so, there are times when I abruptly pause as the wind of desire tears through me – a thought, a glimpse, a sharp pain. That life didn’t pan out as I’d once dreamed. By now, I fully expected to be married to an incredible woman with a second child on the way. Instead, it seems that the turbulence of coming to terms with a gay orientation stopped me in my tracks. Not just a pot-hole in the road that slowed me down but rather a major accident on the highway that incapacitated me for years … perhaps indefinitely. My heart longs for things that often feel so far beyond my reach. I wish to reflect the depths of God’s love for me in the deep welling heart rending love for a child of my own. I yearn to romance a Godly man, shower him with affection, and partner together through life. How I long for family sometimes. Sure, being single is great. I do whatever I want, whenever I want, with whomever I want. I can follow my itchy feet to the heights of every 14′er CO has to offer, explore the four corners of the globe … and yet there will always be one adventure I long for. The adventure of family. That of a lover. That of a father – a provider. I wish to follow Christ in laying down my life, resources, and heart for the objects of my affection.

And so for the millionth time, I find myself reminded to step back and consider how God is moving in my world even now. As Barry Danylack, Redeeming Singleness, points out, my life as a single man “is a visible reminder that the kingdom of God points to a reality which stands beyond worldly preoccupations of marriage, family, and career.” The reality that this love story is about Him … and me. That I can rejoice daily in recognizing His affection for me – how He woos and attends my heart to make it His own. And in that knowledge, I am again content.


So She Dances

It was a Thursday night at The Marquee, like any other Thursday night. Tiny pinpricks of light spun wildly around the room skittering across a sea of dancers moving in elaborate, smooth, West Coast Swing time to top 20 pop selections. Bodies sliding in eloquent motion… sexy and classy all at once… complicated turns and subtly meaningful glances.

I turned in greeting at the familiar touch on my shoulder. Josh’s ever-present grin flashed under the lights as he introduced me to a friend he’d invited out to The Marquee tonight. Gorgeous wouldn’t even begin to describe her! Large dark wavy hair cascaded around an exotic mocha complexion. Her skin tight clubbing dress was not quite appropriate with the evening’s style of dance but seemed completely at home on her as it embraced her curvaceous figure. I’ll be honest. I don’t remember her name at all, but the impression she left on me is permanent. Her shapely lips opened and I heard, “nigh.. oo mee youu.” I smiled graciously assuming the music had interfered with her speech or perhaps I just couldn’t quite comprehend her unique accent. I leaned in to make polite introductory conversation but then halted uncertainly when Josh’s hands flew up and signed furiously in time to my speech. It was during this intense dialogue (.. er trialogue?) that I learned the hand sign for ‘Lesbian’… when I ‘heard’ her heart wrenching story of her partner’s recent tragic encounter with cancer. We enjoyed a lively conversation as only two people who don’t share a common tongue do – through our eyes, body language, and of course our interpreter Josh. I learned of her struggle of being black in a white world, of being deaf in a vocal society, of being Lesbian in a straight culture… and then finding love with a woman who truly became her other half only to experience devastating loss. Welling emotion tangled in my throat and swelled in my eyes as she flipped through picture after picture on her phone of two smiling heart faced women – cream against mocha. Two pairs of eyes sparkling in the joy of the other’s presence.

I grabbed her hand and led her out to the dance floor where we awkwardly stood for a few seconds. How did one pull this off? Sensing my uncertainty, she reached out her hand and placed it softly on my chest. She closed her eyes, inclined her head gently to the side as if listening to music beyond my own auditory range. And then she tapped… tentatively at first but with growing confidence as she introduced me to the unmistakable beat resonating through the floor and up through our echoing bodies. I gradually became aware of the very air around us pulsating in rhythmic reaction to sounds audible to my ears only. And so we danced. And it was truly beautiful. What should have been her greatest obstacle became her ally as she moved in delicate sensitivity to my every leading motion, interpreting with freedom the song communicated through felt vibrations.

In that moment, I experienced a real sense of awe and revelation. Like a confused man viewing an abstract work of modern art who discovers an awareness of the true value of the piece – a beauty not necessarily found in the piece’s concrete elements of color, shape, and line… but rather a beauty intrinsic to the piece itself… established as so through artist intent and story. The story of her existence shone in reflection of her Creator. Life had handed her so much struggle and pain – and against all odds, she danced. Joyfully and with surety.


Nurturing Contentment Part II

When you ask that God would teach you to rely fully on Him and Him only… be careful.

With the arrival of a new year and the advent of the holidays, I’ve had lots of time to process and think through priorities. As is customary, I sat down to evaluate the past year and set new goals for the upcoming one.

Wednesday evening (the 5th): In this frame of mind, I enjoyed a rich conversation with my older sister who was visiting the States in time for my younger brother’s wedding. She challenged me to consider what it might look like to completely surrender every goal, plan, and desire to Christ…. “David, what if everything was stripped away from you – your community, your goals, your desires, your security… everything! Would God still be enough? Would you still find your joy and fulfillment in Him?”

Thursday morning (the 6th): my drive in to work was bathed in prayer and worship as I poured my heart out to God. I prayed that He would continue to reveal places in my life where I was still clinging to my own sense of identity apart from Him. I entered the office place in an almost surreal state of mind ready to brave whatever boredom corporate America would decide to shove my way. To the contrary, 10 minutes later, I found myself (along with several other coworkers) on the receiving end of a speech I thought I’d never hear… a speech ending with, “I regret to tell you this, but your position has been eliminated.”

The shock took a few hours to wear off… but then I found myself incredibly relieved. Happy even. If God had decided to close this chapter of my life, then I was more than glad to let it go… although perhaps not quite as excited to part ways with the cushy financial security I’d become accustomed to. Even so, this sure isn’t the first time I’ve had to live within a tight budget.

And so I find myself wearing the shoes of a recently unemployed man. Perhaps it really isn’t so bad?

First few days of unemployment – I threw a bachelor party, ensured the successful marriage of my little brother, and wished my family farewell as they boarded their various flights.

Since then, I’ve begun checking things off my unemployed bucket list: 1) Never shave!!, 2) refuse to wear a shirt for an entire day, 3) Work out as long and often as I want!, 4) Spend ridiculous amounts of time at Starbucks, 5) Watch back-to-back episodes of How I Met Your Mother… Its as if I’ve become reacquainted with that thing called summer break… er, more of a winter break I suppose.

…okay, so I realize this can’t last, but I sure am enjoying it for the time being! Aaaaand back to working on my new folio site for the job search.


Nurturing Contentment in Transition

image by Roman Wershinin

A solitary figure stood on a subway platform. His silhouette in stark contrast to the whirling blur of fast paced figures rustling past. Clocks ticked, shoes clattered noisily in urban rhythm to the beat of people boarding trains, doors whooshing shut, and cars rattling off into unknown exciting tunnels. The platform now empty, the figure still standing. Still frozen motionless on the platform. The trains departed… and gone. Silence. But for a few seconds. And then, the room stirred with life again. Hurried hectic figures brushed by again. Clocks ticked anew, furiously conducting a deja vu’d orchestration of opening-closing-arriving-departing. And in this way, the cycle repeated. and repeated. and repeated… different people, different trains, different stories. And still the solitary figure remained.

Such was the vision I found myself witnessing as I tried to put my feelings into words. Do you ever grapple with feeling like life has departed and you’ve somehow missed the train? I catch myself gazing forlornly down tunnels my friends have taken off into, wondering what remains left. Bitter-sweetly happy for them while wondering how often I will have to repeat the same cycle of building relationship, engaging friendship, discovering real brotherhood and fellowship… only to say farewell again as life shuttles them off to new and exciting adventures – often involving bright-eyed wives and laughing children. I have this sneaking suspicion that married people check into some secret exclusive club when they utter their “I do’s” at the altar. We’ve all seen it before. Suddenly, they’re rarely free to hang out or chat anymore. And I mean, I guess I get it, they’ve got important spouse & parental responsibilities now.

My little brother is getting married in two weeks. My two remaining original roommates just got engaged… Within a period of 18 months, I will have been groomsman twice and best man another two times. I think what frustrates me most is that I want to be overjoyed for them – brimming with pride and happiness at how God has chosen to bless them. Instead, I’m completely occupied with fighting to keep a lid on feelings of pain and abandonment that threaten to boil over. I’m really not trying to mope about being single (I’ll save that one for later). Rather, I’m lamenting the seeming loss of relationships. Well, okay. Not loss. Change.

While its important for me to grieve the change and distancing of my friendship with my brothers, its just as important to try and understand how God intends to use this situation as yet another means of drawing me to Himself.

Beau Hughes, a pastor at The Village Church, speaks about our human tendency toward discontentment – “We struggle with contentment not primarily due to our circumstances, but rather because of our struggle to trust God. We struggle with trusting that God is what is best for us and does what is best for us.”

Its so true! When I stop and honestly think about it, I am prone to slip into the mindset of trying to tell God how to bless me and my life. Ha! As if any plans or schemes that I have for myself could in anyway surpass His grand design. Instead, what does it look like to nurture contentment and thankfulness in my heart rather than continuing to dwell on my frustrations and bitter disillusionment with my life circumstances? Do I truly believe and trust that God will supply for all my relational needs according to his riches in glory? In that place of recognition, I can truly have joy for others and how God’s blessed them – still feel a healthy sadness, but find an ultimate satisfaction and hope in who God is and will continue to be in me.

“for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
— Phil 4:11b-13

“Every painful thing we experience in relationships is meant to remind us of our need for God. And every good thing we experience is meant to be a metaphor of what we can only find in Him…. We settle for the satisfaction of human relationships when they were meant to point us to the perfect relational satisfaction found only with God.”
— Paul Tripp


Bare: A Pop Opera

Image via Raul P on Flickr

“…So you fill your life with sound,
And if you dance like hell,
You hope you never touch the ground.
What happens when the music stops?…”

Many of us know precisely what its like to put on an act… to refuse to acknowledge the truth about ourselves. It can be a bit of a hellish nightmare in which you’re constantly scrutinizing your every word and action to make sure you aren’t ‘found out.’ No one knows you for who you really are and you live in constant fear that if your friends and family knew the ‘real’ you, it would change EVERYTHING! I bought into this lie for much of my life… and experienced a lot of self inflicted pain and loneliness as a result. I’m so incredibly grateful for my relationship with the Lord and how He has been a continuous source of strength and love in the midst of all kinds of turmoil that has resulted from various situations pertaining to my orientation: dealing with rejection and callous words, coming out, processing through traditional vs affirming theology, and a million other things.
I have not seen this show personally. The extent of my exposure has been Grooveshark, a few YouTube clips, and a Wiki synopsis. Regardless, I find myself re-listening to some of the songs again and again. Anyway, thought I’d share. Be warned… content may make you a little emotional. Check it out:

Role of a Lifetime

Once Upon a Time


Looking for Love

Photo by Marino Cano

I had a great conversation this last weekend with some friends about how important it is to look for ways that God demonstrates his love to us on a daily practical level. Any little thing that can drive us to think of him, praise him, honor him for who he is. Its much like the many times I have walked in my front door exhausted from the week only to be suddenly overwhelmed with a fierce hug attack from one of my roommates. I had one such unexpected hug this past weekend… and I didn’t even know that I needed it.

In addition to the local gay choir that I sing with, I also participate with a smaller ensemble (within the choir). Well, this weekend, we were invited to perform at a benefit for the Homeless Services Coalition of Greater Kansas City. After our performance, I was approached in the hallway by a soft eyed middle aged woman. The first words out of her mouth were something along the lines of, “I don’t know how old you are, but when I saw you up there, I could easily imagine my son having the time of his life confidently enjoying himself like you guys obviously are.” She went on to explain that her son had come out recently and that he was having a difficult time coping with all that comes with it. Seeing us sing, she’d found hope that things would indeed get better (as Dan Savage puts it) for her son… after all, we seemed to be doing just fine. I was surprised by how deeply touched I was by this mother’s support and empathy for her son revealed in the obvious pain that colored her voice and pulled at her eyes. My chest constricted with emotion echoing her own… suddenly incredibly aware of how differently my own parents had responded when I’d come out to them. In tears myself now, I gave her a big hug, and as a surrogate son told her how much it meant to her child that she was staunchly supportive in her love for him and very clearly demonstrating that unconditional fact.

That moment re-awakened some emotions that I thought I’d already dealt with and laid to rest. I suppose we’re always in a process of healing rather than ever in a state of ‘healed’ – at least until we’re spiritually resurrected with Christ post-life. I’m aware again of how much hurt sometimes we carry (unknowingly even) because of miscommunication or general brokenness in our relationships with our parents. And this is something that’s universal… gay or not. In my case, the ‘gay’ thing has just forced me to face and emotionally deal with my broken relationship with my parents. I’ve become so acutely aware of how uniquely God has intervened in my own life to continue fathering and mothering me where I’ve needed that continued parenting. I’ve been freed to release my parents from unfulfilled expectations, hurts, and pain… indeed, to forgive them as Christ first forgave me. And in this, I’ve found so much freedom and hope! As such, I received that tearful hug from this random woman… joyfully recognizing God’s parental love and care in a very tangible way.


Thoughts at 14,000 feet

my shots from this weekend

“Just one more step.” I muttered to myself as I swayed wearily on the precarious, steeply-slanted, snow-slick trail that traces Mt Shavano’s massive side. Okay. Breathe. My quads threatened to cramp and render me immobile with each burning step forward. Snow lost traction beneath me and I tumbled, arms flailing, into a foot of shockingly cool but forgiving soft snow. Gasping at thin air, I lay for a few seconds and gazed in dazed wonder at the majestic fierce slopes that soared around my windswept eagle’s vantage point from just above 14000 feet near Mt Shavano’s taunting peak. Emotion welled deep inside me, my normal defenses worn down from 6 hours of continuous hiking and elevation gain in challenging conditions. “There is a very present God out there… who created all of this. Wow!” A chill of fear and awe rippled through me that had nothing to do with the wet snow sliding up under my jacket. “And yet, in His incomprehensible sovereignty and majestic glory, He cares about me, an insignificant speck of a dot on the barren white slope of a mountain in the middle of nowhere.” Tears born of icy wind and exhaustion froze crusty on the edges of my eye-lids. I felt like an ant who had stumbled across a dinosaur’s foot-print and was trying to imagine the impossible size and character of the creature who’d left it. Wonder… awe… fear… and under girding all of it was a sense of overwhelming peace and gratitude in the assurance of the love behind that incredible power.

This last weekend, I escaped with some friends on a much needed getaway to the Rockies. While much of the weekend was spent adventure seeking, I found several moments to reflect and recuperate from my normal day-to-day, cubicle-constrained, 8-5, office life. I’m amazed at how much perspective can be achieved just by removing myself from current circumstances. Such was one realization, rather reminder, as I crawled my way up my second 14er.

When I recognize my own insignificance in the face of God’s glory and grace, I am truly at peace. In the words of Paul Tripp, its so easy to lose sight of the fact that “grace has freed [me] from attaching [my] identity, meaning and purpose and inner peace to anything but the unshakable love of King Christ.” I’m freed from feeling the need to fight to establish and empower a kingdom of me. Instead, I can turn my attention to the kingdom that matters – where true satisfaction and joy can be found. I long to love with abandon, without fear for my own security and approval. When I fail and screw things up again, as I’m bound to do, I pray for the strength to find forgiveness to find hope in God rather than wallowing in shame! I want to earnestly seek God’s face with the frightening knowledge that I will be changed and painfully so. Indeed, within true humility and submission is true freedom. Even now, without the visual reminder of His grandeur, I pray that God will continue to grant me that place of cognizance of who I am – broken and free before Him. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” – Psalm 51:17.

More shots from this weekend


Gender Roles and Dancing

Photo by Albert Bredenhann

I’m an avid dancer.

I’m an avid many things actually… just professional/amazing nothing.

In the wake of my ever spontaneous sister, I learned early on as a young teenager to enjoy the passionate fun found in embracing the flings of a ‘new’ hobby or craze. Since, I was am horribly uncoordinated in coping with flying projectiles, I avoided sports like the plague and tagged along as her faithful partner in crime into all sorts of random capers – navigating international airports together as preteens, discovering the back ways to the bus-stop by cutting through crowded Bangkok slums, illegally participating as foreign child laborers at a factory in our Thai neighborhood (to supplement our allowance of $5/month), fending off the wild stray dogs that terrorized our street, stamp/coin collecting, mall-ratting, bible studying, starting up and heading up a bi-lingual youth group in our church, reading, knitting, singing, evangelizing, eating Papaya Salad as spicy as a local would, swimming, tromping all over Bangkok’s out-door shopping scene, ‘accidentally’ finding ourselves late at night in a strictly forbidden (by our parents) red-light district area purely out of curiosity, not to mention a multitude of other adventures. And so it was that I got into dancing and figure-skating… er, woops, I mean ice-skating of course.

With that unnecessary rambling back-story out of the way, I’ll move on to attempt to make a somewhat haphazard analogy that I’ve recently stumbled upon in my contemplations regarding gender roles and complementarianism. You may recall an early on post where I question how embracing gay relationships conflicts with my previous understanding of Scripturally prescribed gender roles in a relationship. A complementarian approach would say: one man and one woman in a marital partnership together is unique and beautiful God-ordained relational joining that prescribes gender-specific roles of leadership and submission, love and respect, in order to reflect “[God's] trinitarian nature, his covenantal love in marriage, and his authority and submission in the church” (Nick Bogardus, The Resurgence). My entire life, I’ve been raised in light of this view of scripture and to this day still tend to view relationships with this perspective as my default… which has created obvious hiccups when I consider what same-sex relationships should look like.

And now finally, to my analogy. On a relational/interactivity level, two people in a marriage relationship should be able to ‘dance’ or ‘skate’ in unison time to their joint life soundtrack. One leads, one follows. One supports, one leans. One pursues, one responds,  There’s a dynamic play of interactivity that when done right results in a beautiful synchronistic movement in response and interpretation of a greater musical scheme. Just as in dance, men and women fill culturally prescribed roles in relationships. However, depending on the dance, these can vary greatly. In fact, more often than not, responsibilities are switched and re-matched. In Swing or a lot of types of Ballroom, the man initiates and guides the woman through a variety of movements. He must lead delicately with careful sensitivity to her style, and she must learn to respond to the slightest guiding hand movement. However, pair-skating is quite different. In order for pair skating to work, the woman must lead while giving the appearance that the man is still leading. In reality, he’s just a support to help her shine. She sets the tone and direction, deciding on where to go and when to turn. He must think two steps ahead and try to predict her decisions so he can be there in full support to keep her balance intact. Both situations require a careful interactivity and specific role fulfillment… but these roles look incredibly different for the different circumstances/situations.

As I’ve researched and read various books and blogs, I’ve come to note two specific problems with my previous understanding of scripture as it pertains to complementarianism. I neglected to take broader historical and cultural context into consideration. 1. Scripture prescribes these gender roles from a heterosexual speaker to a predominantly hetero-normative audience. Since holistic monogamous same-sex relationships weren’t even on the radar, no instructions were offered specific to that situation. 2. The culture in which these roles were given was a male-dominated and male-run society that didn’t allow for female independence or identity apart from her father/husband/master/brother/male-relation.

Have I neglected to consider that maybe complementarianism isn’t the only structure that might be scripturally appropriate within relationships for modern society?

Perhaps like the dancing/pair-skating analogy, gender roles in relationships are more fluid, changing with different cultures and circumstances while still achieving the same end-goal: a harmonious, God-honoring, mature, and ever-growing relationship between two individuals. I’m not attempting to debunk or replace the long established tradition of the complementarity model. Rather, at the risk of sounding relativistic, I’d like to postulate that perhaps there isn’t a set modality that can be prescribed to all couples universally. After all, every couple functions differently based on each individual’s gifting and personality. Perhaps while complementarity may work best for some couples, other couples work better in light of a mutual-submission or egalitarian relational approach? I honestly don’t know. Its a new concept to me that needs more thought.

There are so many other paths that this conversation could take. What about the scriptural analogy of  God and his bride, the church, being reflected in marriage between men and women? What about headship and submission? How do we know that it was only a cultural prescribed phenomenon rather than one that is rigid and must be strictly adhered to? What about the fact that men and women do seem to balance each other from more than just a biological standpoint, but also emotional and mental? Can two people of the same gender ‘complement’ each other in a similar way? All great questions for a future post… or a different blogger. And thus I end rather inconclusively I’m afraid. Please feel free to comment/email with links to any other articles sources pertaining to this subject matter. I’m continually seeking to expand my understanding and would love to hear your thoughts.

For a much more scripturally conscious exploration of this topic, check out this post by Missional Theology.


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