Category Archives: Josha

Since I started this blog in December 2010, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and converse with some incredible Godly people. Josha is one of those people. Her transparency and openness are admirable, and her testimony resonates deeply in my spirit. She is a wonderful writer who shares her heart in a very real way. -Mandy

Why We Suffer in Silence: Guest Post Series

Hello, lovelies.  It’s been quite a while since you’ve heard from me. I’ve been working on a couple of other projects (which I am eager to share with you soon). I’ve also been going through quite a rough time during the past few months. Perhaps I will be able to share more details in the near future. But I am so thankful for those of you who have sent messages to check on me. I deeply miss writing for you, and plan on returning for good in the coming weeks.

I continue to be thankful for people like Josha, who continue fiercely on their spiritual journey despite the conflicts that arise around them. Those of us in the LGBT community sometimes suffer in silence… especially those of us who desperately seek relationship with the Creator. Why? Because we must hide who we truly are. Many of us are told that we do not—and cannot—possibly love God if we are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.  Josha has been on quite the journey over the past few years, and I’m so thankful she’s open to sharing it with us.

-Mandy

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by Josha:

458794_72242887“Are you in pain?” Is the question a beautiful, tall, professionally dressed, concerned woman asked me, as if I were at the doctor’s office?

I was sitting in the waiting room, all alone at the car dealership, getting an oil change.

I looked up at this woman who had appeared in the light so suddenly with an unexpected question and my thoughts were, “Is she really talking to me? Where did she come from? Why is she asking me this? What just happened?”

I responded with, “No.”

She looked at me for a few seconds with a concerned face and then asked again. “Are you sure? Someone came to my office and said I should check on you because you looked like you were in pain.”

I tried to recall what was happening before this woman appeared. I was just sitting in the waiting area all alone, contemplating my life’s situation… and then I realized what might have happened. I looked up at her and lied, “Nope, I’m just fine.” I smiled a big, fake smile…her facial expression and pause indicated that she was not convinced with my answer as she said, “Okay” and walked away.

Who was this lady?
And what was my appearance like?
Did my internal angst come out in my physical posture and demeanor?

It was such a bizarre wake up call that I really was hurting. It was as if God was checking in on me and I flat out lied. Suppose this woman was God in the flesh with concern for my pain, this is what I would have shared:

YES! Yes, I’m in pain! I’m 36 years old and I’ve never even experienced a kiss. And I have deep desires to experience that kind of relationship. The problem is that I can only experience this with a woman which is not acceptable among most the people I know. I’m fully aware of my sexuality and feel trapped into keeping it hidden. It is painful. It makes friendships complicated. For the first time in my life I experienced mutual attraction and given an opportunity to kiss and I turned the opportunity down. As I began to get to know this person I was drawn to her more and more as we have so much in common and many of the same values. We find each other intriguing, we motivate each other, challenge each other, and we seem to always enjoy each other’s company.  I was definitely interested in exploring a dating relationship but with prayerful caution. I was holding back so much in the start of this interesting relationship. Extreme caution came from the reality that if I cross that line then I’m not to be in leadership role at church…the reality that some friends and family might be very disappointed in me…the reality that I could get very attached and then this end in brake up. I was being so careful and cautious as things were happening so fast and just when I was about ready to accept the challenges that pursuing a relationship might bring, she decided that a relationship with me is not what is best for her. This is fair, but this stings. And while I’m grateful she wants to remain friends, it is hard as I try to battle my desires and feelings while attempting to be a good friend.  Am I in pain? Yes.

I had good intentions in refusing a physical relationship but now there are moments in which I feel regret not taking the opportunity at that moment to share in a kiss, which is an element of humanity that is so normal and natural.

What kept me from indulging in this kiss? I turned it down multiple times because I was afraid of hurting her, I was afraid of getting hurt, I was afraid of hurting my church family, I was afraid of going down a path that would cause strain in my own family…. but not once was I afraid of hurting God for experiencing something that comes from God. My intensions were pure but I’m left feeling the pain of denying another and myself the experience of touch, of kissing.

Though painful at times, I am okay with how things have turned out. It seems as though we both taught each other something. While I might have taught this person something about boundaries, she has taught me something about the human touch and letting some boundaries go.

It feels like darkness to hinder the LGBTQ population from the joys of the same experiences that people who are heterosexual experience. Most Christians don’t frown upon opposite sex couples when they “make out” before marriage. On the positive side of the pain I’m currently undergoing I’m grateful to see a little bit more of the reality of how hurtful it is for the LGBTQ person to be placed in positions of less than equal standards.

I go to church and see heterosexual couples that have freedom to express their sexuality, sit together, hold hands, and share the experience of worshiping The Creator of love itself. And while people are naturally seeking to match up those who are heterosexual and single, I’m left with instructions to “be single,” “be celibate,” “don’t trust your feelings,” “don’t allow yourself intimate love,” “deny yourself the enjoyment of marriage.” This. Is. Painful.

So how do I cope? How do I continue to worship with this church family?

I’m not at church to be comforted. I don’t attend with the expectation to feel good. I am at this church because I love the people, I believe in the love of God, and I believe that God sent a powerful message of love through Jesus who’s spirit is alive and at work though all our relationships. I hold on to that belief, not depending on my feelings of pain or on my feelings of joy.

I find encouragement from the following thoughts; this is a summary of the book of Zephaniah by Eugene Peterson’s The Message:

“We humans keep looking for a religion that will give us access to God without having to bother with people. We want to go to God for comfort and inspiration when we are fed up with the men and women and children around us. We want God to give us an edge in the dog-eat dog competition of daily life.  This determination to get ourselves a religion that gives us an inside track with God, but leaves us free to deal with people however we like, is age-old. It is the sort of religion that has been promoted and marketed with both zeal and skill throughout human history. Business is always booming.It is also the sort of religion that the biblical prophets are determined to root out. They are dead set against it.Because the root of a solid spiritual life is embedded in a relationship between people and God, it is easy to develop the misunderstanding that my spiritual life is something personal between God and me – a private thing to be nurtured by prayers and singing, spiritual readings that comfort and inspire, and worship with like-minded friends. If we think this way for very long, we will assume that the way we treat the people we don’t like or who don’t like us has nothing to do with God.That’s when the prophet’s step in and interrupt us, insisting, ‘Everything you think, or feel, or do has to do with God. Every person you meet has to do with God.’ We live in a vast world of interconnectedness, and the connections have consequences, either in things or in people – and all the consequences come together in God.”

I show up in my friendship with this new “special friend,” though at times painful, because I love and believe in God. I show up at church where my sexuality is shamed, because I love and believe in God. I find peace in the midst of my hurtful and joyful emotions in relationship with people by knowing that God is present in our “interconnectedness.”

Update on Oregon Bakery: Guest Blog Series

In our last post, guest blogger Josha wrote about the bakery in her hometown that refused to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple. As a gay Christian, she is dealing closely with this issue… both personally and within her community. She wrote this directly after her experience at church on Sunday morning. Here she shares new developments concerning the situation, and makes a plea to her LGBT brothers and sisters. Feel free to discuss in the comment section! -Mandy

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2/17/13
I found myself disheartened again, but not by any “anti-gay” comment from the pulpit.

I was disheartened when I read in the bulletin today at church that the bakery owners, who denied the lesbian couple a wedding cake, are being sued. Last week, the prayer request was presented with more of a focus on helping the bakery make a stand against “gay marriage.” And from a Christian standpoint, I found it hard to support the act of denying service as mentioned in last weeks post. However, as a Christian, I DO NOT support the act of suing this bakery.

It frustrates me when people who are “gay” retaliate with cruelty and threats towards those who appear as barriers. This behavior further paints a picture of people who are “gay” as being ill spirited individuals that rebel against God.

Just as many Christians don’t want to be viewed as “haters” in regards to their view on homosexuality, there are people who are homosexual who don’t want to be seen as an abomination or perverted with a rebellious heart.

I’d like to ask for those viewing this website to pray for protection on this family and their bakery. Their actions have brought opportunity for discussion and enlightenment. There is no need for “war.” Fighting back with harmful “weaponry” only puts up more barriers. We who are homosexual should show the very love that we want to be shown. Let’s be peacemakers and play a role in which prepares a path for conversation, healing, and understanding.

-Josha

Can We Have Our Cake and Eat It, Too?: How One Oregon Baker’s Decision Affects the Community

Many of you have heard about the Oregon bakery that recently refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. One of our guest bloggers, Josha, lives in the same town as that bakery. She, like the owner of the bakery, is a Christian… but Josha is also gay. How does a situation like this affect a community? How does it affect LGBT people who live within that community? Here’s Josha’s take on it. -Mandy

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I’d like to share about a moment in which I was disheartened.

lesbian wedding cakeThe background is that there is a local bakery, about a mile from my house and about a mile from the church I attend. Recently, the bakery denied a lesbian couple a wedding cake in support of their stance on what they believe is right vs. wrong.

The church I attend has a wonderful tradition in taking the time at the end of each Sunday morning service to collect prayer requests. The elder of the month reads them and immediately leads the congregation in a prayer for the requests. Today, someone presented a request for this local bakery and called for more support from Christians to help this bakery make a stand against “gay marriage.” The elder stated, “We need to support those who support the Lord’s way.” This is the moment in which my heart sank, while many in the congregation said “Amen.” My heart sank, not because I am “homosexual,” but because I’m a Christian who seeks the Lord. And as a Christian, I do not believe that denying a couple a wedding cake is the “Lord’s way.” Whether you agree with gay marriage or don’t agree with gay marriage, the “Lord’s way” is not to deny a service due to that person’s ethnicity, race, color, gender, or sexual preference. Discriminating, that is “the human’s way.”

As a health care provider, I serve the physical needs of people. I have recognized within 6 years of serving, there are ALL KINDS of people. And some of the people I have served have been “gay.” I did NOT say to them, “As a Christian, I am going to take a stand on what I believe to be the ‘Lord’s way’ and not give you physical therapy.” I serve everyone who comes into my path where I work. In the health care system it is called “unconditional positive regard.” In the Kingdom of God, it is called “God’s unconditional love.”

(And as an acknowledgement to my humanity I have struggled in serving people who are arrogant and self entitled, raging alcoholics, “male dominate” mindset, and racist, to name a few. At these moments I don’t only remind myself of “unconditional positive regard,” but I remind myself of who I am in relationship to God and am called to love with “unconditional love.”)

I realize it is important to stand up for what one believes to be right. My concern in the case of the bakery is that the stance is out of ignorance. I wonder if any of these people who are protesting for support of the bakery’s stance thought about the souls of the couple who wish to celebrate their love? Do they know people who are gay? Do they talk with and learn about the pain that people who are gay endure?

Furthermore, I’d like to know if there is some kind of survey each couple has to fill out at the bakery, prior to ordering a cake. Would this bakery deny a divorced individual who is getting remarried? Would they deny a couple that had sex before marriage? Would they deny someone who is not a “Christian?” If that person were a “Christian” would they deny that person a cake if they were not from a certain religious sect of Christians? What truly is their standard on whether they will provide for a couple or not?

Assuming there is no questionnaire or issue with other religious right/wrong with marriage, my question is, why do they stop their service when the couple is same-sex?

As one who is “homosexual” and as one who is Christian, I would like to say to the baker of this bakery, “I will not hate you. I will not speak in ways that curse your name. I will not threaten your life. In fact, if you were harmed, I would want to help you. But I also want you to know that people who are homosexual have the same desire for pure and genuine love as people who are heterosexual. And it sure does hurt when people put up barriers to celebrate that love.” I’m guessing he does not know this because so many people who are “gay” seem to be retaliating in hateful ways toward him.

While there are going to be “bakers” out there who don’t invite certain people to their bakery, the Lord’s Table is different. At the Lord’s Table, all are welcomed and are served with no conditions. I pray that I can continue to learn how to serve all people, as does the Lord.

And finally, if I were so blessed to have someone in my life that produced a love worth celebrating I would choose “The Lord’s Bakery,” to order my “cake.” Knowing that the Lord, being The Baker, would willingly provide me a “cake” to celebrate such a special love and commitment. And as a Lover, I would appreciate the Lord’s service. And because of the Lord’s service, my Love and I would celebrate our love with a Community of People who would share in the “cake” and in The Love and all would be well within a world filled with greed and hate.

“Are You a Boy or a Girl?”: Addressing Androgyny in the Church

Last week, Josha shared her post “Are You a Man, or Are You a Woman?”: Addressing Androgyny in Society and Culture. This is her follow-up article, that deals with similar issues. Many within the Church do not know what to do with people who are different, especially in the realm of sexuality and expression. We all claim that appearances do not matter. But is that what we are teaching our children? Thanks to people like Josha, I think we can have hope for future generations. -Mandy

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I enjoy teaching children’s worship at church and my goals are always to teach kids how to love others and that we are drawn to God through Jesus Christ.

Recently, on a Sunday morning, I was teaching a lesson on how God chooses us. The lesson material provided a parable about a rich girl whose father took her to the best toy store in town to buy a new doll. There were all kinds of dolls such as a nurse, ballerina, princess, and so on.  Despite all the beautiful options the girl asked the store manager if there were any other dolls. The manager said, “We have one more doll but you won’t want her. She was returned dirty and torn. In fact, we were thinking of throwing her away.” The rich girl said, “I’d like to see her anyway.” The manager returned with the doll and as the rich girl reached out she smiled and said, “I want this one.” And as she hugged the doll, the girl said, “She needs me!”

A couple of the children understood the story, but for the rest of the kids I continued to teach and explain that God chooses us and loves us even though we are not perfect. And we ought to love others too, even if they seem different or unusual.

I started to tell a story about a friend of mine who was born with one arm but was able to become a nurse.  I wanted to be sure the kids really understood the point that people are different looking on the outside but valuable and important on the inside.  During this story a boy raised his hand and without me calling on him he blurted out, “Are you a boy or a girl?!”

I said politely, “I’m a girl.”

As I attempted to continue the story, he said, “I couldn’t tell if you are a boy or a girl.”

I said, “That’s okay, I’m a girl.”

At that point, it seemed as though the boy just wanted to get laughs from the class and once again blurted out, “You look like a boy with your short hair!”

By the grace of God I kept my composure and with kindness I turned the situation into a teachable moment and said, “Yes, I look different but you can still love me, right?”

The boy did not answer me, but I think I might have given him something to think about. I went on and continued the lesson that God chooses to love us and that we ought to do the same as Christ and love others who are not perfect, people who are different, and those who don’t seem to “fit-in.”

While the experience above was a more difficult situation, there was another one in which a young boy wanted some honest clarification.

It was a small group of children who appeared to be listening intently to the Bible story as we were seated on the floor side by side in a circle. After I asked a question about the Bible story, a young boy raised his hand. He leaned in toward me and quietly asked, “Are you a boy or a girl? I informed him that I am a girl. He said, “Okay, I was just always wondering.” To this day that kid still comes up to me and initiates a hug. I guess it really didn’t matter to him.

Children are curious but not always courteous. They point fingers at people with one leg or with a missing arm; they stare at people in wheelchairs, they compare when someone has a different skin color. They laugh when someone does something that is not socially acceptable. They ask blatant questions when things aren’t “ideal” or “normal.” We teach them how to react. Don’t we? We either shelter them from people who are different or we expose them to the diversity of this world. We can teach them to either point fingers and view differences as a negative thing, or we can allow them to ask question and then provide answers that teach them how to view others who are different.

We are all different to someone else. I think that is partly why Jesus stated, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”

And Jesus states, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” So, lets teach kids the right way to judge.

And what is the right way to judge?
As it says, in reference to Jesus Christ in Isaiah 11:2-4,
“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.”

I believe that if we judge people through the eyes of Christ, we are more likely to make a right judgment.

“Are You a Man, or Are You a Woman”?: Addressing Androgyny in Society and Culture

Everyone’s favorite guest blogger is back! Josha candidly discusses her gender identity, gender expression, and androgyny in what I believe is her most touching post yet. -Mandy

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genderAs a PT assistant in a skilled nursing facility, I had a wonderful experience with an older man as he lay on his deathbed. I easily connected with this man when he initially came to our facility for physical therapy, however his end stage liver disease caused a major decline in his physical and mental abilities and so he was set up with hospice care.

The following is the experience that I had with him during a 3-day span, prior to his discharge from physical therapy.

Thursday: This very tall, ailing, older adult who is an Englishman found out that I was a woman. His face looked as though he was shocked with confusion. I watched the conversation go down from a distance and I figured that by the next day he would have no recollection of this new information.

Friday: The man waved for me to come over to him in the hallway. With time and with difficulty due to great effort to find the right words, he told me, with slurred speech and an English accent, “Somebody said you are a woman. Is this true?” His tone and disbelief looked as though he was disappointed.

I told him that I am and he said, “but you are Joshua!”

I said, “No, I’m Josha.”

He went on with some more disorganized comments and seemed frustrated that all this time he thought I was a guy, and that people were lying to him in telling him that I am a woman.

Saturday: It was early morning as I entered his room and he was still in his hospital gown, lying in bed, barely able to talk. When he figured out who I was he said “Joshua!” with excitement and his face lit up.  And then he went on to ask me, “I have to know, are you a man, or are you a woman? Somebody has said you are a woman.”

With a slight feeling of discomfort, I replied, “Yes, I am a woman.”

He said, “I’m so confused. “

I said, “I see that this is bothering you.”

He said, “No. Yes. Oh, this cruel world!”

I told him to relax, as he was getting so anxious. I checked his vitals, and then notified the nurse of his low blood pressure and his behaviors of anxiousness and increased confusion.

I came back to assure him that the nurse would be coming to check in with him, and he continued on with trying to figure things out.

Before I left for the weekend, I returned to his room to check in.  He seemed to have cleared up and was not as anxious. We joked about his confusion and his behavior from the morning. He was still a little jumbled but was making more since than before and he went on to say, with his adorable English accent,  “Hey, I realize you are not a man and you are not a woman. But you are a wonderful person. Please don’t think I’m a hater.“

I said, “I’m sorry, I did not mean to confuse you.”

He said, “No, you don’t need to apologize. You are such a wonderful person. Please don’t think I’m a hater.”

I assured him that I did not think he was a hater and that I would see him next week.

With a sarcastic tone and a halfway smile, he stated, “I don’t know that I will be around next week.”

I told him that I was glad he was feeling better and that I will look forward to seeing him next week.

This experience with this man of an older generation was amazing to me. I felt like I was watching him reconcile, in the midst of the end of his life, his view on something he doesn’t understand. Grant it, he was in bit of a confused state of mind, but all the more amazing that he came to peace with the fact that I’m different. I don’t look stereotypically female and I don’t look stereotypically male. Androgynous is perhaps a word he could have found useful in his vocabulary.

It reminded me of one of my most favorite quotes of Jesus, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

I think that statement is recorded only once, but I wonder how many times Jesus actually had to make that statement.

I wonder if God spoke to this man saying, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” It is as though the man finally decided it didn’t matter what I looked like, it didn’t matter if I had a male or female label, and all that matter was that I was a wonderful person.  He stopped focusing on trying to figure me out and relaxed with looking into my heart and the soul of who I am.

I also learned something about myself. It really felt good to hear him say, “I know you are not a man, and I know you are not a woman.” I also struggle with both these labels. I honestly cannot refer to myself as male, but to be even more honest, it has and still feels so awkward to refer to myself as a woman. It felt so good to hear someone say that I’m neither male nor female.  This is just an observation that I wonder if more people out there experience as well.

-Josha

The Mystery of Marriage: Guest Blog Series

Today’s post comes from Josha, as she shares her heartfelt thoughts about marriage. With the divisiveness in our Church over this issue, will marriage ever be a true possibility for an LGBT Christian? Josha tells us how it is quite feasible to be a pure, loving, devout Christian… who happens to be homosexual.

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I attended a beautiful wedding this past week. It was beautiful because of who the bride and groom are, because of the purity in their love story, and because of the message that came from the minister during the ceremony.

The minister spoke of the original love story, the one of Christ as the groom and the church as the bride and of Satan being the villain that tried so hard to keep Christ and his church separated. Christians partake in this love story on a daily basis and it is celebrated during communion (every Sunday in our faith tradition). Frequently, and scripturally this profound love story is compared to husbands and wives and the symbolism of their union and the desire within us all to be one with another. Throughout history humanity has been drawn to love stories. As the minister pointed out, we have on going movies and stories such as “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Shrek”, so on and so on.

Marriage and the love stories within have been a model for me my entire life, within my family and within my church and so as a gay Christian I felt hope upon attending this wedding in regards to what the minister spoke about. As he was speaking so beautifully about love stories and the analogy to Christ and the church and what God has set in our hearts, I thought,

“This is what it all comes down to, people who are gay are being asked to deny themselves a love story.”

God never said, “deny your self the blessings of a love story.” In fact God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” And in the wisdom literature of Ecclesiastes it states, “Two are better than one and a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” This tells me that it is not good for a person to be alone, it is better to be united with another, and it is best for the two to be united with God.

I believe there is a difference between denying your self sin (selfishness, greed and so on) than in denying yourself a glimpse of the mystery of God (love in a marriage relationship). How can a person who is gay be asked to partake in a life with Christ as the groom and the church as the bride, and then be denied the opportunity and beauty of marriage when they do not feel a calling to be single such as Paul?

There is a growing call for Christians to “Love the Homosexual.” This is wonderful, but my question is, “What does that look like?” Does that merely mean,

Invitations to dinner

Saying, “welcome to our church, we love you”

Not mocking someone who is gay

Looking at a person who is gay and not thinking “gross”

Loving conversations

Removing the word “abomination” from the rhetoric?

These are good acts/attempts of showing love, but will loving people who are homosexual someday mean, supporting gay marriage and affirming the sexuality of an LGBT that is part of who they are?

I came across a quote from Judith Plascow (a Professor of Religious Studies and an author) that states,

“If sexuality is one dimension of our ability to live passionately in the world then in cutting off our sexual feelings we diminish our overall power to feel know and value deeply.”

When we take the few scriptures that talk about homosexuality and study them in their original time, original context, with the original intent, and when we take the love story of God, and when we take the teachings of Christ….. is it right to ask an individual to cut off their sexual feelings, OR is it right to support one in their love story?

How can I, a person who is homosexual, attend church and partake in communion, a celebration of the profound mystery of Christ’s relationship with his church, and have to deny myself the possibility of a love story that resonates so deep within all human kind? Love stories are a gift from God. I realize not everyone is blessed with such stories, but not everyone is asked to deny themselves such stories.

Nobody would tell Shrek that he is an ugly ogre who is not worthy of a love story or the Beast that he is undeserving of a love story. Because as we all know, the ugly and the beautiful when united in a love story become inspirational with eternal blessings. In the same way how can we deny a gay person his/her love story that will not only help two grow and mature as one, but will also inspire all who become part of that couple’s love story?

It has been noted to me that Paul calls people to be single. Paul says that it is better to be single so that your attention will not be divided between the Lord and your spouse, however I’d like to note that Paul also uses the analogy of marriage in efforts to shed light on the profound mystery of Christ and his church as it is deeply routed in us to desire a marriage relationship. I’d also like to note that the people who quote Paul’s call to be single, are people who are married…..hmmmm.

I have made it a habit during the weekly communion time on Sundays to pray for those in the LGBT community. As I take the meal that represents Christ’s body and blood, God’s love story, and the symbolism of what brings us all together, I pray for the following with Christ’s teachings in mind:

1) Gay couples who I know, in that God will bless their relationship to the fullest as

they seek to honor God with their union.

2) For individuals who are struggling in their relationship with God as they

feel that they cannot be in relationship with God because of their sexuality.

3) For our churches to learn how to love the LGBT community.

This has made communion for me, not just routine, but something I look forward to partaking in as it continues to enlighten for me, the power of Christ. Communion gives me hope as it symbolizes the unity and the reconciliation that we all have in the reality of Christ…..which continues to be a profound mystery.

Am I Allowed to Dream?: Guest Blog Series

 

This post comes from Josha. Here are some of her honest thoughts of dreaming of a future as a gay Christian.

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I have heard these statements more than once in my lifetime:

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”
“Girls dream of and plan their weddings before they even meet their husbands.”
“All little girls dream of being a princess.”

I’d like to say, “This is not true!”

I remember when I was real young, fearing the day that a man might propose with an expensive diamond ring that would stick way out and get caught on everything. Seriously, I feared either having to suck-it-up and wear it the rest of my life, or having to break the guy’s heart and say, “I will marry you if I don’t have to wear that.”

And I never dreamed of getting married. I really thought God would let me know when the right time, and who the right guy would be….until then, “why would I dream of this?” I thought.

I never dreamed of being a princess….actually, I dreamed of being a hero like a prince or like Rambo or like Indiana Jones. My dreams were actually me being male, until I got to an age where I had an awareness that most girls don’t dream of being guys, plus they don’t desire to be a guy. When I stopped allowing myself to dream of being like Luke Skywalker or Han Solo, I started hating myself. I had to fight those dreams and the older I got, dreaming of my future was very difficult. I had no desire to dream of being a wife or a mother. Basketball became my dream, as well as seeking to honor the Lord with my life. I held strong to my passion for purity and hoped that one day God would give me insight into who and when I should ever get married….and that I would finally have marriage desires.

I recall my brother always dreaming of being a husband and a father. He talked about it many times. He made choices and plans during the present time of his youth based on his dream of having a family. One example that I love is that he got a Master’s in Hotel and Restaurant Management and began working in a hotel (while he was single) and quickly learned that the Hotel business is terrible if you want to have a family. During that time he fell in love with ministering to elementary age, inter-city kids and that inspired him to become a teacher with the vision of having holidays and summers off to be with his wife and children. I love my brother. He now has a wonderful wife, an awesome one year old, and another baby on the way. He is living his dream. He is living what he started talking about in high school. He is very happy.

Finally, God has given me insight into marriage. Finally, I get it. Finally, I have marriage desires. I find myself wanting to dream of being married someday.  I have noticed that I have even started making decisions based on the possibility of being married (to a woman of course). But then my dream gets squashed.  Frequently. Every time I hear something negative about homosexuality. When I hear people say that marriage is only for one man and one woman, period. When I consider the reality of how hard it will be for my family and my church family to accept me being married to a woman, I shut my dream up. I try not to get my hopes up for something that may cause so much pain in the community that I live in.

I just want to dream my dreams. Can I do that for a moment?

I dream about a day that not only society at large recognizes marriage between same-sex couples, but my church family saying, “We accept you and your marriage.”

I dream that my church family will welcome all LGBT folks and not with the “we love the sinner, hate the sin” slogan, but with an approach of openness to the fact that “we just might be wrong about our perception of sexuality.”

I dream of my whole family saying one day, “Josha, we just never knew another view until now, and after much processing and much seeking, we have a better understanding and want to support you in a marriage with a woman and include her into the family…..”

I dream of someday meeting a woman who is on the same Christian path as me, who has the same morals and values, and like I shared in ‘That Lifestyle,’ I dream the following….

“We would make decisions together and discuss daily topics. We would share meals and entertain company. We would work through problems, together. We would go for hikes in the mountains and take trips to the beach. We would serve others in society, together. We would seek the Lord in all that we do. We would serve in a church family, where we could be in community with others and could grow spiritually, together. We would take care of a home and a yard. We would listen to each other’s stories. We would support one another’s dreams and grieve with one another’s losses. We would take care of each other when one of us is sick. We would enjoy just being, together. I would hold her hand and tell her that I love her, and learn how to express my love to her for a lifetime.”

But when I read what I have just written and I reflect on the views that most Christians have, I think to myself “How disgusting you must be to want this with a woman?” I tell myself to “Shut up, you are ridiculous! This can never happen!”

This is the tug-of-war that I experience within myself. The fight of holding back my dreams because of what I’ve been taught my whole life about the one man, one woman perspective. And this is when I start to experience what I’ve written about, “In the Midst of Dying.”  

Sometimes, I just want freedom to dream.

I want to honor the Lord with my life as I dream. And so, here I am writing on a blog, just trying to be truthful and as honest as possible while I’m wresting with moving forward, seeking holiness.

It is both an exciting and frustratingly difficult journey.

I’m working on embracing this time where people are being open and more receptive, but when my dreams are squashed, it is hard to embrace this time.

My apologies to the Lord as there are moments I feel like I’m a whiny kid lacking patience.

I want freedom to dream and I want the desires of my heart to come true….surely this is the same for every breathing human being….and perhaps it is also true for God…..

May we all answer the call of the Lord that is spoken in Zechariah 7:9-10, “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.” (Reminds me of Jesus).

When communities answer this call, this vision, this dream of God’s, it is evident, because children and the elderly are cared for, people feel safe, needs are met….and dreams that lead to peace are encouraged.

In the Midst of Dying: Guest Blog Series

Here’s a thought-provoking and honest piece from Josha.

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Nobody chooses to have cancer, do they? If cancer were a choice and if being gay were a choice, I’d choose cancer.

I have the blessing of sitting by a beautiful, older woman with the sweetest spirit during Sunday morning worship on many occasions. Her grandson is terminal and has been told by doctors that he has 2-3 months left of life on earth. I’ve never met him personally, but his extended family is very important to me so my heart goes out to him and all his family and community. He is a young man with a wife and two small children. Because of these circumstances, it makes facing death extremely difficult, however the man has been very strong and his faith in the Lord is inspiring many people in such away that you can’t help but see the work of God in action. This is the bright side of his most unwanted condition.

Lately I’ve been asked by various friends from our church circle, “Have you seen his blog?” Apparently his insights and writings are moving men and women to tears and they are stirring people to look at their own life and become better people and to walk a better Christian life. I have intentions of visiting his blog, however I have had an aversion to it. There are two elements to my aversion. One, I find myself jealous of him. Two, it makes me feel so sinful to be stressed about my sexuality while this young man is facing death.

My true thoughts are that I’d rather be dealing with cancer than dealing with the conflict between my sexual orientation and church. I’m jealous that this young man gets to die and that people see his faith as being strong and noble. And their hearts go out to his family with love and encouragement. Yet, in my case, I feel like if these same people knew what I was coming to terms with they would “love” me, but feel betrayed, hurt, and deceived….while these are not my intentions. (Honestly, I’m trying to live in such away that honor’s God). I feel like they would think my faith is weak and that Satan has twisted my mind. Their heart would go out to my amazing family with pity and perhaps wonder what my parents did wrong. So, yes, I would choose cancer if I had a choice.

My fear is that I will read this man’s story of dying to himself and living for God and be slapped in the face once again that I am failing to die to myself as I “justify” my sexual desires.

I’m jealous of the idea that this young man’s pain will be over soon. He will not have to endure the physical strain. He will not have to endure watching his family, watch him die. He will be at peace and his family will find comfort in that he is in a good place with no more pain.

While this is happening, I will continue living with the pain of not fitting into the social and Biblical norms. The pain of the messages that:
“Homosexuality is an abomination.”
“Homosexuality is impure, unholy.”
“Homosexuals are on a path to hell.”
“Satan is lying to you.”
“Your sexuality is not valid, it is a sin.”
“You are not trying hard enough.”
“You are not trusting God enough.”
“You are not praying enough.”
“You are disgusting.”
“You need to change.”
“You do not see God’s truth.”
“We love you, but your sexuality is not what God wants for you.”

And I have to watch my family suffer as they try to understand and as they wrestle with what they believe to be true and with what I believe to be true. They do not have peace about this and I do not feel complete peace when I know my loved ones are not at peace.

PAUSE
(At this point in writing these thoughts I took a break and proceeded to find the young man’s blog).

I found it and read the latest entry that he had posted and he spoke of the excitement of what he has been observing happening in regards to the kingdom of God and how “It’s happening.” While he is dealing with the prospects of dying he is observing that people are becoming more responsive, open and more hospitable and as he stated, “Those who follow the ways of Jesus refer to this as gospel living. Jesus referred to this kind of stuff as the kingdom of God breaking into the world.”

And then his following statement hit me hard,

“This is what I’ve lived my life for and to think that it could emerge without me makes me incredibly jealous!”

While I have been jealous of his potential dying, he is jealous of not being around to watch and be involved in the momentum of this movement of the Christian walk in his community.

I totally relate to his words that described this movement. I’ve experienced it myself here and there and it IS exciting! There are times I have that same excitement while I’ve been on the journey of coming to terms with homosexuality, until fellow Christians “remind” me that my sexuality is an “abomination.” Knowing that I can’t change this about myself, hopelessness starts to set in. BUT, Jesus is all about hope. And when I read stuff like this young man has been writing, I feel a sense of hope in that there are people out there who are BEING Christ before using scripture like a rule book that sends you to hell.

As it says in Ecclesiastes,
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die…..
What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.” (3:1-13)

We are in the midst of a small part of the larger story. We are merely a season among the span of eternity that has been placed in our hearts.

In regards to homosexuality, many people have experienced a season of death. Some have killed themselves because of the shame, humiliation, and self hate as a result of anti-homosexual messages. Some have been murdered. Some continue to live yet they feel dead inside and are in deep depression making them feel paralyzed and not fully living. And when they are told their depression is due to lack of knowing Jesus, they are sent into deeper depression…and some actually believe that the Lord hates them…how can hope and life be found when the very essence of hope is perceived to hate…. causing a sense of an eternal death sentence.

It is time to kill the negative messages in order for healing to take place.

It’s NOT my choice to be attracted to women (this is FACT no matter what other people might say), but IT IS MY CHOICE to serve and seek ways to honor God with my life’s circumstances and that is what I will continue to choose to do. I die to myself in this way, as I have not made it my primary goal to indulge in my sexual desires. I have not left God because of my sexuality. I continue to worship with my church family who views my sexuality as sin.

I’m still learning.

I’m learning that my sexuality is beautiful and that the God-given desires are beautiful. And that someday the Lord may bless me with a wonderful person to share my life with and I will continue to learn how to keep my sexuality beautiful, as God intended it to be. And, I continue to learn what it means to die to myself and live for Christ….living for others.

In honor of the young man I have mentioned above, I will refrain from jealousy of his dying and I will embrace this time of living in which people’s hearts are softening and who are being more responsive as they seek to meet the needs of others as Christ.

Thoughts About the Rainbow: Guest Blog Series

We are halfway through our discussion on the “Clobber Passages”. The 3rd post in the series is on deck! However, today’s post comes from Josha. She is kind enough to take over this week’s entry while I’m out of town. As always, her writing is heartfelt and thought-provoking. I know you will enjoy it.

Of course the rainbow has come to symbolize diversity in the LGBT community. But before it became a gay icon, it was something much, much more than that…

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“Isn’t it ironic that the rainbow that God used as a sign of his covenant is what the gay people use as their flag?” said a guy just before the start of a devo at the Christian college I attended 12 years ago. It seemed as though he was implying that a sinful group of people were using the same symbol that God used as a sign of his promise, and that to him was ironic. There were a few awkward comments about gays and then the conversation quickly moved away from the uncomfortable topic.

After all that I have endured in coming to terms with my sexuality and who I am, I’d like to say, “How fitting it is that the gay community use the rainbow as a symbol, the same symbol that God used for his promise to all of mankind.”

I don’t really know the story as to how the rainbow became the gay flag, but I do know the story of how the rainbow became a sign from God. And I want to share the following thoughts about that:

After God had destroyed the earth with a flood due to the uncontrollable greed and wickedness of mankind, he made a covenant with Noah and to all generations to come, and this is what Genesis 9:12-17 says,

“And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and their rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on earth.’

So God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and ALL LIFE on earth.’”

One of my most favorite hikes on the Columbia River Gorge is Eagle Creek Trail. The thing that I like about this hike is the abundant amount of water. All along the trail are waterfalls, streams, mist, and rivers and right at the turn around point is Bow Tie Falls where when the conditions are just right, you can actually see not just a single rainbow but a double rainbow. It is beautiful!

However, there have been times when I have arrived at this 6-mile point and never saw the rainbow due to lack of sun or lack of water. On one occasion, I stubbornly waited for the sun to shine in just the right spot, but as I gazed with hope it occurred to me, “The rainbow is still there.” It is always there; sometimes you just can’t see it due to the conditions not being just right. Wow!! I could not see the rainbow that day, but I could see that God’s sign of his promise is always there even when the conditions in my life are as such that I cannot see his presents.  I’m thankful for the rainbow and it’s reminder of the love and good integrity of God.

My hope is that the rainbow is not merely a coincidental symbol of Christian faith and one for those who are gay, but that it IS actually a symbol of bridging the two communities together….and for that matter bridging all the colorful communities of the world together.

When I see the gay flag, I don’t think about a sinful group of people, I think of God’s promise to ALL of mankind.

Perspectives: Guest Blog Series

Here’s a wonderful post from Josha. She discusses how our faith is an ever-growing, ever-changing thing. We are all on a journey. Do we open ourselves up to the possibility that our perspectives may change over time?

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In the Sunday morning class at the church I attend we have been studying the book of Mark. Recently we discussed the story where Jesus walks on water (6:45-56). In that story it is noted that the disciple’s hearts were hardened. The discussions led to the question of why their hearts were hard. Upon the thoughts leading to the idea that the disciples were still thinking on human terms, I raised my hand to speak.

I had been using a fortune cookie fortune as a bookmark in my Bible due to what it says as a reminder to keep my heart open to what new things I can learn from scripture, and this is what I said in class:

My fortune cookie bookmark says, “Your perspective will shift.” I think that the disciples were still thinking on human terms and had not shifted their perspective to be in spiritual terms. So my question is; which comes first? Does the heart have to soften for the perspective to change or does one’s perspective have to change for one’s heart to soften?

The class went silent. I was a little nervous I might have said something wrong and then the teacher stated, “That is the deep thought of the day, class dismissed.” People laughed and all seemed to approve of what I said.  We continued class with some very good discussions.

But I’d like to open my question up into the context of homosexuality. I know of people who used to be totally against same-sex relationships, however, their perspectives have shifted in relationship to what scripture has to say about the topic. So, maybe it does not matter which comes first, the heart softening or the perspective changing…but either way it is happening.

The teacher of the class that day made an observation about the story of Jesus walking on the water. Jesus had sent the disciples out and told them to go toward a certain place (Bethsaida) and then later in the story, as they were “straining at the oars” Jesus walked up to them on the water and got in the boat and redirected them to a specific place (Gennesaret). The teacher made the point that sometimes we have in mind the direction we are headed and then Jesus comes along and redirects us into the exact direction he wants us to go.

I can relate to this in that since I was in Jr. High I was praying and focused on a direction that would lead me to a marriage relationship with the perfect Christian man with a focus on sexual purity and with a life of living out my Christianity, serving others with a husband.

Speaking on spiritual terms, I believe Jesus sent me out into this direction and as I was “straining at the oars”; Jesus redirected me in to a direction I would have never dreamed up of on my own. Jesus walked with me into a place that serves those in the LGBT community and I will never be married to a man.  I am amazed at all the opportunities that I have had to honor and serve the Lord in a place that many people don’t dare step into.