Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Keeping Christmas, 2016 edition

  In a Facebook post a couple of weeks ago, I said that I was listening to Christmas music. A Facebook friend I don't know well, commented and said the Bible says nothing about observing Christmas. I replied and said it doesn't say not to observe it either.

  The last visit we had from Jehovah Witnesses at our place, the conversation went a bit like this:
Me: Hi, you're Jehovah Witnesses, aren't you?"
The two ladies: "yes we are"
Me: "Well, there is no sense in going into your talk. I have my own church and you're not going to change my mind, and I am not going to change yours. Besides,  you lost me completely with that no celebrating holidays and birthdays. I love giving and getting gifts. It must really suck to be a Jehovah Witness." (Yes, I said suck)

 After they got the deer in the headlights look off their faces, one of them said they believe in giving gifts every day of the year. Giving me up for a lost cause, they went their way.

  I have always loved Christmas. Even before I came to know the Savior of Christmas  the way I know Him today, I still loved it. It wasn't the gifts - sure I like to give and receive gifts - it is just everything about the season. There is a feeling of goodwill, peace, and love. People's thoughts turn more to things of God, and even those who don't acknowledge Jesus are still celebrating His birth.

 If you look through the Bible, the Jews were big on feasts and holidays. They spent days feasting and celebrating all sorts of things. The idea that this suddenly became wrong after the New Testament ends is wrong and not Biblical at all.

 And who should better celebrate Jesus' birth than we who serve Him?

 Much is said about the commercialization of Christmas, and a lot of it goes on. But we should never let that stop us from celebrating this season better and differently than the world. They should have nothing on a Christian when it comes to celebrating Christmas.

 This is the time of year set aside to observe and celebrate that night long ago when God became a baby, the most vulnerable and helpless of humans. He was born to be like us, and to die for us. Our methods and ways of observing and celebrating that wonderful Holy night may differ, but observe and celebrate it we should.

 Yes, Jesus can get lost under all of the shopping, the gifts, the Christmas tree, Santa, the Christmas cookies and music and everything else that makes up this season.......but it can also help remind us of what - or Who - it is all about, and help us to celebrate His birth with excitement, reverence, and thankfulness.

 At the end of the much-loved Christmas Carol, comes these words: "And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!” 

  Oh that the same could be said of all we who profess to follow this Savior....... that we keep Christmas like no other. We should...... we who serve and follow Him know what it is all about.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

5:00 am

   It's 5 am here as I sit in front of my computer. I called off work a little more than an hour ago, and here I sit unable to sleep, and with time on my hands. I haven't felt this sick since my hospital stay back in March, though thankfully it isn't THAT bad. I am convinced that if you peered into my mouth during one of my coughing fits, you would see one of my lungs looking back at you as I seemingly try to cough one up.

  It was a rough night. I felt so weak, worn out, and sore all over that I went to bed a little after 8, only to wake up at 11:30 coughing so hard I was surprised a lung wasn't lying beside me. I got up and drank some hot tea, browsed Facebook, tried to go back to sleep......gave up, watched a movie for a while, tried to go to sleep again, gave up, drank more hot tea..... it has been a lovely night. I truly hated to call off, but sometimes it needs to be done.

   I feel like blogging, and I guess I am technically doing so, but I'm not sure what to write about. I have a post about singles floating around in my head, one about true Christianity, thoughts about Thanksgiving and Christmas.....but I am not sure what to write about any of those, so I'll "jot" down a couple of things that have been on my mind lately as I listen to Christmas music.

Conversation with "Jane"

 With HIPPA laws, I have to be careful, so I am using an alias for the lady. A few weeks ago, a woman in her 70's started coming in and she'd need wheel chair assistance. She'd be dropped off at the door, and I'd help her in a wheel chair. Occasionally, she'd need me to push her if her ride left. She had a loved one way down in Critical Care, which is a far distance from the main lobby.

 This one day, she and her sister-in-law both needed pushed, but had another relative along that pushed the other lady. CCU has limited visiting hours, and they were going for the 2:00, and Jane asked if I could come down for her at 2:30. I got there a few minutes early, and they weren't ready..... the doctor was coming to talk to them. I hung out a bit impatiently for a few minutes, then headed back to the front of the hospital, hoping they wouldn't call me back right before I clocked out for the day.... but they didn't.

  The next day, I was walking past the coffee/snack shop in the main lobby and saw Jane and some of her family eating. Part of the eating area is just separated by a low railing from the main walk way of the hospital. Jane called my name and said hi, so I leaned on the railing and asked how her loved one was. She started crying, and told me. The loved one was her husband of 46 years, and they had just found out at the end of October that he had cancer........ bad. It didn't look like he would make it. I listened, told her I was sorry to hear that, and told her I'd be praying for her. That was the last time I talked to her. Her husband died the next day.

 I remembered my impatience, and felt badly. Whether you work in a hospital or not, we never know what people are going through who cross out path, and we should always show the love of Jesus......no matter what.

Taylor, another hospital story: 

  There is another lady who had been coming in daily to see her boyfriend/fiancee'. She was in her 70's and volunteers with the ladies' auxiliary in the hospital gift shop. I got the job of pushing her to his room day after day, and she was very appreciative. Then one day she came in acting rushed, and said they had moved him to Hospice, and asked if I'd take her up. As I pushed her in a wheel chair up to Hospice, she wept as she tried to tell me how he was doing.

 A few days later, she came in and walked up to the desk to say hi to me and Thelma, the lady at the front desk. I asked how her guy was doing, and she said they had just buried him the day before. I gave her a hug and told her I'd be praying for her. She then headed over to the coffee shop/snack shop to get something to eat. I watched her go, and said to Thelma, "After she orders, I am going to find out what she is having, and pay for it." Thelma said she'd help pay - she is good like that. I wandered in and saw Taylor, a young girl who works in there, walking away from the lady's table and heading for the fountain drinks. I approached Taylor and asked her what the lady had ordered. She replied "I am going to pay for it. She has gone through so much that I wanted to do something nice for her." I told her Thelma and I were going to pay for it, but I'd let her.

 I walked away thinking more highly of this very young girl. There aren't many kids her age who would do something like that.

Bible journaling

 For some time, I have been wanting to try Bible journaling. I even bought a Bible specifically made for that, got it home, and decided I couldn't bring myself to do it, and took it back.

 I'm weird. I find the idea of writing in any book abhorrent. I know a lot of people who write in their Bibles, but I never have. Writing in any book just seems wrong. I'll run across some good things in books I read and own, and never, ever write in them.

 But the time has come when I am going to have to overcome this phobia or whatever you'd call it. I requested a journaling Bible to review....... and I also requested a Bible journaling kit to review. Yeah, I didn't know they made such a thing either. It contains colored pencils, stickers, and some kind of ruler. I have no excuses now. But how exactly does one journal in a Bible? Is there an app for that?


 I am ashamed to admit it, but I haven't been feeling very thankful lately. Having my house deal fall through has hit me hard, but I have to wonder if it isn't my own fault. The day I made the offer for the house of the asking price, I knew there was another interested party. I prayed that if it was God's will, my offer would be accepted. My realtor called me back and said I'd been outbid. Without even thinking much about it, I bid $3,000 more and got it. Ever since the deal fell through, that has been on my mind.......maybe it wasn't God's will and I tried to buy it anyway.

 The election stuff is still getting to me. I had high hopes that we'd get rid of a horrible president and replace him with a true conservative. I still feel disbelief and disgust that so many Christians and conservatives picked Donald Trump.....and I am still convinced he will be another terrible president.

 As I have had these thoughts of not having much to be thankful for, I felt checked and reminded of all that I do have to be thankful for. There are so many people worse off than me. There are people who have no loving family, no home, no food..... I am more blessed than I realize or verbalize.

Job interview

 Yesterday I had both a phone and sit down interview for a new position at the hospital I work at.

It is very similar to what I already do
It pays better
I'd actually be working for the hospital, instead of an outsourced company.
I'd work 2 12's and 2 8's, which means 3 days off instead of 2.

I'd have to work every other weekend, and I currently have Sundays off.
Right now, I have a set schedule and days off. With this, I'd not have a set schedule.

  And I may not get it. I am praying God's will about it. So we will see.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

My Favorite Christmas songs

  I love Christmas music, and have a lot of it.... and I do mean a lot. There are songs I like to hear more than others, and they are usually among the first I listen to every year. Here are my top 10, in no particular order, that do not fall into the traditional Christmas carol category:

1) It's Christmas by Ronnie Milsap. I don't know if anyone else has recorded this song, but I can't imagine anyone doing it better. He recorded it in 1986 on his Christmas CD "Christmas With Ronnie Milsap" and I have been enjoying it ever since. It is one of many Christmas CDs I own.

2) We Are the Reason by Avalon. I didn't care much for this 2000 Christmas release, other than this song and one other one on the CD. This song has been done by others, but this is my favorite recording of it, and one I listen to over and over.

3) Christmas Wishes by Anne Murray. This song has been around since 1981, and is my favorite of all the Christmas songs she has recorded over the years. It does end on a romantic note, but I still love to hear it.

4) It's Still the Greatest Story Ever Told by the Gaither Vocal Band. In my estimation, this is one of the greatest modern Christmas Songs from a Christian perspective. The Gaithers wrote it in 1979, but as far as I know it was not recorded until the Gaither Vocal Band did it on their Christmas CD of the same name in 1998. If I was putting these favorites in order, this would likely be at the top.

5) Sweet Baby Jesus by The Kingsmen. Released in 1995, this was the only Christmas CD this well known and long-running group ever did, and they knocked it out of the park with this one..... at least to me. I have been listening to it over and over since 1995.

6) Christmas In Dixie by Kenny Chesney, In 1985, Alabama released their first Christmas CD and this song became a classic from that album. Then 18 years later in 2003, Kenny Chesney recorded it on his Christmas CD with some help from one of the guys from Alabama. As good as Alabama did, I like Chesney's version better.

7) Unto You This Night by Garth Brooks. This song became an instant favorite of mine in 1992 when Garth Brooks released his first Christmas CD. Backed up by a choir on part of the song, Brooks does an awesome job on this favorite of mine.

8) I'll Be Home With Bells On by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. This duo did a Christmas CD in 1984 that includes this song that Dolly wrote. I have loved it for years, and it definitely makes my list.... and is currently my ringtone on my cell.

9) I Have Seen the Light by Integrity/Triumphant Quartet. This song came out on Triumphant Quartet's first Christmas CD when they were going by the group name Integrity Quartet. I think it is an awesome song. I can't find the year it was released, but it isn't that old of a song. It has been done by others, but no one else comes close to this version.

10) Come On, Ring Those Bells by Evie. I remember listening to this as a kid. Evie Tornquist - later Karlson after she married - recorded a Christmas album in 1978 when she was 16 (I think). It has been recorded several times over the years, perhaps more than any other modern Christian Christmas song, but I have yet to hear anyone do it as well.

  There are many others that could be on this list, or a longer list..... but I decided to keep it to 10 songs, and try to put my favorite 10 on it. I may look at this list later and think of a few different ones that should make the list, but these are 10 that are definitely way up on my list.

Anthony's testimony

 I recently did a 5-part blog series on what it is like to deal with same-sex attractions, and want to get some others to write about it. I hit up my young friend, Anthony Martin to do it first, and he agreed to do so, though it came out shorter than he intended. He said he can talk better than writing, and I would say that is true after the 20 minute phone call we had the other day........ just kidding. :)

  I met Anthony two years ago at the Hope For Wholeness Conference. He has doven head first into serving Jesus, and has a depth of Christian maturity and a desire to serve God that many of we adults don't have. Though he is only 19 years old, he is a great encouragment and inspiration to me.

 The world, and sadly too many Christians and churches, say to embrace your same-sex attractions and you can still be a Christian. Anthony is one of many who has walked away from his desires and attractions to live for God, not his attractions.

 Since he was so short, I also included something he previously wrote for me about unanswered prayers. Thanks, Anthony.

Beautiful Surrender

    For most of my life I've personally dealt with same-sex attraction. As early as 5 years old I remember experiencing same-sex attraction. I was raised by Christian parents so I knew that homosexuality was a sin. However I didn't know why I was struggling with homosexuality.

    At the age of 15 I gave my life to Christ, and I knew I had to surrender my sexuality to God. And this where it gets messy! Even though I knew what the Bible said about homosexuality it was still very difficult for me to surrender a part of me that felt so normal. I felt like I was giving up the very essence of who I was. I wanted to follow God, but I also wanted a loving relationship with a man. I didn't want to grow old alone. These are the struggles that gay Christians face daily. The torn desire of following God faithfully and wanting to be in a relationship with the same sex. I was not "magically" cured of homosexual desires when I became a Christian. In fact 4 years later I'm still very much same-sex attracted.

    So you might ask me why I continue to follow Jesus even though I still have these desires? It's because I believe that NO human relationship can ever replace a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. When you have tasted the supernatural love of Jesus, you are never the same person. You begin to realize that you are more than your sexuality. You realize that there is more to life than marriage and sex. Nothing can replace knowing that you are loved fully by the Creator of the universe. I realized that it wasn't worth giving up a relationship with God, only for a human relationship that wouldn't last forever. Jesus said if we want to follow Him we need to die to ourselves daily. This applies to ALL Christians, not just those who are same-sex attracted. So I have come to the conclusion that surrender to Jesus is freeing and beautiful. Because when you surrender your life to Him, you become who you were truly meant to be all along

 I had originally asked for volunteers to blog about what the church needs. My friend Anthony volunteered, then asked if he could blog about unanswered prayers instead. Since prayer has been on my heart and mind a lot lately, I was more than OK with it. Thanks Antony for helping me out, Mark

From Anthony:

For a while I've felt the Holy Spirit asking me to share on how to continue trusting the Father when our prayers are unanswered. Recently my friend Mark asked if someone would be willing to contribute by writing an article for his blog. I saw this as a great opportunity to share what the Holy Spirit has been laying on my heart! Thank you Mark for allowing me to share my thoughts on your blog!

     We all have unanswered prayers. Many people have been praying for weeks, months, and even years on certain things that have not been answered in the way they desire. For me it's been same-sex attraction. I am a born again believer who loves Christ, but I'm still tempted to lust after the same gender. I became a born again believer when I was 15 and I am now almost 19. I have prayed more times than I can count that God would deliver me completely from homosexual temptations. To this very day I've not seen this prayer answered. Many other believers can relate to this dilemma of having unanswered prayers. It can frustrate and discourage a follower of Christ. So how can we continue to trust God when we are confronted with the reality that we have unanswered prayers?

   The answer is embracing the truth of God's Word and His Promises rather than depending on our feelings and emotions. Feelings and emotions change, but God's Promises are eternal! Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God's plan for us is to prosper and to have a future and hope! Even when our prayers are going unanswered and it seems God isn't there, we can embrace this verse and realize His plan for us is a future and hope, not disaster! Another truth of Scripture is Romans 8:28 which states, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them." I find this so encouraging that even though I have prayers that are not getting answered, I can trust that He is working everything together for my good because I am His child and He loves me! Romans 8:37 states that overwhelming victory is ours through Christ because He loves us! We need to latch onto this promise when we are discouraged and frustrated that our prayers are not getting answered. His Truth has the power to break into any hopeless situation! Ephesians 3:20 says that God in His power can accomplish infinitely more than we can ask or think! So we need to continue trusting Him and believing in faith that He will answer our prayers that are according to His plan! And even if we never see certain prayers answered, we need not lose hope and be discouraged! If He gave up His own Son for us, how much more is He willing to give us as His children!

   My prayer is that no matter how many unanswered prayers you have, you would not give up on the One who loves you so much! He has the power to change anyone and anything for His Glory! And I am confident that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it!

For His Glory,
Anthony Martin

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The red letters

  I used to think red-letter editions of the Bible were awesome and the kind every Christian should have and read. Bibles without the red letters indicating where Jesus is talking, were inferior.

 Things change. At this point in my life, I am starting to favor Bibles that do not have the words of Jesus in red letters. I just got a new Bible this week in my new favorite translation that is unique in two ways: It is a single column Bible, which makes reading it different. The other way it is unique is that it is not a red letter edition.

  I probably shouldn't admit this on such a public place as my blog, but one reason I favor Bibles without red letters is because I find them more difficult to read. Whether I have my glasses on or not, the red words are more difficult to read. I am finding it much easier to read the Bibles that have all black lettering. I guess this is what it feels like to get old.

 That aside, I have been wondering for a while if red letter edition Bibles are even a good idea. I know, to some people I am now guilty of heresy. Not only do I rarely use the KJV, but now I am saying maybe red letter Bibles aren't such a good idea.

   It is becoming very common with one sin in particular, but also with some others, to point out that since Jesus didn't mention it, that He is OK with it. This is wrong on so many levels, and makes the very erroneous assumption that what Jesus said in the Gospels is the only part of the Bible that matters. We don't have to observe or obey anything else in the Bible except for what Jesus said in the Gospels.

  Now anyone with common sense and who is not trying to excuse sin knows this: the whole Bible is the Word of God.... not just what is in red letters. Should what is in red letters be any more important than the rest of the Bible? If we truly believe the Bible was divinely inspired by God, then the red letters are not any more important or worthy of being singled out than the rest of the Bible.

 So could this idea of putting Jesus' spoken words in red be giving people the wrong idea? Could it be encouraging the ideas that they are more important, and that it is the only parts of the Bible that we need to observe and obey? Possibly. And if you disagree with that reasoning, wait til you pick up a red letter edition of the Bible some day and find it difficult to read the words in red.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Immigration..... are Christians getting it right?

  This blog post is to ask questions and explore what the Christian response should be to immigration, legal and illegal. I have found myself wondering lately if we Christians are getting it right.

  We conservative/Republican Christians like to think that liberals have it all wrong. I may have a cynical view of all politicians, but I do believe that Democrats view immigrants as prospective voters and if they weren't so determined to convert them all to their party, they would not be such big defenders of illegal immigrants. Cynical, I know.... but I do believe that.

 Obama and other liberals love to toss Scripture at anyone who isn't for granting amnesty, and it can be downright nauseating.... especially when they ignore passages that would condemn their other pet sins and policies. One such liberal wrote an article titled "Who would Jesus Deport" that was posted yesterday in a group I help moderate. The writer used Scripture to try to make the case that Christians should welcome all immigrants with open arms, legal and illegal, and it is what Jesus would do. I disagreed with him, but it only added questions and concerns to my growing list of both.

  I am not naive or stupid. I know we need borders. I know there are too many people in our country that are barely making it. We have too many homeless people, too many vets who have fought for our country and are homeless and/or barely surviving...... so of course it goes against everything I believe right that we'd give illegal immigrants free food, housing, healthcare, and whatever else they need. I know the risks of letting so many into our country unchecked and un-investigated. The risk of terrorists coming in with these people are great, and is not an imagined threat as Obama and his minions would try to convince us.

 It is easy to take the opposite stance. I have. I even have thought before that we'd be better of to export all Muslims back to where they came from, and not allow them into our country since every terrorist since 911 have been Muslim.

 But is that the correct Christian attitude and response? Is it how Jesus would be?

  Donald Trump got his following by promising to build a wall and sending Muslims back where they came from. The more he talked about it, the more people supported him. Building a wall became the battle cry of the Republican Party, led by a loud mouth who had held liberal views on everything for years.

 A young preacher's kid who was old enough to vote in this election, commented on a post I did one day and said "you need to pray, pray pray! that Trump wins, or your nieces and nephews will be in danger from illegal immigrants". Yeah, he used pray 3 times.

  Now toss aside your Republican beliefs, and even your conservative beliefs for a moment, and try your best to think about this from a Christian/Biblical standpoint. And I am not saying this PK is a sinner, but he makes a good example: Should any true Christian that is serving Jesus with their all surrendered and trusting in God, make a statement like that? Should we be so fearful of our lives that we toss Biblical principles and common sense to the wind, and decide our only hope from being raped, pillaged, and killed by illegal immigrants lies in electing a godless corrupt individual - or any individual?

  Something that has been on my mind a lot lately, is what do people outside of the conservative Christian/evangelical movement think of us for so fully supporting a man like Donald Trump..... and more specifically, I have wondered what illegal immigrants and Muslims think of us.

 Seriously. Put aside whatever you think about Donald Trump. Does it matter to the millions of evangelical Christians what these people think of us? Do we really want to be associated with the hate and fear associated with building a wall? If that doesn't concern us even a little,  then we seriously need help.

 What are the chances of these people being interested in our Jesus if they associate Christians with Donald Trump, specifically his campaign promise to build a wall and ship the Muslims back? Should we care that associating with that could turn off people on Jesus forever? Should we be concerned that the Republican stance on immigration could possibly be opposite to what the Bible teaches, and what Jesus would want?

 What would Jesus' position be on building a wall, illegal immigrants, and Muslims? Would He be building a wall, or would He be building bridges and loving illegal immigrants and Muslims? Would He even take a political position and/or side with a political position on it?

  I have been reading lately of Christians in Muslim countries and what they go through. When they make the decision to serve Christ, they are asked if they are willing to die for their faith...... for it is a harsh reality there, not just a figure of speech. Christians there go through a lot, and often lose everything, including their lives, yet they joyfully and fearlessly serve Jesus. There are people going to Muslim countries as missionaries, risking their lives to take Jesus to them....... and then there is us.....We Republican Christians are so scared of Muslims we are more focused on building a wall and sending Muslims back home, then we are with showing God's love to them and winning them to Jesus.

 And I honestly don't have the answers, nor am I trying to pretend that I do. I want to feel safe. I want our vets and homeless people taken care of before people who are breaking the law by just being here illegally.

  Yet is that Christian? Is it being like Jesus? Or are we being ruled by our fears, by our insecurities and lack of trust in God?

  No matter what you think of Donald Trump, he tapped into an all too prevalent fear and hatched his political career on the fears of conservatives, and sadly many Christians.

 Are we more focused on winning souls to Jesus and showing His love to them, or are we more concerned with building a wall and feeling safe? I fear the latter is all too prevalent among we who claim to trust God and want to be like Jesus in all we do and say. Immigration and politics should not be the exemption to that.

 And I repeat my statement that I don't have the answers. I have just come to believe that the Republican stance on immigration is not at all like Jesus, and not what the Bible teaches. What it should be, I don't know...... but if it is based on fear and selfishness, it is not like Jesus.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

My new Facebook page

   This past week, I made a Facebook page independent of my regular one. This is the kind of page authors, celebrities, etc use. I am using it primarily for book reviews, blog posts, and encouraging and funny memes. It is visible to anyone who "likes" the page, and only to those who like it. My Facebook friends do not see the posts unless they have "liked the page.

 This page will be free from politics, and more personal things I post. My regular Facebook page will have rare political posts, family stuff, statuses, and things I can't figure out how to share to my other page.

 So whether you are a friend with me on Facebook, like my page if you're interested in following my blogs, reviews, and other such things. Click this link, or click the Facebook logo up in the right hand corner of  this blog.


   I had something amazing happen last night that only local people can truly understand and appreciate. I was shopping in the very busy suburb of Youngstown, Boardman. This town has everything - a mall, plenty of other shopping places, and tons of restaurants. A little after 5 pm, I pulled out onto the main busy 4-lane road running through Boardman. I was headed for the Salvation Army Store, and if I count right in my mind, there are at least 7 traffic lights between my starting point and my destination....... and I got all of them green. That never happens when there aren't many cars, but at that time of day, it was almost a miracle.

 Newsflash: I hate waiting. Patience is not a virtue I excel at. I hate waiting in lines, following slow people, waiting for trains, getting behind a school bus, waiting in waiting rooms, and obviously waiting at red lights.

  I am waiting right now, and it isn't that much fun. I started this house-buying process two months ago tomorrow, and it has been up and down lately. Yes, everything is going through, no it isn't, yes it is, and on and on. Thursday, after a call from my realtor, it seemed God had answered prayer and it was going to work out, and then a phone call from the loan officer shot that down. Three days later, I am waiting..... waiting to hear from either the realtor or the loan officer.

 And yet, I feel I have been waiting for so much longer than that. It has been 8 years since I moved back to Ohio and into what I thought would be a temporary stay with my parents. Eight years later, a bankruptcy, deep depression, lots of ups and downs, unemployment, part time jobs, times when God seemed millions of miles away...... after all of that, I finally stand on the edge of again owning my own place, and getting out on my own again.

 And I wait. I wait for a phone call that will either tell me everything is again on course and I can finally close on this house, or a phone call telling me what I don't want to hear, and that I'll have to back out.

  As I have been waiting these 8 years,  I have found out something about waiting. It can either drive further from God, or it can drive me to my knees and closer to Him. I wish I could say the latter has been true all of these 8 years, but it hasn't. It hasn't been true most of my life. I feel like I have always been waiting. Waiting to be "normal", waiting to get to the point I could marry, waiting for the perfect job, waiting for people to befriend me, waiting, waiting, waiting......

  I wish I had let waiting draw me closer to God all of these years, but I often lost patience and faith instead. Thankfully, I can honestly say this waiting I have experienced lately has done the opposite, and has drawn me closer to God. That isn't to say I am enjoying the waiting, but I do believe it is in God's hands and if it doesn't work out, then He has a better house for me.

 As I typed this blog post, a song came to my mind that made an impression on me the first time I heard it, and pretty much any time I have heard it. The man who wrote and record it got his musical career launched when the song was used in the movie Fireproof. The music video below has scenes from the movie. If you have never heard this great song, give it a listen.

I’m waiting
I’m waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I’m waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I’m waiting
I will serve You
While I’m waiting
I will worship
While I’m waiting
I will not faint
I’ll be running the race
Even while I wait

I’m waiting
I’m waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I’m waiting on You, Lord
Though it’s not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait

I will serve You while I’m waiting
I will worship while I’m waiting
I will serve You while I’m waiting
I will worship while I’m waiting
I will serve You while I’m waiting
I will worship while I’m waiting on You, Lord

Friday, November 18, 2016

Citizen of two worlds

**This may be hard to believe, but I was always the kid double-spacing and trying to come up with enough words to get the right amount of pages on papers in school and college. Now that I have discovered a love of writing, that is no longer a problem. The problem is writing so much that no one may read it all. Once I start writing from the heart, I can't shut it off..... so here is another epistle, but one from the heart.

    A Southern Gospel group I listen to recorded a song that I like several years back, and then recorded it a second time more recently. It is titled "I'm a Citizen of Two Worlds". The chorus goes:

I'm a citizen of two worlds
And it's hard to choose between them
I live here, but my home you cannot see
I'm a citizen of Heaven
Where's I'm going to have a mansion
My real home right now is calling me

     I have been reminded over and over again in the last few months how true this is. Our country has been divided in the last 8 years more than it has been possibly since the Civil War. This election has proven that nothing is going to change in that regard, and that the America I grew up in is gone. Unless we have a revival in our country, the fear, hate, vitriol, and division that has increased in the last few months is going to continue to rule our country.

  I don't claim to be a super Christian, and in fact if I look at myself and where I feel I should be, I feel far from being a super Christian. Yet, when I look at how far God has brought me, and the changes He has made in my life, I also realize I am most likely not as bad as I view myself. It is entirely possible - actually it is a certainty - that my ideas of where I need to be and where I need to improve are far from what God wants.

    My church upbringing combined with my inferior views of myself, and who knows what else, resulted in this thinking I have had for years that I needed to reach a certain level of Christian maturity before God was happy with me. I had to be a Christian for a certain length of time, and get close enough to God before He'd answer my prayers, use me, and look on me as one of His children. What that length of time, and how close to Him I needed to be was something I never figured out.

  These last couple of months have been interesting. The election, this house buying process, taking an unpopular stand among even my church and family members has changed me in ways I would never have imagined. I'm not even sure I can explain it, but I will give it a shot.

 And before I do, let me make it clear I am not un-Christianizing anyone if someone assumes that. Yes, I am disappointed in people, and yes, I was hurt by some. I didn't always take a stand in the right way, and I don't feel I am better than anyone else. With that aside, and hopefully believed by anyone reading it:

  I have truly grown spiritually in the last couple of months, and especially in the last couple of weeks. Certain things caused me to pray more, and draw closer to God. The last time I felt this much spiritual growth and closeness to God was back in March when I was hospitalized for 3 days.

   As I looked at the political landscape, convinced that no matter who won this election that this country will be pulled further from God, and feeling like I didn't belong in the Republican party, the conservative movement, the evangelical Christian movement, and even in my church.....my focus turned in a different direction. I found myself wondering some things about we Christians - I'd say "I", but it is evident that I am not the exception, but just another typical Christian:

Are we truly living for Heaven, or has our lives here on earth in America eclipsed Heaven?

Are we too worried about keeping our freedoms and rights?

Are we too afraid, and losing our faith and trust in God?

Are we too addicted to comforts?

    There is something that has been said of some Christians in years past, "they are so heavenly minded, that they are of no earthly good." What if the reverse is true of we modern day Christians, especially we American Christians? What if we are so earthly minded, so American/patriotic/freedoms minded that we are of no heavenly good? It is a sobering thought that has brought me face to face with a few things about myself that exist in many others also:

1) My freedoms and rights ARE too important to me.

   In Muslim countries when someone wants to become a Christian, they are asked if they are willing to die for their faith, for doing so is not a rhetorical question, but a very likely reality. Here, we are so worried about our rights and freedoms that we will act and vote in ways that are not at all like a Christian should because we are too worried about being persecuted or inconvenienced in any way. We are afraid our Christianity may cost us something here in America.

2) I am too focused on this life.

  Serving Jesus should be the most important thing to me, and my relationship with Him should overshadow everything else...how I treat people, how I vote... or if I vote..... but is He the most important thing?

3) I fear I have the wrong attitudes towards gay people, Muslims, immigrants, and anyone else who we conservatives have learned to fear and hate.

   Yeah, I don't use the gay label for myself, as I feel it is an identity, but even having same-sex attractions and knowing what it is like to be in their shoes, I still fear the gay agenda and what many of them want to accomplish here in America.

   Muslims....wow. I know they are not all terrorists, but the blunt reality is that every terrorist and and terrorist attack in this country since 911 have been by Muslims. You can't whitewash that as much as liberals want to....... but yet, I don't feel I have the correct Christian response to Muslims and the immigration issue. No, I don't believe we should have open borders and let people come in unchecked, but I don't believe I nor many other conservative Christians have a Christ-like view or reaction on this whole Muslim/immigrant issue.

   If we are so afraid of gay people, Muslims, and illegal immigrants that we are focused on building walls instead of tearing them down - literally and figuratively - are we being like Jesus?

4) Politics are too important to me. 

   Yes, anyone with a brain should be concerned with who is elected for any office, but I feel that I and any voting Christians are too worried and focused on election outcomes while people are dying around us without Jesus...... the very people we are fighting politically.

5) My priorities are totally out of whack.

   This kind of repeats my other points, but it doesn't hurt to emphasize something. The most important thing to us as Christians should be serving God and winning others to Him. Yet it would seem that to the evangelical voting block, nothing matters more than winning an election and keeping our freedoms and rights.... no matter what we have to do, no matter who we hurt, no matter how we may hurt our witness and the very cause of Christ....winning an election comes above all else.

    Voting a third party for the first time in my life has helped me to see things in an entirely different light. I was 100% against both candidates, and had big fears and concerns about either one winning. To me, there was no good outcome and America was doomed either way. I had to step back, put it in God's hands, and trust Him -  not any candidate -  because neither was/is trustworthy to me. I still have concerns, but it has truly helped me trust God more and leave everything in His hands. I still have major doubts that the candidate of choice will carry through on much of anything good, but I am slowly learning to let go of my desires to have everything the way I want it. If I am really in this thing of serving God, I have to surrender everything, even my desires for freedoms, comforts, and rights.

    I'm not saying you could not have done that by voting for the man on the GOP ticket. I don't mean to infer that at all. However, walking away from my usual "support the Republican nominee no matter what" thinking has forced me to surrender all of this to God. Politics and voting may never be the same to me, and I hope they are not. I am done doing what man expects of me in voting, and anything else.

     A Facebook friend sent me a song via messenger after one blog post I did where I said that  I don't belong anywhere. The song is titled "I Don't Belong", and was originally titled "Sojourner's Song". It has long been a favorite of mine, and was the inspiration for the title of my first blog, "Thoughts of a Sojourner", which I turned into a blog for book reviews and reviews of other things.

    The reality is that. If we are serving God and have a relationship with Him, we don't belong here on earth. We don't belong in America. If we love this world too much, this country, our freedoms and rights, we may never feel at home in Heaven. In fact, we may never want to leave this earth.

   What would our lives look like if we were "all-in" for Christ? If we were totally surrendered to God with even our fears, our politics, and all the issues that are important to us, what would it look like? How would we vote? How would we act towards and view gay people, illegal immigrants, Muslims, and anyone else who we fear?

  There is a story that may or not be true. Michelangelo was asked how he managed to do such a good job on the statue of David. He replied that he just chipped away everything that was not David. What if we all prayed that God would do that with us.... that God would chip away everything that isn't Mark, or John, or Martha, or whatever your name is until only Jesus is left?

  I definitely have not arrived, but what would my Christianity look like if I truly lived for the next world, instead of for this country I live in? If I really set aside being a Republican, conservative, evangelical Christian, and above all was a Christ follower?

   Don't get me wrong. I am patriotic, I love America, I don't want to be persecuted. However, when I read stories of what Christians in other countries go through, I feel convicted. We conservatives like to talk about how we live in an entitlement society where people want free heath-care, welfare, and feel they deserve everything.....but what if we Christians have bought into this entitlement ideology also? Are we really entitled to the freedoms and rights we have as Americans? If we are, then why aren't Christians in other countries having those same freedoms and rights?

  The day will come when I stand before God and give an account of all I have done. On that day, my freedoms and rights won't matter. On that final day when the earth exists no more, America will also exist no more. I won't be viewed more special because I am an American, or because I voted Republican most of my life. What will matter is if I lived as God wanted me to, if I did His will, if I loved people, if I showed Jesus to the world, and loved everyone..... even Muslims, gay people, and illegal immigrants.

 It has been said that we may be the only Jesus some people see.....and if that is true, what do those looking on at we Republican/conservative evangelical Christians seeing? Do they see people who love everyone, or.....

  We don't belong here, and we should be reminded of that fact occasionally.....daily. If we never feel like we don't belong here, we may need a spiritual check up.

    As a guy dealing with same-sex attractions, I had to get to the point that I didn't let those rule me anymore and surrender them to God. I had to surrender my desire to have a family, and my fears of being a single lonely guy. That has made a tremendous difference in my life and in my relationship with this God I now believe loves me with a love we humans will never understand. But that is just one area of my life. I want and need to surrender everything else to Him...and lately it has been a glaring reality that this whole politics/freedoms/rights, etc is the next stronghold that needs to come down.

 I can be patriotic and be a Christian, but being a patriotic American must always take a back seat to being a Christian. I don't belong, not even here in America.


words by Gloria Gaither, music by Buddy Greene

It's not home Where men sell their souls
And the taste of power is sweet
Where wrong is right And neighbors fight
While the hungry are dyin' in the streets
Where kids are abused And women are used
And the weak are crushed by the strong
Nations gone madJesus is sadAnd I don't belong

Chorus:I don't belong And I'm going someday
Home to my own native land
I don't belong And it seems like I hear
The sound of a "welcome home" band
I don't belong I'm a foreigner here
Singing a sojourner's song
I've always known This place ain't home
And I don't belong

Don't belong But while I'm here
I'll be living like I've nothin' to lose
And while I breathe I'll just believe
My Lord is gonna see me through
I'll not be deceived By earth's make-believe
I'll close my ears to her siren song
By praisin' His name, I'm not ashamed
'Cause I don't belong

Repeat Chorus

I belong To a kingdom of peace
Where only love is the law
Where children lead And captives are freed
And God becomes a baby on the straw
Where dead men live
And rich men give
Their kingdoms to buy back a song
Where sinners like me
Become royalty
And we'll all belong

Yes I belong
And I'm going someday
Home to my own native land
Where I'll belong
And it seems like I hear
The sound of a "welcome home" band
Yes, I'll belong
No foreigner there
Singin' a sojourner's song
I've always known
I'm going home
Where I belong
Yes I've always known
This place ain't home
And I don't belong

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Being salt and light

**This turned out longer than I wanted, but is something that has been on my heart and mind for a while. Maybe no one will even read this epistle :)

Sometimes I'll run across a movie that isn't Christian, yet has Christian overtones or a Christian message. There is one such movie I watched about 10 years ago called The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising. I recently found it at the Salvation Army store for $1.50, and though I didn't remember much about it, I did remember I liked it..... so I bought it.

 The plot: Developing one's self confidence is difficult for most 14-year-olds, and doubly so for Will Stanton who's recently moved to England and has just begun his first year of study as an American overseas. Feeling shy and inadequate in school as well as amongst his five brothers and one sister, Will becomes increasingly confounded when he starts to see strange visions including a sinister horseman  who demands Will give him some sort of sign which he knows absolutely nothing about. Befriended by four elders of the local community who turn out to be "Old Ones" from ages past, Will learns that his destiny is as a seeker who must travel through time to collect six ancient signs that will somehow enable light to triumph over darkness and save the world as he knows it. As Will discovers that he possesses hidden powers and struggles to learn to control them in order to accomplish his quest, he is racked with insecurity and self-doubt. In the end, Will's inner strength will be tested to the extreme as will his relationship with both family and friends.

  Spoiler: Darkness is vanquished and the light triumphs. As I watched it, I was reminded of Jesus' command to be salt and light to the world. It is becoming increasingly difficult to do that, and we can be fought just as hard as the young man in the movie I recently watched.

 I was also convicted. Odd, how watching a secular movie can do things like that.

   I am avoiding politics and talk of the man who will be in the White House. Anyone who knows me very well knows my stance on all of that. However this whole election process, no matter who you voted for or didn't vote for, showed one glaring truth: we Christians are doing a lousy job of being salt and light.

   Our country is getting further and further from God, and instead of praying, humbling ourselves, and seeking God's face and His will for our country, we bickered and fought, putting our hopes in man instead of in God. Any true Christian should shudder at the thought of what the world saw in us this election season..... and maybe in other elections also.

  What are we most concerned about and dedicated to as Christians? Is it keeping our guns, building a wall, protecting our freedoms, defeating a certain candidate or party.... or is it having a relationship with God, taking the Gospel to the world, loving people, being Jesus to people? And no, this is not meant to be a political post, but one would assume from the last few months that Christians are more concerned with things of America than with things of God.

  If the world views us as anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim anti-everything else..... if they see us as hateful and unloving... how on earth are we being salt or light?

    I am very well aware of the gay agenda and what some gay people want, and it is scary. Both politcal candidates promised to further gay rights, so we may be in for interesting and dangerous times. I know the dangers of open borders, and of having our guns taken away. I have to wonder if we as Christians are approaching any of these issues in the right way, and if we are more concerned with building walls then reaching people for Christ and loving everyone as God commands us to.

 Has the church become too political? What are Christians known for?

  I don't know what the answer is to all of this. I want to feel safe. I want my family to be safe. I know we can't just open our borders and let everyone come across with no checks and balances.... but what should the Christian approach be to immigration, the gay agenda, abortion, guns, and all of the other things we have politicized and are guided by? Are we looking at these issues through the lens of God's Word and acting and reacting to them how He would have us do?

   Muslims scare me, I'll admit it. At times, I have found myself thinking if we shipped them all out of the US, we'd be a lot safer, yet I realize that is not a Christian attitude. If Muslims know Christians are supporting a man who is all about building a wall to keep them out, and is wanting to send them back where they came from, then how on earth will we ever reach Muslims for Jesus? I get it. I really get it,  but what should Christians do about Muslims and immigration? Would Jesus be demanding a wall? Would He be wanting to send all Muslims back to their country?

   How can we be salt and light to Muslims, gay people, women wanting the right to kill babies in the womb, people wanting to get rid of guns? Is our stance and views on these and other issues Christian and Biblical, or are they Republican and conservative and  all based on politics and fear? Sadly, it would seem the latter.

   Are we living our lives in ways that it would cause people to want what we have, to know this Jesus we serve, or are we driving people away from the church and from God by our politics, our fear, and what is perceived as hate, if it isn't actually hate?

   This election was worse than previous ones in ways, but this fearmongering is nothing new. Every election, both parties use fear to motiviate voters. If candidate R wins, women's rights will be set back hundreds of years, slavery will be legalized again, gay people will be shoved back in the closet and lose all of their rights, grandma will be pushed off the cliff, no one will have healthcare, and we will be at war, etc. If candidate D wins, we will lose our guns, abortion will be forced on everyone, euthinasia will be legalized, the Constitution will be destroyed, the Surpreme Court will be stacked with judges that will destroy our freedoms and rights and America itself, our country will be overrun by illegal immigrants, Chistianity will be outlawed, and more.

   Sadly most of those are things said by both parties. Every election, we are motivated by fear. We fear losing our rights and freedoms, and fear what the other party will do if they win. Trusting God and seeking His will get tossed aside, and politics becomes our god. Our political party winning the election becomes more important than our Christian witness, loving people, and being like Jesus. Harsh? Maybe so, but it would seem to be the case.

  We American Christians seem to have the idea that America matters most to God above all other countries and people. We tend to think we must have perfect living conditions here with our freedoms and rights as Americans intact to be able to serve God and live for Him. The result is we want to build walls instead of tear them down. Our primary focus is on maintaining our rights and freedoms instead of being like Jesus. It doesn't matter who we offend and turn off on Christianity, the most important thing to us is our country, patriotism, and our freedoms and rights.

   I have never claimed to be a genius, but I believe we Christians aren't living for the right world. When politics comes before God, how we treat people, and being like Jesus, we are living for the wrong things and the wrong world. There's no way we can be salt and light to the world when we give  our American life more importance than our Christianity.

  Something I have been asking myself, and all Christians should ask themselves, or at least similar questions:

Would gay people watching my life, my politics, my social media posts and interactions be apt to come to me and want to know the Jesus I serve?

If a Muslim was watching all of that, how likely would he be to want to know my Savior?

Women who have had abortions, illegal immigrants, Hispanics, black people, liberals, and anyone else....... would they be drawn to Jesus and being a Christian by what they see in and from us....at election time or any other time?

 If we can read those and not feel concern, then we are definitely doing something wrong.

  This post isn't aimed at any specific people or voting block. I have just felt very convicted in this area myself, and I know this is a widespread issue not exclusive to me, but existing in way too many Christians and churches in America.

  The phrase what would Jesus do has been worn out and turned into just another Christian fad, but that doesn't mean it is never worth asking... and so I ask it here: What would Jesus do about immigration, and everything else we worry so much about as American Christians?

 There are Christians going into Muslim countries to evangelize, risking their lives and the lives of their families. Other Christians are giving risking their lives and giving their all for God in other dangerous areas in the world..... and here we are wanting to build a wall because we value our freedoms, safety, and rights more than those Christians.

   Could it be that with our agenda to keep our freedoms and rights, to feel safe, to build a wall, and stay in our Evangelical Christian bubble..... we have lost our savor as being salt of the earth, and that our light is not just dimmed, but extinguished?

  Again, this post isn't aimed at anyone. This is something that has been on my heart, and is something that has had me convicted over my attitudes, views, and priorities. When we stand before God some day, how will He look at these issues in our lives, how we voted, and what our priorities have been?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The "what it's like" 5 part series

  I have done a 5-part blog post series on what it is like dealing personally with same-sex attractions. Instead of sharing all 5 links individually on Facebook and Twitter, I am putting the links here in one blog post to make it a little easier. So if you're interested, here is some reading for you:

What it's like, introduction.

What it's like, Part 1..... an inside look

What it's like, Part 2.....what causes it?

What it's like, Part 3....what can the church do/should do

What it's like, Part 4......the road ahead

What it's like, Part 4....the road ahead

  I look back at the road I have traveled and am amazed at the patience, mercy, love, and grace of God. I am truly a walking miracle. There are a few people who realize that and why, but take my word for it..... I am a miracle. I never thought I'd be in the place I am at today, but God has done such a work in my heart and life that I am.

  Marriage is not an option for me. There are many people who get to the point that they can marry and make it work. I don't think I am one of those. No, it isn't a lack of faith in God. I just know me very well. Also, I am a loner. I can't imagine being around a person that much. I still wish I could be a dad, and you can drop the kids off at a babysitter's.....you can't do that with a wife. Plus, there is that pretty big issue of my still not being attracted to females.

 Temptation is rarely an issue for me anymore in this area. Sure, attractive guys are always coming into the hospital where I work, and I at times have a hard time not taking a second or more looks....but I have come to accept this cross I carry. I'm not worried about my future as a single Christian guy with SSA. That is just part of me, and it is not who I am. I am God's child, a miracle of His grace and mercy.

 I truly am OK with being single. Sure, I wish I had someone to go shopping with occasionally, eat out with,  watch a movie with, take a walk with......but it isn't the end of the world to not have that.

 It has helped that I have accepted myself more, and like myself better than I used to. It is OK that I am not into sports, hunting, and other typical guy things. It is OK that I love to shop, read, play the piano, and do other things not considered manly by many. Just imagine if I were married......what woman doesn't want a guy who actually likes to shop? :)

 In a post I did of things I am thankful for, I listed my same-sex attractions. I do mean that. It has caused me to depend more on God, it has made me more compassionate......I hate to admit it, but even in the most masculine of we who have SSA, there are a few more feminine characteristics. Unfortunately, one of those is that we often tend to be more vulnerable and more easily hurt than the average guy. Also, we tend to be more immature like we are stuck back in childhood.... something that isn't quite so much for me anymore. It may also explain why I cry so easily while reading, watching movies, listening to music, eating my mom's fried chicken......(just kidding about the chicken, but it is really good......)

   I have met some amazing people because of my SSA.....others who are where I am at, some who were so far out in the gay lifestyle that no one would dream they'd come to God... but they did. I have heard testimonies that encouraged and amazed me.

 This being more open about my SSA is something I plan to keep doing. It helps me by dragging my secret out in the open where it no longer has a hold on me. It also encourages others in the same boat as I am in. I have many Facebook friends who are dealing with same-sex attractions on some level, and there are a few who regularly tell me what an encouragement I am to them. I don't say that to brag, but just to point out that my talking about this does encourage others. I am thankful for those who blazed this trail ahead of me and showed me that there was hope and that I was not alone...... how can I do any differently?

 This isn't going to turn into a blog all about this topic, but I will post more about it than I used to. I am also planning on having some of my friends share their testimonies on here in the coming weeks and months. If you keep up with my blog, I hope you'll read them. We who are dealing personally with this very difficult issue need you. We need our Christian brothers' and sisters' love, compassion, and acceptance.

 So keep watching this blog for some stories people need to hear. Stories of God's grace working in lives of people dealing with this issue the church so needs help on.

What it's like, Part 3....what can the church do/should do

 We are daily bombarded with a pro-gay message. If you watch TV, it is rare to find a show that doesn't have a gay or lesbian character appearing occasionally, if not regularly. Stores and products are starting to run ads geared towards gay people, and featuring gay people and couples. Public schools have become indoctrination camps for a very pro-gay message. Kids of all ages are encouraged to experiment sexually with the same gender... and it will only get worse. Both of the two main presidential candidates promised to further gay rights, so only God knows what that will mean for Christians.

 Christians see the hate from militant gay people, see the parades showcasing all sorts of immorality, read the news stories of what the gay crowd is trying to accomplish and force on us even more. It is easy to view gay people as enemy, and also easy to lump all gay people together.

 This may be the most important blog post in this series of posts I am doing. Christians/the church needs to do a better job of dealing with this very big and important issue. So here is a far from exhaustive list of things I believe needs to be done by the church and Christians.

The don'ts

1) Stop with the jokes. They aren't funny, and you never know who may be in your hearing that is dealing with same-sex attractions, or is closely related to someone who is. You will forever turn them off from viewing you as a safe person, and may turn them off on Christianity and God Himself.

2) Stop viewing it as the worst sin. It is not.

3) Stop saying and thinking it is gross. Sure, it may be to you, but take it from me....a woman's breasts and the idea of sex with a woman can be just as gross to a guy with SSA.

4) Stop viewing gay people as child molesters. Heterosexuals are much more likely to be  child molesters, and just as adult heterosexuals are attracted to other adults of the opposite sex, adult gay people are attracted to adults of the same sex.

5) Don't be afraid of gay people or people with SSA.

The do's

1) Be a safe person. No matter what the issue someone is facing, SSA or other, no one is ever going to come to you for prayer or help if you are constantly saying things about gay people or others you feel negatively about.

2) Love gay people. I shudder at the thoughts of what gay people would go through if they lived beside some Christians. We should be known by our love for everyone, gay people not exempted.

3) Be a friend. People dealing with SSA are often very lonely and feel unloved. Be friendly to those who appear lonely or are loners. That doesn't mean they are experiencing SSA, but it won't hurt.

4) Touch people of the same sex. That may sound weird, but let me explain: there have been many times another guy has slapped my back or shoulder or put their arm around me....I can't put words into what that feels like..... but it is a good feeling. Hug others of the same sex, if you are comfortable with it.

5) Be educated. Read about the issue. There are many books written by Christians from a Biblical viewpoint, and you never know when someone may confess to you that they are gay or dealing with SSA. It would help to know something about it.

6) Realize that not every gay person is like the ones you see and hear the most of. Our churches and families all have people hiding in the shadows that are dealing with it on some level. Some manage to keep it under control and stay single, never giving into their desires and attractions. Others keep one foot in the church and another in a secret gay life that no one knows about. Some leave the church completely to live the gay lifestyle and never return.

7) If someone ever confesses this struggle to you, thank them. It takes guts to do that. Don't offer advice, but listen. Pray for them and offer to be there for them.

  Gay people should feel welcome at our churches. No, they should never feel acceptance of their sin, but they should feel as welcome as the heterosexuals living in sexual sin, the thief, the pornography addict, the gossip, or any other sinner. If they feel shunned and unwelcome, then we have failed as Christians and as a church.

  Some day, a good friend or a relative you love very much may sit across from you and utter the words "I'm gay", or "I'm attracted to the same sex". At that moment, you will hold their life in your hands. What will you say? How will you react? Will you drive them from the church, your life, and God, or will you show them love and compassion and be the safe friend that they need?

What it's like, Part 2......what causes it?

 What causes same-sex attractions?

  I am no psychologist, but this is a brief explanation of what I believe. Others have expounded on it more, but this is just me in simple terms.

   I personally don't believe anyone is born this way, but even if they are, that doesn't mean it is right and OK with God. We are all born sinners with the inborn desire to sin, and not do right.

   I have read and studied a lot about the topics of same-sex attractions and homosexuality. I may not be an expert, but I am probably closer to being one than you are........ :)  I am of the belief that we can be born with a predisposition to be attracted to the same sex, just as some are born with a predisposition to be an alcoholic, or some other addiction or sin. Depending on outward influences, that predisposition may never take hold or manifest itself.

 What do I mean by that? One major influence or trigger that is agreed upon by conservative Christians, is that lack of bonding with other males, especially peers, can cause it. Bullying by other boys, lack of camaraderie with other boys,etc.


   John and Luke are both born with this predisposition. John gets along great with boys his age, is popular, and bonds well with other males. He may never experience attraction to other males, or not enough to be noticeable even to him. Luke grows up with mostly girls, doesn't interact much with other boys, except to be bullied and picked on, and never bonds well with other males, never feels affirmed by other males..... so other males feel opposite to him. Instead of looking at girls as a mystery and different, he looks at other boys as a mystery and different from him. It may start with wishing he was like other boys, envying their looks, build, abilities, etc., but the envy and admiration turn into attraction and desire.

   Even if you take the predisposition out of the equation, most Christians with a conservative view on it, believe that outward influences at least help trigger, if not help cause it. The less a boy feels like other boys, the less they are affirmed by other males, the more they become an object of desire.

 Molestation also often triggers same-sex attractions.

  At a certain age, boys realize girls aren't gross and have cooties after all, and they become attracted to them. Girls are a mystery, and everything boys are not. For the boy experiencing attractions to the same sex, other boys are a mystery to him. He feels different from other boys, and often feels more comfortable around girls who feel like buddies.

 The less a boy feels like other boys, the stronger the attractions become for other boys.

  And even if it is proven some day that people are born gay/with same-sex attractions, that will still not make it OK. We are all born with sin in our heart and the desire for what is wrong.

What it's like Part 1..... an inside look

So what IS it like to deal with same-sex attractions?

   It is scary...

......actually terrifying, especially if you have no one to talk to about it. I was scared to death, and had no clue how to handle it. To make matters worse, I was attending a very conservative Bible College and was dating when I realized what was wrong with me.....at least I then understood why both girls I had dated were more like buddies to me and I never had the desire to hold hands or kiss....something discouraged there anyway. I broke up immediately, and used the "It's God's will" excuse, but there was no way I was going with the truth on that.

    Life became very tough after that. Jokes about gay people had always made me uncomfortable, but now it was worse. Living in a dorm full of guys, I heard a lot of them. It caused me to retreat more into myself and be more of a loner than ever, scared that someone would find out my secret and I'd get kicked out of college... which probably would have happened.

   I became a master at hiding my secret. I became skilled at dodging the questions of why I wasn't dating/married, and of never looking at guys very long in case someone suspected. I cannot express in words how difficult it is to have this struggle and have to hide it. It is miserable, and you feel all alone, even at church.

  Imagine for a moment that it is sin to be with the opposite sex. If you're a woman, it is sin to ever be with a man, If you're a man, it is a sin to be with a woman. Everywhere you go, you see those you are attracted to, knowing you can never have that and serve God.

 Thankfully, somewhere along the line, and I don't know exactly when or why, I ceased being attracted to guys I knew well, especially those I felt liked me and who I felt comfortable around. That made going to church easier as I didn't need to constantly be fighting attractions to those I was trying to worship with. I still have a battle when I am around guys anywhere who I don't know and/or do not feel comfortable around.

 One of the most difficult things for me to get a grip on, was what is exactly sin? If I notice a man is attractive, have I sinned..... and if so, then why is it not sin for a woman to notice that same man is attractive? Is thinking, "wow, he's cute/hot" a sin?

 When I first realized what was going on with me as a junior in Bible College - hey, I was a naive and sheltered kid who barely knew what gay meant - I was devastated. I thought for sure I was going to hell, for after all I knew what the Bible says. Thankfully, I braved writing a letter to a college pal during the summer, and though I beat so far around the bush he had to be a genius to know what I was talking about, he replied and assured me I was not going to hell just because I wasn't attracted to  the right gender.

  It took me years to fully come to terms with it all, and to come to a Bible-based belief on all of this. I came to believe that attraction to the same gender is indeed not a sin, anymore than attraction to the opposite sex is. However, lusting after the same - or opposite - sex is sin, and that is a line we all have to discover where it is. And if we are completely honest, we all find members of the same sex attractive...... not to the extent someone like me does, but to a certain extent. Satan has twisted that and magnified it for some of us.

  It is lonely.

    To have a secret such as this is tough. You're scared to let people get too close for fear they figure it out. You're scared to even be around people much, especially other guys, because you fear they may catch you looking at them too long, or a second time. It is a loneliness that hurts, and for too many years it was a way of life for me. It doesn't help that after a certain age, all of the guys in my life were married but me. I felt I stuck out, and was an oddity. I also wasn't interested in the things that "normal" guys are interested in....... so I retreated to my books, and the internet when I got it in 2000.

  There are parts of my life that will forever remain hidden from everyone but God. I did things, thought things, experienced things that I never dreamed I would......and I became more convinced that God didn't just not love me, but He intensely disliked me...... but since He can't lie, He had to forgive me when I asked for His forgiveness.

 I have become more comfortable in my own skin and with being alone. Hopefully in the next week or so, I will start moving into my own house again...... and I am excited. No, I still won't have guys I can call up and meet for lunch or coffee for them and something good for me.....I'll spend many times alone in my life, but if I truly know Jesus as I should, I'll never be completely alone.

"Coming out"

   I soon started admitting my secret to people until I lost track of how many people knew. I then became more open about discussing it on blog posts and Facebook, knowing full well that people might correctly assume why I was talking about this issue so much. I got bolder and did a couple of blog posts where you'd have to border on dull to not get it. Then I did it. I came right out and said it in plain terms that I Mark Buzard am attracted to males, not females.

  This revelation has made a tremendous difference in my life. The truth does indeed set you free. I am not hiding a secret anymore, and don't worry what people will think of me. It is freeing, and the attractions, desires,  and fears have lost their hold on me. At this point in my life, they aren't really a big deal. No, I am not attracted to women.....nor will I ever be...... and I am still attracted to men but manage it a lot better. Oddly, as I mentioned before, I am not attracted to guys I know well, especially if I feel accepted and liked by them. Attractive guys I don't know and/or feel intimidated by are the ones I feel attracted to.

   I'll admit one fear I had was people viewing me as a freak, being afraid I was going to molest a kid, and that kind of stuff. There may be people at my church who do think those things, but I don't know of it. No one treats me any differently that I know of, and I'd say most of the church probably knows by now. Gossip is the accepted sin of the church, after all.... and we definitely have a few in my church.

  And I have concerns that other guys may feel uncomfortable around me, or even afraid around me..... as if it was something they could catch. It isn't.

 I have reached the point in my life that I can't let what other people think affect me. I let the fear of people knowing this about me cripple me for years, cause me to live a lie, and actually lie on occasion. I have accepted this as my cross to carry, and I  no longer pray for God to take it away,  only for His help to live as I should and keep my heart and mind pure.

 We all have temptations and desires that are contrary to God's will, and this is mine.