Sunday, November 26, 2006

Picnic Fun at the Park

In the spirit of my rollercoaster posts lately of ups and downs, I had a wonderful day yesterday! On Saturday, a few friends and I got together for a picnic at the park.

It was an incredibly beautiful day too. The sky was blue, the clouds were puffy, the sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, the grass was green, and the park wasn't too crowded with folks for the Thanksgiving weekend.

The park has three sand volleyball courts surrounded by an astroturf track. We played two on two volleyball for quite a while and I could tell I got a good workout because I broke a good sweat! I must say, my serve is improving! Hehe - with these guns, i gave them a few to dive and dig for! =)

All of these friends are gay, and I've gotta say that it was really refreshing to be so "out". Not that it was something that I had to try to do - just that, even in public, with my friends I could just be me. And so i felt absolutely comfortable to relax and enjoy the day and enjoy the friends. I don't remember the last time that I laughed so much. No really, we all laughed alot. And that felt so good!

After spending the whole afternoon together, it got dark and so we all decided to go to my place to clean up, hang out, chat, joke around alot more, and play Scrabble. Jayson, the linguist of the group (actually, he is a linguist - he's in a Masters program now), won the game. No surprise. The rest of us were happy enough getting 7-15 point words while Jayson was pulling out these 22-25 point words. This guy!

Anyway, I had a great time with the buds!

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Day After Gratitude

I hate having to write a downer post during the Holidays - especially this one that's supposed to be so full of gratitude. It's just that I hate the rollercoaster. I love it. But I hate it.

Steve and Warren commented two posts ago about how they noticed how blessed I am by my circle of friends. I agree. I am extremely blessed to have such wonderful and diverse friends. I've also been excited about recently coming in contact with three separate friends from my past - all in different parts of the world - and we've re-established contact via email, myspace, or text message all in the past three weeks. Something's happening because I can sense God shifting things and placing people in my life. I even came out to my two nieces via myspace.

I'm so thankful for the friends that I do have, but at the same time, I'm still so lonely because I do want a companion. But in me being so hard up for being with someone, i'll find that i'll take my friends for granted. Sigh. It's just that, I want an intimacy that wouldn't necessarily be healthy or appropriate with my circle of friends. Friends are friends. But, if i'm honest, I do want more. And it's hard when I see friends around me beginning that process of dating someone and then starting to fall for that person. I'm happy for them, sure, but I long for that. I want to fall for someone. I want to have that special feeling that's reserved for a certain person. I want to know that someone reserves that special feeling for me.

Yesterday, I went to spend the day with my family and enjoyed seeing them. Last Christmas, I told my family that I found reconciliation with my faith and sexuality and I asked them how they'd feel if I brought someone home for the holidays. They were all supportive. I still haven't done that yet. I would have wanted to bring someone home for them to meet - someone I cared for. I drove back home alone. Again.

There's still so much of me that i'm trying to figure out. For starters, why am I still single?

LOL, damn it. There are days when i both love and hate the journey.

Where am i going again?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm sure there are a ton of 'What I'm Thankful For' posts circling the blogosphere right now. I don't quite have the time just now to write a long one. By now, after my recent Birthday Week connections, you know that I'm thankful for my friends. But do you know how much I appreciate you? Thank you so much for reading my blog! No really, it means alot to me.

My buddy and I were talking last night about how MySpace can get pretty narcissistic. Hehe, remember how I trash talked MySpace last week by saying I sold out and put up a profile? Yeah, i've been on every day since then. I'm not addicted to it though. It's just a new thing, that's all. By the way, I think I just outed myself to my niece and another friend of mine, by adding them as a 'Friend'. That's okay. Anyway, I agree that both MySpace and Blogs can take a form of narcissism. But even underneath that - without placing judgement over it - deep down, like me, people just want to be known.

Being in the closet for the majority of my life has been an incredibly lonely experience - as you can gather if you've been reading my story. I've said numerous times that it had always felt like no one really knew me or that I felt like I could never be authentic enough out of fear of being rejected. But at the end of the day, all I want is to be real - to be actually me.

And so, that's why I appreciate you so much - the Two World Collision reader - because YOU make my world less lonely. I've tried to be vulnerable and even perhaps disclosed a bit too much about my personal life on this blog - just for the sake of being known. So that you can know me a bit more in the hopes that you would find something in me that you can connect and relate with.

So thank you for journeying with me. There's still a long road ahead but it'll be fun!

Happy Turkey/Tofurkey Day

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Shutting Off The Hormones

I'll admit that I've got flaws. Sometimes, it's a bit more uncomfortable when I notice a flaw in someone else only to realize that I do the same thing from one degree or another.

It hurts when someone I know judges another person that I know based solely on a photograph. "Dude, your friend is totally hot!" or "He probably goes out all the time." or "He looks like the type of guy that will just kiss anyone." or even "He only dates hot guys, huh?"

How am I supposed to respond? The thing that bugs me about all of this is that the judging friend knows nothing about the other friend and yet all of these assumptions are made and are, at the very least, verbalized about him or her being shallow. Well hell, do I seem like the kind of guy that keeps close friendships with shallow people? I enjoy substance in friendships and in relationships so when someone else starts making judgements about these other friends of mine - well, i naturally feel and get pretty defensive.

You can't accurately determine a three-dimensional personality simply by looking at a two-dimensional photograph!

As pissed off as I can get when someone talks about my friends inappropriately, alas I must admit that I have done the very same thing . . . .

The trap of personal profiles on sites like MySpace or Friendster or or or or or or even at my beloved GayChristian.Net - the trap is the tendency to judge a person on limited information. I'll admit that I've done that. I make decisions about whether or not to read their profile based on their photo or whether or not to send them a message based on what they've written in their profile. There are times when I've crushed over a guy based on his picture or the way he articulated about himself in his profile or the things he's said in a couple of posts.

These are all two-dimensional experiences of a person and I've gotta remember that there is more substance to a person than what he portrays to me online. At some point, we can only really get to know what a person is actually like by actually talking with them. And even then, we are only beginning that process of getting to know them.

I guess right now I'm realizing that I don't want to be the shallow guy who worships a guy simply because he's hot. Frankly, a hot guy loses his hotness when he opens his mouth to reveal an ugly personality. I don't want to play the game of getting infatuated by fantasy and illusion. What's he really like? He's worth getting to know, not because he's cute (or not) but because he's an individual with a personality. If i'm honestly seeking to get to know someone in a potentially romantic context, someone who has substance and quality, then I want to discover that personality in as authentic a way as possible.

I want to go deeper. And sometimes, i've gotta shut off the hormones to do that.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

MySpace Sell Out

I know, I know. I just sold out. I created a MySpace profile. What can I say? I was bored! I still think MySpace is the ugliest thing on the Internet (and i'm still shocked that it got so popular) so I kept mine pretty simple. On the other hand, I was reading on someone's blog somewhere today (sorry, i don't remember which one) that MySpace is no longer "in" or "cool". I laughed. I never thought it was in the first place.

So, now that I've finished trashing MySpace (no offense to anyone - heck, i'll probably get addicted to it and i'll be on it every day!), feel free to check me out at:

Hey, if you're on it, add me as a friend! I need them . . . . =)

Fun With Fire Fighters

This one made me and my buddy laugh so much it made me cry! It's absolutely hilarious! Thanks to Jimmy for featuring this one of Ross.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Birthday Week Pics

Whew! What a week of connecting with friends and celebrating my birthday with them. Be sure to read through this past week's posts to get a glimpse into the kind of friends I hang out with. They are a diverse and quirky bunch, aren't they? They are all very special to me and they help make this journey less lonely.

I just posted a ton of new birthday pics from this past week to the FilmLoop to the right. Be sure to click on the "Watch the Show" link (located underneath the player's controls) to see the slide show of all the fun! =)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Lunch with Peterson Toscano

Today, I drove out to Palm Springs (about 100 miles inland from Long Beach) to connect with Peterson Toscano. I've mentioned him before in this previous post. He was there for the weekend doing his show "Doin' Time in the Homo Nomo Halfway House" for the Love Breaks Out conference. He's from Hartford, Connecticut and so seeing as how he was in the region - we thought it'd be fun to try to reconnect.

He took me to a vegan restaurant that he discovered there and I thought it was pretty good. The chocolate tofu was tasty as well!

We spent time catching up on the past few months . . . .

. . . . we talked about projects that each of us have and will be working on in each of our ministries/organizations. I sincerely respect Peterson's creativity in the way he unpacks an issue and creates discussion about it. It is clear that God's hand and heart rests on him. =)

Something interesting that I learned from Peterson is the concept of silence in prayer. Of course, I've heard of being silent while praying but he tells me that as a Quaker prayer is done in silence. I can see how refreshing that can be - "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalms 46:10). I asked him today if the silent prayer is more like just thinking the prayer rather than speaking it verbally or if it's more like clearing the mind and not saying anything. He said that there are instances where it could be both but most of the time it's clearing the mind and trusting that God already knows everything that we would like to say or ask Him. So it's more about listening and receiving from Him. The analogy Peterson used was that it's like when Jesus was entering Jerusalem and people were waving the palm branches but when He passed in front of them, the people bowed and laid their branches down on the ground in his path. He said it was kinda like that - being silent is like stopping everything (even in thought) to bow before the King. Whoa! That's huge! I'd definitely like to incorporate that into my lifestyle. Now that's a wonderful birthday gift! =)

After our vegan lunch, we proceeded to the Botanical Gardens there in Palm Springs to see the showcase of desert plant life. There were lots of alien looking cactus creature thingies. Interesting. It'll be fun to reconnect with him again in the future.

On my way back home to Long Beach, I stopped by Riverside to visit my mom for a couple of hours. She had surgery this past Friday and I wanted to check in on her. She had her gall bladder removed (and while they were in there, they took out her appendix too). I suppose she's fine. She's got some pain and discomfort but the recovery time should be about a month. I'm hoping she'll feel well enough to join the family at my brother's for Thanksgiving. Would you please keep her in your prayers? Thanks!

Birthday Beach Fun & South African Dinner

Yesterday (Sunday) after church services, a handful of friends from GCN and Open Door Ministries got together for my birthday at Belmont Shore in Long Beach for lunch and volleyball. Fun times!

This would be the first time that Luke (visiting from the UK) had ever seen the Pacific Ocean so some of us went down by the water so that he can take it all in. Right now, he says it's freezing cold in the UK and so there were several moments when I caught Luke looking around to appreciate the sunny California weather with the blue skies, puffy clouds, and slight breeze. I'm so glad he's having a good time here. =)

We all played volleyball for awhile. This was another first for Luke since he had never played before so it was fun watching him learn how to bump/hit/set/serve/just-even-try-to-touch the ball. Hilarious! He said he was having fun though. He wasn't the only one contending with a disobedient volleyball that would never go where it was supposed to go. It wasn't competitive but we all had a blast just the same.

We all shared lunch then had some birthday cupcakes. Yummers! It was just a fun Sunday afternoon hanging out with friends. Good times.

After our day at the beach, Mike, Michael, Luke and I returned to my place to clean up, then we went out to dinner at Mike's favorite South African bar & grill in Shoreline Village in downtown Long Beach. I forget what it's called. It was good food though.

I think the fun part about Sunday (all day), in fact even the past several days, was just seeing many of my friends connect. In many instances, it definitely was not all about me. They were just opportunities for friends to have fun and get to know each other more or even possibly meet new friends. What better birthday gift than to see friends enjoying each other! =)

Hosting Luke and Michael

This weekend, I had the honor and privilege of hosting Luke (right) and Michael (left) in my home. They are two friends from GCN. Michael came to Long Beach Saturday afternoon from Santa Barbara and Luke came here from the UK.

They were both here for the GCN gathering Saturday night for my birthday and so they both spent the night at my apartment.

In the morning, before going to Sunday service the three of us went for breakfast to one of my favorite coffee/sandwich places called Royal Cup here in Long Beach - just around the corner from my apartment. They have the best breakfast bagels . . . .

During Luke's stay here in Long Beach, I got to know him more. He is truly an awesome guy! Being the Brit that he is, he is an absolute gentleman. And he is hilarious too! We had some good laughs.

I've gotta say this too - he knows this (but doesn't think so) - but I think British accents are sooooo hot! No really, it's way hot. Purr . . . . The funny thing is, he says the same thing about "American" accents. We had lots of fun talk about each of our different Brit/American phrases. The best is hearing him say, "I can't eat tomatoes" with his "American" accent. Cracks me up!

Luke was able to do some shopping and he gave me an awesome birthday gift. Seen in the photo, he gave me a recipe cookbook by a famous English chef called the "Naked Chef" who cooks Italian food. That's terrific because my buddy cooks and he can make good use out of it here in the apartment.

I find Luke to be an intelligent, kind and courteous guy. It felt like we both were immediately comfortable with each other and our conversation was refreshing. Luke is also a visionary, like me, and so since visionaries tend to find a common connection, Luke and I seemed to hit it off well! I'm honored to call him a new friend. He extended an invitation for me to visit him in the UK and I just may take him up on the offer some time next year. Wouldn't that be fun?!

He'll be flying out to the Bay area on Monday to see family and do some site seeing. He'll come back to Long Beach mid week and we'll hang out a bit more (along with others in SoCal) for a few more days. He's loving the California weather and isn't looking forward to returning to the cold of the UK right now.

As for Michael, we met almost a year ago. Last year, the Southern California GCN'ers got together for our first Christmas party. Many of us were meeting each other for the first time. It turned out to be super fun and as that night progressed and people left, four of us seemed to bond really well and stayed til 3 AM talking and getting to know each other. Michael and I were one of those four.

Since then over this past year, we've kept in touch. We typically have long phone conversations talking about what's going on in our lives or about gay Christian issues and questions. We've both been on this journey and it's been helpful for us to process things together. I've gone up to Santa Barbara to visit him a couple times. He's come down to Long Beach many times to visit.

I suppose Michael can best be characterized as . . . . quirky. Definitely! He's got the most hilarious sense of humor - totally random but the funniest comments about things. He's got an infamous rally clap where he'll clap in a series of 8 exactly - or to whatever tune is going on in his head. He'll also applaud after hearing a funny joke - that one cracks me up the most! He's a programmer so he's very analytical in the way he thinks and speaks. You can often "see" his wheels turning as he begins to set up his verbal statements.

He also makes movies. He and his friends will often take months at a time to produce a movie and it's often funny and well done. I've seen two of his recent movies and they are awesome. The first was a funny info-mercial. The second and most recent was a hilarious parody involving Michelle Kwan getting cheated out of the gold medal in a chess tournament. It was done well and it's so funny - i think Michelle would be proud! Actually, I've got an appearance in the movie. Another friend of mine (one of the four I mentioned from the Christmas party) and I went up to Santa Barbara for a visit and Michael gave us some lines to act out. After a couple of hours of shooting, we are now movie stars! He just finished showing the movie to several test audiences and he'll have an official Southern California movie premiere at the next Christmas party. Fun times!

Anyway, Michael and I have grown to be good friends and I appreciate his friendship.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Birthday Gathering With GCN

Last night (Saturday), my friends from GCN gathered together for a combination event for celebrating my birthday and also for welcoming Luke visiting from the UK. Southern California GCN'ers will often get together to welcome guests from other parts of the country or from other countries.

We met for dinner at my favorite pizza place in Belmont Shore at Long Beach. It's a place called Domenico's (on 2nd Street) and they have some of the best pizza's - not to mention some pretty hot looking waiters (servers).

Purrr . . . .

Okay, where was I? Sorry. Anyway, after dinner we decided to hang out at my apartment. It was so much fun because everyone got to mingle and get to know each other more. We also did a whole birthday cake thing too! Plus we also gave a special warm welcome for Luke - who you'll be reading more about over the course of this weekend because I hosted him at my place for a couple days so that he wouldn't have to get a hotel. He's a super kewl guy too!

If you haven't discovered GCN yet, it's an online community called Gay Christian Network. I first started connecting with them a year ago. They are a global group of about 4,000 registered members. The awesome thing about GCN is that it provides virtual community for so many people who live in highly conservative areas that aren't so welcoming towards GLBT people and so there is no tangible community for those to connect with. It provides a place online for people to connect, relate with, share stories and dialogue. In our region of Southern California, as is the case in other regions, we try to have gatherings so that GCN'ers can have the opportunity to meet others in real life.

GCN is an incredible support network and they have truly been a gift for this journey!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Birthday Lunch With Toastmasters

For the past several months, I've been a part of a Toastmasters club here in Long Beach. It's an incredible international organization that helps people develop their public speaking skills both personally and professionally. Since I juggle quite a bit in my schedule (as you can imagine), I try to make it to a Saturday meeting a couple times per month - as much as I can.

Just this past Tuesday, I was able to utilize much of what I learned from Toastmasters while at work when . . . .

. . . . I was asked to speak in front of the Board of Directors in regards to a $10,000 software package. They approved the expenditure. (I'm hoping they remember that when it comes time to bargain for a contract!)

Anyway, I think that Toastmasters is an invaluable organization to be a part of. I like this particular local club because they are very encouraging to everyone at every level of public speaking experience and comfort. Another reason why I like this club is because it's extremely diverse. The members and guests who are part of the club represent a wide range of demographics - gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, straight, black, white, asian, hispanic, native, single, married, partnered, parents, young adults, middle aged, and our valued senior members. It's a wonderful and interesting mix of people and coupled with the wide range of experience - we all have so much to learn from each other!

I delivered my 3rd of 10 organized formal speeches today working towards what's called a "Competent Communicator" or what used to be called a "Certified Toastmaster". It's a wonderful distinction that is acknowledged by many employers internationally. I think the speech went well and I got some great feedback. =)

After the club meeting, a few of us went out to lunch for Mexican food. For my birthday week this week, I want to honor my friends and new friends at Toastmasters who have been a blessing, a gift, and an asset for me personally and professionally.

Birthday Night Out With Buds

Last night (Friday), my buds Dario, Ryan, and Jayson took me out for a birthday night out in Orange County. We went to a nice seafood restaurant at Newport Beach for appetizers and drinks (and joking around) then went out dancing til the wee hours of the morning.

I had a blast!

I love these guys because they always help me to loosen up, relax, and just have fun. A lot of times, we'll hang out on a Friday or Saturday night to dance or to hang out at someone's house or watch a movie or go to a party or do whatever comes up . . . .

Dario is the heart of our little bunch. He's the one that encourages one of us when we're down. He's the one that hears us out when one of us needs to vent. He's the one that helps put things in perspective. He's the one who always has the hugest smile and the hugest hugs! He's also the most secure and confident of our group. I learn so much from him!

Ryan is my kid brother. We argue all the time! We have one of those love-hate friendships that I wouldn't trade for anything in this world. There are times when I just want to strangle the guy - then there are other times I want to smack a big wet one on him (as a friend, of course - don't get all excited now Ryan). I think it's because he and I actually have more in common than we realize. I think we deal with alot of the same kind of baggage and so sometimes it's not so hot seeing something of ourselves in the other. But Ryan helps me to see myself more clearly. Ryan is also the jokester of our little bunch. He always makes us laugh - either at himself, ourselves, or other people around us. He's hilarious!

Jayson is my day-to-day-hey-what-are-you-doing friend. He's the guy I'll call just to see what happened during the day or he'll call me late at night just to see if i'm awake. He's the guy i'll hang out with during the week and we'll just go for a walk or we'll hang out at the coffee shop or we'll go to a mid-week movie or we'll try out a new restaurant for dinner or we'll just talk on the phone about whatever comes to mind. He's the dancer in the group. He'll be the one on the dance floor taking up the most space because he'll be cuttin' it up all over the place.

I love these guys and they are a gift to me.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Birthday Fun at Knott's Berry Farm

This afternoon, my friend Mike took me to Knott's Berry Farm for my birthday. That's an amusement park here in Southern California. We only went for a couple of hours and we only got to go on three rollercoaster thrill rides but I had an absolute blast because there was plenty of time for us to talk and get to know each other more.

Mike is a new friend of mine - we met for the first time several months ago at a GCN gathering and we've only recently been able to start hanging out together. He's an awesome guy to get to know because he's a genuine guy with kind heart. He loves God and is passionate about things that matter to him in this world.

I had a wonderful time hanging out with Mike during my birthday week and the new friendship is a blessing and a gift. =)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Birthday Blues

[Note: Scroll down to watch the video for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day on YouTube and to read the lyrics.]

Sigh. I've had better days. It was great meeting up with friends over the past couple of days, and i'll be connecting over the next three or four days with other friends - but today, my actual birthday, was pretty uncelebratory. I did receive birthday wishes from friends and some family but I didn't actually do anything today. Specifically, it was pretty boring.

In the interest of trying to stay positive, the most refreshing time today was an hour long conversation that I had this morning with a friend's friend of whom I had never met before today. So the funnest birthday event today was meeting a stranger (which hopefully we'll talk again and be friends - super cool guy!). I was only supposed to drop something off for my buddy but once I got there, me and the friend just started chatting. That was fun.

Anyway, tonight I ended up walking home (for an hour) because I felt disconnected with the people I had been with. They would have hung around each other whether I was there or not. It wasn't a birthday. I felt like Jesus on Christmas Day. So in the interest of staying real about how I'm feeling (despite the downer mood) - well, the song below pretty much says it all.

Scroll down to read the lyrics . . . .

"Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I walk alone

I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Where the city sleeps
and I'm the only one and I walk alone

I walk alone
I walk alone

I walk alone
I walk a...

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
'Til then I walk alone

Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Aaah-ah,
Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Ah-ah

I'm walking down the line
That divides me somewhere in my mind
On the border line
Of the edge and where I walk alone

Read between the lines
What's fucked up and everything's alright
Check my vital signs
To know I'm still alive and I walk alone

I walk alone
I walk alone

I walk alone
I walk a...

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
'Til then I walk alone

Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Aaah-ah
Ah-ah, Ah-ah

I walk alone
I walk a...

I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I'm the only one and I walk a...

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
'Til then I walk alone...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Birthday Dinner With Buddy

Tonight, I spent the evening having a birthday dinner with my buddy. He took me to a nice local restaurant piano bar near where we live and the atmosphere and ambiance was superb! The lighting was nice, the songs being played on the piano in the background was nice, the table setting with our glasses of wine were nice, the conversation was nice. It was a great place to be to catch up on the past few days and also to talk about life and things.

We've been room mates for the past six months and we've been friends for about a year and a half now. This is definitely a friendship that I cherish because my buddy was one of the early catalysts for me being on this journey of mine. He's the one I refer to in my story (Sankofa Part 3) when I talk about how I first began to question whether or not I owned my beliefs about the gay issue . . . .

Our friendship with each other has always been characterized as catalytic. We affect each other. We grow from each other. We stretch each other. We challenge each other. We inspire each other. He's in my inner circle. He's the friend I'd call in an emergency. He's the friend who's bedside i'd be at when he's got an emergency. He's got all of these quirky idiosyncrasies that I love (- like how he squints his eyes and slips out the tip of his tongue when he laughs or like how he lightly scratches that area between his upper lip and his nose with the tip of his finger when ever he's making a point about life in the mid West or (my favorite) like when he's fluttered, he let's out a short mini-burst of 'ahhh' mixed with a smile and wave of both his hands).

He's a good friend to have. He's my buddy. And we've had challenging times in our friendship but we both communicated through it. We've both been vulnerable with each other. We've both been asses to each other. We've both accepted each other for who we are - as we are. We've developed a trust with each other - there are things I've shared with him that few people on this planet know about.

In fact, tonight during our conversation he said something to me that completely challenged and inspired me. I was floored because he was right about the observation he made about me and the possible reason why I do (something in particular) the way I do. I love our friendship because we can both speak truth into each other. And it's typically received well.

I honor and value his friendship and he is truly a gift from God.

Shout Out To Lynwood High GSA

Earlier this afternoon, I was honored to have been invited to share my story with Lynwood High's Gay Straight Alliance - their student club supporting those like us on a journey. I had a blast hanging out with them! Hopefully, some of them found something I shared useful. I could tell that they've got incredible hearts and they can do so much. I just tried to empower them on their own journey - that they can choose what this journey of theirs looks like.

Goodness - who am I, though, to have anyone listen to anything I've got to say? Lord knows that I've got so much more to learn about myself, the community, the world, Him. I mess up a ton. I'm just trying to journey through life - figuring it out as I go and learning from others also on the journey. I've got no answers. Just questions. And as I've said before, the questions drive the journey.

I thank God for this birthday opportunity to share my heart with a great group of fellow journey-ers.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Birthday Lounging With Hank and Debbie

Tonight I lounged around at one of my favorite local coffee shop hang outs with my good friends Hank and Debbie. As I celebrate my birthday week by connecting with friends, I honor their friendship to me and I appreciate the gift that they are to me from God.

These two are particularly special to me because they were one of my first gay Christian friends that I made when I first began my journey . . . .

In the Summer of last year, I started this process of exploring the "other" side and I allowed myself to meet people who had apparently reconciled their faith and sexuality. I started this blog in July 2005 and soon I visited my first inclusive church called "The Tab". The next day, I visited one of their small groups in someone's home. As I began to meet more and more people from this church, I began to see genuine people loving and worshipping God. And oh, they happened to be gay or lesbian. That screwed up my paradigm! A significant moment happened early on in this journey when I went to a bonfire with the small group and I witnessed them pray for the welfare of the city. I began to realize that they loved God, loved each other, and they loved the city - just like so many of my straight Christian friends. Eventually, I came to the milestone moment of realizing that I could not deny that these indeed are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Since I accepted the fact that they are part of the Church, even as gay or lesbian, then that opened up a whole other can of worms - because if they are Christians, then what does that mean about my (and the mainstream Church's) assumptions about them not being a part of the Church? And so, God propelled me further on my journey.

Hank and Debbie were a part of that early process. They are some of the ones I am thinking of when I say in my story that I saw gay Christians genuinely worshipping the Lord and I know that they are my brothers and sisters.

So in the past year, God has developed the friendship between the three of us in incredible ways. We have a type of refreshing quality in our conversations and we've all grown so much both personally and as friends. We began to talk a lot about organic principles and the Church paradigm type stuff that I talk about on this blog. As I founded and established Catalyst, Hank and Debbie were the ones that I brainstormed with. They were the ones that helped me out logistically with the events. They were the ones that believed in me and the vision that I saw and together we've adopted this catalytic lifestyle of trying to connect with and affect the world around us. We have a vision for catalyzing our city and changing our culture over the next 30 years.

And it's so awesome to not be alone in this.

I value Hank and Debbie because they are on this journey with me. We call ourselves a tribe - a tribe of faith (something that I'll be unpacking in future posts). A tribe is different from simply having other Christian friends. A tribe is a group of disciples whose relationships with each other is characterized by three things: Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships, and Apostolic Mission. The DNA. Yes, i'll be unpacking this more in future posts but for now i'll say that I appreciate this tribe. And for my birthday, I honor them and I thank God for the gift they are to me.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Birthday Walk With Marque

Today I had a birthday walk with my new friend Marque. I say "new" because we've been friends for a couple months now. I think it was around September when I did that workshop at a conference - that was about the time we discovered that we connected well. He's an incredibly refreshing guy to talk with because he's honest and he's real and I love talking with him because neither of us have to put up any kind of charade about ourselves. We can just be who we are - and that's simply acceptable. Comfortable, even.

This is a friendship along my journey that i've wanted to be intentional about developing because he's such a great guy to have as part of one's social support network - as a friend. Today we went on a "birthday walk" - but really it just marked the first of our routinely Monday evening walks along the beach and parts of Long Beach. We both have talked about being more active so we decided to start walking together. It'll give us a context to continue growing in our friendship and it'll also keep us accountable to getting our exercise in. I'm so much better at keeping appointments and so if I know he's counting on me showing up, then I will. But if I didn't have that meeting set, then i'd likely and typically flake on myself thinking, "oh i'm tired. i'll just exercise tomorrow" - which i've done and said to myself plenty of times.

So this was a good connection. I call it a "birthday walk" because we're both journeying together. All of these birthday connections that i'm hoping to have this week isn't about celebrating "me" per se - rather, it's about celebrating the relationships that God has given to me.

So Marque is a gift and I thank God for him. =)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

My First Birthday Wish

"We're doing that not-look-away thing again you like so much."

I mentioned in last night's post that I'm hoping to connect with many pockets of friends over the course of this coming birthday week. The point is that I've been able to walk this journey of mine over this past year and a half because of awesome friends. I think a support system of loved ones makes all the difference on whether or not my boat capsizes during the storm or if I stay afloat through it. It's been an awesome year of being intentional about developing these friendships.

As another year begins, there's another kind of connection that I'm hoping for - one that I have not yet been blessed to have. Perhaps, it's because I first needed to learn to float without bringing in the wrong kind of baggage into the kind of connection i'm wanting. I've never been in a relationship before. I'm hoping that I'm ready for one now so that by next year's birthday celebration, I can reflect back to appreciate the connection.

I've barely discovered the new show Brothers and Sisters on ABC. In fact, I haven't even watched a full episode yet. I think they are six or seven episodes in since it's premiere. But I saw the scene (below) of Kevin and Scotty and I know that I absolutely need to check it out tonight. Judging from merely this scene alone, it's the best depiction of a gay couple on network TV that I've seen and it's also the sweetest representation of what I'm hoping for one day.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

My Birthday Week Is Approaching!

So my birthday is coming up on Thursday, Nov. 9th and I've been considering what kind of celebration and festivities to have. Gosh, the Lord has done so much in this past year! Remember the fun of last year's birthday blog party?

I've got various pockets of friends - some are connected and some aren't. At first, I considered having one party and inviting everyone. Then I reconsidered and decided to try to connect with each group of friends to celebrate throughout the week. So what I think i'll do is try to take a photo each night and share it here as part of my birthday week.

First, I wanted to share with you briefly about my pre-birthday week connections with friends. Last night, I hosted a game night for some of my GCN friends in the area. I had a blast! We began the evening just having some awesome and natural conversation for quite a while, then we decided to play a fun game called Tribond. When everyone left, my friend (the one stretched out on the couch in the photo) visiting from San Diego (but recently moved here from Rochester, NY) crashed at my place because he was spending the weekend connecting with other GCN'ers in the LA area. So when everyone left, we continued chatting until about 2am, went to bed, then chatted more in the morning. It was so much fun connecting with him and getting to know him more. And he's one of the kewlest guys I know!

So back to my birthday week coming up . . . . It'll probably be busy at work since i'm only working for two and a half days. I'll work Monday and Tuesday (remember to vote on 11/7!) then I'm taking a half day off on Wednesday so that I can hang out with the teens at a high school. I'm honored to have been invited to come and share my story with a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance - student club) at one particular high school after school. Should be an awesome time! I took Thursday off of work because it's my bday and the office is closed on Friday because Saturday is Veterans Day. So it looks like i'll have a four and a half day weekend (maybe five if i come in after lunch on monday so that I can take a friend to the airport)! Hopefully, I'll be able to connect with most of my friends and share the love and festivities with all of you - my online friends! =)

What do I want for my birthday? Among many other things . . .

. . . I want YOU to give someone a FREE HUG!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

To Lay Your Armor Down

[Note: Scroll down to see Dashboard Confessional's AOL Sessions of "Don't Wait" on YouTube and to read the lyrics.]

A friend of mine who regularly reads my blog asked me the other day, "What's with the weird stuff on your blog?" I asked, "What weird stuff?" And he said, "The things you've been posting recently. It seems different compared to what you've written before." And I responded with, "It's not weird. It's my journey. And sometimes things aren't always 'fine and dandy'. I'm just trying to live."

I know my friend wasn't implying anything when he first asked the question, but the question triggered other thoughts in me. Sometimes I feel like church culture and gay culture expects constant growth of me and that if i'm not growing, then i'm backsliding.

That's stupid.

In the real world, if you're too busy climbing up the ladder one has to wonder what it is on the ground that you're running from. I don't think growth can be measured by how far up you climb the ladder or by how far along the road you've traveled or by how many sins you no longer commit or by how far out of the closet you are.

Rather, I think growth is measured by the degree of vulnerability one experiences when looking in the mirror . . . .

Last week, I went to an awards banquet hosted by one of the old local gay political organizations and I'll have to admit that I felt completely out of place. The room was full of the old guard - those who fought and are fighting the good fight of justice and equality for people familiar with discrimination, prejudice and bullying. What have I done - what could I ever do - to compare with these seeming pillars of the cause? I'm finally comfortable being "all of me" to my own family and I'm starting to be comfortable being "out" with my friends. I know it's only been a year and all since I've allowed myself to accept me for me but seeing as how I started a community organization for the G's, the L's, the B's, the T's, and the Q's, I guess I'm feeling like I should be further along in my growth.

Do I have to be completely out and proud and the most visible in order to be one of them? What if I don't want to be one of the old guard. I'm not THAT old. And frankly, I don't necessarily want to do things their way. They are politicians and activists and that's not my approach to community transformation. While I appreciate the path they have laid, those aren't the footsteps I want to step into.

I've got my own stride. It's a bit slower and funkier with a bit of attitude and humility. In fact, it's got nothing to do with me being a strong gay man. It has more to do with me being vulnerable enough to recognize where I'm at and being okay with it. It's my journey - and to some it may not look like growth and to others it may not look like leadership and it may not even look like progress. But it's still mine. And I want to be the one to define what it looks like - even if it's weird.

I am where I am and I don't have to be further along if I'm not.

My goal is to reinvent gay culture in this city over 30 years. I'm starting with chucking the old expectations that tell us what it has to look like.

The church culture is no better sometimes when it says I'm not being a good disciple if I don't show up "at church" on Sunday. Well, what if I'm building a valued friendship with someone by going out to breakfast on a Sunday morning? Is that a lesser form of discipleship?

There are other "anonymous" commenters here at TWC that caution me not to share too much of my journey because it may lead people "astray". Well, frankly, it's my journey to share. And on this journey, God is with me - so why shouldn't I live out my discipleship in public?

There are those in church culture that would measure spiritual growth by a decrease in masturbation. Okay, so maybe I do masturbate. A lot. (LOL!) Does that mean I'm not growing spiritually? Does that mean I am a "carnal Christian" because I haven't been able to abstain from the lust in my mind?

I'm not saying it's okay to lust. But it's not the only indicator of my growth. It seems like church culture tries to tell me which steps I ought to take in order to be considered good and holy and righteous and acceptable and straight. Go to church. Tithe 10%. Bring a friend to church. Read the Bible. Pray. Go to Bible study.

You know, that's not my agenda. That's theirs and they can keep it. I've got my own approach to discipleship. It's a lifestyle that characterizes my relationship with God. And in that relationship with God, we're talking things through. He's patient with me and so I'm patient with me. I'm not going to make excuses for what I know is wrong. I'll try to make better decisions. But it's a journey not marked by perfection. It's a journey marked by His love. And that's why I keep walking with him.

So who says that's a lesser form of discipleship?

Gosh, if it seems like my posts have seemed a bit weird lately, maybe it's because October has been a particularly rough month for me. I'm okay with having a rough month. I hate the low parts of the rollercoaster ride just like the next guy but i'm still going to appreciate the ride God has me on. On this ride, on this journey, I'm going to continue being vulnerable with myself.

For too long, I looked in the mirror with disdain at who I saw. In the mirror, I saw a shell because it wasn't the me I knew inside of me. It was the me I projected outward for the world to see. It was a manufactured me. It was the closeted me.

I'm done with that. For me, being out of the closet has less to do with being "out and proud" so that people know I'm gay and it has more to do with being honest and vulnerable with myself to look in the mirror and say, "Look. This is how I feel. What now?" For me, being a disciple has less to do with going through the religious motions of looking spiritual and it has more to do with having an honest conversation with God and being vulnerable enough to let God love me as I am at the present moment.

My journey is what it is. And I don't apologize for it. As imperfect as it is, and as rocky the road seems to be, the fact that I'm still on it is evidence enough of my growth. Lord knows that there were plenty of times when I tried to jump off track.

Dashboard Confessional is another one of my new favorite bands. I discovered them a few weeks ago, got their new album on iTunes and I love the sound of their songs. The lyrics of "Don't Wait" particularly struck a chord in me because it reminds me that my life is not guaranteed nor is an easy life guaranteed. When I tried to kill myself, God said "I'm not done yet". When I almost died in a car crash, God said "I'm not done yet". When I hit rock bottom several years ago, God said "I'm not done yet". Life cannot fully be experienced by looking outside the window from behind the curtain or by peeking through the slit in the suit of armor. In this song, God reminds me to lay my armor down, go outside, and live.

He's out there.

"Don't Wait" by Dashboard Confessional

The sky glows
I see it shining when my eyes close
I hear your warnings but we both know
I'm gonna look at it again

Don't wait, Don't wait
The road is now a sudden sea
And suddenly, you're deep enough
To lay your armor down
To lay your armor down
To lay your armor down

You get one look
I'll show you something that the knife took.
A bit too early for my own good
Now let's not speak of it again

Don't wait, Don't wait
The road is now a sudden sea
And suddenly, you're deep enough
To lay your armor down
To lay your armor down
To lay your armor down

Don't wait, Don't wait
The lights will flash and fade away
The days will pass you by
Don't wait
To lay your armor down [x5]