Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Homosexuality Destabilizing Society

Here are some of my favorite parts from this recent article:

"....The Vatican newspaper said on Tuesday that homosexuality risked 'destabilizing people and society', had no social or moral value and could never match the importance of the relationship between a man and a woman...."

"...It (homosexuality) does not represent a social value and even less so a moral virtue that could add to the civilization of sexuality,' Anatrella said. 'It could even be seen as a destabilizing reality for people and for society...."

"....In no case is this form of sexuality a sexual alternative, or even less, a reality that is equivalent to that which is shared by a man and a woman engaged in matrimonial life...."

"...It said homosexuality was 'a sexual tendency and not an identity' and repeated the Church's stand against allowing gays to marry or to adopt children. It also called homosexuality 'an incomplete and immature part of human sexuality'...."

So anyway, I had dinner tonight with some new friends and had a wonderful time. Two were a lesbian couple who have been together for about five years or so. (This was a different couple than the ones with a daughter that I mentioned in "A Night With The Ladies".) One of them has a beautiful 12 year old daughter - I got to see the wallet photos =) - and it was great to see how proud she was of her little girl. She was conceived through artificial insemination....

...which as a side note, i'm told that single women cannot do that anymore in Utah - not even heterosexual single women wanting a child.

So they told me the story of how their little girl had previously not been doing so well in school but now she's been showing incredible improvement. Their daughter has been getting A+ 's and she's got a 4.0 grade point average now. She's doing extremely well and the couple are very very proud of their daughter.

One day, the little girl walked up and decided to "come out" to her lesbian mom. As i'm told the story, the daughter says, "Mom. Is it okay that I like boys?" My friend was holding back the laughter and tried her best to keep a straight face as she responded, "Of course it is! As long as the boy treats you well, respects you, is a kind and loving person, and loves Jesus. It's absolutely okay for you to like any person you want!" The girl was happy to hear it. She's also not allowed to date until she's 16 years old. Ha! Afterwards, my friend ran into the other room to burst out in laughter. How funny is that?

It's funny (actually no, it's stupid) to hear sometimes the assumptions from ignorant people who say that gay parents will influence their children to be gay also. I have friends, some gay and some straight, who have gay parents and all say that they were completely free to be attracted to whomever they happened to be attracted to.

During dinner, they told me another story about the time they visited a church in Arizona. Before that, some elderly friends had told them that the next time they were in Arizona they should visit the church that they attend. My friends took them up on the offer and when they were in the state, they looked up the church and decided to go.

It turned out to be one of those 5 services on Sunday mega-churches with thousands of people. They recount the story as hearing the pastor excitedly and energetically tell the congregation that they no longer have to be alone. He preached to those who have been wounded by the church and that they are welcome at this church. He said that even if he has to come down off this pulpit and carry you on his back, he'll "walk with you". He even physically came down from the pulpit and picked up a man on his shoulders and carried him up the stage. And so he had an altar-call for anyone who had ever been wounded or hurt by a church. My friends came forward and were very moved. For two years they thought well of what they witnessed.

Two years later, they found out the rest of the story. The next day after this sermon and spectacular show of grace, questions were asked about who invited the lesbians to church. When it was discovered that my friends' friends had invited them, the heterosexual elderly couple were banned from ever attending the church again. When they tried to come back, they were identified and refused entry into the parking lot. This was a church of thousands.

More of the dinner conversation revolved around favorite worship songs, crazy family stories, work being done to help the community, and how awesome Jesus is. All four of us at this table, all gay or lesbian, held hands to pray for a blessing over the meal, a blessing for the restaurant we were in, and a blessing for our friendship. It was quite a strategy session for how we could continue to destabilize our society.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Taking Relational Risks

I'm learning that maybe it's okay to make some mistakes. Safe mistakes. It'd be terrible to do something so stupid that i'd jeopardize my health or life, but what if I allowed myself to go out and take some relational risks - be present and see what happens, see what God does.

I've been building friendship relationships but not necessarily romantic relationships. The thought of dating is actually kind of scary to me. I've never been on an actual date with another guy. Scratch that - I went on one several years ago but that was when I was paranoid for being in ministry and in the closet so I made sure nothing more came out of that "one" night. Now, things are different. My journey has taken me to a place of wanting to see what this would actually look like - for me to serve God in ministry while engaging in a committed relationship with a guy. But that would first require dating which would in turn require being present - emotionally and physically.

Believe me - for those of you who are "concerned" about the path i'm talking about taking - the huge hestitation for me is where this may lead....

I've always denied myself romantic relationships because I didn't want to "corrupt" myself with anything gay-related. Since i'm not straight, I wasn't exactly pursuing a relationship with a woman. The result has been a loneliness that I'm not sure how to describe to a straight person. If I were on a date with a guy or was even in a dating relationship with, can I trust myself to maintain boundaries? If so, then perhaps a relationship of substance can be nurtured. If not, could I be placing myself in a dangerous situation? So yeah, i'm concerned too.

It's pretty obvious, from my posts over the past couple months, that i'm inclined to believe that the sinfulness of homosexuality as referenced in Scripture has to be considered in the context of lust, selfishness, violence, and idolatry and that loving and committed relationships don't fall in that category. (I say "inclined" because it's not a concrete conclusion - i'm still open to the other perspectives). It's just that, at some point, I've gotta find out for myself if I can really see the fruit of the Spirit in the context of a loving relationship with another guy. I can't simply rely on the books and essays i've read or the warnings from concerned people or the encouragement of those in the gay world. This is my journey. I need to discern for myself what the Spirit is telling me. I trust Him enough to walk this through with me. Either He'll show me that this is a fruitless pursuit or He'll show me that there indeed is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in a monogamous same-sex relationship.

Yeah, that's risk.

The other risk is my own esteem. The last thing I need is to purposefully place myself in a situation of being rejected. Yet the affirming thing about this blog has been the many friendships that we've started with each other via comments, email, instant message, or phone conversations. In one particular instant message with a new friend, I laughed about noticing that someone found Two World Collision by searching for "hot filipino gay guys". (It's actually pretty hilarious to see the things people Google to end up coming here.) But my new friend pointed out that he doesn't recall ever seeing a photo of me at this site and yet some people are ending up here looking for "hot". As i thought more about it, I realized that I've been able to interact with all of you in ways that has nothing to do with what I actually look like. And so, what if I functioned in the "real" world in much the same way. What if I was simply myself - confident in the person I am without feeling like I have to look a certain way. Perhaps the quality of my conversation with a sense of confidence is enough to be attractive to someone else. Since physical attraction is relative to each individual's taste and perception, perhaps my esteem can stay in tact.

What about the other issue? Maintaining boundaries. Can I trust myself? It'd be smart to have them as I'm being "present" out there. I was talking to my buddy tonight and he gave me some good suggestions. (Disclaimer: i'll apologize now in case you think some of them sound a bit raw but i'll share it in case it could benefit others.) For starters, my buddy says that I can always call him at the end of the evening if I decided in advance that I wasn't going to go home with anyone that night. (What a pal, huh?) He also says that we can do the whole double date thing so that I'm not out there doing this alone. This could allow input from my friends that I may not perceive of the guy. Some other things he mentioned was putting things in my car such as laundry baskets in the front and back seats so that I can't take anyone home with me. Or placing something embarassing in my car so that I wouldn't want a guy I just met to see it. The "raw" suggestion he mentioned was "relieving" myself before going out on a date so that my hormones weren't dictating my decisions. I think an important thing my buddy said was that I should communicate to the guy in the beginning that we are not going to have sex tonight. His response could reveal alot about this guy's character and what he's looking for.

Definitely some good stuff.

I want to do what's healthy. I want to do what's right. But I feel like this is a part of my journey that I need to see for myself. For so long I paralyzed myself from being able to connect with someone intimately. It's been incredibly lonely. I think taking safe risks are okay. Maybe it's okay to find out what kind of guys I don't like. Maybe it's okay to discover what a bad relationship would be like. Maybe it's okay for me to fall for a guy and have my heart broken. I still trust Jesus enough to walk with me through this. The fruit will speak for itself, i'll learn from it, and move on from there.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

525,600 Minutes

[Note: Scroll down within this post to see the music video for Rent's "Seasons of Love" on YouTube followed by the lyrics.]

One year. Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes - so goes the song from Rent about how we measure a year (see lyrics to the song below). The hit Broadway musical and now newly released movie (which I just saw this evening with some friends) paints a picture of poverty, disease, and drugs in the every day lives of friends simply trying to survive and reach their aspirations.

The cast, as is common in musicals, live out their lives through song and music. While we hardly live the life of a musical where we break out in chorus every time a drama occurs in our lives, I wonder how much of our lives is infused with the kind of passion that invigorates those we come in contact with - enough for them to get up out of their seat and join us in a musical number - our lives. How do you measure a year in the life?

Almost seems like I can cast my own show... with friends just out of college struggling to land the job that the career services department promised would be there; friends in a church struggling to figure out how to "do" church outside-the-box yet frustrated at why it's not as organic as they would have hoped; friends in another church struggling to glorify God in their community in the midst of persecuting Christians who condemn their gay lifestyles; new friends that spend their lives praising God while keeping HIV at bay by religiously taking their meds; friends doing whatever they can to help the homeless but frustrated at the seemingly hopeless task; friends online trying to explore what this whole gay Christian thing looks like; and me, just trying to live out my faith in every context.

So much has happened in a year. And the year before that. And the year before that. And the year before that....

Last year this month, I began my last semester at university and was about to see the fruit of three years worth of sacrifice - the honor of class Valedictorian and graduation speaker. It was a busy time - focussed and determined. Two years ago, I invested time in healing from past wounds and past regrets. I spent six months in an ex-gay ministry and found value in the small group fellowship, prayer, and discussion. It felt good to be able to say out loud that I was attracted to other guys and to have the group (some gay, some straight) still affirm me as a man of God. Three years ago, I began taking steps of faith - the Lord had inspired us with fresh vision and my ministry partner and I began to live out our faith in a way that would eventually lead to the establishment of our non-profit organization. Four years ago, I wanted to die. My life was at a metaphorical "rock-bottom". Having already tried to kill myself in high school yet surviving in misery, I knew better than to do it again. So I asked the Lord to take my last breath as I slept, fully believing that He would do it, and I had my first dream that I can attribute as being from the Lord (which in a nutshell, told me that He wasn't done with me yet). I woke up taking a full, deep gasp of air - in contrast to my request when I lay my head the evening before.

This past year, in present time, I have been living out faith - living out grace - living out redemption. I have forsaken the religious routines of a spectator faith and I've exchanged them for an exciting journey of exploration and uncertainty, following Jesus into the unimaginable places He was already at - the gay community. I have the privilege of participating in my faith - this walk with Christ where I am no longer paralyzed by my own self. Moment by moment, minute by minute I have been learning what it looks like to measure my year with relationships. I have grown closer to my family. I have grown closer to new friends. I have grown closer to some existing friends.

The months of November and December have historically been incredibly depressing times for me. This is the season when I am normally overwhelmed with loneliness and anchored by the memories of the biggest mistakes of my life. My birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all emphasized a holiday season that was plastic - an insincere celebration on the outside of me, but a dark and silent prison on the inside of me. This year seems different. It's brighter somehow. Lighter even. Perhaps hopeful.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. It's been a year's worth of sacrifice and success, excitement and depression, acceptance and rejection, confusion and exploration. Worlds of people and worlds of emotions all colliding during every minute - every moment. Yet, in every explosion, I am met by God who's presence has always been evident. Thank God for this minute, right here - right now. As another year passes, I pray that I can continue to measure it with "Seasons of Love".

Click here to see the Rent Blog that has film clips of the new movie (with songs).

"Seasons of Love"

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
How do we measure a year?

In daylights—in sunsets,
In midnights—in cups of coffee,
In inches—in miles,
In laughter—in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do we measure
A year in the life?
How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love.

Seasons of love.
Seasons of love.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do we measure the life
Of a Woman or a Man?

In truths that she learned
Or in times that he cried,
In bridges he burned
Or the way that she died.

It’s time now—to sing out
Tho’ the story never ends.
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends.

Remember the love.
Remember the love.
Remember the love.
Measure the love.

Measure, measure your life in love.
Seasons of love.
Seasons of love.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Perfect Couple, A Perfect Life

This one is funny enough to share. Of course, i've had my share of fantasies about the perfect life with a wife, kids, a dog, a cat, a fish, a job, and the white picket fence. Didn't quite turn out that way....

Click Here For A Laugh

Dad's Coming Home

So i've been looking forward to my dad coming in December. I had thought that he was going to be here for a month and i was excited about that because i was going to have him spend a weekend with me. He would most likely be staying at my brother's house in another city (about 60 miles from where i live). I'd have him over, have meals with him, take him to church with me, plus my buddy was even saying that we'll take him out with us - he was referring to a bar. Yeah, that'd be interesting.

Anyway, i'm excited to see him because i really want to spend more time with him. This is significant because for so many years we were so emotionally distant and I was bitter so seeing him before was never something i looked forward to. I want to talk with him about me being gay and i'm hoping he'll talk to me about him being gay. Perhaps, we'll even be able to talk about Jesus too . . . .

He's told me that he has started going to an Episcopal Church in Hawaii which is another clue that he actually is gay. Based on past "Jesus" conversations, he was always resistant to the whole "church" thing. So if he's going to a church now, it's probably because it's inclusive of gay people and he feels comfortable with it. This is all an assumption. That's why I want to have this talk. I want him to tell me if he's gay. I know, i won't ambush him or anything. I'll bring up me and hope that he feels comfortable enough to tell me about him. We'll see.

But the thing is - I found out last week before I left for the conference from my brother that my dad is thinking about moving here from Hawaii to Southern California. I'd like it if he lived close to me so that we can spend more time but my brother says he may help him find a place to live near his home because it's less expensive. Either way, i'm excited that he'll potentially be here longer than a month. He was last here this past February for my graduation - I got my bachelor's degree (finally) and I was class Valedictorian, graduated Summa Cum Laude (4.0 GPA), and I had the honor of giving the commencement speech, plus I was losing weight. I think he'll be proud of me for losing more weight, maintaining it, and staying fit.

He's getting older in years and we've been getting emotionally closer for the past three and a half years. I want to be able to have full reconciliation with him before he passes away. I know that sounds kinda morbid but many many years ago when it seemed like there was no hope of us reconciling, I asked God to bring us together - somehow. I didn't think it was possible. But now, it seems, that God has been answering that prayer.

God is so kewl! =)

Note: For previous posts related to my father, type in 'dad' in the "Search this blog:" text box in the right column.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Bird's Eye View

I'm back from Indiana and definitely glad to be home. Having not traveled much, it was interesting to see snapshots of various parts of the country. As I flew over certain cities, I found myself intrigued by . . . . the way homes were laid out.

Charlotte, North Carolina had trees everywhere. It was like every home had a forest for a backyard. (I suppose that happened to be the view from the airplane. I'm sure not all of Charlotte is like that but there was definitely lots of green.)

Indianapolis, Indiana had a very suburban look with practically every home having both a front and back yard. But then it changed as we flew over the downtown urban area and all the homes were cramped together - many without any yards.

Phoenix, Arizona was distinctly square. Every block was kind of like a cookie cutter neighborhood block, multiplied hundreds of times throughout the city. The city looked like one huge grid of parallel and perpendicular roads and filled with track homes. From up above, you can distinctly see the perimeter of the city.

This was largely different once we were over Southern California! From a bird's eye view over the Los Angeles Basin, you can't really see a perimeter. The land from as far as the ocean to as far as the mountains to very far inland were all full of structures - homes, industrial buildings, businesses, lakes, farm land, roads going many different directions, and thin free ways. The impressive thing about seeing this was that it was evident how many people live here. You don't typically see what millions of people look like because you most likely won't see that many standing side by side. However, seeing thousands of homes spread throughout the region, with probably at least 3-4 people living in each home, helped me to visually realize the millions of people that are here. It's crazy really when I think about it.

From up top, I wondered how many people down there are gay? How many people out there are searching for some kind of peace or resolution from the conflict they find in their sexuality and faith? The perspective from several thousand feet in the air was interesting as I realized that there are so many people out there that are hurting, wounded, and confused about their lives. I can only imagine the compassion that fills God's heart as He sees all of this from all of us at the same time.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Discerning Self-Censorship

So i'm here at the Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana. Yep, that's right! I'm here for the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) National Conference. I'm way excited to be away! For starters, having lived in Southern California for the past 15 years or so, i've never been past Arizona or any of California's neighboring states. We took the red eye and left out of Los Angeles at about 11:00pm Pacific time Wednesday night, arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina at about 4:15am Eastern time (saw lots and lots of trees), then went on to Indianapolis at about 6:30am and arrived here at about 9:00am Eastern time and saw actual snow falling. I discovered what "jet lag" is. Goodness, i'm so disoriented...what time is it really?

I've been to conferences before but this is my first trip representing my public ministry and it's awesome. I've met lots of other people who are doing similar community development type work. Major trading of the business cards going on... =) Anyway, good conference so far...

I met a guy at one of the workshops on "City Blogging" yesterday . . . who seemed to be a great guy. I found myself reluctant to tell him about Two World Collision - I guess i'm still pretty hesistant to be completely "out". It's complex - as you can pretty much gather if you're following along on my journey. I don't want to be "out" to everyone in every context because I don't really think that I have to be. I mean, my identity (and allegiance) is first and foremost in Christ. Being gay, or even just journeying through this process, is simply a context. But it's not who I am nor do I want it to be all about who I am.

It just sucks that I didn't feel comfortable enough with myself to be free to talk about Two World Collision. It was relevant to our conversation about blogs and the way "community" develops over the blogosphere. He seemed like a nice guy too. It would have been great to naturally talk about something i'm excited about and to talk about all of you that i'm getting to know and praying for. This is a dynamic I experience of living in "two worlds" - filtering conversations to make sure certain details about certain topics are censored. Censoring myself causes this feeling for me of not being completely known. I think that's one reason why it's pretty lonely at times - not because of others not wanting to know me, but because I don't feel safe enough with some people to be fully known. I know - i've always owned up on the fact that i've got issues, haven't I?

It happens when i'm in the city talking with mainstream pastors and I don't yet talk about the other pastors that I've met from the inclusive churches in the city. It happens when I'm at a prayer meeting with people from different churches throughout the city and they start praying "against" those homosexual people and their "agenda". It happens with some friends when he comments about an attractive girl but I happened to notice the guy she was with. It happens when I refrain from talking about an exciting topic that i want to blog about because the person i'm talking to doesn't even know about the blog. (Disclaimer: I hope you don't get the impression that i'm some basket-case non-socially functioning closet case. I'm not. Really, i'm not.)

I was talking with another guy from Chicago yesterday who works with a ministry that reaches out to male prostitutes. He noted that the majority of those guys weren't gay. Somewhere in our conversation we began talking about gay Christians and he believes that, though he hasn't actually known any homosexuals outside of the context of male prostitutes, being gay is a disorder from some kind of emotional lacking in their early childhood and that even if they say that they haven't been abused, he thinks they just don't realize the abuse that caused the brokeness. See, now here's a situation where he really didn't need to know that I was gay. He just wouldn't get it. He admits not knowing gay people (outside of his ministry) but he forms a conclusion about how they became gay based on his limited exposure to them. Now, I do have some friends that are trying to be a bit more informed about this stuff, but I also know that there are people like him that believe what they believe for reasons not completely logical. I used to be one of them.

So there's a bit of that fear in telling someone about my journey because I'm not exactly sure where they're coming from and how they'll react. Are they open-minded enough to be informed about the subject? Are they decidedly hostile for illogical reasons? Will they invite me to coffee or throw me out of the building and start throwing rocks?

Is this kind of self-censorship a self-imposed prison? I don't think so - not completely at least. Sure it's refreshing to be free to talk about certain things with trusted people. However, I think a degree of discernment is needed. On this blog, i pretty much lay out my heart - and it makes me vulnerable to have this kind of honesty. At the same time, i can get pretty devastated if someone attacked me with harsh words.

So people don't need to know what they don't need to know. In the mean time, i'll have to discern my own self-censorship.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Biggest Loser

For the past six or seven months of this journey, allowing myself to mix in various circles in the gay community, I've discovered something characteristic in some spheres. I'm learning that there is a lot of pressure to look physically attractive.

Gosh, I thought it was hard enough trying to be happy with the guy in the mirror! Now, it's like the goal at a social venue is to have people turn their heads as I walk across the room. And if no one seems to notice, then i'm the biggest loser there! Or at least, I feel that way . . . .

Sure i know that our society in general places a huge emphasis on looking hot, beautiful, and gorgeous - i know it's not isolated to the gay community. But it sure is present in some places, that's for sure - the gym, the bar, the club, the coffee shop, and (in limited circumstances) sometimes even in church. Fortunately, my friends are actual friends and couldn't care less what I look like. In fact, they are the ones who encourage me when my low self-image reveals itself. My commentary here isn't about the gay community's narcissistic tendencies but rather the observation that I find myself looking in the mirror way too much.

Yes, i'll admit, that i had been overly concerned about my physical appearance before this journey into the gay community. That probably has much to do with the fact that I simply wasn't attracted to myself - and therefore, how could anyone else (male or female) be attracted to me? And there goes my cycle of mental self-abuse.... I had myself so convinced that I could never get a date. But then again, if that were ever the case, it probably wouldn't be because of my physical appearance but rather my attitude revealed through my demeanor and facial expressions. I wouldn't have been sending out "attractive" signals - like how about ... maybe ... uh ... a smile for starters, or eye contact to show interest.

I've been told that i'm attractive. It used to be really hard to accept because i didn't believe it myself - but i'm learning to see myself with different eyes. I'm also realizing that just because I'm not typically attracted to asians (mostly due to my own ethnic shame), there are actually people out there that are attracted to asians. Filipinos even. Guys like me. Hmm....really?

So i've been learning to be okay with the person I am - my spirituality, my sexuality, my gender, my ethnicity, and my physical appearance. At what point is it okay to look in the mirror and say, "i like that guy!" without feeling like a narcisst? So I decided that I was tired of viewing myself so negatively. Further, I decided that I didn't simply want to change my perspective. I wanted to change my appearance too - not necessarily so that I can turn heads but so that what I saw with my eyes matched what I saw through my perspective. I can choose to be happy with myself and make zero changes but I wanted to also feel good about myself - to have confidence. And yes, i'll admit, it does feel good to be complimented - I'm not exactly sure if that's something i need to apologize for or even defend. I simply want to be able to smile in the mirror and have it be genuine.

So mid January 2005, I decided to do something about it - inspired by those who felt like I felt and who experienced personal success.

I'm not one who normally watches reality television shows. A few months ago, I asked a friend if he had ever watched "The Biggest Loser" on NBC. He had an almost disgusted look on his face as he said, "No way! They're embarassing themselves!" He had obviously never seen the show and made this judgment based on the few commercials he had seen that depicted overweight individuals being paraded on the TV screen. It's too bad because he doesn't realize just how much he'd relate to these people and find them inspiring. I did.

I watched every episode of the first season last year. I laughed. I cried. I related. I understood the emotional turmoil of not being happy with oneself for whatever reason. Granted, i've never been 250 pounds myself, but seeing the people on this show every single week losing the pounds - sometimes 1-2 pounds a week, sometimes 5-10 pounds a week, sometimes gaining pounds in a week - I found it truly inspiring to watch their journey. (Trainer Bob Harper isn't so bad to look at either! *grin*). The season concluded at the beginning of this year - just after New Years - and so I was motivated to go back to the gym. It's kinda funny, I was inspired and motivated by a television show. But at least it got me to go.

I've had a gym membership at Bally's Total Fitness for several years now - going maybe a few times in a year. So I decided to invest in a personal trainer there. It was definitely worth it - primarily because he helped me get results. With a trainer, I found accountability. There were times when i didn't feel like working out but I went because I had an appointment with him and I didn't want to flake. He pushed me further. He encouraged me. He kept me motivated to set, pursue, achieve, and stick my goals. From January - June 2005, in six months, I lost 30 pounds - starting at 195 lbs. and ending with 165 lbs. Whoa! Now that was exciting.

So i entered my journey having just done this and soon realized the pressure to maintain physical appearances. After being 3 months on my own and also watching the second season of "The Biggest Loser", I decided to get a couple more months with my trainer to help me reach my goals through the New Year. It's not that I think weight and physical appearance ought to be a means of determining attractiveness. I really don't. But for me, my journey has been all about lifestyle changes that reflect the person I am and the person I want to be while at the same time being the person that God created me to be and still being transformed into the person He wants me to be. Seems like mountainous terrain on this journey of mine but it feels great knowing that there are peaks to reach.

At the end of the day, my comfort is in knowing that God is more concerned about the attractiveness of my heart than He is with my physical body. It is, after all, temporary.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

You Want To Speak Into My Life?

"How do we build an atmosphere in church that allows us to speak into each others' lives?"

That's a question that was asked by a friend of mine as the house church network group met this morning. It's a great question. Unfortunately, it was asked at the end of the gathering time instead of at the beginning...

Briefly, to get you up to speed, I previously wrote in "Death of a Church and Life in the Hot Zone" that the house church that I had been a part of for three years discontinued meeting but that I was still relationally connected with the network of house churches (there are other house churches that still meet). Two months ago, I wrote in "...that God Has Made Clean" about the last time some of the people from the network gathered. At that time, I told everyone that I had "struggled with same sex attractions" and that I was journeying into a world of taking my faith into the places where the mainstream Church refuses to go - the "Hot Zone".

So the meeting this morning was another one of those times where people from the network were coming together to talk about "Church" and what it looks like to live out our faith. It's a particularly interesting and relevant topic for me because my whole journey has been about living a lifestyle of faith that isn't afraid of being "contaminated" by the secular and the profane. We talked about good concepts but we really didn't get into practical ways of living in community.

When we talk about how we can build an atmosphere in church that allows us to speak into each others' lives, it frustrates me because some of these people don't even know my life. How can you speak into my life if you don't know what my life is like? The irritating thing is that some of these people enter into the conversation with the assumption that trust occurs in a group context. That's not necessarily true. So when someone asks how we can build this kind of atmosphere "in church", it tells me that all they're concerned about is "playing" church. They want to look like church when we gather together by keeping each other accountable and "speaking into each others lives". That may "look" like church, but in my opinion, that's not community if it isn't also happening in an individual context.

Everyone there this morning was at the meeting two months ago when I shared that I was gay. Only one person in that group has since engaged me in conversation about it. Two months later. He's the only one that has the right to speak into my life regarding my journey. I'd find it incredibly offensive to come to one of these gatherings, in a group context, and have someone bring up me being gay and start talking about what i'm doing to "resist" temptation - keeping me "accountable" and "speaking into my life". They have no right to do such a thing, in the name of community, because they were unwilling to engage the conversation with me through a personal relationship.

I'll own up to the fact that much of this comes from the loneliness I've felt from their silence. "So i've told you I'm gay. Give me some feedback! Tell me what you think! Are you going to support me? Are you going to condemn me? Are you going to walk this through with me and help me figure it out? Do you care that this is difficult for me?" It drives me crazy because their unwillingness to "go" to me and engage a relationship with me communicates to me a lack of interest, concern - love. So now someone wants to "speak into my life" without understanding the context of my journey?

I think that this "come to me and I will help you fix your life" attitude is pervasive in church culture - it's arrogance. No wonder people who don't yet know Jesus are so resistant to those they perceive as Bible-thumping Jesus freaks who try to "witness" to the "lost". How about trying to get to know the "lost" before trying to get them "found"? I think church culture has lost perspective of discipleship. Discipleship implies walking through this exciting and difficult faith journey together. However, church culture seems to think the goal is "saving" people - articulating Jesus in such a way that convinces them to say a prayer of faith.

I think that Jesus' Great Commission to us was meant to be accomplished through those two commandments that He said sums everything else up - love God, love each other. We are called to "go and love". Yet, church culture tries to evangelize with words while being ignorant of why they are increasingly becoming ineffective in "making disciples" - they are doing so without the heart. The willingness to get to know and invest one's life - time and resources - into another person's life is a demonstration of love. It is in this context that we have the right to speak into another person's life - whether it be discussing the Gospel of Jesus with one who does not yet know Him, or talking about specific ways to be a better disciple of Jesus with one who already knows Him.

"How do we build an atmosphere in church that allows us to speak into each others lives?" We cannot build a faith community that does this without first establishing genuine individual connections of trust and mutual respect that forms the very foundation of that community. If that's not happening, it's an artificial atmosphere and I'm tired of "playing" church.

For more, I recommend reading my post on "Band of Brothers and Sisters."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Post Birthday Thanks

I just wanted to say how honored, humbled, and thankful that I am to all of you who came by to the blog party yesterday, sent me E-Cards, sent me emails with your personal story, left comments, and chatted with me on instant messenger. You are all so awesome!

It was great to hear how many of us are on such similar journeys! Let's remember that we're not alone in any of this and that there are genuine believers - both gay and straight - that are sensitive to the complexities of trying to live out our faith in the context of our sexuality. Thank you for your kind words regarding the thoughts i've articulated in this blog thus far. =)

I had a great time last night. My friends took me out to a bar for a few drinks (it was Karaoke night) and they even got me a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake from Cold Stone - the exact same one of the pic I used next to Brad during the party! Wasn't that so sweet of them to do that? They are the best and I thank God for them.

Blessings to you all! Let's continue the dialogue....

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Birthday Blog Party!!!

Welcome to my birthday blog party! Thanks for coming by! Yep, I'm 30 years old now - oh goodness, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Whatever! We're here to celebrate so please join me in thanking God for life - yours and mine.

First off, be sure to say hello - yes, even if you don't normally post comments.

Leave a comment - extend your birthday greetings, introduce yourself to us, tell us about your blog site that you have so that we can visit it, share a favorite Bible verse, or tell us what you are thankful to God for!

Send me an IM - if you have Yahoo! Messenger and the icon in the left column says that i'm "Online", feel free to chat with me! =)

If you're a newbie to blogs and not quite sure of how to leave a comment, simply click the "Comments" link at the end of this post (next to the time posted), then click on "Post a Comment" at the bottom of the post after the last comment.

Would you like a drink?

Our hostess, Angel, is making up some awesome Margaritas.

Go on over and get to know her a bit. She's absolutely wonderful! She's also more than happy to serve you up a soda if you prefer non-alcoholic beverages. =)

What's your pleasure?

Want a bite to eat? Try my favorite filipino finger food - lumpia (aka "egg rolls"). I love 'em!

Here's a recipe for you if you'd like to whip some up for you and your friends.

Let's dance! Come on - show me your moves! Geek-boi is already out there on the dance floor shaking his booty. Go on over and check him out!
Choose a link below to listen while you surf!
House Party or R & B Party

Or if you'd rather not dance:
Two World Collision Yahoo LaunchCast Radio or
Alternative Rock or Adult Alternative or Christian Top Hits or Praise & Worship Music

Be sure to take some time to chat it up with others. Get to know some people at the discussion forums I go to:

Bridges Across The Divide
Gay Christian Outreach

Looking for a match? Try GayHarmony.Net. =)

Hungry? How about some pizza!

Order some up online for yourself at home too.

While you're munching on your pizza, be sure to browse through Two World Collision and check out each of the different sections. Catch up on past posts by going through the archives in the right column. Also to the right, find out more about my perspective regarding the "Church" by looking at those post links. On the left, check out some of the blogs that I read somewhat regularly. Be sure to read the paper I wrote about entering the "Hot Zone".

Curious about this blog?

My blog is worth $11,290.80.
How much is your blog worth?

Also check out my Blog Shares listing.

Let's about some tidbits about the birthday boy?

My life verse is Philippians 3:10 which says, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death." In 1997, I used to work in a dialysis unit and I used to sit with a wonderful woman by the name of Helen Hayes during her treatments. One day, she told me about the time she had a quadruple bypass surgery and while she was "out" during the surgery she remembers praising the Lord and reciting Psalms and Scripture to Him. She spoke of Jesus with such love! Even in the midst of incredible hardship, she continued to worship the Lord. Philippians 3:10 was her life verse. She inspired me so much that I adopted it as my own. In hindsight, I can see that I would endure hardships of my own and that verse was foundational for me keeping faith.

Do you have a life verse? Let me know in a comment!

My all time favorite band is Switchfoot! Their lyrics and melodies have always moved me. They are a band from San Diego and I've been a fan since I saw them in concert for the first time several years ago before they hit national attention. Check out Switchfoot's Web site here!

One of my favorite Switchfoot songs is Dare You To Move because a few years ago I lived through one of those "rock-bottom" times in my life and I related so well to the song. It reminded me that God was with me and was for me and that, after falling, I can indeed get back up. Click the link here to watch the video!

Right now, i'm reading an awesome book called Revolution by George Barna. For those of us who are looking at "Church" outside the box and living a lifestyle of faith rather than religious routine - this is definitely a must read! His critics who don't like what he has to say seem to be the same kind of people who condemn those who have left the local church in pursuit of Jesus. Whatever - i'm liking it.

Remember, to check out some of my posts about my paradigm of the Church in the section in the right column!

Buy the book and read it for yourself here!

Alright, let's bring out the cake! Here's my favorite - a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake! Take a virtual slice! Hey now - i meant a slice out of the cake!

I know, i know - Brad was supposed to be jumping out of a birthday cake without a shirt! Where's the skin?! Oh well, what can i say?

Wow, if you've made it all the way down to the bottom of this post - party on! Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check out some of the links throughout this site. Please, leave a comment and say hello before you leave! =)
((HUGS!!)) ~ yeah that's pretty gay isn't it?

Blessings ~ Eric

Monday, November 07, 2005

You Are Cordially Invited...

You are cordially invited
to my birthday Blog Party
this Wednesday, Nov. 9th
as I hit the big 3-0!

Come by any time on that day
and celebrate with me!
Feel free to bring a friend.

Whether you are here for just
a minute, ten minutes, or an hour,
stop by, leave a comment, and say hello!
Introduce yourself, share a favorite verse,
or extend your b-day greetings.
If you have a blog, leave a link to your site!

We'll have margaritas, music, and pizza!
Be sure not to miss out on Brad Pitt and the cake!

Spend some time browsing through the
archives to catch up on what you've missed.
Check out some of the other links in various
sections of the site. Read tidbits of a few things
i'm interested in. Listen to music as you
surf the site!

Be sure to come by and meet other
friends of Two World Collision!

See you then!

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Shhhhh! Eric's birthday is coming up in 4 days! It's this coming Wednesday on November 9th! How should we celebrate? Hmmm......

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Embracing A Different Gospel

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel... If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Galatians 1:6, 9)

For 13 years I was taught that being gay - in thought and action - was wrong. Being gay, my life was filtered through that lens - that my sexuality was part of my flesh and that it should be denied. Naturally, I am mindful of these things on this journey of mine as I expore what it looks like to be gay and Christian. It seems alarming that I would pursue such a thing. Am I deserting Christ and simply trying to live my own life - taking back my life after giving it to Him over a decade ago? Am I embracing a different gospel from those who say that God accepts me as a gay believer?

I've been studying through the book of Galatians for several weeks now and I had to ask myself some questions: At the very core of my faith and at the moment of belief, what was it that I accepted? What did I place my faith in?

As I wrestled through this in prayer over several weeks, I realized that I was placing my faith in the person of Jesus Christ, being the Son of God, as my Savior and Redeemer. I was placing all my trust for my salvation in the work He did at the cross. I was accepting the fact that, outside of Jesus, there is nothing that I can personally do to arrange for my own forgiveness - I have no righteousness, no good works, no birthright. I literally needed Jesus to do this for me. I needed Him to reconcile me to God. I needed His grace . . . .

When I accepted Christ, that was the gospel that I accepted. My sexuality had nothing to do with that decision. I didn't believe in Him because I wanted Him to make me straight. I believed in Him because I wanted Him to make me acceptable. Yet, after I became a Christian and began learning and growing in my faith and knowledge of God, the churches that I had subsequently been a part of taught that I was not acceptable because of my sexuality. They taught that I needed to be straight in order to avoid God's wrath and "justice". I began to believe this and it made me cling all the more to God's grace because otherwise there was condemnation for me.

That's not the gospel that I accepted. I accepted a gospel that taught that there's nothing I can do to avoid God's wrath. That was the reason why Christ was willing to die on the cross on my behalf in the first place - because there was no other way. He is the Way. Yet, I am told that the "sin" of my sexuality can overide His grace. These well intentioned Christians, who interpret all gay thought and actions to be sin, were teaching me a different gospel.

I'm not going to feel guilty about this journey of mine because there may be some who would accuse me of embracing a different gospel other than the one I accepted. It's not a different gospel. It's just not the mainstream, traditionally accepted gospel that attaches heterosexuality to the salvation equation.

So then I began to read Galatians through that lens. In Galatians, Paul addressed the issue of those Jewish Christians who were proclaiming that the Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised. Yet at the core of their message, the issue wasn't circumcision but rather that they were saying that despite the grace of Christ, they still needed to "do" something in order to be accepted into the fellowship of God (and believers). And that belief is still proclaimed today by those who have been teaching me that I need to circumcise my sexuality, become straight, in order to be fully Christian, fully accepted, and fully forgiven.

"This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. As for those who seemed to be important - whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearances..." (Galatians 2:4-6)

"But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?" (Galatians 4:9)

"Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them." (Galatians 4:17)

"Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh." (Galatians 6:12-13)

There are two issues here - the first is of grace and the second is of sin. I believe that we are saved by grace through faith alone. As for sin, the issue is not about having the freedom to sin - I believe that we do not have a license to sin. The issue of contention is about realizing what the sin is. Some would say that references to "homosexuality" in Scripture refers to all gay activity while others would say that those references are referring to a context of idolatry and lust. Being well versed and believing the former for 13 years (because that is what I was taught), I am inclined to believe on this journey now in the latter. I don't think that sexuality itself - heterosexuality or homosexuality- is a sin. I believe that unloving expressions of our sexuality is a sin - prostitution, adultery, fornication, pederastry - all forms of lust. These are things that can be categorized as "sexual immorality". Yet these things can be done in both heterosexual and homosexual contexts.

The problem, I think, is in people's interpretations of the word "homosexuality" when we read it in our modern translations of the Bible. The actual word as we use it today wasn't used back then. So the task is to interpret properly what was meant in ancient times. Today, we read the word "homosexual" and we assume it means "gay". However, just as there are lustful contexts for both heterosexual and homosexual contexts, there are also loving expressions of our sexuality in both contexts - committment, monogamy, faithfulness.

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:6)

"Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God." (Galatians 6:15-16)

I don't think being gay or straight is the issue. I think that we all need to realize that our salvation comes in Christ alone - not in our sexuality nor in our ability to live out our righteousness. He is our righteousness. We do not have a license to sin, however, because of Him we are a new creation - not simply creatures who live heterosexually, but rather we are a people of God who love more wholly.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Two Chinese Boys

This one is for laughs. I first saw it on The Today Show and then at my friend's blog. Thanks JJ! Be sure to watch the video through the end to see the bloopers. At first it looks like the third guy in the back is supposed to be there but from the bloopers it seems that he's just there doing his own thing. Click the play button in the middle of the video screen to watch it. Afterwards click the video to see other videos these boys have done!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Don't 'Should' On Me!

Two months ago in a post, i mentioned in "Death of a Church and Life in the Hot Zone" that i used to go to a house church that stopped meeting. For the sake of context, i'll mention that those relationships were primarily heterosexual. In speaking to a friend yesterday, i discovered that even though the actual "church" gathering stopped meeting, there was still drama among those people. The drama seemed to be centered around the disapproval of a particular romantic relationship.

(Boy am I glad I'm not in the middle of all that mess! I'm loving life in the hot zone right about now.)

This makes me sad because these are my friends - we're all friends - and they just can't seem to treat each other like they are. Why is it that under the guise of "accountability" people in the "church" feel the need to legislate the logistics of relationships? Out of concern for the couple, "friends" or rather "fellow brothers and sisters in Christ" feel the need to step in and say, "you know, i say this because I love you and I'm concerned about your relationship. You should...blah blah blah". For months, these people have kept this romantic relationship under a microscope watching every move. It's like they're waiting for it to fail to prove that their concerns were right - and if they aren't right, they're going to jinx it with their presence so as to make it fail.

Leave them the hell alone! Goodness. I heard Brennan Manning speak last Sunday and he said a classic phrase, "Don't should on me!" (or in other words, "Don't sh*t on me!"). Should, should, should.... geez, if I were my friends who were in this romantic relationship, i'd be feeling claustrophobic. Back off and let us breathe!

Can you imagine what these "church friends" would say to me if I ever was in a gay relationship and was open about it? Out of concern for my well-being or even state of spiritual cleanliness, I should....blah, blah, blah. I think they need to quit looking for the errors in other people's relationships and start evaluating the kind of love that they are demonstrating in their own relationships - not just the romantic ones but their friendships as well. How loving can they really be towards their friends if they are constantly pointing out what's wrong in the romantic relationship?

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." 1 Corithians 13:4-5

My friend, "E" over at Paradoxy has a great post talking about "Conditional Love". He makes a really good point when he says, "...but by and large I've learned that I still have to be very selective about who I open up to. So when did it become okay for the church to be such an unsafe place?"

Granted, I'm suggesting that these people (my friends) "need to" or "should" back off. But how about we trust Jesus a little bit more to shape His own people rather than taking it upon ourselves to bend them? How about we trust that Jesus transforms lives, paradigms, and lifestyles through process rather than focusing on the fact that they are "living in sin" now and so they must change now - or else we shall intervene!

I'm sure there are some friends out there that have learned about my journey of exploring what it looks like to be both gay and Christian and that they are perhaps "concerned for me". The securing thing for me is knowing that Jesus is with me here on this journey. He loves me and knowing that allows me to trust Him completely. I trust Him enough to guide me and let me know if I'm walking away from Him and so if i'm making a mistake by walking this journey, i'll eventually be led out of the journey. In the mean time, i'm learning and growing in my faith and in my understanding of His love and utter grace for "my" marginalized community. So this gives me the freedom to live out my faith with confidence and without fear of judgment (1 John 4:16-19).

I believe in fellowship and community. I believe in sharpening and challenging each other to grow and be better disciples of Jesus. But there's got to be a point to where we release ourselves from the burden of legislating the logistics of our relationships and we simply love in our relationships. Love God. Love each other. The other commandments will take care of themselves.