Saturday, December 31, 2005

How Did You Find Me?

I'm working on my final post of 2005 and will post it later today. In the mean time, I thought this might be a good time to post a list that i've been compiling. You know how we will sometimes use a search engine like Google, MSN Search, Yahoo Search, Alta Vista, etc... to find what's out there on the Internet on various subjects? Well, I started noticing some rather interesting search queries that people have entered and found their way to Two World Collision. It's a random list that I started only two months ago, but it's interesting to imagine what people are going through in their lives to search for these kinds of things. I'd like to think that God led people here so that we can all discover that we are not alone in our journeys and struggles with faith, God, Church, and homosexuality.

I'm actually kind of curious too - how did you discover Two World Collision?

Here's a list of some of the more interesting search queries . . . .

"peace loving behavior of filipino college students"
"525,600 minutes"
"two chinese boys"
"dont ask dont tell policy"
"hot filipino gay guys"
"son i'm divorcing you dad but i still love you"
"is the biggest loser bob gay"
"if men can menstrate and woman could not,will the world change?"
"brothers and sisters having sex"
"sisters and brothers have sex"
"opinions on the hot zone"
"prideful christians"
"an essay of pre-marital sex"
"i am overwhelmed by the hate in this world"
"covert sexual abuse"
"american divorcing filipino spouse"
"thryoid condition"
"the collision of god and sin"
"conversations on homosexuality and christianity"
"gay life in ok"
"dancing partying birthday toast"
"gay dad & son"
"gay filipino boys"
"lesbian mom"
"sex chat for gay christians"
"coping with parents divorce"
"how do you build a bridge"
"worlds in collision filipino"
"living hiv for 20 years with faith in god"
"papers on christianity and homosexuality"
"being hungry for god"
"argument for female pastors"
"my dad is gay"
"similarities between 'jesus and us' "
"mr. right"
"a different gospel"
"elmo suitcase"
"freckles that came off"
"church without walls gays"
"fighting gay temptation"
"two long months looked mirror"
"passive agressiveness in children"
"freaks like me"
"my church life vs. my home life as a male leader"
"love build a bridge"
"i wish i knew how to quit you"
"homeless collision"
"gay boys mud wrestling"
"value of life"
"speak life to it"
"gay choice peace with God"
"emerging church"
"it is not simple anymore"
"essays on lonliness and relationships"
"how to discern right christian guy"
"life is full of risks"
"extreme collision"
"if God loves me, why can't i?"
"loving a man that doesn't love me"
"christian ministry eric long beach" (this one is scary)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Do Not Press The Red Button!

Okay, i think it's time for a lighter mood - something less serious and completely irrelevant to this blog. Stay tuned, though, because i've got some things brewing in this head of mine that i'm still processing through. In the mean time, this is hilarious! I couldn't stop laughing the first time I saw it so here you go:

Sunday, December 25, 2005

It Felt Like Family, It Felt Like Church

I have got to say - that I am having an amazing time on this journey. All of the assumptions that I used to have about gay Christians are all thrown out the window. I'm experiencing such freedom in being the person that I am - gay and Christian.

I don't feel like I have to overcompensate and be some kind of super Christian to justify how I can be both. I've seen that actually. Some gay Christians can be pretty legalistic about expressing oneself as MORE Christian than gay and they end up just coming across religious. As for me, I'm learning what it looks like to express (and even accept) myself as a gay man without feeling the need to demonstrate my Churchianity. I'm not trying to prove myself to anyone. I don't feel like I have to prove my gayness. I don't feel like I have to prove my Christlikeness. I just am. And that's what feels so free . . . .

The refreshing thing about this is how it's enabled me to come out of my shell. Many people have commented to me over the past several months that I'm this big social butterfly. I think they say that because I seem to be connecting with numerous people of a variety of backgrounds in a variety of contexts. Last weekend, I went to six Christmas parties/gatherings over a three day period. I went to a Christmas eve party tonight (where I had a blast!). During the week, I've been a part of several work meetings with different kinds of people. I've connected with people one on one, on the phone or in person, as well as in groups. I've engaged with people about their passions, their interests, Jesus, the Church, politics, family, and sex. I've connected with people of different ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, opinions, and worldviews. I've had alot of small talk and i've had alot of deep conversations. I've even flirted (which I think is mutual and I'm excited to report may perhaps go in the direction of a first date ever)!

I don't think I'm a social butterfly. I just think I'm becoming more secure with myself to where I can stop focussing on myself and I am free to invest my attention in other people. I feel like I can be comfortable not being perfect. I can be comfortable having not figured it all out. I can be comfortable with the risk of being hurt while having the hope of being loved. Keep in mind, i'm still a shy guy by nature and i've got an introverted personality. But it's a choice for me to be comfortable - to exist outside of my comfort zone - because I value connection, relationships. And so, the end result is that I'm meeting alot of great, awesome, and interesting people.

I'm finding that some of the more interesting people are the ones who are not yet believers in Jesus. There used to be a time when the practice of my Churchianity involved my exclusive interaction with other "believers" in a sterile environment. Boy, was that boring! I say boring because I value the Great Commission and I believe that at the very core of the DNA of the new creation that we received in Christ is the inherent call not 'in', but rather 'out' - the call to go out - so that where ever we are, there the King is. And so, it's refreshing to me to be around people who aren't Christians. Frankly, sometimes, Churchians can be pretty weird. And the more I hang out with the people Jesus loves who are not yet part of His Church, the more I realize how ineffective Churchians are because of their isolated and out-of-touch-with-the-outside-world church culture.

I had such a wonderful Christmas eve tonight. I was honored to be invited into the home of one particular relational community. It was a party with probably 98% people not currently part of the Church (yep, the interesting ones I was just now talking about). In the entire party, there were probably only three of us who were actually following the Way of Jesus. And I had so much fun. I did my whole social butterfly thing. I mingled, worked the room, made the rounds, and got to know people. Something very interesting was seeing how some of the people that appeared hostile to those "Jesus freak" Churchians weren't hostile to me. And as some of them eventually learned about my faith through casual normal conversation (as opposed to the weird agenda-driven proselytizing that is so completely obvious that it turns people away), I found that I was invited deeper into the inner social circles.

Here I am, perfectly comfortable being gay, perfectly comfortable being Christian, humble enough to know that I don't know it all, being told by new friends that I just met that I have alot to offer. Whoa! This is why I trust Jesus out here where the Churchians don't want to go. He can connect with people in ways that they can't.

So anyway, the Christmas eve party was so much fun. I met new people. I got to reconnect with new friends that I met at a previous party, and thus continued to nurture an ongoing friendship. We had some really interesting conversation - in particular, about the sub-cultures within the GLBT community and how there's even a sense of division in it and that there are even groups considered outcasts by gays and lesbians. We also talked about the lack of young emerging gay leaders in our local community. During the evening, we naturally gravitated to the piano where two people, half-drunk, beautifully and hilariously played almost undiscernible Christmas carols, broadway songs, and pop hits as all of us in the room tried our best to sing along to the noise (oops, i mean music). (Side note: It was actually awesome hearing these new friends sing the lyrics of Christmas carols. For me, it was worship!) The home was beautifully decorated, with a gorgeous Christmas tree, and a nice fire in the chimney. It felt like family. It felt like Church.

Who says I "should" be going to a Christmas eve service when my time was better spent being the Church among genuine and new friends? Like I said, I had a blast!

Tomorrow, I'm off to see my blood family on Christmas day. I intend to plant some seeds to see how comfortable they'd be if I were to get a boyfriend. (They know I'm gay, but last they heard, I told them in the context of being Side X. Bringing a boyfriend to the next family gathering may prove to be a little more complex for them to handle, so i'm going to feel it out - and perhaps prep them for things to *hopefully* come). =)

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Gay Games VII In Chicago 2006

Rebecca is a truly inspiring woman. She is a triathlete - an IronWoman - my friend. A triathlon is an athletic contest in which participants compete without stopping in three successive events, usually long-distance swimming, bicycling, and running. Her dream is to compete, one day, at the Ironman World Championship held in Kona, Hawaii.

I believe in her.

I've had the honor of getting to know her recently and she is a person who absolutely loves the Lord, has a tremendous heart for loving her LGBT friends, and is motivated to utilize her God-given athletic abilities to glorify God. Just as she has been journeying with me as I try to figure out what it looks like to be both gay and Christian, I want to journey with her as she strives to be both a Christian and an athlete.

We are all a community - you and I and Rebecca. All of our journeys take us along the same path - the Way of Christ. As fellow brothers and sisters, let's strive to support one another!

Rebecca has an opportunity to compete in the Gay Games VII held in Chicago on July 15-22, 2006 . . . .

According to the Web site, "The Games will feature 12,000 participants, competition in 30 sports, world-class athletes and artists, band and choral performances, nightly medal ceremonies, a week-long arts festival, parties, and spectacular opening and closing ceremonies featuring entertainment, pageantry, and the parade of participants from more than 70 countries. The Gay Games are open to anyone. There are no qualifying events, no minimum or maximum requirements, and no mandatory affiliations. The Games are built on the founding principles of Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best, and promote a supportive environment, free from bigotry, where participants achieve success by their own measure. More than a tournament or cultural program, the Gay Games is a gathering of the international sports and arts community that changes lives, attitudes, and the very nature of competition."

The Games are for those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or straight. Rebecca fits in one of those categories! She will get to live out her faith by expressing genuine and sincere love among a truly diverse environment while competing with others at top-level performance. The Gay Games is one step closer to Rebecca realizing her dream.

In recent days, over this past week, you know it's been pretty difficult for me. But you also know it's been pretty freeing for me. Many of you, including Rebecca, have been such an encouragement to me. In one of her blog posts, she says,

"Everyday, I have people say man, you did an Ironman. I could never do that! My answer is yes you can and maybe yours isn't doing an Ironman Event, maybe your Ironman is something else. It could be anything that you do in your everyday life. My question is, what is your Ironman?"

This journey of mine is my Ironman. You have yours. Rebecca has hers. Let's support one another in whatever way that we can. In Two World Collision, we talk often about living out our faith. Let's do that very thing! We may not be able to be with her in Chicago, but perhaps we can all be a part of helping her to get there.

Let's sponsor her! I have personally offered my contribution to Rebecca. What if together, we all contributed and raised $1000 to help send her to Chicago for the Gay Games? She'll need to cover the cost of registration, travel, lodging, and food. Let's all believe in her - because of what she represents - Christ and us. Every mile she endures on her Ironman, she represents every step that we all take along our own Ironman competition.

Can we do this?

Get to know Rebecca at her blog at:

If you'd like to support her, perhaps $10, $20, $50, $100, or whatever, email me at your interest and how much you'd like to sponsor for her, then I'll email you back with her mailing address.

Her registration deadline is January 1st, 2006 so please let me know ASAP so that she can at least get her registration in!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Profoundly Offended

It's been a long time since I've cried. I don't mean the single tear out of the corner of my eye and that heart felt feeling of getting choked up inside after seeing a movie or hearing a song that triggered a memory. I mean that gross, nasty, snot running down my nose, mouth crinkled, with waterfall tears flowing from my eyes kind of cry. I'm talking about utter weeping. Have you ever weeped before? I was completely a mess! Driving home on the freeway, I could barely see the road as my eyes were full of tears and my heart wrenched in sorrow.

It was only last Wednesday night that I was feeling so free. I was feeling liberated. I felt like I no longer had to be silent. I could be known as the man that I am. To understand my weeping, you really have to read the last post, "Living Life As All Of Me" (if you haven't already), because that's the frame of mind I was in the very next day when Thursday night hit me . . . .

The very nature of the work that I do in the non-profit organization that my ministry partner and I co-founded is somewhat twofold: helping people to live out their faith and encouraging unity in the 'Body of Christ' (that's Christianese for the whole 'Church'). We started our work here in Long Beach, California (2nd highest gay population in California next to San Francisco) about three and a half years ago and we now have operations in several cities throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area here in the Southern California region. We work with leaders in churches, businesses, community organizations, schools, city government, and neighborhoods to build relationships with each other, establish trust, identify a common concern, and partner together for tangible growth in a city. It's very exciting stuff and we do this with passion!

So here's the thing. We are a part of an event taking place in January where many organizations from throughout Los Angeles are coming together to identify positive indications of hope and life in the city - both in and out of the Church. I am part of the planning committee. We identified a location for the event and were proceeding with organizing the logistics of everything when a concern was raised. A pretty major concern.

The pastor of the church where we were planning on having the event is gay.

Of course, now everyone has to have a meeting about it. Phone calls are made. Emails are sent out. Conversations are taking place about the appropriateness of having our event at this location. Should we have it there? Would we be endorsing this man's "lifestyle" by having our event there? Will people be offended if they knew that this church where we were having this event at is "open and affirming"? What if people see the rainbow flags at this church's Web site? What if our key speakers back out because they don't want to be a part of an event at a "place like this"? What if people choose not to come to the event because it's at a "place like this"? What if God doesn't show up because it's at a "place like this"?

Goodness. Here we go, about to enter the hot zone - that place where the Church's unspeakable topics and dirty little secrets dwell.

Immediately, efforts were made to find an alternate location for the event. The excuse was made that the alternate location was cheaper (but in reality it is logistically less convenient for the event). The initial discussion was that we were going to take the issue to the larger planning group to decide what we wanted to do about the location of the event. Before that happened, the decision was made to contract with the alternate location. As people began to discuss it, the excuse about the cheaper location was presented as the primary reason for making the change - justification for not giving the rest of the planning committee an opportunity to weigh in and voice their opinion or concerns about the issue.

It was a lie.

The ones who brought up the issue in the first place were not being honest. They were masking the real reason why the location was changed without anyone else's input about the matter.

The location was changed because the pastor of the church, who communicated a tremendous heart and love for God and his community, is gay. They refused to acknowledge every indication of hope and life that could be seen through this ministry because he is gay.

I felt profoundly offended. I felt silenced. I felt second-class. I was a part of some of the early discussion but I, like the rest of the group, was denied an opportunity to speak to the issue.

Keep in mind, just the evening before I posted about finally being whole, finally being known, finally being me - as I am, all of me. And now, I felt deeply connected with this gay pastor and the experience of thousands of gay and lesbians across this country. For the first time in my life, I experienced a personal offense of being persecuted for being the person I am. For the first time in my life, I felt empathy for what it must have felt like to be told to sit at the back of the bus and to be told to use a separate restroom so as to not contaminate those who are clean. For the first time in my life, I truly felt a personal injustice. Granted I have had mild experiences with racial discrimination, but nothing this close to where my heart was attached and it was being beaten with a baseball bat.

And so I cried on the way home from that meeting last Thursday. I weeped. I was filled with images of rejection and hatred towards me - people like me. It was personal. And all I could think of was all of the things - the wonderful things - that I was witnessing God do in my life. And these people would refuse to hear any of it - because I am gay. Their concern was whether or not some people may be offended if they knew what kind of a location the event was held at. They neglect the reality that in raising such a concern, they had already offended me. Profoundly. Yet, that was somehow, acceptable.

Is this acceptable? Is it acceptable to deny justice for one group of people for the sake of offering comfort to another group? Is it acceptable to casually lie about true discriminatory motives and to sweep the issue under the rug? Is it acceptable to host an event designed for identifying hope and life in a city while divisively and disgustingly disassociating from the Christian lepers?

My heart aches. My heart is aching. And I weep over the reality of a society too huge for me to change.

What is God weeping over?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Living Life As All Of Me

What does it look like to be both gay and Christian?

I may never be able to fully answer that question. However, the best I can do for now - on this part of my journey - is to be me.

While there may be numerous characteristics of 'me', I am only one person. And I have to believe that God is concerned about my whole person. He's not simply concerned about the part of me that works. He's not simply concerned about the part of me that plays. I believe that He's concerned and cares for my whole self - my personality, my sexuality, my spirituality, my physiology.

Often times, I'll compartmentalize my life and my being. There's the Eric who works the non-profit organization (what i typically refer to as the 'public ministry'). There's the Eric who 'goes to' church. There's the Eric who exercises regularly at the gym. There's the Eric who (used to) go to school. There's the Eric at home alone. There's the Eric around this group of friends. There's the Eric around that group of friends. Am I the same person in each of these contexts? Or have I compartmentalized the person I am depending on who I was with and what I was doing?

Can someone fully love me if he or she doesn't fully know me?

One of the hardest things for me about being in the closet was/is feeling like I'm not fully known . . .

There's a part of me that's always hidden. But, as a Christian, I am called to be and remain in the light. That implies being seen - by God and by others. Granted, how much of me is visible should be discerned with wisdom because some people aren't safe enough for me to be completely known. However, I wonder what it would look like if I helped to create safe environments where people could be themselves as much as possible.

Perhaps it would look like me helping people to feel comfortable with being the person they are - regardless of their degree of faith, their race, their economic class, their gender, or their sexuality. Perhaps it would look like me respecting them enough to look into their eyes and see their heart. Perhaps it would look like me demonstrating sincere love - responding to identified needs. Perhaps it would look like me nurturing a relationship with people minus any Churchian agenda - allowing them to experience what it's like to be valued simply because they are worth loving.

Could this be an environment where I can, in turn, feel safe as well? A place where I can feel comfortable being the person I am? A place where I can be respected enough to be looked in the eyes and to have my heart seen? A place where my needs are identified and met? A place where a relationship with me is nurtured?

Maybe it's okay for all of us to live life together 'in the light'. Maybe it's okay for all of us, in community, to intentionally strive to know one another more and more - the good, the bad, the ugly. Perhaps, to be more known means to live less compartmentalized lives.

The Eric among the Church community is the same Eric at the dance club. The Eric at the bar is the same Eric at the gym. The Eric at the party is the same Eric at work. The Eric with the friends is the same Eric with the family. I think being both gay and Christian is about being whole. It's about living life as all of me. I love Jesus. I'm attracted to men. I strive to live the Way Jesus modeled - loving all people properly. I am the man God created. I am becoming the man God created me to be. I am growing. I am learning. I am stretching. I am alive.

I've been wrestling with my degree of anonymity on this blog. Should I allow people - you all - to see what I look like? Should I post my photo? It's felt liberating to have this blog as an outlet for my feelings - a place for raw thoughts. As I've journeyed these several months, I look back and I realize that one of the things I wanted most was to be able to own what I believe rather than simply accepting what other people have previously taught. It's my journey and I'm exploring, not my sexuality, but rather, my life. I'm exploring what it looks like to live life - to live out my faith.

So here it is. All of me. A photo of Eric, author of Two World Collision:

In all honesty, being anonymous on this blog comes from a place of fear. I'm afraid of what may happen if I am fully known. I may be persecuted. I may be rejected. The people relationally or professionally connected to me may be effected. My worlds colliding. However, this fear leads to hiding and it is contrary to the intent of this blog - for me to be known to myself and to others.

I have my share of struggles, battles, anchors, regrets, and shame. Perhaps, one day I'll think that making myself this vulnerable is a mistake. However, in my weakness and imperfection, I realize His strength, goodness, righteousness, grace, mercy, and purpose. I've seen the Lord use me, despite me, and I continue to learn to live in that place of grace - that undeserved favor that God grants me through Jesus Christ my Savior. He is not yet done molding, shaping, and teaching me.

I have resolved not to define myself by the mistakes that I have made, but rather by the lessons that I have learned. I have learned that I cannot change what I have "done" but that I can choose what can be "done". My choice is to be a better man today than I was yesterday.

A year ago, I'd be terrified of putting my photo up on the Web out of fear of being recognized. Today, I hope I am recognized so that I can bear witness to the realities of living my life fully - as both gay and Christian.

Can you see me now?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Fresh Meat

So I just got home from a party tonight. Earlier this evening, I was a high school freshman trying to get ready for his first senior party. Anyone know what this feels like? I was way nervous!

I've been making some friends at one of the weekly discussion group's that I go to at the GLBT center and our group was invited to an annual gingerbread party. I thought it'd be fun to go because it'd be a great opportunity to connect again with alot of the guys outside the formal group setting. We usually hang out at a coffee shop each week after the group meetings. The party would be another way of getting to know some of the guys a bit more.

I typically experience these kinds of 'gay' social venues with my buddy or my closer circle of friends. We go out for a drink or two at a bar or go dancing at a club and usually the buds dress me up a little more gay than I'm used to. I have horrible fashion sense and the guys fix me up with some of their own clothes or they make some slight adjustments to what i'm wearing so as to make me a tad more appealing. One works on a sleeve, the other tugs at the shirt, another is evaluating which pair of jeans I should wear. They work their magic and I ask, "Am I hot now?" and they reply with their, "Heck yeah!" 's and I wonder if its true but I take their word for it and we're all good to go. But this time, the buds weren't coming with me to the party and I had to get ready all by myself! Yikes . . . .

This afternoon, I was already imagining what i'd wear tonight. I'll wear the brown khaki pants with the black belt and the brown long sleeved button down collared shirt and the brown dress shoes. I'll iron the shirt and i'll look spiffy. The party starts at 4pm so i'll plan on going about 8pm. I was going to time my arrival when I knew for sure another friend from the group was going to arrive so that I wouldn't have that weird uncomfortable feeling of not knowing anybody. As the early evening passes, I call this friend who tells me he's not arriving until after 10pm. What the -!

Gosh darn it. What if I don't know anyone else there? I wonder if some of the other guys from the group will be there. What if they don't come? But maybe I can meet someone new. Maybe I can just choose to be outgoing (I typically do this - make a choice to be social despite my natural introverted personality) and start up some casual conversation and maybe I'll end up making a friend or two - or better yet, someone who may find me interesting enough to date. Okay, so I can do this. Anxiousness fills my mind as I take longer than usual to get ready - stall!

So I iron my shirt and take my shower and begin to do all of my personal hygiene stuff. I got a haircut earlier today and had my guy buzz the sides short and take just a lil bit off the top so that I could still slick my hair forward then spiked in the front. Nicely gelled. Time to get dressed with what I had planned. No, that's not gonna work. The buds would never have me go out like that! I flip through the hangers in my closet sifting through shirt and pant combinations. What in the world am I supposed to wear? What will others be wearing? I had it all planned out but that's been scratched. I hear the assuring voices of my buds as I'm alone in my closet and I settle for the blue jeans, black belt, and brown shirt that I ironed. This will do. I guess. Yeah, it'll do. The buds would have me roll up the sleeves. No, further - roll them up all the way up to the biceps. My bud always says don't be afraid to show off the guns. I roll the sleeves all the way up and I feel uncomfortable as I look in the mirror. Oh yeah, i'm supposed to leave the top two buttons undone so that some skin shows. Oh goodness! This looks way gay! Too gay! I laughed out loud looking at myself. There is no way I can go out in public looking this gay! So I pace between my bedroom and the bathroom looking at the mirror in doubt. But then I remember that i'm going to a 'gay' party. The buds would say I'm hot looking like this. I guess that means i'm ready to go.

I leave my apartment walking slowly down the stairs thinking, "I can't believe i'm going out like this on purpose!" A year ago, i'd go out making sure I looked straight enough. Now, i'm going out making sure I looked gay enough. What a journey!

So I drive to where the party is - on the way, I try to psyche myself into getting ready for the party. I don't know what to expect. The only sure thing I could expect would have been my friend arriving at the same time but that changed. As butterflies ram the sides of my stomach, I imagine what the house will look like. Who will be there? Will there be people outside? Will I know them? What will they think about me - about the way I'm dressed? Will they think I look gay? Oh no, i look too gay! Oh yeah, they're gay too. Will they think i'm not trendy? Will they think I dressed silly? Will they think, "that guy has zero fashion sense"? because they'd be right! Oh gosh, how about my hair? No. I'm okay there - cute hair. Whew! Are my sleeves up too high? I worked out at the gym today with my trainer and my biceps are kind of bulging - so my rolled up sleeves are tight. But the other night I was out with my friend at a bar and he was complimented on his arms and his sleeves were rolled up the same way so maybe i'm okay. Wow, maybe i'll get complimented. Oh goodness! Butterflies!

I found the place. This is it! Wait, is this the place? Did i read the address wrong? I see Christmas lights and decorations but all the other houses in the neighborhood have the same thing. I don't see anyone outside. What if no one is here? What if i'm the only one that showed up to the party? Maybe i'll park and stay here inside the car until someone else arrives. What's on the radio? I decide to call my brother for no apparent reason. Just stalling. Brother is doing fine. Hmm, what else can I do? I'm bored. Okay, let's go inside now.

Whoa, i'm going inside! I walk up to the front door and greet another person leaving the party. I'm at the front door and I see people through the window. Do I knock? Do I ring the door bell? Do I just walk in? Gosh I hate not knowing what's appropriate. I'm such a nerd. What if he opens the door and doesn't recognize me and asks what i'm here for? Oh goodness, just do it. I knock. I ring the door bell. I try the door knob to see if it's open. Good, it's locked. I'll wait for them to answer the door. I'm welcomed in and I greet my way through the living room and kitchen. Don't know anyone so far!

Ah! Finally someone I know! Huge hug! Outside in the back are lots of other people I know. Whew! Okay, i feel much better now. I can do this. Let's do the whole social thing. Um, people look kind of dressed up. No one else has their sleeves rolled up this high and tight. I'm talking to people and I see their eyes looking at my arms. I see them looking at that spot where my two top buttons are undone. Oh great! I look like an idiot!

Conversations continue and I'm a social butterfly - talking and joking and smiling and stuff. Good show. Fake it till you make it. Feel comfortable. Feel happy. Feel confident. Okay, i can do this. Do i really look like an idiot?

Then the compliments started coming. I feel the eyes watching me. Wait a minute. They. . . they're . . . I think that some of these guys are . . . flirting. What the - ? Wow this feels kind of nice. Maybe I don't look like an idiot. Maybe they're checking me out. Whoa, this guy is checking me out. He just winked at me! The guys are cool and everything. There are lots of guys I know from the group and we're just hanging out. Casual compliments - "you are cute for an asian!" (Remember my issues?) Chills. Wow, people are agreeing. Hmm. How do you do this? I don't really know how to react. I continue the casual conversations with various guys - some are flirting, some are not. I try to change the subject. I crack a joke in nervousness but the flirty ones like it even more - "you're so cute," they'd say. Wow, people are standing pretty close to me. Close proximity! I wasn't feeling overwhelmed or anything. It wasn't like I wanted anyone to back off. Well, I did but I didn't. It's just that, I've never had this kind of attention before. For me?! I kinda like it and so i'm sort of flirty back but I don't want to really "connect" with someone tonight so I back off from being flirty. Oy. An older guy who notices what must be going through my mind pulls me aside with some helpful explanation. "You are what we call 'Fresh Meat'."

Oh! Okay. I get it. Interesting. The night progresses and I manage to elude some of the advances made and I begin to have some redeeming conversations. I got to know more of some of the guys from the group. I was still able to talk freely about my faith as it came up naturally. Some of the other guys believe in Jesus, some of them have a faith background, some don't at all. It really wasn't an uncomfortable subject. Besides, it wasn't the only subject. There was talk about boyfriends and how they met and occupations and common interests. It was all very fun connecting with people. I even decorated my own gingerbread man (and ate him right away). I decided not to enter mine in the contest - the others were pretty creative (and some humorously explicit).

By the end of the evening, well past midnight, my feelings of being a freshman dissipated and I was quite comfortable chatting the night away. It was actually kind of fun to see the vultures flying overhead when I first arrived. They definitely helped me to get over my insecurities! Regardless, I got to connect with some friends and I had alot of fun. I think the buds would be proud! =)

Is there anyone out there that can relate to any of this craziness?!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Church Outside-The-Box

I realize that my paradigm of 'Church' is unconventional - unorthodox even. My brothers and sisters of the more liturgical traditions may disagree with several of my thoughts about the logistics of 'Church' and even some of the conservative ones may take issue with how I describe the structure and concept of it. I honor my fellow brethren around the world who love the Lord and express their worship and faith in Jesus differently. As a disclaimer, I will say unapologetically, that I express these things from an American context and its application is imagined in a Western world.

I said in "525,600 Minutes" that "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." Today, I would also add ". . . and no longer paralyzed by the religious structures that dictate what my walk with Christ is supposed to look like." Is this a rebellious attitude? I don't think so . . . .

There are alot of church models out there trying to reshape the way 'church' looks so that attendance numbers increase on Sunday mornings or even on a week night. Sunday services are more 'seeker-sensitive'. Dramatic presentations are used more often. Eye-catching media flashes on screens to illustrates stories, Bible references, and sermon points. Teen dance routines and singing young children entertain the congregation audience. Fog machines are used to fill sanctuaries with laser lights shooting through darkened rooms. Technology is used to present an upgraded God to people tired of an out-of-date church. Even multi-service churches have a variety of styles for people to choose from: the liturgical, the charismatic, and the contemporary. There are churches with Sunday service and small groups during the week. There are churches with mid-week services. There are churches that meet in buildings, storefronts, homes, coffee shops, parks, school campuses, work offices, and bars. There are churches that meet in the morning, evening, or 3 a.m.

Known religious researcher, George Barna, reports his findings based on decades of studying the Western Church in his recent book "Revolution" that millions of people are leaving the traditional Sunday service local churches but are not leaving their faith in Jesus. I think church leaders and church planters are desperately trying to address the reality of a mass exodus away from the Western church by thinking of ways to attract them back. They are trying to think outside-the-box in their presentation of "church" to address the spiritual needs of a shifting postmodern culture that is hyper-individualistic, highly relational, and at the same time relationally-broken while experiencing a societal generational transition.

In my opinion, we are not thinking outside-the-box enough. We cannot merely change the location of where we "do" church, change the style of worship "at" church, or change the demographic of who the church reaches out to. We can't simply change the structure of how we do church to make it a place conducive for relationships. We need to allow our relationships the freedom to dictate what "church" looks like. The shape of our relationships should shape the way we express ourselves as "Church". As long as we refer to Church as a place to go and a thing to do rather than as a Way of life and being, we aren't thinking outside-the-box enough. As long as worship is a creative event that begins and ends (our "worship time" or our "worship service") rather than it being a lifestyle of expressing Spirit and Truth, we aren't thinking outside-the-box enough. Mass numbers of people are leaving the Church but not Jesus. Things are changing. We can't simply re-package "church" to trick them into coming back. The very idea of Christendom's "church" needs to be reimagined into something that allows this generation's Jesus followers to live out their most cherished value - relationships.

What if we lived out our faith in such a way that expressed ourselves as the Church in our very own sphere of relationships? In "Organic Church" by Neil Cole, the greek word 'oikos' used in the New Testament means "household" which refers to one's sphere of influence - family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Our 'oikos' describes our relational communities. What if we re-conceptualized our understanding of "Church" as not simply where we gather but instead as who we are? What if we were an 'oikos' church - that is, a relational Church - a community of God's people "called" to live "out" Kingdom values in this world? What would it look like if we were the Church among people rather than taking people to a church?

What if we were "Church" within the "structures" of our simple everyday relationships? What if we no longer needed the buildings, budgets, and big shots? What if the stewards of God's Church - the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors/shepherds, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11) were simply accomplishing their function in each relational oikos across a region?

What if we didn't dictate what this had to look like? What if we simply encouraged people to seek Jesus personally for those answers of what "Church" looks like in each person's individual relational context by allowing Him to shape their lives through reading the Bible themselves, intimately praying, and responding to whatever He tells them? Perhaps each community would be a "Band of Brothers and Sisters" with both believers and also those in the process of believing. This would be a group of friends naturally connected with each other, encouraging and supporting one another, and in the midst of it all, Christians intentionally living out the Kingdom values - being salt - within their normal relational communities. What if being "saved" didn't require an extraction from their natural group of friends into a foreign and sterile "church" laboratory? What if Christians were in conversation with their friends about Jesus and the Kingdom, and when one of those friends experienced a realization of faith in Him, was simply baptized in the presence of all the other friends? Perhaps all new believers can simply be referred to Jesus through the Word and prayer for an understanding and model of the Way to live. Perhaps it's enough to rely solely on Jesus for leadership and direction while each of us took the initiative of planting seeds of the Kingdom - living out the Good News of the Kingdom of God among our friends (oikos). Perhaps it's enough to love God, love each other, and love His Kingdom.

What if we raised the bar of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and lowered the bar of our assumptions regarding what "Church" looks like?

When we are told not to "give up meeting together" (Hebrews 10:25) does that describe a church service? Do we need a "service" to "live the Way" He called us to live? Can we live as the Church without being told the logistics of it? We have one Head - Christ Jesus. All the rest of us are on equal ground - all necessary, all significant, all with a purpose and an individualized and personalized function and responsibility ~ the priesthood of all believers (1Peter 2:5-9).

I don't presume to proclaim the way Church must be - only what it could be. People may reject the Western church but they aren't necessarily rejecting the Person of Christ. He is still touching the hearts of millions of people regardless of what church attendance records indicate. We can choose to participate in what He is already doing by stepping outside-the-box of how we think Church is supposed to be like.

If the Harvest is plentiful, why are we still in the barn?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Brokeback Mountain

There's a line in this trailer that I think articulates well the struggle of being gay in a straight world...

"I wish I knew how to quit you!"

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Finding Mr. Right

Now that i'm in a dating mode, I get to start refining my detection systems. Gaydar. Mine isn't so developed. I refer to it as simple sonar. Other people have x-ray or even infrared but i can only pick up what's on the surface - the guys that are clearly and obviously gay. But then again, since i've been spending more time with gay friends, my accuracy has been improving. It also helps to be in social venues where the odds are pretty high that i'll meet other gay guys. Coffee shops. Clubs. Churches. So does me saying that i want to start dating mean that i'm putting myself up on the "meat market"?

Not so sure how I feel about that....

I will admit though that seeing as how i want to meet people for a potentially romantic context, i'm looking around for who's hot. Well, at least for who's cute. I know, it sounds superficial of me but it's real. I'm not saying that i only want to date a hot guy - in fact my self-esteem is hardly that secure. But when i think about the kind of chemistry needed to nurture an ongoing romantic relationship, i think it's realistic to admit that I need a degree of physical attraction. This raises an interesting issue for me though. Where's the border between looking around to see who i'm physically attracted to so that "something" can develop versus just plain looking at guys in lust?

If I wanted to give you the impression that i'm this holy guy looking for real love then i'll tell you that a godly guy like myself doesn't go to the club and drool in lust. Truth is - it's pretty easy to do that. It's pretty easy to go to a club or a coffee shop (or even church) with the intent of wanting to connect and to find myself indulging in the eye candy. It's also easy to gain a sense of boldness, in the name of having a good time, and get a little closer to guys on the dance floor. Not exactly the "christian" thing to do, is it? I'm not going to fool myself and say that God is in that.

Does He want me to be happy? Sure, i know He does. But i don't think that's what He meant when He says it's okay to be out there in the world because He's out there. Living out my faith sounds great and organic and progressive even, but i can't lie to myself and say that God would have me function like those who don't live and walk in faith. I think I'm meant to be the salt that affects others, not me being the one to taste everything around that this world is flavored with. So, i'm trying to remind myself of what it is that i'm really wanting so that I can stay grounded. I think the key, for me, will be wanting someone that God would want for me.

So I came up with a wish list for Mr. Right. I tried to articulate some of the things that i'm looking for in a guy so that my "dating experience" isn't completely trial and error. So here's what i came up with: Cute; passionate about life; sensitive to other people's feelings; loves God; has a "lifestyle of faith" paradigm - is non-religious; thinks outside-the-box; cares about the welfare of the community; can be comfortable with silence; can carry an interesting conversation; is liked by others; likes himself; likes me (that'd be a given, right?); likes to play volleyball; likes to watch tennis; enjoys watching movies; likes to cuddle; notices the little things about me - my idiosyncrasies; likes and wants kids; is an active listener; challenges me to be a better person; can converse well with my family; has compassion for the suffering; responds to injustice; likes to dance; likes to cook; can have a deep conversation about life; values relationships with people; values a sense of community; values family; can be flexible with plans; has personal life goals; is computer literate and can navigate the Web (LOL, yeah i know, but it made the list. Hey, he's gotta be able to at least find my blog!); is non-judgmental of past mistakes and regrets; likes to try new things; is spontaneously romantic; has a healthy sense of humor; is generally neat and clean; values personal growth; is a non-smoker and doesn't do drugs; can worship God independent of me; and is a natural leader.

I know, i'm dreaming. Is there a guy like this out there? For me? I can be a realist and say my guy isn't going to be perfect. But at least i've identified what kind of a guy i'm most likely going to be "in to". Perhaps this will save me alot of drama and heart ache in the "dating scene". This never made the list but I think i'm looking to share my life with someone who wants to share his with me. I know he'll have his own life and that he doesn't have to be exactly like me, but i want someone who's life doesn't simply intersect mine, but who's life coincides with mine. I want to be with someone with whom I can live life with - someone walking in the same direction as me.

Perhaps, then, our lives can collide to form a new one.