Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Conviction Without Guilt

"Is it possible that this relationship with God and I is more about an ongoing conversation about life and love and less about do's and don'ts? Maybe I can learn more by allowing myself to experience life as it happens, continuing to dialogue with my God about it, and making life adjustments along the way without feeling condemned for needing to make adjustments in the first place. Could that draw me closer to God more than the pressure of avoiding all sin and the guilt that comes with failure to meet the standard?"

I said that a couple weeks ago in "Getting Over the Fear of Falling". Alot of the time, i'll write things because that happens to be what i'm thinking about at that moment or because it's something that I had been processing through recently. Sometimes it reflects something I truly believe. Sometimes it reflects something i'm exploring.

In this case, I've been living out this approach to repentance over the past two weeks and I'm happy to report that I've discovered in a vivid and amazing way something I always preached about in the past but never experienced before:

Conviction can actually come without Guilt . . . .

Duh! Yeah, I know. I always used to say in Bible studies that conviction comes from God and guilt comes from Satan - yadda, yadda, yadda . . . typical churchese right? Does anyone actually buy that? Well logically, sure, but in practice - it's easier said than done. It's so much easier to attach the guilty feelings we have about having committed our sin to what God must be feeling towards us. I feel guilt and shame so God must be feeling disappointed and ashamed towards me. A Bible teacher may say that the guilt is actually the Devil keeping you down or it's you keeping you down.

Maybe. But perhaps it's also the Church keeping you down.

No really. I mean, when it comes to the subject of sin and repentance, the Church played a far more active role in making sure guilt and shame were attached to what I was feeling so that I would choose to repent. What!? No! Not the Church!

Yeah! Not so blatant - more so in a passive aggressive kind of way - subtle, but it was there.

Things like, "we'll pray for you" or "we pray God would speak to your heart" or "we know that God's will be done" or "this saddens me" or "this breaks my heart" or "the Lord will guide you back to Him".

It's like I'm being handcuffed and ushered off to jail to serve a temporary sentence. They might as well be saying, "we'll be sure to write!" or even "we'll see you when you get out!"

They probably mean well. (<-- that's pretty bad, huh?)

But the thing is - now that I've allowed myself to detach from that kind of manipulative tactics (again, pretty bad -- okay, how about ". . . that kind of approach to supporting a fellow believer"), I've actually been able to live out what I was talking about before - that is, experiencing life as it happens, talking to God about it, making necessary life adjustments as He points them out, and moving on with life.

Being able to live this out - in practice - has been so freeing! There was no need for a big dramatic display of sorrow and regret, sackcloth and ashes, when ever I committed a SIN! I simply listened (as I am in the practice of doing), acknowledged the life adjustments that He pointed out (conviction), I agreed and acknowledged them as well, and made the decision to not do it again.

Can repentance be that simple? Is this blasphemous to say that it's okay to move on with our lives without scourging and crucifying ourselves every single time we sin?

See, the thing is, I actually do believe that Christ died for my sins. I actually do believe that He loves me. So I actually believe that it's okay to interact with Him in that way - especially in the context of sin and repentance.

My self-esteem is not (or I should say, it's no longer) attached to my sin. I don't feel like I need to make a huge production about needing to make a life adjustment just to preserve that self-esteem. My relationship with Christ simply tells me, "just get over it."

To me, this is a stance of humility. I'm not so prideful to think that I'll never make a mistake just because i'm a "good Christian". Rather, I kind of assume that I will continue to screw up. It's not that I'm trying to sin. It's just that I'm not all that surprised when I do. So when my Jesus has me notice a life adjustment that can enable me to continue to live a more abundant life, I'm okay with simply agreeing with Him and moving on.

Conviction without guilt. There's freedom in that!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Long Beach Pride Parade Photos

Hi everyone,

Just checking in briefly. This last weekend was Long Beach Pride and so Catalyst had a BBQ to begin getting the word out about our vision. I thought it went really well. I also went to the parade and festival which i've got some thoughts about but will be articulating in a post later - i don't yet have the time to sit down to do that yet. In the mean time, i wanted to share with you some of the photos that i took at the parade.

Check out the Parade photo gallery here.

I'll post again before the end of the week!

Friday, May 19, 2006

How Long Can You Hold Your Breath?

This is absolutely hilarious! I had to play it three times in a row before I stopped rolling on the floor laughing. This one is dedicated to this weekend's Long Beach Gay Pride festivities:

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Redefinition of Me

Over the past three or four years, I've journeyed through my insecurities - facing them head on and allowing myself to look in the mirror and being okay with the man I see. I remember times when it was so hard to do that.

I found so many reasons why I couldn't love and accept myself. But I wanted to. I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and smile at myself. I wanted to be able to see my own reflection - to see what I looked like being happy. And so I began to walk forward - taking steps of growth, taking moments of introspection, taking the time to confront the guy I avoided - me.

In order to figure out who I am, I had to figure out who I was . . . .

Years ago, I wasn't happy with the person I had become. I felt ugly - i couldn't change my face. I felt physically unattractive and overweight - i couldn't change my size. I hated the fact that I was gay - i couldn't change my sexuality, as much as i wanted to at the time. There were even times when I was bitter towards my faith - i couldn't change the fact that i really did love and believe in Jesus but people told me that it was in conflict with my sexuality and so I couldn't fully be or live both. I wasn't happy that I was Filipino - i couldn't change my ethnicity. I wasn't even happy with my middle name - it was given to me, my dad's middle name (and our relationship was strained for so many years). I hated being (and feeling) alone - I wouldn't even date me! There were things about myself that I didn't like. There were things that I had done in my past that I sorely (and still) regret. I've had my share of mistakes.

Rest assured, I will not be running for political office!

How do I get to the point of realizing that I'm not so bad a person? Thinking of all the good that I've done, doesn't necessarily cancel out the bad or the insecurities. I guess, for me, it started with a choice - to take a step of faith - embrace the risk that comes in loving me like God was loving me.

So the journey began and I discovered that not only was there life "out" there, but there was also life "in" there - in me. I missed appreciating my teenage years. I missed enjoying my 20's. I am now 30 years old and I don't want to go through another decade of being handcuffed by fear - the fear of social opinion, the fear of religious persecution, the fear of self-condemnation.

It's exciting to see changes in what I like as I've grown more comfortable with the person I am. On more and more occasions, i've found myself physically attracted to an asian person whereas before I never thought i'd ever see a cute asian. I attribute this to my process of learning to be okay with the fact that I'm asian - (and as some say, a cute filipino - hehe).

As I've chosen to live a physically fit and healthy lifestyle, I've also grown to be okay with my size. I am blessed and fortunate enough to not have a medical condition that effects my ability to lose weight. So I exercise regularly and I eat reasonably (most of the time) without torturing myself with guilt or a starvation diet. I can actually enjoy eating!

I'm not only okay with being gay - I like the fact that i'm gay. um, sort of. But yeah, i hated that about myself so much in the past. Now, i not only accept it, i live it. What does that mean? I don't fully know. But "I" get to decide what that means. I can choose to redefine what that means for my life. Perhaps the mainstream church, the media, and the gay community itself have their own stereotypes or perspectives of what a "gay lifestyle" looks like. But i'm okay with me being a gay individual within the gay community - both different and similar.

I'm okay with being a Christian. I don't feel the need to apologize for that or to explain the context of why I feel like I can be both gay and Christian. I'm not a Christian because I'm gay. I'm a Christian because I believe and have accepted Jesus as my Christ, my Messiah, my Savior, my Lord. Because this is my reality, i don't have to live under the Christian culture of isolating myself in a para-world where everything "in" is clean and everything "out" is dirty. I chose to no longer live a life of following the religious routines of a spectator faith. I have chosen to live out my faith as a lifestyle "out" there - no longer constrained by traditional view, but explored as I walk this out with my God. I do not believe that I'm following my own spirituality but rather Jesus' spirituality. I'm okay with that.

I'm okay with my middle name. Dean. I never used to like it because it was my dad's middle name. Now, I like it because it is my dad's middle name. Our relationship with each other has improved over the years. We can both tell each other that we love each other. We both accept each other. I've chosen to forgive him of the things that he couldn't help or control. He was the best dad that he knew how to be. I chose to give him some slack. I decided that our current relationship didn't need to be defined by my past hurts. And in this process of growth, I discovered that I'm proud to share his name - middle and last name. I am my father's son.

I'm not okay with being single, but I would date me. (ha, that sounds so conceited but please keep in mind the context of what i've been saying here). I'm not content with flying solo so i'm willing to make the effort in getting to know people more intimately. What rules apply in regards to sex? I know what i used to think. But that came from a place of 2 decades of theory and not much actual sexual experience. My thoughts and opinion evolve as I try to sort it out. The truth is that I don't know what i think about sex. I've got a good head on my shoulders so i think i can figure it out. I don't necessarily think sex needs to be part of the dating equation. I do know that I value substance in a relationship and that's what i'm looking for so i'm apt to not allow my hormones to rule this process. But i'm okay with wanting to get to know people as more than friends - without the lust and without the obsession. Isn't that fair?

As for my past mistakes, I can't change them. I can only grow from them. I'd even hesitate from wishing they didn't happen. So much of my life would be different had I not made those mistakes. Would I be willing to give up the life that I have now in order to have the life I could have had if I didn't make those mistakes? I'm not sure. But I can't live like that. I can't live in the past. Past regrets have anchored me. I'm choosing to set sail.

So let's go! "Life moves on" is no longer a cliche - it's my reality. My journey continues and I live fresh in discovering what's in store because I know that whatever comes will continue to shape and redefine me. I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Getting Over The Fear Of Falling

I love that giddy feeling when I'm starting to like someone.

You know that feeling, don't ya? It's that excitement of finding out that he sent an email and the priority of the day becomes opening it up to read what was on his mind. It's that burst of "squeeeee" (that ones for you, Angel!) when the cell phone rings and the caller-id reveals that it's him - and I love the fact that he was thinking of me. It's that antsy feeling I get when I know I'm going to see him soon and my pet butterflies flutter around from inside my tummy.

I love that giddiness.

So is that one of the sacrifices we make when we choose to "hook up"? . . . .

No, i'm not promiscuous when it comes to sex. But it's not like I haven't had my share of encounters in the past - those ONS's (one night stands). You do realize I'm NOT an "angel", right? I can still be raw enough on this site to be honest about myself, to talk about things even though I also talk about faith and God and at least trying to pursue a degree of holiness? I'm not a "super-Christian". I'm just someone trying to walk forward - with all the faith and sexuality dynamics in play.

It's hard though. There are times when I burn inside and desire wants a companion. It's hard when I see other couples enjoying life together. I want it too but don't have it and so the temptation is to compromise for the lesser choice - to "fall" on purpose. But I remember having that phobia for over a decade as a Christian - that fear of falling into sin. This fear compounded the suffering of the closet because I didn't want to sin (- faith, the Bible, social pressure from Church culture) but I also didn't want that burning to continue (- raging hormones, physical needs), and being in the closet meant no one knew I was struggling so bad.

Yet, here I am on this journey and I wonder if avoiding the fall isn't as important as discovering who God is to me after I've fallen. No, i'm not suggesting that it's okay to sin simply so that God can pick me up. But perhaps it's okay to live without the fear of making mistakes. Maybe I don't need to apologize for the error as if I have the sole mandate to never ever ever sin. What if the legalistic approach to being sinless can be just as destructive?

Is it possible that this relationship with God and I is more about an ongoing conversation about life and love and less about do's and don'ts? Maybe I can learn more by allowing myself to experience life as it happens, continuing to dialogue with my God about it, and making life adjustments along the way without feeling condemned for needing to make adjustments in the first place. Could that draw me closer to God more than the pressure of avoiding all sin and the guilt that comes with failure to meet the standard?

Maybe the pursuit of holiness isn't simply about only being holy but also about learning and experiencing the difference.

Does it make God sad when I sin? Of course, i'm sure it does. But knowing the nature of God, his grief is also coupled with the knowledge of what I will learn that will eventually help me to understand his grace more as well as His explanation for why I shouldn't do it again.

I'm not simply trying to talk myself into justifying sin. I'm simply questioning what I have always been taught in Church culture about it never ever being okay to sin. Well, yeah, i know it's not okay to sin but i'm talking about the approach. On this journey, God is teaching me that my life in Him is more about relationship and less about commandment. It's in that relationship with Him, my God and my Christ, that I discover who I am and how I am - with all the faith and sexuality dynamics in play.

Yes, i prefer the giddiness of liking someone. I want that "like" to turn into love - something meaningful. I don't want to sacrifice it for something temporary. But here's one thing I know: I would never have realized this if I didn't allow myself to experience the temporary - to get over my phobia of falling, living life, and talking to God while flat on my back on the ground in pain.

Friday, May 05, 2006

New Catalyst Site Is Up!

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone!

Here's another reason to celebrate . . . the new Catalyst site is up for public viewing! I've articulated most of what I want to do with the organization and have put it up at the web site. I'll be continuing to develop the site a bit more - cosmetically mostly, adding photos here and there - but it's ready enough to start getting the word out! I'd love it if you'd check it out!

The site is at www.catalystLB.org.

Also, be sure to check out the Catalyst blog too. I'm keeping the posts there pretty short and to the point. The purpose of that blog is to let people know about what's going on in Long Beach so that they can either "connect" or "affect" (that'll make sense if you browse through the Catalyst site). Two World Collision will still be the place where I process personal things.

If you need context, here are some related blog posts:
"For the Kingdom and For the Baby"
"Going Into Labor"

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Happy Birthday Buddy!

This is a special Happy Birthday shout out to my buddy (and new room mate)!

For those who hadn't realized the subtlety in my writing, every time I make reference to "my buddy" in this blog, i'm referring to the same guy. He inspires me to a fresh paradigm of the world, my community, and my own personal growth. The Lord used him to catalyze this journey of mine that led to me exploring what it looks like to be both gay and Christian - this whole Two World Collision thing.

I'm loving having him as a new room mate too! We get along well and we are learning how to share living space. He's been an awesome friend to me - he's always supported my journey, the work with my first non-profit, and now the work with Catalyst. I truly appreciate his friendship and I wish him a very Happy Birthday!

Share the love and wish him a Happy Bday for me!