Monday, December 29, 2008

Ten Lessons Along the Adventure of My Life

It's been a long and amazing year! What started off to be a year-end blog post ended up becoming way too long to put up here on the blog. So I posted it at our site for more flexibility.

I begin with talking about the projects that I've been a part of this year. Then I share the details of the amazing summer adventure that I had in August when I ran into a super cute hot buck-naked golden tan blond haired North Carolina guy in the middle of a hawaiian jungle.

It was the adventure of my life and through the experience I pulled out ten life lessons for the journey.

Check it out here:

Two World Collision: Ten Lessons Along the Adventure of My Life

Cheers to an awesome 2008!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Another Shot Fired

Another shot fired.

The Pope made a controversial comment that many are interpreting as hostile towards gays. Here's an article from BBC.

[Edit #1: Yeah, I realize the Pope was talking about behavior and not people, but let's be honest. The vast majority of gay and straight people will not make that distinction.]

[Edit #2: I decided to make another edit to the sentences above and below because I can acknowledge that it wasn't consistent with the heart of the message in this post.]

The culture war over beliefs and interpretations about sexuality and justice continue to rage on and both sides will continue their own version of a witch hunt. In the last two months, we've gone from Proposition 8 passing in California, to national protests to repeal Prop 8, to Rick Warren being selected for Obama's inaugural invocation (in my opinion, a premature gesture for the appearance of bridge building without first establishing relationship so that the selection would make sense), to coordinated responses by HRC and other organizations calling on Obama to affirm a commitment to GLBT justice and equality, to the Pope addressing Cardinals and staff (and essentially the world) making more comments against homosexuality.

This war must end.

Dignity and respect has nothing to do with our own personal opinions about things we disagree on. At the very least, we need civility. The ideal would be love, but perhaps that's too much to ask for during this holiday season. Each of us needs to consider the impact of our words - especially if, from our perspective, our intent is good.

We cannot continue to hurt each other.

We must elevate the conversation beyond the politics of our differences. Now more than ever do we need to create a space beyond the framework of "I believe this and you believe that". We need to create a space where we can come together based on what we have in common, not on what we don't have in common. We need people, both gay and straight, willing to become "Journey Christians".

If this is you, then be part of what we're trying to do at

Monday, December 22, 2008

Disco Christmas

Merry Christmas from me, ate Jayson, Whistler (Michael), Howie, and Earl!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sock Me in the Stomach Three More Times

How to Deal with Unrequited Love

The Space Goes Down
by Goodbye Elliott

the space goes down…
sock me in the stomach three more times.
then ride with me into the sun,
forget your plans,
and forget you already have someone

cause grace bestows the morning light,
upon the grace of those who choose,
to live a life, with absolutely nothing to lose.

so sock me in the stomach three more times,
sock me in the stomach three more times,
then walk away and forget, forget, and act just fine.

i think that i'm gonna head for the ocean,
i think that i'm gonna head for the ocean,
and forget, and forget, and forget (i lost you)

so take your ideas of autumn in california,
and leave me with my hopes of what could’ve, should’ve happened,
and don’t care about my dreams
cause nothing is ever what it seems,

so eat your words and drink your lines,
and toast to love and all the good times,
and bless the chase that brought out the best in you,
but the worst in me,
the best in you,
and a few good songs.

then you sock me in the stomach three more times,
you sock me in the stomach three more times,
and walk away and forget, and forget, then act just fine.

i think that i'm gonna head for the ocean,
think that i'm gonna head for the ocean,
and forget, and forget, and forget

cause i don’t want to ruin what you have,
if you're happy that's the plan,
so i guess it comes to you never knowing
how in love with you i am,
and i don’t want to ruin what you have,
cause if you're happy that's the plan,
so i guess it comes to you never knowing
how completely in love i am,

so take your ideas of autumn in california,
and leave me with my hopes of what could’ve, should’ve happened,
and don’t care about my dreams
no nothing is ever what it seems,

I read it. I said it. I stole my momma’s credit. Yeah I’m cool. I’m hot. Sock me in the stomach three more times.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

TWC Featured Question: What Does a Gay Christian Look Like?

Our next featured question over at our Two World Collision Collaborative Community site is:

"What does a gay Christian look like?"

Instead of a written explanation, I'm interested in seeing this question answered visually. Share your photos of a service project or worship service or anything that shows a gay person living out a lifestyle of faith.

Go here to to answer the featured question.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Journey Christians: Beyond the Side A/B/X Framework

I've often said that we are not alone. Along my own journey, I've been blessed to have encountered straight Christians who have been supportive of my story. That doesn't necessarily mean that they all believed that being gay is or is not a sin. Just that they've all been supportive. As my friend Andy often says, there's a difference between validating a person's experiences (by acknowledging them) and affirming a person's belief system (by sharing them).

If we're ever to elevate the conversation beyond the politics of our differences, we need an alternative space for conservative/traditional straight Christians to be able to walk with us who are either not straight or not conservative or not traditional . . . .

I still maintain that the Side X culture and ex-gay programs do more harm than good. They communicate the mixed message of God's unconditional love with the Church's conditional acceptance, and the historical result of such a culture is that it traumatizes individuals into a closet of shame and secrecy (and suicide) and has left many in its wake feeling spiritually abused. I believe that the Side X culture and ex-gay programs attack our self-esteem, self-image, self-confidence, and self-worth.

[Click here if you are unfamiliar with my use of the Side A, Side B, Side X Spectrum of Perspectives.]

I respect that many of us have a difference of perspective, opinion, and interpretation regarding the issue of faith and sexuality. That's okay. I think the Church needs to learn how to disagree with itself. My pal Ryan and I developed the term "swervemat" to describe "a learning space where one explores various viewpoints of a relevant subject in order to gain perspective."

But what alternative is there for straight Christians who lean more on the Side X part of the spectrum and can't exactly affirm a Side A or Side B stance on the issue but at the same time recognize that the broader Church needs to get away from the terrorism of Side X?

I've come to realize more and more that there are straight and gay Christians who are what I call "Journey Christians". These are believers who don't primarily use the Side A, Side B, Side X framework. For these Journey Christians, they engage in relationships without the lens of sin/not sin. They interact on a completely different plane and paradigm where a person's viewpoint about the issue of being gay and being Christian is less relevant than the fact that every person is worth knowing. And so they are willing to walk with others along the journey of their lives without precondition of purity or shared perspective.

It seems too simplistic for some "Side - ?" Christians to accept that these Journey Christians are simply building relationships on love. It sounds almost too intangible. But the fact remains that they live out the truth of our common faith in Christ with a consistent message of both unconditional love from God and an unconditional acceptance from God's people. They leave the judging to the Judge because they realize that condemning another individual of whom Christ died for is way above their pay grade. As believers, it's simply not our place to do such a thing.

All of us have been charged to love God and to love one another (the Greatest commandments) and then also show others to do the same (the Great Commission). So where ever any of us land on the spectrum of perspectives, it really doesn't matter in light of the fact that we are to engage in authentic relationships that are shaped not by our opinions on issues but rather shaped by our love.

That doesn't seem so hard. What does this look like?

1. Give each other the freedom to journey with God.

We need to keep pointing each other to Christ and get out of the way. We need to restrain ourselves from molding someone into the image of what we think they should be. We need to learn how to walk with one another without telling each other what to do. If we point people to the Counselor, instead of arrogantly counseling them with our own answers, then we more effectively disciple one another how to nurture our direct communication with God. That's more important than simply providing a temporary seemingly good answer. It's better for us to encourage each other to present God with our questions than to seek our friends for the answers. Let go. Trust Jesus enough to talk to His own.

2. Be willing to journey with each other.

Relationships take investment - of time, of energy, of heart. Our challenge is to love beyond our surface interactions and to explore what it looks like to walk through life with one another. Celebrate in each other's joys. Can it be enough for me to be happy that you are happy without the precondition of me agreeing with what you're happy about? Let's support a family member or friend in the things that they are excited about. On the flip side, grieve in each other's sorrows. Life isn't always about celebration. It's a struggle too! Let's share in each other's disappointments. Walking with each other through life means communicating through our actions that we are not alone.

3. Love without agenda.

We are the Church. And as the Church, we are to live a lifestyle of faith beyond the box of our religious routines. Let's explore ways of expressing tangible love. This could include hugging someone or putting your hand on someone's shoulder as they "come out" to you. Show the person tangibly that they are not unclean and that you are not afraid to touch them. Let them know that Christ loves them and that they are worthy to approach God with their questions. Encourage them to invite our Lord into their process. Just love without a (straight/Christian) conversion agenda. Tangible love builds relationship.

4. Subject ourselves to our own mirror

We need to stop looking at what we think is wrong in others and love them without precondition. We can remain humble by continually examining ourselves for correction instead of "lovingly" telling others what they need to correct. I can hardly see your sin because my own huge sin is blocking my view.

5. Experience empathy not pity

There is much hurt in the gay/gay Christian community. If we are to walk with one another, gay or straight, we need to empathize with each other's stories. We need to share in the painful experiences of others so that we can love more sincerely. For too long, the words and actions of God's people has caused hurt in already fragile people and has forced God's loved ones emotionally and spiritually farther away from Him. Cry when I cry. Get mad when I get mad. Show me that you'd rather be on my side instead of a Side A/B/X. It's personal. So get personal. Stand up for me. Don't tolerate it when someone else dehumanizes me. Remind me that Christ's love gives me human dignity. Then model it.

These are some tangible ways that Journey Christians can function above and beyond the Side A/B/X framework. Something has to change. We cannot continue this cyclical war of perspectives within the Church because it is hindering our effectiveness in being a witness of God's love. We cannot continue the Side X culture that communicates an inconsistent message of love. We have to shift the cultural paradigm of the broader Church to one that centers on our common faith in Christ and respects the individual faith journeys of all Christ's believers.

There is a better Way.

Go to to see a community of Journey Christians.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to announce our new domain for our collaborative community web site that we launched last week. So now, you can go to:

From there, you can have a member profile and connect with others, participate in the discussion forum, advertise your blog, post your own articles, or share web sites, links, and resources that you have found useful for your own journey. Our TWC collaborative community is a place where we all contribute and share parts of our journeys together so that we can encourage more and more people out there that none of us are alone.

Once you're there, be sure to get a member login, then invite your friends! You can even email specific pages to friends too!

I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

TWC Featured Question: Being in the Closet

We've got a featured question over at our Two World Collision Collaborative Community site. Go on over and share your experiences!

"What are some ways that being in the closet (either now or in the past) has affected the decisions you make now?"

Go here to answer the question or read other responses.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New TWC Collaborative Community

Three years and four months ago I started Two World Collision to chronicle my journey of reconciling my faith and sexuality. At first I was anonymous and was able to process my raw thoughts about questions and answers, sex and relationships, love and lust, sin and biblical interpretation, the spectrum of perspectives, my paradigm of Church, community and vision.

Along the way my journey towards Christ evolved from seeking clarity to seeking authenticity. In walking with Jesus, I found the peace of God's love and was able to find a cohesion of my two worlds - exploring what it looks like to live a vibrant faith and a healthy sexuality. I say that not in the context that I have achieved those two things, but rather that my direction is shaped by my desire for both those two things.

I still have a lot to learn.

I've had the opportunity to share my story in a variety of ways besides this blog. I've written my story in narrative form. I've told my story through audio podcast interviews. I've shared my story in newspaper publications and magazines. I've given my story on Youtube video. I've contributed my story on other web sites. I've even shared my story at public events (which I'm hoping to do more!). I'm currently working on sharing my story in a series of three books (stay tuned and pray for me in that please).

But along the way of sharing my story more and more openly and authentically, I've encountered so many friends on this same path with Christ. We've discovered that we are not alone.

For some time now, I've wanted to make a shift here at Two World Collision from me telling my story to you telling your story. I've been humbled to have received emails from around the world these past three years from people who have read my blog, cried, related, and reached out to me. It's been amazing to see what God has done through this. I've also encountered fellow bloggers who are also sharing their story. We all have a story. We all can find some parts of someone else's story that we can relate with. I think it's important for people out there to realize that there are people like you and I who have reconciled our faith and sexuality or that there are others on a similar journey. There are too many of us that feel alone.

So I decided to establish a space for us to build a sense of community with fellow sojourners. Alas, I am proud to announce the evolution of the Two World Collision blog to the Two World Collision Collaborative Community. It's a web site where we all help shape. Each of us contributes content to it - our stories, our blogs, our videos, our artwork, our research, our reviews and anything else we have found helpful for our own journeys so that we can pass it along to help someone else's journey. It's also a place where we can talk through discussion boards, connect with others through their profiles, and share photos.

Don't worry, I'll still have this blog to process my own thoughts and share vision.

So go ahead! Get on over to "our" space at!

And be sure to use the "Invite" to tell your friends to join us too!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Elevating The Conversation

People are talking. People are shouting. People are texting. People are blogging. People are facebooking. People are YouTubing.

We are all experiencing our own reactions after last week's passing of Proposition 8 in California ranging from anger, outrage, sadness, fatigue, frustration and motivation. And we're all trying to find ways of processing what's happened - of appreciating the gravity of what has happened. What seemed to be such a loss for us, having one of our constitutional rights eliminated from us by 52% of voters, is proving to be a catalyst for an unstoppable grassroots organic movement for Marriage Equality.

The conversation is happening and the seeds for bridge building are being planted.

The nation is entering a sort of Hot Zone - "that place of conversation where the issue of gays and family are no longer the taboo subject". The fabulous pink elephant has burst its way out of the closet and into national attention and it's forcing people to finally consider the question that they previously preferred never to think or talk about:

Should my gay neighbor, friend, or family member have the right to marry whomever they choose despite my own beliefs about marriage?

We have been called to mobilize in order to advance the conversation. We have been called to gather in order to elevate the conversation . . . .

There needs to be systemic change and a cultural shift in our society. As we advance the conversation in every household asking our neighbors to hear us, consider us, and to empathize with us, in our lifetime we will see the American experiment of liberty prove itself faithful to its citizens once again.

Once it was clear that Prop 8 passed, protests of hundreds and thousands each erupted almost daily throughout the state of California immediately after the election. And now the first nation wide and global response has arrived,
6 months after the California Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to have two "separate but equal" designations for relationships. Today, Saturday, November 15, 2008 at City Halls in every state throughout the country, as well as in other countries around the world (Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Japan, The Netherlands, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and the UK), we come together for a simultaneous protest against Prop 8 and in support of our neighbors. Go to Join The Impact here.

While 52% of voters chose to approve of it, the world continues to rally together to say, "what the hell were you thinking?"

So let's get our heads out of the sand and have some much needed conversation. Advancing the conversation brings it to the forefront. Elevating the conversation changes the impact.

On one front, political activists and organizers are working together to advance the conversation - to bring the issue to national attention. On another front, the relational catalysts are working together to elevate the conversation - to build bridges between communities that disagree so that a productive and safe dialogue can emerge - the kind that will end this war.

Now more than ever do we need to elevate the conversation within the broader Church regarding GLBT individuals in our congregations and in our communities. I am part of a Coalition of Bridge Builders that is facilitating a safe and productive dialogue between those who are both conservative (traditional) and inclusive (accepting) on this issue.

For the last two months, we started with two round table discussions with pastors and leaders from both the conservative and inclusive groups. (Read about the September session here and the October session here.) We discovered that there is a common willingness to stay in the conversation, and even further, to attempt to elevate the conversation beyond the politics of our differences.

These are some very good initial steps considering it began during the YES/NO campaigns for/against Prop 8 before the election, and now we're trying to figure out how to encourage people to stay in the conversation after the election - raw emotions and all!

We realize that both groups need a preparatory process in order to get to a point of being ready to engage in a safe and productive dialogue with each other. We are honoring this process by being patient with it - allowing time for trust and relationship to build within each group, then to begin to build trust and relationship with the other group.

We're using this bridge building framework to elevate the conversation:

1. Common Ground - shifting our focus towards the things that we do have in common.

2. Common Grace - meeting together in a space of humility and the Greatest Commandments - to love God and one another.

3. Common Purpose - working for the same mission, the Great Commission of making disciples of Christ and his love.

This conversation is not debate. On the contrary, I believe that if we can reframe this controversial issue, then we can elevate the conversation to something safe and productive.

While the national and global protest happens simultaneously today at City Halls around the nation and world, the Coalition of Bridge Builders will be doing our part by having a day of two follow up events. The first, during the morning and afternoon (as the protests happen) the conservative group of pastors, leaders and lay leaders will come together for an event called "Elevating the Conversation" that will help them to reframe the way they approach GLBT folks in their ministry context.

It is during this time, after lunch, when I will have the opportunity to share my story and journey of being both gay and Christian with about 60 conservative church leaders (who likely voted Yes on Prop 8), and then field their questions (or dodge their stones). Yikes!

My heart would really love to be at City Hall here in my city of Long Beach, CA along with the rest of my brothers and sisters around the world speaking out in protest. But at the same time, my spirit tells me that I'm needed elsewhere for a different role with my other brothers and sisters of the faith to hopefully catalyze a sense of empathy for our stories and lives. So on two fronts, we cry out for dignity, demand justice, and ask that our sibling rivalry come to an end.

Our second follow up event will come this evening for a dinner gathering of inclusive pastors, leaders and lay leaders. This will be an opportunity of building relationship and trust among other like-minded people who share the hurt and anger and excitement for the times we are currently in. Our goal in this fellowship is that each leader would choose to be willing to stay in the conversation and not to detach because of the hurt. We are a community wounded by our spiritual brethren, and it's all too easy for us to check out.

The reason why I am staying in the conversation (besides the fact that God is prompting me to) is the realization that if no one is in conversation, then nothing changes in the church. In order for any kind of bridge building to take place, both sides of that bridge need to be present. We have to be present so that we can make sure our hurt is acknowledged, our stories are heard, and our witness of God in our lives is undeniable.

Whether building bridges with church leaders, your neighbors, your family members, your co-workers, or anyone else in the community of whom you disagree with, will you stay in the conversation?

This war must end.

I see a two-pronged approach to ending these battles that have been leaving too many casualties behind. Together, political activists and organizers who are working to advance the conversation so that the issue can be brought to the forefront, and also relational catalysts who are working to elevate the conversation so that the issue can be reframed in a way that leads to safe and productive dialogue.

The trust for each other and those at the other end of the table is a gradual process that will be earned and given in time. However, we all trust God - that at the end of the day, He's very much concerned with bringing unity within His Church.

Just like the Marriage Equality Movement is advancing across the country because of California's successful mobilization, our bridge building efforts to facilitate this dialogue here, will advance among churches across the country.

We just need to show them that it's possible.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Approaching Relationships With Intentionality

These are some of my friends. I love them.

They are unique and diverse, all full of talents and skills, beautiful both inside and out. This photo represents only a snapshot into several of my various communities of friends. People in this photo are young and old, male and female and transgender, single and coupled, latino, black, white, asian, pacific islander, gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, doctor, college grads, students, high school grads, multi-lingual, ESL, and of varying faith backgrounds. We are quite a hodge podge of diverse friends!

We were all gathered last night for dinner, celebrating my birthday. And so I took the opportunity to share my heart with them. (Keep reading further in this post to watch the video of that talk!)

There's been a lot going on in California lately and I've been excited to be a part of it with many of my friends. Many of us have been part of rallies, marches, phone banks, and volunteers to oppose the passing of Prop 8. It's personal for us because it's OUR rights that have been taken away from us or it's our LOVED ONES rights that have been taken away from them.

I've said before that I consider myself more of a relational catalyst than a political activist. The difference? In my view, a relational catalyst takes an organic approach to building bridges within a community by inspiring the development of meaningful relationships for the purpose of building a relational infrastructure within that community. In my view, a political activist takes a grassroots community organizing approach to rallying and mobilizing a community around a worthwhile cause.

I believe that both are essential to shifting our culture . . . .

The political activists and organizers work to affect the "power structures" that govern law and religion while using a unified arm of people to build national awareness and support and to confront opposition. The relational catalysts work to affect the "people structures" that comprise our communities, neighborhoods, and families while developing tangible relationships and connections between individuals across a region. Both kinds of people, the activists and the catalysts, work in tandem to shift paradigms, hearts, and attitudes. A person might be one or the other or both! And when we experience the collision of world views as we've seen between those who believe all people, gay and straight, have the equal right to marry versus those who believe that only straight people have the right to use the term marriage, the resulting clash brings intense hurt and anger - and in many cases irrationality.

As we're seeing the Marriage Equality Movement advancing forward to draw national attention, catalyzed by the passing of Prop 8 eliminating the rights of California's citizens, we are without a doubt witnessing history being written before our very eyes. In the past, we had the benefit of hindsight and history to teach us what sacrifices and advances had been made before us. However, as witnesses to current events, we have the unique opportunity of helping to shape the outcome.

In 2000, a similar initiative in California (Prop 22) banning same-sex marriage was approved and passed with 61% to 39%. Now, 8 years later Prop 8 passes barely with 52% to 48%. That's a huge indication of the shifting views in California culture - along with the mobilizing capabilities of organizers and advocates and allies. There are more and more people who are supporting equal rights for all people. The interesting thing to note is that seeing as how straight people are the majority, that means statistically most of that 48% who voted against Prop 8 were straight. There are millions of straight people who support us. The work of political activists and of relational catalysts, together, can help tip the scale in favor of equality the next time the public is asked to vote.

It does take some intentionality.

Right now, there are efforts to organize across the country to demonstrate peacefully against discrimination. You can be a part of it by passing the word along, going to rallies, marches and events, signing petitions, writing to elected officials, and speaking out to let your voice be heard.

But as a relational catalyst, what can you do?

Yesterday was my birthday and to celebrate I invited friends from several social circles that I'm connected with for a dinner at a restaurant. So I took the opportunity to share with them what I call the "Fabulous 5" things that they can do to approach their friendships with intentionality by being a relational catalyst. Here's the video of that talk:

The "Fabulous 5" to Being a Relational Catalyst:

1. Invest in 5 people not like you - build relationships with people who are different than you so that you can mutually learn from each other, hear each others stories, and begin to empathize with each others experiences.

2. Participate in neighborly service - identify a need that your neighbor has and serve that need by helping to fill it. You can also volunteer with community organizations. Mow your neighbor's lawn. Prepare a meal for an elderly or pregnant neighbor. Help pick up trash at the beach. Help build a home. This will help people to see that we are nothing to be afraid of. Rather, we are their fellow neighbors that can support them when they are in need.

3. Partner with other people who share your passion - find others who care about what you care about, then collaborate together to make a difference! Do you care about Marriage Equality, cancer, Substance abuse among teenagers, suicide prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention & education, or some other cause? I believe that we can do more together than we can separate. So find those who share your passion or cause and do it together.

4. Facilitate introductions - provide opportunities to introduce the new people that you are meeting with your broader group of friends. Let them connect with each other. Host a dinner party, plan an outdoors event, get a group of people together for a movie or a show.

5. Cast vision - speak into the relationships in your life and inspire people with a vision of community, collaboration and citizenship. Show people how they can connect with the people in their world and how they can affect their community together. Inspire them to be a relational catalyst.

The "Fabulous 5" are things that you can do over the next year to approach your friendships with intentionality and to help build a relational infrastructure throughout our community. Not only do we gain meaningful relationships, but when it comes time for the activists to call on us to mobilize, there will be more of us (catalysts and our relationships) in the community who can respond.

Are you on Facebook and haven't added me as a friend yet? Add me here!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Snatched and Gay Bashed

STATE MEASURE - PROPOSITION 8: ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME-SEX COUPLES TO MARRY. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Changes California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. Provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Fiscal Impact: Over the next few years, potential revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments. In the long run, likely little fiscal impact on state or local governments.

It was surreal. I stood in the voting booth reading this ballot measure that put to a vote whether or not people approved the stripping of one of my constitutional rights. Articulated the way it was, I was sure that people would read it and be appalled at such a prospect. That in the year 2008, an American society would again allow the bullying and degradation of a minority group because they are different and have a different opinion about something. I was wrong.

YES - 52% NO - 48%

Perhaps many in the straight evangelical conservative sect of our Father's Church felt justified in leading such a charge in their self-righteous call to protect not families but their pharisaical traditional perspective at the expense of demoralizing and literally "invalidating" their neighbors.

They shall be accountable to God.

There is much hurt and anger that many of us are processing - both gay and straight. This wasn't just something that we were wanting and were told No. Rather, this was a Constitutional right that we already had and was taken away from us. Snatched and gay bashed. Ori and Rom Brafman in their book called SWAY say, "We experience the pain associated with a loss much more vividly than we do the joy of experiencing a gain."

I do feel robbed!

The thing that has been pissing me off, though, is the complete lack of empathy that I've been perceiving from those who approved of the discriminatory Constitutional amendment. The hypocrisy is unbelievable! One of my pet peeves is when someone projects the very stupid things that they themselves are doing but then accuse the "other side" of doing those stupid things. Seriously, I hate that! It's like....dude, take a look in the mirror - the thing you're complaining about, that's what YOU are doing!

It's like there's a proud haughtiness from people who minimize the pain they've contributed to in their neighbors by calling opponents to the Proposition "poor losers" when we rally to express our anger or move to appeal to the supreme court. Well hell, that's what the court is for! To step in when the majority continues to treat "fellow Californians" like second-class citizens.

Who knows how far the organizers and activists and lawyers will get with the courts. But I shall appeal to God. I ask that He would hear the cries of His people. I ask for His vindication and justice to prevail. I ask that He would intervene. I ask that He convict the hearts of those who have set such a poor example of love - those who hide behind their tradition as an excuse to close their eyes and ears and hearts and common sense from acknowledging the human dignity afforded to all people by God - and this country. Supposedly.

So yeah, I'm pissed. And right now I'm going to allow myself to be angry and to grieve and to vent so that I can appreciate the gravity of what's happened. I'm choosing to allow myself this time and this space, for now, so that then I can move on and move forward with the much needed task of bridge building, healing, forgiving, and vision-casting.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

With Liberty and Justice For All

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all."

I've always considered myself patriotic. I was never directly involved in politics because I feel my approach to change is different - less activist and more catalytic, relationally. That, plus the divisiveness of politics - the constant collision of world paradigms always turned me off. And so I'd always tune out.

This year, though, I have never been as interested in politics as I am now. It has, in large part, to do with the inspirational presence of Barack Obama. I've never held a loyalty to a political party - but I do believe our country needs a leader who can cast vision for us, to not simply be a better world power (as the arrogant Americans we are sometimes accused of being around the world) but a call on each of us as world citizens to be better neighbors.

The upcoming election next week is relevant to me. I suppose that's why I'm so interested. The next president will shape the course of our country and we are in desperate need for a positive change. The morale of the country depends on it. But in addition to the presidency, California has the opportunity to demonstrate what it looks like to be better neighbors - to say NO to Proposition 8 and to affirm dignity and respect for all people equally . . . .

On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled (effective a month later) that it is unconstitutional to have two "separate but equal" designations - "marriage" for straights and "domestic partnerships" for gays. The court said, "We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples." (Click here for a copy of the ruling.)

Prop 8 would eliminate from me a basic fundamental constitutional right to marry the person I choose to share my life with - a right that I currently have, finally. How would a woman feel if next week her right to vote were rescinded? How would a black man feel if next week his right to marry a white woman were rescinded? How ridiculous and backwards would that be? We all deserve equal dignity and respect - the court says "separate but equal" is unconstitutional. Prop 8 disagrees and so is trying to change the constitution to justify and legalize discriminatory segregation.

Gosh, that's why this is so relevant to me. Because it's about my rights as a citizen. It's about our rights and the kind of society we want to live in. See, here's the thing . . . when I was in the closet, I felt like I wasn't worth being known. I thought that being gay was a terrible thing and that it was something to be ashamed of. The closet does terrible things to a person's self-image and self-esteem. So to be affirmed dignity and respect as a gay man repairs much of the harm and hurt caused by a society that has a history of discriminating against minorities for not "being" like everyone else.

While having lunch at Subway after church service, a man with his two teenage kids asked me to educate them about Prop 8. (I was wearing a button). So I pulled up a chair and we talked about the fact that all people, gay or straight, currently have the equal right to marry in California and that Prop 8 would eliminate that right for gays and lesbians. He was confused by the double negative phrasing surrounding it and so I explained to them that since Prop 8 would take away our rights, we should vote NO. It was cool to see that even his kids agreed without any prompting from their dad. It was good to see that this father was raising his family to respect all people equally.

I've been proud lately.

I've been proud of my city when the Long Beach City Council unanimously voted on October 17, 2006 for a resolution in support of marriage equality and even further urged state and federal law makers to support marriage equality. (Click here for a copy of the resolution).

I've been proud of my family who have supported me in coming out. They also support and show love towards my niece who came out earlier this year. She even went to prom with her girlfriend! She rocks! One day she'll feel that she's ready to be married. It may even be with another girl. She currently has that right. Prop 8 would take that right away from her. Yes, this issue is personal for me. Mess with me, we'll talk about it. Mess with my niece and my family, oh heck no! The gloves come off!

I've been proud of my employer (for my day-job) for keeping a non-discrimination policy towards anyone including gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered individuals. In fact, we are a local association of the broader California Teachers Association (with over 350,000 member teachers statewide) that has historically taken a stance for human rights and equality. The CTA has officially taken a NO position on Prop 8. (Read about it here). I'm also proud of them for backing it up with action by supporting the No on 8 campaign. I know they are getting a lot of flack for their financial support (even by other teachers), but I'm proud of them for not backing down for what's right.

I've been proud of my friends John & Russ and Susan & Jen who each affirmed their love and commitment for each other by getting married, legally.

I've been proud of my good friend Becky who just married a good guy named Bret (pictured above). Becky is a strong "ally" of ours ("friend of the Family") and has ALWAYS had a heart for the GLBT community. She lives this passion out in her personal advocacy, her fundraising for triathlons (she competed at the Gay Games in Chicago for team HRC), and she even has a rainbow fish (gay christian) sticker on her car which she has even had slurs and discriminatory comments from people thinking she's gay. Man, i'm so proud of Becky! Plus, I even had the honor of being a groomsman in her wedding last weekend in Florida. Soooo much fun, by the way!

I've been proud of my friend "Angel", a blogger mom friend who I connected with two years ago. She and her family live in Florida and I got to reconnect with her and her husband over lunch while I was there for Becky's wedding. Angel is another ally and friend of the Family. I was super excited to hear about her daughter who is totally advocating for GLBT folks to her classmates. She rocks! I'm proud to know Angel and her husband as a couple raising their kids to love people with dignity and respect.

I've been proud of Barack Obama and Joe Biden who despite their position against gay marriage (you know, politics), they are still very much in favor of civil rights for the GLBT community. Joe Biden was on the Ellen show and stated that he and Barack OPPOSE Prop 8 and other similar national attempts to limit marriage and rights. (Watch the short video clip here).

I've also been proud of many of my friends who are getting involved in the process - anywhere from attending No on 8 events, to wearing buttons, to phone banking, to volunteering in various ways.

And at the same time, I've been highly disappointed in pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback Church who posted a video pretty much claiming that real Christians would support Prop 8 (and should vote Yes) arguing that (according to him) only 2% of the population is gay or lesbian. Perhaps in his small tight-fitting box (that barely even God can fit in) there are only 2% of the people in "his world" that are gay or lesbian but our nation is supposed to defend the rights of the minority, not take away rights because they are insignificant in numbers or because they have differing views. Everyone counts. Rick Warren may refuse to grant people like me dignity, but the Lord has already granted me dignity and the California Supreme Court has as well. In my opinion, what Rick Warren said was unChristian and unAmerican.

I know that this is a divisive issue in our country. But we have before us the history books being written right before our eyes. California can be the first state in the union to vote down an attempt to amend their constitution in order to justify and legalize discrimination of gays and lesbians. Our Supreme Court says that it's wrong to designate a separate class of people and to treat them differently. Domestic partnership is not marriage and "separate but equal" is unconstitutional. It's wrong to do it to blacks. It's wrong to do it to women. And it's wrong to do it to gays and lesbians.

Let's keep moving forward by preserving our rights, not taking them away. After all, we all deserve to live "with liberty and justice for all."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Inclusive Pastors Round Table

It's clear to me that both groups of conservative pastors and inclusive pastors are in very different places when it comes to the prospect of coming together at the same table to have a productive and safe dialogue regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals within our community.

We anticipated that though. I mentioned last month that I'm part of a Coalition of Bridge-Builders who are trying to facilitate this dialogue within the Hot Zone - "that place of conversation where the issue of faith and sexuality and God are no longer the taboo subject". Last month, the conservative group got together for their initial discussion. A couple days ago, the inclusive group got together for their initial discussion.

Both groups have their own baggage and so very different preparatory conversations need to happen within each group first before each can be ready to sit down with the other. The conservative group needs to grasp the concept of grace, responsibility, and empathy towards a community that has felt hurt by certain churches and church people. The inclusive group needs to wrestle with the anger and pain that they and many of their friends and congregants experienced from conservative church leaders. Both groups need to assess their willingness to come to the table under a common bridge-building framework. And that's what we hoped to do in the first initial round table discussions with both groups . . . .

The round table discussion with the inclusive pastors and leaders went very well. I had the honor of facilitating the discussion. It was a great opportunity for them to meet each other or reconnect. The group was comprised of mostly senior pastors who were gay or lesbian, other leaders representing organizations, and also the Coalition team members - some of whom are straight and represent the traditional conservative perspective about "the issue" but remain open to the dialogue.

Through lunch, we had each person share what they've witnessed God doing among their congregation and community so that we could possibly see a common trend of what God was doing in the region. We discovered three common trends of God's movement:

1. Conversation - these leaders are reporting that more and more people are wanting to engage in conversation or are open to the conversation regarding faith and sexuality. These included GLBT people, gay Christians, straight Christians, and even straight non-Christians. People are talking.

2. Growth and Activity for the Kingdom - despite what others in conservative spheres assume about the GLBT community and the darkness that prevails, these leaders are reporting about the wonderful things that God is doing in their ministries. It was clear that God's light was shining through many GLBT individuals in the community. Imagine that! God was using GLBT people to be a blessing to their communities!

3. Shift - these leaders are reporting that there are increasing numbers of straight people who are becoming more welcoming of gays and lesbians. Leaders are seeing the demographics of their congregations change to include a more diverse representation of gays and straights.

I think that observing these three common trends simply based on listening to those present is very exciting! Imagine how much more God is at work within the GLBT community!

After everyone shared, we took some time to share the vision and purpose of the Coalition and about the productive and safe dialogue that we are trying to facilitate within the broader Church. We talked about last month's initial round table discussion with the conservative pastors and shared the feedback we were getting from them. In a nutshell, there are those from that group that are willing to continue the conversation.

That has got to be encouraging! Granted, the conservative group is taking baby steps towards being ready for a productive and safe dialogue with gay Christians, but these steps forward are worth celebrating. Just like we had a lesbian share her story of faith with the conservative group for the purpose of helping to expand their perspective, we also had some straight conservative leaders share their story of faith and why they are willing to engage in this conversation. The goal was to build empathy within both groups for the other.

This is still going to be a process.

During much of the discussion, it was really interesting to see and hear where various people were at. Some are cautious and apprehensive about interacting with straight evangelicals. Some are prayerfully discerning about the prospect. Some are open and ready to engage in dialogue with the conservative group. But it was a very dynamic round table discussion!

We spent some time taking a look at some of the preliminary results from The Marin Foundation's national survey on "Religious Acculturation within the GLBT Community" - the same stuff that we shared with the conservative group last month - and we took a look at how the data could enhance all of our ministry approaches to the GLBT community.

We introduced the initial bridge-building framework with them and sought their feedback. With minor additions for consideration, everyone pretty much affirmed that it was a good framework. More importantly, they expressed a willingness to talk at the same table with other willing conservative pastors within this common bridge-building framework.

We now intend to introduce this framework to the conservative group, seek their feedback on it, and to assess who among them would be willing to talk at the same table with other willing inclusive pastors. The next set of follow-up events will be on November 15, 2008 - during the day, there will be a day-long training and discussion geared for the conservative group of pastors and leaders called "Elevating the Conversation"; during the evening, there will be a banquet dinner to provide inclusive pastors and leaders an opportunity to continue getting to know one another. Both follow-up events will be open to either group to attend.

As a result of our round table discussion with inclusive pastors, we won't be planning a combined round table discussion with the conservative pastors in January. The consensus of the group was that they wanted more time to get to know one another, to build trust, and to continue the discussions that were started.

I think this is exciting because in the process of getting ready to meet with the conservative group, this inclusive group can continue to support one another while also connecting with more and more inclusive pastors and leaders. So they'll build bridges within our own inclusive community while concurrently preparing for that productive and safe dialogue with the conservative group. So I see multiple levels of bridge building taking place and many opportunities for connection and support.

At the end of the day, I'd consider this round table session with the inclusive pastors and leaders a success because we were able to assess those who were willing to stay in the conversation. Hopefully, we'll be able to continue working with both groups of willing pastors and leaders so that we can eventually bring the two together - not with the intention of either group changing the other, but with the express purpose of elevating the conversation.

The Coalition would like to thank Hot Java (a popular gay-owned coffee shop in Long Beach where we purchased the panini sandwiches for lunch) for generously providing all of the drinks for our round table discussion. They don't seem to have a web site up, but if you're ever in the LB area, check them out on the corner of Junipero & Broadway at 2105 E. Broadway, Long Beach, CA 90803.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Coalition of Bridge Builders

Another big collaborative project that I've been working on the past several months doesn't have an official name but the phrase I've been using to describe us is that we are a coalition of bridge builders. The team is comprised of my friends Dr. Becky Kuhn (Global Lifeworks), Andy Marin (The Marin Foundation), John Lewis (Urban Youth Workers Institute), Ed Salas (Newsong Church), Brad Fieldhouse (Kingdom Causes) and also myself (Catalyst Community). We're all bridge building organizations and so the vision of the Coalition is to see the broader Church engage in a productive and safe dialogue regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals within our community.

This means that we are trying to build a bridge between the pastors of conservative churches and the pastors of inclusive churches, help each group to find common ground, and help create a space of conversation that helps us all share Christ's light and love for all people. (Side note: the link to GCN isn't meant as an official endorsement of the Coalition's work (though Justin does support what we're doing!) - its just that I'm using GCN's mission statement a lot in my every day language because I believe in GCN's mission so much that I think it should rightly be applied as a lifestyle in every context. Anyway, just giving proper credit.)

So anyway, back to the Coalition.

In this collaborative project, at times I feel like I am undertaking one of THE most difficult tasks the Lord has called me to do. He's told me to step, and I've stepped, but for me, it's really scary at times . . . .

I have my own baggage and hurts from the conservative Church and I'm dealing with a slew of emotions in this collaborative project - from hurt to resentment to bitterness to gratitude to excitement to hope. There are times when I fight back the tears because there's still much grieving to be done that I never allowed myself to go through back then. I just got busy with new vision and began the new work moving forward and following God, but the reality is that there is still pain deep down from when I was in the closet, being in the Side X culture, and even being patronized and rejected by people within the organization that I helped start.


Ya know, I've been great since coming out, feeling free to be authentic and all. I'm cool. But when the pain resurfaces, it's as if I'm in the closet again and I feel silenced. I'm not at all saying that the Coalition silences me - they do the opposite. I'm just saying that my participation in the Coalition is exciting while also requiring a great deal of emotional energy because I'm experiencing the silencing pain and at the same time being intentional about speaking up. There's a lot of internal wrestling going on while I'm at the table. Not only do I want to ensure that what we're doing is safe for inclusive pastors and other gay Christians, but I want to make sure that it's safe for me as well!

It's not easy to ask someone who has felt abused to be in the same room with those he/she perceives to be the abuser. That's what we're potentially asking inclusive pastors and gay Christians to do in coming to the table with conservative pastors and potentially Side X straight Christians.

That said, the Coalition has been great to me. The team have all shown me respect, patience in my need to build trust, and they have honored my contributions to what we're doing. I am honored to be at the table helping to shape what this Coalition looks like. And despite the stuff going on inside me in order to be at the table, I know that this is the very thing that God has been preparing me for and calling me to.

Here we are, in the Hot Zone - "that place of conversation where the issue of faith and sexuality and God are no longer the taboo subject".

To any of our knowledge, no where else is anyone trying to do what we're trying to do. In other places, there are Side A folks bent on changing Side B folks. There are Side X folks bent on changing Side A folks. But we haven't seen anyone else trying to bring the two groups of conservative pastors and the inclusive pastors together in the same room to talk about the issue that is dividing the Church globally while not having an agenda of one group changing the other group's mind. The difficult thing for our core team is to sift through all the complexities of both groups and trying to find a framework for a productive and safe dialogue for those two groups.

This past Wednesday, the Coalition had our very first event. It was a round table lunch discussion with pastors and leaders from conservative churches. The goal was to help share with them a new perspective regarding the GLBT community, give them an opportunity to share with each other about the GLBT concerns/issues that they are experiencing or are concerned about in their own ministries, and to introduce them to a bridge building framework so that eventually this group could engage in that productive and safe dialogue with the inclusive pastors and the gay Christian community.

The Coalition's bridge building approach is to also have a round table lunch discussion with pastors and leaders from inclusive churches. This will take place on October 8, 2008. The discussion will be similar in that we'll introduce them to the same bridge building framework that the conservative pastors and leaders heard. But we'll also give them an opportunity to share with each other about concerns that they may have for even trying to meet half way with the conservative group.

Our goal with both groups is to facilitate introductions so that they can begin to build trust. As trust develops, we'll bring them together - not to change each other, but rather to hear each other. This will take a process.

So the Wednesday round table event with the conservative group went well. Andy did a great job with sharing research results from his organization's national study on "Religious Acculturation within the GLBT Community". (In fact, to participate in the study, go here.) He was also the one to share the bridge building framework with the group. We then had someone share a personal story (honoring confidentiality here, but the person did an amazing job) to help give this conservative group a new perspective to consider.

While the event itself went well, all in all, internally I think I did fairly well too. I found myself fearful and silent at times. There were other times when I openly talked about my journey. And then there were other times where I intentionally left out details about my being a gay Christian and left it ambiguous because, well, the point of it all was that it didn't/shouldn't matter.

I spoke to someone who was clearly Side X and was not budging. I spoke to someone who was open to new perspectives and was clearly wrestling with them. I spoke to someone who has a heart for the GLBT community. I spoke to someone who felt somewhat conflicted - she wants to love on her gay friend(s) in her church and even would take steps in having her church be more supportive but she's also concerned about how other churches would respond to such things.

There were probably two or three gay people in the entire room which would include me and another Coalition member - and maybe someone in the closet. So you can imagine I had awkward moments. But really, it wasn't that bad. There weren't times when I just wanted to bolt out of the room. There were times when I recognized, "yeah, you're someone I normally try to avoid" but still I stuck around.

Ya know, being a bridge builder is really exciting because it totally forces you to stay out of your comfort zone. It's stretching me and that's a good thing. I ought to set an example so that I can tell others (in either conservative or inclusive group) that it's okay and it'll be worth it. But i'm learning a lot about myself.

One day, I'm going to have to be in the same room as certain other pastors that have profoundly hurt me. I'm not looking forward to that day. But I know, that it will come and I'm gradually getting ready for it. However, what I do look forward to is the day when we can bring all these pastors from both groups together in the same room, introduce and speak with each other, share a meal and prayer together, and then to talk about how we can all work towards sharing Christ's light and love for all people.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

HIV/AIDS Collaborative of Long Beach

One of the big collaborative projects that I've been working on is the HIV/AIDS Collaborative of Long Beach. Representing Catalyst Community, I've been on the core development and planning team for this since last year along with my friends from Global Lifeworks and (my first baby) Kingdom Causes. Together, we've been meeting once per month for over a year to formulate details of what and how we wanted to work within the HIV/AIDS community here in Long Beach.

I can say that the collaborative process is very interesting! We've learned a lot about each other (and ourselves) but through it all we've built a degree of trust with one another. We're all learning to value each of our contributions to the project as we all sit at the same table as a team.

Everyone on the team has contributed to what we're doing. One of the things I'm proud to have contributed is helping to catalyze our direction towards building a mutually supportive community. I'm not interested in starting just another project where "we" (healthy people) help "them" (sick people). There are a number of great programs that already exist and I'd rather not reinvent the wheel.

I wanted something more organic and something more catalytic . . . .

So months ago, I introduced the idea that "the community is the collaborative". In other words, the team is simply there to catalyze the HIV/AIDS community but that it wouldn't rely on the team as the collaborative to host events and so on. Rather, we'd catalyze a community of both HIV positive AND HIV negative individuals to work together, build relationship, and to meet each others needs - regardless of HIV status. This would equalize the community and communicate the fact that we all have value and can mutually give and receive from one another.

What does this look like?

It could be someone volunteering to drive someone else to the pharmacy. It could be someone sitting down with someone else to teach them how to use the computer. It could be someone hanging out with someone else over coffee to get to know one another. It could be someone taking someone else to the grocery store. It could be someone hosting a dinner party. Which of these "someones" and "someone elses" are HIV positive? It doesn't matter! It's not about making HIV positive folks feel like a project and making HIV negative folks feel like they're do-gooders. It's about inspiring a community of both HIV positive and negative individuals to be good neighbors.

I've always believed that it's difficult to really get to know another person in a group setting. Personally, I prefer smaller group things and one on one interactions. However, I also believe that we need a balance to catalyze community.

Here's what I refer to as my organic approach to catalyzing community in a nutshell:

Events are an opportunity to facilitate introductions between people. More events allows people to become familiar with each other. Once familiarity develops, shared interests can be identified and trust gradually forms. As trust is established, people will begin to connect on more personal and casual contexts outside of the events while events
concurrently continue to happen. Relationship develops as people continue to connect. As trust and relationship are nurtured, people will naturally form partnership and collaboration around shared interests and causes. That's when we can organize and mobilize.

In the process where relationship happens, that's where we can educate each other about the facts and realities of living with HIV and AIDS. (I believe this approach to catalyzing community can be applied in any context.)

We had a lunch time event yesterday where we introduced the vision for this kind of community. We had about 25 people there - men, women, families, singles, HIV positive, HIV negative, young, old. It really was quite exciting to cast vision and to see everyone begin to own it for themselves. "We" are the collaborative!

There's much more I'd like to say as there is more going on in terms of pointing people to existing resources in the community; perhaps I'll write more in future blogs as things develop. But for now i'll share with you the official vision and mission of the HIV/AIDS Collaborative of Long Beach.

Our vision is to build a mutually supportive community between HIV positive and HIV negative individuals that cultivates authentic relationships while meeting the physical, spiritual, and psychosocial needs of everyone involved.

Our mission is to:

*Create a safe environment that facilitates open and honest sharing in the spirit of friendship.

*Provide opportunities for people to volunteer, encourage, and acknowledge one another.

*Promote citywide involvement in providing services, resources, workshops, and spiritual support to empower individuals in the HIV/AIDS and broader communities.

I'll try to keep you posted as things progress!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Hawaiian Adventures - Day 8

After spending three days on the Big Island, I flew back to Honolulu on Oahu and stayed the night with my dad in Waikiki.

For my last day on the islands, I really wanted to snorkel one last time and go kayaking for the first time (since I missed doing these things when I went on my spontaneous adventure through a Hawaiian jungle in the Waipi'o Valley!). So I got up early and made my way to Kailua Beach to spend the day in the sun and water.

I didn't have a set plan - just that I'd rent snorkel stuff then later rent a kayak. Both would have cost some cash but it turned out that there was an opening for a guided kayak tour around the bay, then afterwards use of snorkeling gear was included (along with lunch). So it turned out to be a great deal!

We had a really cute kayak guide named Andy who was actually a really cool guy. He is from Delaware but had just moved to the island about six months ago. Talk about a great job! He gave us a lil orientation on the kayak and paddling then we took them out to the water.

This was my first time kayaking and I had so much fun! Actually, it wasn't that difficult and I figured it'd be easy to tip over but in my experience it was pretty sturdy. It was a great upper body work out too and Andy says that "I'm not too shaby!" *blush* lol

We took the kayaks out around the bay then landed onto Flat Island where Andy took us on a tour to see the protected bird life there. This island was unique in that it's the only island not formed out of volcanic activity. It's actually more coral reef. So the whole coral island was really pretty interesting. (or is it that Andy made it interesting! *fawn* lol)

After spending a couple hours kayaking, I had lunch and met a nice older married couple from Canada. She highly recommended this place called Prince Edward Island which I'd love to check out for myself one day. Stay tuned for Eric's Canadian Adventures!

Andy recommended a sweet snorkeling spot so I made my way to that part of the bay and went out in the water. While snorkeling, I spotted a turtle! So I followed (more like harassed) the turtle taking photos and video. Be sure to check out the video in my Facebook page!

Since it was my last day in Hawaii, I decided to just lounge around on the beach, enjoy the day, and lay out for a bit. It's not that I really *needed* a tan, but I got one all the same. While laying out, I met this cute cool guy named Tim and we ended up talking for a couple hours both in the water and on the beach. He had just moved to the island a week prior and will be there for a year. He's a civilian that works with the Air Force as an engineer. He's from Rhode Island (and had this cute accent).

I really did not want to leave! But I stretched out my time as long as possible and so I said my good byes to Tim, the Hawaiian beaches, waves and sand, and made my way back to Waikiki to say good bye to my dad.

By the time I returned the rental car and got to the airport, I missed my flight! Fortunately, I scored an alternative flight which was a direct flight to Los Angeles. My other flight would have had my layover in Dallas/Fort Worth. That was a sweet deal!

And for a grand farewell from the Hawaiian Islands, there was a musical group and a guy/girl pair doing hula for airport travelers.

All in all, this was an amazing vacation that gave me some wonderful adventures!

First time experiences:

-First time kayaking
-First time snorkeling/swimming with a turtle
-First time getting a Hawaiian tan!

Check out photos of the day here!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Hawaiian Adventures - Day 7

I spent my last day on the Big Island checking out a lil more of Hilo then went to check out Kilauea - an active volcano.

I checked out Queen Liliuokalani Gardens in Hilo. It was a beautiful and lush gardens given as a gift from Japan. While there, I went geocaching and found #5 of the trip!

Then I went to see the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory. They have self guided tours where you can peek in and see how the macadamia nuts are harvested, processed, and packaged. Of course they had a store so I bought a bunch of cans to bring back home for peeps.

Afterwards, I made my way to the Volcano National Park where Kilauea is. There I saw many of the volcano craters and the smoke plume coming from Kilauea.

Then I went for a hike in a tropical rain forest surrounding Kilauea's crater and even got to hike through one of the craters inside of it! It was amazing! And a great work out too! My personal trainer would be proud. =P

What an awesome three days on the Big Island! I ascended to over 13,000 feet elevation to the summit of Mauna Kea. Then I descended 2000 feet to the floor of Waipi'o Valley then hiked through a jungle to get to the base of a waterfall. Then I hiked through a tropical rain forest and through a volcanic crater. Wow! So much fun!

First time experiences:
-First time visiting Queen Liliuokalani Gardens
-First time geocaching on the Big Island
-First time visiting the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory
-First time hiking through a volcanic crater

Check out photos of the day here!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Hawaiian Adventures - Day 6

By far, Day 6 was the most adventurous day of this vacation! It was such an incredible day that I'm going to write a separate blog post later detailing the adventure and the journey because there are lots of life lessons that I can extrapolate from the experience.

Here's the abridged rated G version:

My original plan was to drive from Hilo (on the East side of the Big Island) to Kailua-Kona (on the West side) via the northern route around the island while making a stop midway at Waipi'o Valley on the North tip of the island. But I was planning on spending the majority of the day in Kona to snorkel and kayak then go to a luau.

When I got to the lookout at Waipi'o Valley, I saw an amazing view. I got curious so I started walking down a road hoping to take some better pictures and before I knew it I had descended the 2000 foot elevation and I found myself at the valley floor.

In the distance I discovered a waterfall deep in the valley and I began a trek to find the base of it. I soon realized that there was no actual trail to the waterfall.

Then I made the decision that started the adventure - I spontaneously hiked through the trees along the stream figuring it'd be pretty easy to get to the waterfall. I just had to not get caught because it was all private property.

I got deeper and deeper into the valley and before I knew it, I was treading through an actual jungle! I was wearing shorts and a tshirt and I was marching through plant life and greenery and trees that were all taller (and older) than me. There was no real trail. I was just trying to follow the stream whose current by the way got stronger and stronger.

I tread through trees and vines and rocks and huge rocks and then eventually through the water too! I had to keep crossing the stream every time I reached a go-no-further point on each side. I slid down hills, I slipped on huge rocks in the fast current stream, I clawed up walls. It was quite dangerous, actually. On numerous occasions in the water and on rocks and on trees and on the side bank, I fell on my hands, my butt, my elbows, my knees, and my shins. There were times when I could very well have fallen and broken my neck, my leg, or an arm or sprained an ankle. I had dirt all over my shorts. I had dirt in my mouth. I got my shorts drenched in the stream. I got my shoes drenched in the stream.

At one point, I even ditched my tshirt, cell phone, car keys, camera, watch and sun glasses because I couldn't go further with them. I even lost my eye glasses. I was neck deep in water walking along the slippery rocks beneath me with EVERYTHING I had (think about that one for a sec) bundled in my shirt trying to hold it above the water, then it got deeper suddenly and my head went under - and I lost my eye glasses.

I was in the heart of the jungle of this valley, too late to turn back, and I kept proceeding forward for several hours until I finally reached it. The base of the waterfall!

So I went swimming and enjoyed it all! But no camera to document it because I had abandoned it to get there. However, there's a chance that some people I met may send me photos of the falls.

It was absolutely amazing and I'm seriously leaving out really good details about the adventure - saving it for my blog!

So the pics in this album seem like everything was nice and fine but I couldn't take pictures of the crazy crazy parts because i left the camera behind along the rocks.

Along the way, I met a super cute hot buck-naked golden boy from North Carolina (that's all for now, the rest in the more detailed blog to follow later) (i know right? totally random!), and three older ladies guided by a younger gal who had done this before. All the ladies lived there on the Big Island.

Afterwards, when I got back to my car (stinky and filthy) I cleaned up and rushed to Kona (2 hour drive) for what turned out to be an even better luau than the one I went to on Day 1 with my dad in Waikiki. It was really fun!

After the luau, I drove back to Hilo via the Southern route which took 2 1/2 hours. I was exhausted but it was an amazing adventurous day!

First time experiences:
-First time viewing Waipi'o Valley
-First time hiking through a hawaiian jungle
-First time running into a super cute hot buck-naked golden boy while hiking through a jungle
-First time skinny dipping!
-First time standing/swimming at the base of a waterfall surrounded by 2000 foot walls
-First time completely driving all the way around the Big Island

Check out photos of the day here!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Hawaiian Adventures - Day 5

I left Oahu and island hopped over to the Big Island which is actually called Hawai'i. (Honolulu is the capital of the state but is on the island of Oahu).

When I arrived to my terminal at the airport, I was pleased to see a large crowd around some passengers playing the ukulele and entertaining everyone. Two couples were dancing to the music too. Then this older lady stood up and started doing the hula. It was all pretty random but cool!

When I arrived in Hilo, it was raining. Apparently, the Big Island has 11 different climates throughout the island. I got a rental car and found my way to my hostel called Arnott's Lodge & Hiking Adventures. hehe, funny name but by far THE BEST hostel I've ever stayed at. It was clean, had decent beds, various dormitories each with separate rooms that had two sets of bunk beds, free wi-fi, laundry, dvd theatre center, and many more amenities.

At the hostel, I met these two guys from Switzerland. (Yes, they were cute too! If you've been reading up on my past days, you'll notice that I keep meeting some really cute guys. Dunno! But no complaints here!) Anyway, the two are buddies traveling together - they've been friends all their lives and their families even hang out. They both are now at separate universities and so decided to vacation together to spend time. I was like....awwwww!

The hostel was leading a tour to Mauna Kea and so I went along. It was an all day thing because it took time to drive out there, then trek up the 13,796 feet elevation, and by the time we got to the summit we caught the sunset, then had a time of star gazing. It is AMAZING up there! There are numerous astronomical observatories from all around the world at the summit because Mauna Kea is a prime spot to study (and in our case gaze at) the stars and constellations.

For the first time, I saw the band of our Milky Way galaxy. This was also my first time making the trip to Mauna Kea and hiking to the summit. At that elevation, the air is very thin so it's common to be lightheaded, dizzy, and nauseated. But even feeling those things too, I still was able to make the hike to the summit! woo hoo!

I was impressed by how much the hostel's tour guide knew about stars and astronomical facts and current events. We spent some time looking up at the stars and he pointed out the constellations in view for us. He also gave us a history of islander naval navigation using the stars as they traveled around to other islands (Samoa, Figi, Tahiti, etc.) in their canoes.

I also met a man from Orange County and a man from Brazil. Cool guys.

It was a fun first day on the Big Island and seeing the views from atop Mauna Kea was a great start. =)

First time experiences:
-First time staying at a hostel in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai'i
-First time at Mauna Kea and hiking to its summit
-First time being at 13,796 feet elevation
-First time seeing the Milky Way galaxy

Check out photos of the day here!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hawaiian Adventures - Day 4

My last day at the North Shore was spent geocaching!

I first navigated my way to where I had been snorkeling the day before and found an easy "cache & dash" near a power line. It was in a black plastic cylinder casing. I logged my name and moved on.

I decided to take a quick break to see what the Hawaiian Sea Turtles were up to so I went back to their beach and saw about 7-8 of them near the shore swimming around and feeding.

I navigated my way to the next geocache which took me a good 45 minutes to find. It was just outside the entrance to Waimea Valley and there was a cool duck that decided to be my geocaching buddy. He kept following me around as I roamed back and forth trying to find the proper coordinates. I finally found the cache in a small cave-like cubby hole surrounded by plants and greenery. There were a few cool things that people left behind - keychains and such. I left behind a Catalyst flyer, logged my name, and moved on.

The third cache of the day took me on about a half mile hike along the Bay. This one was very difficult to find! It's considered a micro cache which means it's really small. I even enlisted the help of a cool couple that I met and talked with that lived there on the island. He had heard of geocaching and had never really done it before so he was happy to join in the hunt. Actually he was the one who found it! After about an hour of hunting around for this thing (and also pissing off a homeless guy trying to get his post lunch nap in) we found the cache in a small black 35mm film case. We both logged our names in and I'm sure he's now hooked on geocaching!

I hiked back to my car and took a drive around the perimeter of the island clockwise - saw the rest of the North Shore, then followed Kamehameha Hwy down the east shore of Oahu.

Then I went to go find a well known lookout called Nu'uanu Pali lookout. This was the site of King Kamehameha's victory on Oahu against the warriors of Maui. An estimated 400 warriors died in the battle. This lookout was where the men were forced off the cliff! Talk about craziness! This final battle at Nu'uanu Pali on Oahu led to Kamehameha's victory of becoming King over all the Hawaiian Islands. It's funny how history really is written by the victors.... it's said that he wanted to unite the islands because all the tribes and islands were separate. I'm sure it wasn't because he wanted to be king of all. Hmm..... no disrespect though. Hawaiians have a proud history about it all and in the end, a united Island nation made the people stronger - especially when the Europeans, Westerners and other Island tribes (Tahiti, Samoa, etc.) negotiated trade.

Nevertheless, it's an amazing lookout!

After my trek around the island and overlooking it, I went back to Waikiki to have dinner with my dad and some of his friends. It was really cool meeting them and seeing how they all interacted. Wow, I hung out with my dad's gay friends today!

First time experiences:
-First time completely driving all the way around Oahu
-First time visiting the Nu'uanu Pali lookout
-First time having dinner with my dad's gay friends

Check out photos of the day here!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hawaiian Adventures - Day 3

This was a full day at the North Shore!

I was staying at a hostel called Backpackers Inn and I stayed at a place called Plantation Village that was across the street from the Pupukea Beach! I met lots of really cool people at this hostel, particularly a guy on vacation from the Army currently serving in Iraq (and returning there for two more months), a lady from Cambridge, England who had quit her job to travel the world for several months, and also a guy from Switzerland who happened to be doing the same thing - quit his job to travel.

I met this really cute guy from Colorado who is literally on a personal journey and going where ever in the world his nose takes him. He was a resident at the hostel two months ago then decided to work for the hostel. We had a really awesome conversation about "the journey". He's got a lot going on inside of him and I think I catalyzed some good ideas in him. He was processing quite a bit. He's at a fragile place right now because he's met some not so nice people along the way while also dealing with whatever he's running away from. I hope we'll be able to stay in touch along his nomadic journey throughout the world. My heart really goes out for this guy!

So I started this day having breakfast at this really cool pancake house that turns into a sports bar at night. Good stuff!

Then I went Shark Diving. OMG! It was AMAZING! Actual time in the cage was about 20 minutes and there were 20-30 sharks swimming all around! I met a cool family from Portland, Oregon and I also met these two cute gals vacationing from Scotland.

Afterwards, I went hunting for Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. Well not really hunting. They go to one particular beach to feed then surf onto the shore to bask in the sun for warmer temp. I met this (cute) guy from Toronto, CA and his girlfriend who were on vacation. Very friendly!

Then I went to Shark's Cove to go snorkeling for the first time! Soooo much fun! I met a cool filipino family from the San Francisco Bay area that go here twice every year. Super friendly folks!

I decided to do some geocaching and so the GPS coordinates took me to a Hawaiian sacred place called Pu'u o mahuka Heiau. A "heiau" is kinda like an altar. At this site, there were actually human sacrifices that took place here. Away from the altar but along a trail, I eventually found the geocache which also included a "travel bug" - that's something that travels from cache to cache. This one was an "anytown, usa" journal and so its entries are full of cities and descriptions of where's it's been found and taken to. I'll be taking this one back to my hometown of Long Beach and i'll stash it in a geocache here to be found by some other geocaching traveler!

By evening, I met up with a new friend (friend of my ate Jayson's) for dinner in Waikiki - which is on the South Shore (about an hour's drive from the North Shore). He took me to this Japanese restaurant where they had this hilarious conveyor belt system that had newly prepared sushi and various dishes set on it to go to customers. It was funny! You just pick out whatever you liked!

After dinner, we danced the night away at this club called "Hulas". It was a loooong drive back to the North Shore late at night but it was a super fun day!

First time experiences:

-First time shark diving
-First time seeing a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle up close
-First time snorkeling
-First time geocaching on Oahu
-First time at a human sacrifice altar
-First time eating sushi off a conveyor belt
-First time dancing at a club in Hawaii

Check out photos of the day here!

I've got videos from shark diving and snorkeling posted at Facebook so check them out there. If you're not on Facebook yet, get on there and add me as a friend so that you can see all my photo albums and more! I've been posting more stuff on Facebook regularly as compared to this blog so find your way over there. If you've got it and haven't done so, you're welcome to send in a Friend request! =) My profile is here.