Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

In Him We Move



On the day the Tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered it. But from evening until morning the cloud over the Tabernacle looked like a pillar of fire. This was the regular pattern—at night the cloud that covered the Tabernacle had the appearance of fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from over the sacred tent, the people of Israel would break camp and follow it. And wherever the cloud settled, the peo...ple of Israel would set up camp. In this way, they traveled and camped at the Lord’s command wherever he told them to go. Then they remained in their camp as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle. If the cloud remained over the Tabernacle for a long time, the Israelites stayed and performed their duty to the Lord. Sometimes the cloud would stay over the Tabernacle for only a few days, so the people would stay for only a few days, as the Lord commanded. Then at the Lord’s command they would break camp and move on. Sometimes the cloud stayed only overnight and lifted the next morning. But day or night, when the cloud lifted, the people broke camp and moved on. Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. So they camped or traveled at the Lord’s command, and they did whatever the Lord told them through Moses.

 (Numbers 9:15-23 - NLT)

Friday, March 30, 2012

SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?




[Urged on] by faith Abraham, when he was called,
obeyed and went forth to a place which he was destined to receive as an inheritance;
and he went, although he did not know or trouble his mind about where he was to go.
 (Hebrews 11:8 - AMP)

 


Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012, will be the final service of Church In The Now East at 1873 Iris Drive in Conyers, our address for the last 15 years or more. This Resurrection Sunday falls nearly exactly a year to the day (4/5/11) of the foreclosure of the property, which was appraised at $25,000,000 a few years ago, and consists of three buildings on 43 acres facing I-20. Last year it was put up for public auction on the Rockdale County courthouse steps for 18.5 million, and was recently acquired by another local church for a lease purchase price of 13.9 million. To say that I am experiencing a flood of mixed emotions, even as I write this, about having to leave the place that has represented my life's work, and was the manifestation of all that I have dreamed for as long as I can remember would be an understatement, to say the least. Just pick any emotion or feeling, and I've probably had it some time today.


A BRIEF SYNOPSIS


I came to Conyers at the age of 26, in the spring of 1985, to found a church that would hopefully do what hadn't been done in church that much (if ever) before. I walked the neighborhoods of Conyers, knocking on doors and inviting people to come visit the little storefront that I had rented, not far from where we ultimately ended up building. Our first sound system consisted partly of the receiver off of my stereo (remember, this was the mid 80's). In a word, we didn't "despise the day of small things."

Our first service was on Pentecost Sunday of that year, with 54 in attendance.

The church was multicultural from its inception, at a time when the population demographic of Rockdale County was nearly 95% white.

Initially, it was called 'Word of Faith Assembly of God'. After some years in that first location, we moved to an abandoned grocery store, which we totally renovated, and the church became 'Word of Faith Christian Center'. After seven years in the grocery store, we moved to the location on Iris Drive, where we had purchased 15 acres on which to build a 30,000 square foot edifice. At that time, the church became 'Church In The Now'.

In that first year on Iris Drive, the church experienced unprecedented growth, and completely doubled in size in just a few months. During that time we built a second building, a 15.,000 sq. ft., state-of-the-art youth facility which doubled as a church fellowship hall, that at the time was called 'Teen Planet'.

We soon purchased the adjacent 28 acres, and began to plan building a main facility, a 103,000 sq. ft. building which we completed in 2005, with a sanctuary that could seat 3,000. In these years, we became a megachurch, gaining both national attention and a global pulpit. We developed a strong presence on national TV, developed a network of ministries and churches that connected people from all over the world, became a strong philanthropic force in the community and a major contributor to world missions, and evolved into Rockdale County's largest church, one of the largest, in fact, in the Metropolitan Atlanta area.

I could relate story after story of miracle upon miracle that has occurred as the CITN story was being written...amazing things that happened over the years as we built (Church In The Now has basically been in a building program from day one)...things that literally boggled the mind, and demonstrated the power of the strong arm of the Lord before our eyes again and again.




A VISION MANIFESTED



When I sat down with the architect of the main building to explain to him what I visualized, I asked for a design that would be timeless...a building that looked like the way people in the past pictured the future...and from that description he came up with a modernized version of the art deco style that I love so much. He captured in brick and mortar the vision of the church that emphasized living in the now. The opening service (which was our 20th anniversary) was one of the happiest and most exciting days of my life. I could insert here many of the reasons that we experienced certain challenges, beginning that very first Sunday in the new building, which ultimately lead to its foreclosure, but at this time the point is moot. I suppose it should also be noted that in all the years since we began, we never experienced any kind of real financial problems to speak of until we built the main structure. I will say, however, that what we built, even with its many imperfections, was and is a thing of beauty, and something that has been a source of pride and joy for me. Not only have we experienced the powerful presence of God and amazing manifestations of the supernatural in that building, it is also the place where my daughter Christina was married, where my sons Judah and Jonah both had their high school graduation ceremonies, and where I dedicated my granddaughters, Sofia and Olivia. It's where I assumed I would host the memorial services of both of my parents when they go to be with the Lord. In a word, I'm not only spiritually connected to it, I'm also very emotionally connected.

Let me say here that the foreclosure had little, if anything, to do with events in my personal life, or with self-disclosed revelations since October of 2010. About a year ago the Atlanta Journal did an interview with me for an article about church foreclosures, and at the time they told me that there were 40 other churches in the metro area that were in the same situation. Since then, I've heard that there are as many as 90. All things considered, we've actually done pretty well, and I give God the praise for that. His hand of favor has never left us.


Jonah Swilley graduating from Eastside High School at CITN


"FOR UNTO US..."

Let me also say here that I could easily replace the pronouns "I", "my" and "me" in telling this story with "we", "our" and "us", because it wasn't just my vision, it was our vision, and I'm well aware that many people are equally invested in it, not just financially, but spiritually and emotionally, as well. I know I didn't build it by myself, and those of you who have stood by me and with me through it all know who you are.

So here's where we find ourselves in the spring of 2012. Since the foreclosure, we have been aware of several churches and megachurches which have expressed interest in purchasing the property. Rockdale County even approached me at one point about trying to buy it for the county to turn it into a performing arts center, with us remaining on the property in our original building, leasing the space from them. That scenario would certainly the best case for me, but, alas, it did not materialize.

For many months during the last year we very aggressively searched for a facility in either Rockdale or Newton county...a place to move our now smaller, but still very vibrant and amazingly resilient congregation. We have been aware from the beginning that once the property sold, we would have 60 days to vacate. So some months ago, because nothing was really happening, to our knowledge, that indicated it was about to sell, we just stopped looking. We decided to wait to see if and when it sold, and once it did, at that point we could realistically search for another place.

It never occurred to me that we would remain there on Iris Drive a full year after the foreclosure, and at a certain point, I actually wondered if we were indeed ever going to leave at all. I didn't know how it could possibly happen, but I began to entertain the idea that perhaps we wouldn't or couldn't leave until all the many prophecies spoken over CITN and its presence there on Iris Drive, by a host of credible prophets over the years, were completely fulfilled.

I still don't know what to think about all of that. I am having to process a lot right now.

I do know, however, that when Joseph spoke out his dreams, the exact opposite reality occurred in his life, and that downward trend in his circumstances went on for many years until the time of his fulfillment. In the meantime, the Scriptures tell us that he was literally tormented by the Word of Lord, because his "reality" was so diametrically opposed to what had been prophesied. It says that when he was in prison, not only were his feet in fetters of iron, so was his very soul.

It's not my intention here to equate myself with Joseph of the Bible, but I can tell you that I completely understand that kind of torment.


A MATTER OF PERCEPTION



On the other hand, even though we lost it, at least we built it. For years I've said that I'd rather be a "wet water-walker" than a "dry boat-dweller". Peter may be known for being the one who sank beneath the waves, but he is also known for being the only man besides Jesus who ever walked on the water. The other disciples couldn't bring an accusation against him because of his lack of faith, because he had at least done something that none of them had even imagined.


Anyway, when we heard last week that the property had been acquired for lease purchase by a church which has been trying to obtain it for over a year, we weren't really surprised. We've known for some time that that was certainly a possibility. What we didn't know...what came as a total and complete shock to us...was that they were occupying the property immediately. In all of our many conversations with the bank over the last year or so, both before and after the foreclosure, they never once told us that that was even a possibility. So we just assumed that once it sold, we would then have 60 days to locate a new place, so that the new tenants could move in at the end of that period.

That's why we had stopped actively looking for a new location, because in our minds, until the Iris Drive property sold, there just wasn't any point in really pursuing another place. And I should probably add that we have looked at nearly everything available for rent, and there just has not been anything that we have seen that could realistically meet our needs, even with a smaller congregation.

So when we heard that they were going to be here next week...well, let's just say we didn't see that coming at all, and were completely unprepared for it.

So what happens now? Well, we'll have church this coming Sunday (Palm Sunday), and we'll have church on Easter Sunday (also the new tenants first Sunday in the main building), and then we have no idea where we will go.


We're looking at and calling places non-stop, but at this point, we are just having to stand on the Scripture that I posted at the top. In the Amplified Bible it says that not only did Abraham not know where he was going when he left Ur (Hebrews 11:8), it also says he did not "trouble his mind" about it. I guess you could say that we're trying to walk in the faith of Abraham..."the just shall live by faith"...

God has always provided for us, and He always will. This year on the property post-foreclosure has been hard, but it has also provided some healing time for the congregation, and has been a season of stabilization for us. Our steps are ordered.

So there it is.

I wish I could tell you more, but that's all I have right now.

Abram was called "Abraham" for about 27 years until he actually became "Abraham, the Father of Many Nations"...we've been called "Church In The Now" for a long time, and as we approach our 27th anniversary in a few weeks, we have no choice but to actually become the church that lives in the now.

One day at a time.

As soon as I know something about where we're going, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, stay tuned.

All of you who have stayed with me, many from the very beginning, you can't imagine how much I love you.




So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.
(2 Corinthians 4:16 -18 - The Message)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

CHECKING IN

Just a couple of things...first, I hope to see many of you tonight at CHURCH IN THE NOW MIDTOWN, especially those of you who haven't been there since we started meeting at Virginia-Highland Church...it's more of a traditional setting than some of you might be used to, but it's a really nice (and beautiful) environment, and we've been having some really great services since we've been there...

I'm currently writing an article about this, but let me go ahead and give you a heads up so that you can know a little bit better what to plan for...

This coming Sunday (4/1/12) at CHURCH IN THE NOW EAST will be a very full day...we will have our First Supper/Upper Room service (Communion)...'His Hands' will be ministering in worship, as well as my good friend, Alain Emmanuel (you'll really like him)...we will also be receiving new members into the church (first time in a long time that we've done it that way), and immediately after the service I am inviting everyone to come into the Fellowship Hall (Kids In The Now/404 area) for a piece of my birthday cake...

The following Sunday (4/8/12) will be Resurrection Sunday (Easter), and will be CITN's final service at 1873 Iris Drive...I'll tell you more about that in my next post, just wanted to get you up to speed on everything that's happening as much as is possible right now...

Also, since I changed the template of BLOGINTHENOW, some of the posts may not look exactly right because of the layout edit...I can't go back through all 854 posts here and check on them, so I appreciate you just receving it as it is...just felt like it was time for something new...

I hope to have some news for future plans to share by this Sunday...in the meantime, check here for updates...


You're very important to me...

Have an excellent day!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS - Chapter Sixteen



CHAPTER SIXTEEN



YOUR OWN PERSONAL JESUS


"Don’t set yourself up as a judge who takes the liberty of casually condemning others, or even as a critic who thinks that he or she has the right to criticize them, because when you do that, you set a universal law into motion that will inevitably bring negative things back into your own life. In other words, don’t judge so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves. For in direct proportion to your judgment, criticism and condemnation of others, you will be personally judged and criticized and condemned. It’s just the way the law works. And in accordance with the measure you use to deal out to others…whatever you may deal out…it will be dealt out again to you. You define the terms of your own life in this sense. And why do you fixate on the very small particle…the tiny speck of sawdust…that is in your brother's eye, while you are completely unaware of and oblivious to the huge beam of timber that is in your own eye? Or how can you obsessively say to your brother, ‘Let me try to get that tiny, superficial splinter that I’m preoccupied with out of your eye,’ when all the while there is the beam of timber that is obvious to everyone but you lodged in your own eye? Don’t be such a clueless hypocrite! Work on dislodging that beam of timber from your own eye first, because until you can completely remove such glaring, personal obstructions, you’re frankly not qualified to take on the responsibility of extracting anything at all from your brother's eye, no matter how big or how small."

(Matthew 7:1-5 - MATTHEW IN THE NOW)


Wow...where was the GOOD NEWS in that chapter?

After reading the second half of it, you may be asking that question.

It's a legitimate one.

But for me, telling that story still falls under the category of my sharing GOOD NEWS with you, for the simple reason that I can even talk about it and still be OK.

I hope I've already made this clear in the book so far, but in case I haven't, allow me to reiterate something...

There is nothing that I have shared in these pages that comes from a "victim" mentality.

On the contrary...I actually feel empowered by sharing the painful stuff.

Like the boy David running toward the giant, my being able to discuss these things out in the open takes away the sting of them...it makes me feel fearless, because I know in my heart that there's absolutely nothing that I'm afraid to talk about.

Someone recently said to me, "I hate that you have to write about all the religious haters and share some of the mean-spirited things that they have written and/or said about you or to you in your book!"

I quickly assured that person that I don't share the negative things to sound whiny or victimized, or to even complain about them.

The only reason I even talk about that kind of stuff at all is so that I can hold up a mirror to the ugliness of religious intolerance (of any kind), and show it...expose it...for what it really is.

I feel like it's my duty.

To whom much has been given, much is required.

I don't worry about the homophobes and modern-day Pharisees and their fundamentalist rhetoric.

Their problem with me is their problem, not mine.

But I was thinking about this yesterday as I sat down to write this chapter.

I was thinking about the audacity and arrogance of religious people who feel that it is their God-given right and responsibility to correct everyone, and to make sure that everyone else stays in line.

Religious people are generally so loud and nosy...so involved in, and committed to expressing their opinions about everyone and everything.

When I started writing this book I was 53...now about to turn 54...I am a grandfather, and have been preaching for 40 years...I have been a successful pastor, more successful than most, in fact...

I am re-stating these things here to make the point that I could play the "Elder" card and be loud and opinionated about everyone in church-world with whom I disagree. I could feel justified in telling everyone who I thought was right and who I thought was wrong...about who I thought was "of God".

And sometimes I do, on occasion, say something about a public religious figure in a sermon if I think it's pertinent to the point I'm making at the time.

Yet it would never even cross my mind to fire off letters, or to get my thoughts onto blogs or on the Facebook pages of others who I don't even know, to confront or rebuke them about their theology, or their life, or anything else for that matter.

Sometimes I read the rebukes that people send me and think "Who do you think you are?"

I'm sure I've already said all this at some point in the book...probably more than once...but yesterday as I was thinking about the attitude of the very religious because of something that someone had posted on my FB page, I began to write this down in response.

So I thought I would include it here in this chapter...

It's good and pleasant for brethren to confront the loudmouths...resist the devil and he will flee from you...


Anyway, here's what I wrote...




CREDO

by Jim Swilley


 
1. I AM NOT YOUR CREATOR   I choose to believe that it was God, not I, who created you in His image (Genesis 1:26), and so I will respect and always try to recognize whatever parts of His DNA are evident in your makeup, whether or not you ever conform to the image of who I think you should or shouldn't be. Your relationship with Him is something personal...something that is between you and Him alone...and so I not only realize that I will I never fully understand it, I can also rest in the knowledge that I don't have to. Your relationship with your God is something that I'm not even required to have an opinion about, because God is God, and I completely trust Him as your Creator!

2. I AM NOT YOUR SAVIOR: I choose to always remember that it was Jesus, not I, who chose you in Him before the foundation of the world, that you should be holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4). I also choose to remember that it was Jesus alone, not I, who died on the cross for you. I took no stripes on my back for you, and so I am unqualified to make a judgment call on your relationship with the One who did. I choose to remember that it is He, not I, who now ever lives to make intercession for you, in order to "save you to the uttermost" (Hebrews 7:25). Your relationship with Jesus Christ is something personal...something that is between you and Him alone, so I have no choice but to accept it as it is, as you work out your own salvation "with fear and trembling"! (Philippians 2:12)

3. I AM NOT YOUR LORD: If you say that you have confessed Jesus Christ as your Lord, then I have no choice but to believe you, and to accept that as a fact, even if my experience with Him is quite different from yours. You do not have to answer to me for your life, because you did not confess me as Lord over it. And if you never confess Jesus as Lord in this lifetime according to my definition and understanding of it, I still choose to believe that every knee will ultimately bow, and every tongue will, indeed, confess to that fact, and so I believe that that will include you, according to my understanding of it. In the meantime, my only responsibility to you is to love you! (Romans 13:8)

4. I AM NOT YOUR HOLY SPIRIT: I will remember to trust the work of the Spirit in your life, and will recognize that it is He, not I, who began a good work in you, and so it is He who will continue to perform that good work until the Day of the Lord (Philippians 1:6). I have neither the ability nor the responsibility to convict you of what I may perceive to be sin in your life. Whatever needs to be added or taken away from you is strictly in the hands of the The Helper, and I will not be arrogant enough to assume that I could or should do what only He is qualified or supposed to do in you, for you, or through you!

5. I AM NOT YOUR JUDGE: However you interpret the Scriptures is something that I choose to respect, even if your interpretation is quite different from mine. And if you don't believe the Scriptures, or even acknowledge them, I will still consider it my responsibility to be a "living epistle" before you, regardless of what you do or don't believe (II Corinthians 3:3). You do not owe me any explanation for your world-view or theology (or lack, thereof), and I will not use certain Scriptures about "exhortation", or "provoking one another to good works", or being a "fruit inspector" to impose my opinions on you, manipulate you, or to defend my desire to control you in any way. I will not religiously hide self-serving motives behind certain verses of Scripture taken out of context to defend my desire to mind your business. My only request is that you will give me the same consideration.

6. I AM NOT YOUR PASTOR: I am not your Pastor, unless you tell me that God alone has led you to that conclusion...and if that is, in fact, the case, it must only be because He has placed you in the church "as it has pleased Him" (I Corinthians 12:18), and because my gift makes room for me in your life. And if I am, indeed, your Pastor, I am only a shepherd who works for the Chief Shepherd to lead (not drive) the flock..I will not be a "Lord over God's heritage" (I Peter 5:3), but will aspire to be one who "rules with liberty". And if I do ever have a personal "word" for you, it will not come from my own opinion of you or of what you do, but from the Holy Spirit...and even then that word should be judged, as should all prophecy. I understand that as your Spiritual Leader I must "give an account for your soul" (Hebrews 13:17), but as a general rule, your personal life is none of my business. Period.

7. I AM NOTHING MORE THAN YOUR FRIEND AND BROTHER I will not judge you, and will, to the best of my ability, love you unconditionally, as you are continually conformed to His image in the way that is unique to you. In so doing, I am making the effort to fulfill the Golden Rule, doing unto you "as I would have you do unto me". I don't need for you to be wrong for me to believe that I'm right. Please recognize that God is my Creator, not you....that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Lord, not you...that the Holy Spirit is working in my life according to His good pleasure, not you...and that only God can judge me, not you. You are not even required to have an opinion about me, or anything that I do or say, and unless you ask me for my opinion, I will not impose mine upon you in any way. I will respect your right to live your life as you see fit, and to interpret the Scriptures as you believe the Holy Spirit leads you to do, without any interruption, intervention, opinion, or commentary from me, whatsoever. I will allow God alone to be God in your life, as you allow Him alone to be God in my life. And even if I am your pastor or leader or teacher or spouse or partner or father or son or fill any other role in your life, I will still only want God's best for you, and will pray that His will, not mine, will always be done in your life on earth as it is in heaven!

This is my pledge to you...




I hope these words get the point across.

What I'm talking about here is bigger than whatever has happened in my personal life.

It's bigger than the issue of homophobia.

It's bigger than the issue of dealing with fundamentalism.

What I'm talking about is what's wrong with Christianity and religion in general today...about why there are so many atheists in the world...about why with every generation the church is becoming less and less relevant to society.

People are tired of other people simply refusing to allow other people to live their own lives.

Go back and read the Gospels and look for the real Jesus.

That Jesus wasn't a jerk.



Now that's GOOD NEWS!

Monday, March 12, 2012

CREDO

Written by Jim Swilley on 3/12/12...just something I felt like putting out there today...



1. I AM NOT YOUR CREATOR: I choose to believe that it was God, not I, who created you in His image (Genesis 1:26), and so I will respect and always try to recognize whatever parts of His DNA are evident in your makeup, whether or not you ever conform to the image of who I think you should or shouldn't be. Your relationship with Him is something personal...something that is between you and Him alone...and so I not only realize that I will I never fully understand it, I can also rest in the knowledge that I don't have to. Your relationship with your God is something that I'm not even required to have an opinion about, because God is God, and I completely trust Him as your Creator!

2. I AM NOT YOUR SAVIOR: I choose to always remember that it was Jesus, not I, who chose you
in Him before the foundation of the world, that you should be holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4). I also choose to remember that it was Jesus alone, not I, who died on the cross for you. I took no stripes on my back for you, and so I am unqualified to make a judgment call on your relationship with the One who did. I choose to remember that it is He, not I, who now ever lives to make intercession for you, in order to "save you to the uttermost" (Hebrews 7:25). Your relationship with Jesus Christ is something personal...something that is between you and Him alone, so I have no choice but to accept it as it is, as you work out your own salvation "with fear and trembling"! (Philippians 2:12)

3. I AM NOT YOUR LORD: If you say that you have confessed Jesus Christ as your Lord, then I have no choice but to believe you, and to accept that as a fact, even if my experience with Him is quite different from yours. You do not have to answer to me for your life, because you did not confess me as Lord over it. And if you never confess Jesus as Lord in this lifetime according to my definition and understanding of it, I still choose to believe that every knee will ultimately bow, and every tongue will, indeed, confess to that fact, and so I believe that that will include you, according to my understanding of it. In the meantime, my only responsibility to you is to love you! (Romans 13:8)

4. I AM NOT YOUR HOLY SPIRIT: I will remember to trust the work of the Spirit in your life, and will recognize that it is He, not I, who began a good work in you, and so it is He who will continue to perform that good work until the Day of the Lord (Philippians 1:6). I have neither the ability nor the responsibility to convict you of what I may perceive to be sin in your life. Whatever needs to be added or taken away from you is strictly in the hands of the The Helper, and I will not be arrogant enough to assume that I could or should do what only He is qualified or supposed to do in you, for you, or through you!

5. I AM NOT YOUR JUDGE: However you interpret the Scriptures is something that I choose to respect, even if your interpretation is quite different from mine. And if you don't believe the Scriptures, or even acknowledge them, I will still consider it my responsibility to be a "living epistle" before you, regardless of what you do or don't believe (II Corinthians 3:3). You do not owe me any explanation for your world-view or theology (or lack, thereof), and I will not use certain Scriptures about "exhortation", or "provoking one another to good works", or being a "fruit inspector" to impose my opinions on you, manipulate you, or to defend my desire to control you in any way. I will not religiously hide self-serving motives behind certain verses of Scripture taken out of context to defend my desire to mind your business. My only request is that you will give me the same consideration.

6. I AM NOT YOUR PASTOR: I am not your Pastor, unless you tell me that God alone has led you to that conclusion...and if that is, in fact, the case, it must only be because He has placed you in the church "as it has pleased Him" (I Corinthians 12:18), and because my gift makes room for me in your life. And if I am, indeed, your Pastor, I am only a shepherd who works for the Chief Shepherd to lead (not drive) the flock..I will not be a "Lord over God's heritage" (I Peter 5:3), but will aspire to be one who "rules with liberty". And if I do ever have a personal "word" for you, it will not come from own opinion of you or of what you do, but from the Holy Spirit...and even then that word should be judged, as should all prophecy. I understand that as your Spiritual Leader I must "give an account for your soul" (Hebrews 13:17), but as a general rule, your personal life is none of my business. Period.

7. I AM NOTHING MORE THAN YOUR FRIEND AND BROTHER I will not judge you, and will, to the best of my ability, love you unconditionally, as you are conitnually conformed to His image in the way that is unique to you. In so doing, I am making the effort to fulfill the Golden Rule, doing unto you "as I would have you do unto me".  I don't need for you to be wrong for me to believe that I'm right. Please recognize that God is my Creator, not you....that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Lord, not you...that the Holy Spirit is working in my life according to His good pleasure, not you...and that only God can judge me, not you. You are not even required to have an opinion about me, or anything that I do or say, and unless you ask me for my opinion, I will not impose mine upon you in any way. I will respect your right to live your life as you see fit, and to interpret the Scriptures as you believe the Holy Spirit leads you to do, without any interruption, intervention, opinion, or commentary from me, whatsoever. I will allow God alone to be God in your life, as you allow Him alone to be God in my life. And even if I am your pastor or leader or teacher or spouse or partner or father or son or fill any other role in your life, I will still only want God's best for you, and will pray that His will, not mine, will always be done in your life on earth as it is in heaven!

This is my pledge to you...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

GOOD REPORTS!!!


 


Meditate on these things;
give yourself entirely to them,
that your progress may be evident to all.
(1 Timothy 4:15 - NKJV)



What an excellent and encouraging 27th Annual Business Meeting we had last night at CHURCH IN THE NOW EAST!

In an age when many churches never even consider being so open with their congregations about the finances, it feels really good to know that we have maintained our integrity in that area. For more than a quarter of a century we have practiced the tradition of being open with our books.

And who would have believed, after all that has happened over the last year, that we would hear such a good financial report?

As Debye was sharing the surprisingly impressive figures and outcome from a year of such transition, I was listening to her words, and thinking about the goodness of the Lord...thinking about how the offerings have been up considerably lately, and how that so many people have pitched in to help out in so many different ways, recently.


It just confirmed to me once again that, not only is this church blessed, its very existence is a sovereign work of God!

His favor on us is obvious.



Even the small fire that we had in the building last week proved to be a blessing, in that it gave us front page coverage (free advertising) in the local papers. It has been a year since the foreclosure on the property, and many people assume that we are no longer meeting there on Iris Drive. But after the story ran (especially because there were so many firetrucks in front of the building), the community now knows that CITNE is still a very active part of Conyers/Rockdale.

I want to thank the 7 awesome people who presented themselves as candidates for the Board of Directors. As I listened to each of them speak so eloquently to the congregation (live, on video, or on Skype)  about their history with the church, not to mention their impressive accomplishments, I couldn't help but thank God for all the wonderful, high-quality people in my life. I am a very blessed man.

We were supposed to elect three new members, but because of a discovered ballot tie, we actually elected four, which is fine with me.

CHURCH IN THE NOW MIDTOWN is also experiencing a manifestation of favor. The historic Virginia-Highland Church has made its beautiful facilities available to us for as long as we need them, so we will be meeting there, starting tomorrow night! As you may or may not know, CITNM is completely autonomous, and does not depend on CITNE for any support. They are an amazing group of people who have been consistently faithful to this part of the CHURCH IN THE NOW vision since we started there 9 months ago.


I have about three more chapters to finish on the book, and may get them all done before next weekend. I can't wait for you to read it!


It's all good, and that's all for now...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Only Get to Use This One Every Four Years


AYITN February 29:

 CREATION’S LONGING!


All around we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it’s not only around us; it’s within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within.  We’re also feeling the birth pangs.  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.  That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother.  We are enlarged in the waiting.  We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.  But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. 
(Romans 8:22-25 The Message)


1.Today I will live in the now!  I will live in the now because the Holy Spirit is actively in the process of working to reveal my true identity as a manifested son of God in the earth.  I am aware that something is developing and maturing on the inside of me that is real and alive, and it is increasing in the now!

2.Today I will walk in the revelation that the whole creation of irrational creatures has been moaning together in pains of labor until now, and not only the creation, but I too, groan inwardly.  Because I have and enjoy the first fruits of the Spirit, I continually experience a foretaste of blissful things to come that causes me to wait expectantly for the redemption of my body from sensuality and the grave.

3.Today I will not attempt to resist the emergence of the real me, as I begin to finally live my life from the inside out.  The concept of existing in the eternal present is becoming less abstract to me, and the infilling of the Holy Spirit is becoming more important and precious to me every day, as He produces in me the reality of sonship that cries “Abba! Father!”

4.Today I will communicate a certain confidence that comes from comprehending that I am a child of the Creator and, therefore, I am His heir, which makes me a fellow heir with Christ.  Knowing that I share Christ’s inheritance with Him enables me to gladly share His suffering because I also share His glory!

5.Today I will not allow myself to become frustrated in waiting for my personal manifestation of God’s will, because waiting is a necessary part of the birth process.  The waiting is not decreasing the quality of my life in any way - on the contrary, I am being increased by it!  Through faith and patience I inherit the promises, and while faith is coming to me by hearing the word, patience is being developed in me by counting it all joy!


6.Today I will walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.


7.Today I will intercede harmoniously with the rest of creation for the Kingdom to come, and today I will live in the now!



Father, help me to pray Your will today.  In Jesus’ name, amen.



Monday, February 20, 2012

FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS - Chapter Fifteen, Part 2

What's Love Got to do With It? (Continued)


This is Personal


I don't know why, exactly, but of anything I've written here so far, this next part is the hardest for me to put into words.

I've been putting it off for weeks...every time I sit down to finish this chapter, I just can't seem to do it...can't seem to deal with the memory of this...and I hit a wall and have to put the book away and not think about any of it for a while.

It's not writer's block.

It's something more complex than that.

No doubt, some of you will be incapable of understanding why this is so hard for me to talk about, especially since I've already touched on so many controversial aspects of my life, my theology and my sexuality in the previous chapters.

But I'm not afraid of controversy.

Controversy has never been a problem for me.

I was considered controversial in the religious world long before I came out, so I'm very familiar with the territory. And holding a mirror up to the ugliness and ignorance of what often comes out of the religious mindset of so many is actually very empowering for me on a personal level.

Nothing that I've written about so far comes from a victim mentality, because I don't have one.

I am at peace with God and with myself.

But I have to talk about this to fully explain why this chapter is so important...to address why I refuse to let those who don't understand what it means to have same-sex attraction to reduce it to being just about sex...or to label it as a perversion, or something unnatural just because it seems unnatural to them.

As I've already said, same-sex attraction isn't unnatural to those who have it.

Anyway, let me just go ahead and put it out there, and then I'll explain why it's so hard to talk about.

Basically, it's this...when I was around 10 or 11 years old, I fell deeply in love with a boy who was about a year older than me whose family lived a couple of doors down from where we lived at the time.

You may be thinking, "That's it? That's the thing that's so hard to talk about?"

Please don't judge what I just said until you hear me out.

First of all, he never knew it, and doesn't know it until this day. With the exception of a short, generic e-mail that I sent to him a couple of years ago, I have had no contact with him for over 40 years, and from what I know of his life as an adult, he is a straight man who is married and has a family.

One of my hesitations in writing about this is that I didn't want him to somehow hear about my talking about him, or to get a copy of the book and be embarrassed by what I am saying, or to become angry with me about it. Some straight men have killed gay men for saying similar things about them. There's even a legal defense for the murder of gay people called "The Gay Panic Defense", in which a straight man is able to claim that he totally freaked out because a gay man told him that he loved him, or made a pass at him, and as a result killed the gay man during a bout of reactionary, responsive temporary insanity.

Amazingly, this defense often holds up in court, and straight people are regularly exonerated for the assault or murder of gay people in many cases by it.

I don't think that he would want to kill me for what I'm about to say, but honestly, these days gay people can't be too careful.

In the world of Facebook and other social networks, word can travel very fast, and it's entirely possible that he may read this or at least hear about it.

In the event that he does, let me again make it clear that he is not a gay man, and that he and I never had any kind of physical relationship, whatsoever...which is precisely the reason I need to include this in this chapter.

Well, let me qualify that...I did receive a harmless bear hug/wrestling hold from him as we and some other kids from the neighborhood were running through a garden hose sprinkler one summer afternoon a lifetime ago...it was basic horseplay between boys that I'm quite certain meant absolutely nothing to him...I, on the other hand, can very vividly remember the sensation of his wet skin next to mine, and the way it made me feel...I'm not trying to be provocative here...just trying to make a point...and the point of saying that is that I had never before felt what I felt when that happened, and I never once in my life felt anything that nearly equalled it from a female...

"But you were just a boy!", you may be saying to yourself. "This memory should be a non-issue in your life...a typical instance of normal, adolescent male bonding that happens to most people."

My response to that is, "No...a thousand times, no!"...


And here's why...


I'm not talking about the physical sensations that any boy begins to feel around that age as he awakens to his sexuality (regardless of his preference)...I only mentioned the day in the sprinklers because it so clearly stands out in my mind, and reveals something about who I was at the time...and about feelings that there is no way I could have chosen to have...

It's just a memory...like the memory a straight man has of what he felt...about what awakened within him...the first time he kissed a girl...

But what I felt that summer day when he touched me is nearly a side issue, because I'm talking about something quite different from a sensual experience.

I'm talking about love.

"But you were just a child", you may say..."You were too young to even know what love is...the most you could call that is puppy love."


To that I say that puppy love is very real to the puppy, and as much as a kid of that age can or could love someone, I promise you I was in love with him.


I know what it is to have a crush on someone.

This was different.

Let me say here that this kind of experience is real for a lot of kids, both straight and gay.

That's why an adult should never trivialize or dismiss young love, especially a first love.

If you've ever done any research on the teen suicide epidemic, then you probably can appreciate what a big deal this is for some young people.

I know it was for me.

It was the first time I can ever remember feeling love for someone, and it was real...and somewhere in the mind of my inner child, it is as real to me today as it ever was.

Let me also interject that the middle school years for kids are sometimes really, really hard for them...much harder, in fact, than all the high school years put together. I know that middle school was a constant trial for all four of my kids...really did a number on them for different reasons, and as I remember, they all had some miserable experiences during those years...but they loved and did well in high school, and are all now well-adjusted adults.

This would be a good time for me to encourage those of you with middle school-aged kids (6th, 7th and 8th grade) to cut them some extra slack right now...they may be currently going through very traumatic things that you know nothing about.

My parents certainly were unaware of what I was going through at the time.

In fact, one reason that the feelings I had at that age for this boy were so significant for me is that it was a very rough season in my life, one in which I was emotionally vulnerable because of the nature of my relationship with my father.

He and I have made peace now, and I intend to say nothing in this book about him that I will regret later, but suffice it to say that my father had made it abundantly clear to me, even at that young age, that sissies were unacceptable, and that homosexuality (as I understood it at the time) would never, ever be tolerated or even understood by him.

I believe that there is a statute of limitations on how long you can be angry with your parents for whatever reasons, and I have certainly put away childish things when it comes to my attitude toward both of mine.

The man my father has become in his senior years is quite enlightened and tolerant, and has even paid a great price among his own friends and in his own denomination for not publicly renouncing me when I came out. His refusal to disown me, which resulted in him having to surrender his ministry credentials to the denomination, was an act of redemption on his part that deeply healed something in me that very much needed healing.

That being said, I can't even begin to imagine what the man my dad was back then would have done to me if I had even hinted to him that I was in love with a boy!

I literally shudder to think about it...

There is no possible way that I would have ever even come close to discussing with either of my parents...or anyone else, for that matter...the feelings I was dealing with at the time.

"OK, we get it...you really liked a boy when you were a kid...what's the big deal?", you may be thinking.

Let me see if I can make you understand why I'm even talking about this.

Last week I was reading a typical hate-letter from a Christian who took it upon himself to inform me once again that the Bible said it's an abomination for a man to lie with a man as with a woman (by the way, the ONLY time people ever quote Leviticus or any of Moses' 613 laws is pretty much exclusively for gay-bashing, but I digress...)...anyway, as I read his typical, crude expression of disgust for what he perceives that I like and do sexually, my mind went back to a certain afternoon in my boyhood when I lived in that house two doors down from the person I felt at the time was the love of my life.

And that's why I even brought this up at all.

When people say that being gay is a choice, or that it's just about sex, or about giving place in your life to a sexual aberration, I can't help but remember what young love felt like to me...love that wasn't a choice...love that was entirely non-sexual, but was love, nonetheless....and I realize once again how incredily ignorant some people can be.

Let me say here that I am fully aware that straight people certainly know what unrequited love is all about...anyone, straight or gay, can fall in love with the wrong person...someone who doesn't love them back, or is unavailable to them...someone who belongs to someone else. The heart wants what it wants, and love has a mind of its own, and often love hurts...a lot...in fact, probably everyone has experienced this on some level.

But when a gay person falls in love with a straight person, there's a whole other dimension of pain involved. In these cases, rejection is almost guaranteed, but it's not just your standard rejection...not just the rite of passage of a broken heart that every person experiences at one time or another.

Ellen Degeneres once eloquently described the isolation that closeted gay kids experience, and I had never thought of this until she said it, but I agree with it. Her point was that even if a kid who is part of a minority experiences prejudice or rejection, they at least have other people in their world who are like them and can understand what they're going through. For example, if an African-American kid gets called the "N" word on the playground, he or she at least has a home, a family, a community of other African-Americans whom he or she can talk to about it....like-minded people who can provide empathy and support.

But when a gay kid who can't tell the truth about himself or herself experiences prejudice or rejection, they can't talk to anyone about it. In most cases, they are strangers in their own homes. They don't even know anyone who is like them. I certainly didn't. Even those closest to them can't possibly empathize with what they may be going through, even though they may experience it repeatedly.

Anyway, back to that afternoon, many years ago.

It was a Wednesday, and we had church every Wednesday night, so I was supposed to be doing my homework...was supposed to finish it before church that night.

Church was mandatory...attendance was never one time optional.

I not only went to church every Wednesday night of my life (besides Sundays and the other days of the week, for whatever reason), I usually had to sing or play my saxophone in the service, or attend a youth meeting... one way or the other, I always participated in church.

So I remember that I was laying across my bed that afternoon, supposedly working on a social studies or math assignment (but most probably I was drawing pictures, or writing the name of the boy I loved over and over again)...anyway, at one point in the attempt at engaging in something that resembled homework, I looked out my window and saw something that literally took my breath away for a few seconds.

I saw him walking down the street with the little girl who lived in the house between our two houses.

In my memory, they were holding hands...I don't know for sure...but I remember they were definitely laughing and having a good time...I remember looking at him as he looked at her, and recognizing that he had never looked at me that way...and in that instant it dawned on me that he would never in a million years look at me that way...he certainly would never walk down the street, laughing and holding my hand...that's for sure.

I'm not a good enough writer to explain to you what happened to me in that moment.

Even as I write about it now, I know it probably doesn't seem like that big a deal...I just don't know how to describe the pain that my 11 year old heart felt upon seeing them together that day.

I'm feeling it even as I write about it as if it just happened, but I still don't have the language to convey what I experienced standing there at my bedroom window.

It was more than just the realization that he liked girls. I'm sure I already knew that, but I just had never seen it manifested before.

If I had been a girl who was in love with him I could have tried to compete with her for his attention.

But I wasn't a girl.

I was a boy.

A boy who liked boys.

A boy who liked boys who didn't like boys back, and never would.

And this is why I won't let people who don't know what they're talking about get by with saying that sexual orientation is exclusively about sex.

That day I watched the boy I loved walking with a girl...I watched them for as long as I could, until they disappeared over a hill in the sub-division...

And then I collapsed in a heap on the floor in the way that a marionette puppet does when its strings are cut, and just began to sob.

I sobbed the deepest sobs I ever remember sobbing in my life up until that point.

I sobbed as quietly as I could so that my parents wouldn't hear me, because if they heard they would naturally want to know what in the world was wrong, and there was no possible way that I could tell them.

I sobbed on that hardwood floor in my bedroom until it felt like my guts were going to come out.

I sobbed because I didn't know what to do with the feelings I had for him.

I sobbed because I knew I could never tell him about it.

There's no way he could ever understand, and he certainly didn't feel the same way about me.

If I told him, he might hate me and never speak to me again.

He might call me a fag.

I'd been called that before on the playground at school because I didn't know how to play ball...I already knew what that felt like...I remembered the day in third grade when they threw me a football at recess and (I swear) I had never even seen one before...had no idea what to do with it. My dad never watched football, and I had no brothers and no male playmates to speak of, so football wasn't even in my consciousness...

But this was about more than not being able to play sports...the bottom line is that even if he understood my love for him, it wouldn't make him stop liking girls...it certainly wouldn't make him love me...

I sobbed because I couldn't tell anyone about it.

I sobbed because even at that young age, I knew that I would never feel that way about a girl.

My parents would never accept it.

I couldn't even talk to God about it, because He would just send me to hell for loving a boy, so I avoided the subject with Him, altogether.

Bottom line, the jarring reality check that I got in that instant...about who I was...about who I loved...about everything that was wrong with my young life...just came crashing in on me all at once...it was a moment of truth, but not the kind of truth that sets you free...all it did for me was make me want to die.

I don't know how long I lay on that floor and cried...I just cried until there weren't anymore tears.

By then it was time for church, and on the way there, when my mom noticed my swollen, red eyes and demanded an explanation, I came up with some lie...I don't remember what I told her...whatever it was, she didn't buy it, but the service was about to start and she had to play the organ, so the subject was tabled...

Remember when you were a kid and you cried really hard and then got the hiccups from it? Well, I played the sax that night with a serious case of the hiccups...with deep gaps in my breathing from having cried so hard...it was an ordeal, but I got through it.

Then, somehow, after church we just never discussed it and I went to bed and it never came up again.



He and I remained friends after that, but it became increasingly hard for me to be around him because my feelings for him were so intense. I started having bouts of depression, but I disguised them as much as I could.

My extended family still chides me to this day about what a moody kid I was...about how I always look so gloomy in the family reunion home movies that were taken during that time period.

When they say it I think, "You have no idea..."

A few months later we moved away and I never saw him again.

About a year after that I felt the call of God into the ministry, and just started channeling all my energy into trying to serve Him...and into trying with all my might to not be gay.

That's when I entered the "on-fire-for-Jesus phase" that I talked about in the beginning of the book.


Throughout my life, I fell in love with a lot of my straight friends, and they never knew it.


I just learned to deal with it.


No one ever suspected because I was always dating girls.

I slept in beds with friends of mine that I was very attracted to over the years, and practiced enormous amounts of self-control, because they never knew it, either.

But that first one hurt.

Big time.


I would be embarrassed for him or anyone else to actually know how many times over the years I have driven over to that town and have gone to that neighborhood and have sat in my car in front of his house, hoping that I would see him...hoping that if I did, I would somehow find the nerve to tell him how I felt...not that I thought I could convert him (because that can't be done, I don't care who tells you that it can)...but because I thought at one time, especially during the years I was  still trying to be delivered from homosexuality, that talking to him about it would somehow be a key to set me free.

This went on for decades, even after I was married and had kids of my own.

Even after I knew for sure that he didn't even live there any more, I still drove over there a lot. I can't explain why...just trying to make sense of my life, I guess...but every time I went, I cried again.

It's amazing how much you can cry over someone in your life who never even knows about it.

Anyway, I finally stopped driving over there a couple of years ago...right about the time I came out...in fact, I don't think I've gone there once since I came out.

Once, I looked up his new address and drove by where he lived at the time...I think I saw him coming out of the house and panicked and sped off...I don't know why...I just did...it sounds irrational, I know, but it is what it is (or was what it was)...

I hesitate to even admit to all of this because I know it makes me sound like a stalker or a crazy person...but I need to drive the point home about orientation that I'm trying to make...


So, to those who say that orientation is a choice, or to those who think it's just about sex I say, "Tell it to that broken-hearted kid laying on that floor crying his eyes out all those years ago...and to a million other broken-hearted gay kids (who have never had sex with anyone), who experience the same thing every day..."

You have absolutely no clue about how misguided your opinions are.




Love is real...


...even if you don't understand it.


He who answers a matter before he hears the facts--it is folly and shame to him. (Proverbs 18:13 - AMP)
In other words, don't attempt to speak with authority about something you can't possibly understand.


That's what love has to do with it.





OK, I'm ready to move on now...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS - Chapter Fifteen, Part 1



CHAPTER XV


What's Love Got to Do With It?


"To the pure in heart, all things are pure..."
(Titus 1:15)

 



Well, it's not a question, really...

Just something that I need to make clear...

...and it's this...


Sexual orientation is not just about sex!

When I was in the middle of experiencing my fifteen minutes of post-coming-out media attention, I would get hit with a lot of questions about sex in many interviews...particularly questions about my own experience in that area...and I always tried to move the conversation in a different direction when that would happen.

I suppose it's understandable that I would get those kinds of questions, but I just hated to have to answer them.

It's not that I had anything to hide about my sex-life back then...as I've already said in this book, enough time has now passed that it should be clear that I was not outed by anyone...my coming out was not a publicity-driven attempt to get in front of an about-to-be-revealed sex scandal, make the story my own, and protect my public image, as many haters in the blogosphere speculated.

Even after my divorce, I could have just not said the whole truth about myself, and could have saved myself a lot of pain, hassle, and trouble. Even though, in that case, many would probably be suspicious of the real reason for the break-up, I could have just done what many closeted public figures do...could have maintained a secret relationship, or had secret sexual encounters, and could have kept the public persona somewhat protected.

Actor Raymond Burr (Perry Mason, Ironside), for example, managed to keep his male partner out of sight for decades...the man he considered to be his husband...and his fans were none the wiser. He's just one of many, many famous gay people who have kept their private reality totally private like that. Many high profile people live that way today in Washington, and even in liberal Hollywood, in order to preserve everything that they've worked for.



And it's certainly not that I'm squeamish about talking about sex.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't have trouble talking about anything...and I mean anything!

In fact, I freely and openly discuss things about politics, racism, sexism, religious intolerance, homophobia, ignorance, phoniness in the ministry, hypocrisy, and the gimmicks that many preachers use to be successful quite frequently in the pulpit.

The words "I can't believe you actually said that out loud!" are words I hear quite often.

I even publicly speak so candidly about my own faults, mistakes and idiosyncrasies that it's a wonder anyone ever even gossips about me. That's why I can say with confidence that you shouldn't believe everything you may hear or read about me...if something's true, I probably would have already told everybody about it, even if I have sworn to my own hurt to do so. If I haven't said anything about it, it most likely didn't happen, because I live my life (especially now) as an open book.

If there had been a sex scandal that prompted me to come out, I would have been the one to go public with it. It's just too exhausting to try to hide something that's inevitably going to be revealed about you. I'd rather just let everyone hear it from me (..."Confess your faults one to another..."), and just let the chips fall where they may.

In other words, I just don't need "don't ask, don't tell"...

No, the reason that I don't like to talk about the sexual aspect of being gay is because too many straight people ignorantly assume that that's what it's all about.

As I said earlier in the book, being gay is not a choice, nor is it a sexual fetish, or even a particular kind of behavior, for that matter.

When you make it just about the physical, you marginalize those with same-sex attraction, overlooking important aspects of their lives such as love, romance, affection, commitment, relationship, partnership, family, paternal/maternal instincts, sharing a life together, dealing with loneliness, community, growing old with someone, longevity, owning property together, having/adopting/raising children, and so on.

In my congregation (both locations) are same-sex couples who have faithfully been in monogamous relationships for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years or more...a couple in my Midtown Atlanta congregation just celebrated their 37th anniversary (they met in college and have never dated anyone else, male or female)...I got a beautiful letter recently from two men who have been together for 41 years...and in states where gay marriage is now legal, you see some couples who have been together for more than 50 years, who are just now able to have their long relationships recognized and acknowledged in that way.

These are people who often work together, own homes together, own businesses together, go to church together, take care of one another in sickness and in health, take care of one another's parents in their old age, have children together, and don't cheat on one another...

In a word, these are people who LOVE one another!

Whether or not they have the insurance or legal benefits, or any of the other perks that straight married people often take for granted, they are in real and committed RELATIONSHIPS...


...and they're not just having sex all the time!



As I've already said here, sexual orientation is not about WHAT YOU DO...it's about WHO YOU ARE!

I was gay long before I ever had sex with anyone, male or female, and if I were to remain celibate for the rest of my life, I would still be gay, because that's how I'm wired (oriented)!

Again, straight people don't become heterosexual upon having a sexual experience with the opposite sex...they just are and always have been straight.

A heterosexual man or woman could go to his or her grave a virgin and still be straight, because that's their orientation.


Same thing for gay people...it's who they are, not what they do...

No one chooses heterosexuality.

No one chooses homosexuality.

You just are what you are, regardless of what you ever decide to do (or not do) about it.

If you never act on your sexual impulses, you still are either gay or straight (some include bi-sexual here, even though I have my own opinions about that subject, which I will save for later)...you just are who and what you are.

Straight people can disagree and argue about that fact ad infinitum, but it doesn't change the reality of it.


You Can't be Serious!

Most of the deluge of hate mail that I was getting daily when I first came out has pretty much died off now...as I've already said, the letters I got from Christians were so mean and nasty and hateful that they were nearly comical...like it was a practical joke. I don't think I could have gotten nastier stuff written to me if I had murdered my parents. For some reason the Christians just really can't stand for some people to be themselves, especially gay people (even though Jesus was silent on the subject...and I know I've said that before, but it bears repeating)...

Anyway, one typical line of thinking that was in many of those letters was the comparison of homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia. Lots of people said to me "If you say you were born with this orientation, then what's the difference with people who say they were born a pedophile, or that it is in their nature to have sex with animals?...we don't allow those people to do what they feel like doing, so why should we allow homosexuals (usually they insert the word "sodomite" here) to live open lives?"

Please allow me to answer this incredibly insulting question...

It's such a stupid and mean-spirited argument that I shouldn't even dignify it with an answer, but I'll do it anyway...

The simple answer is that human beings cannot have consensual, committed relationships with animals, and adults cannot and should not have consensual relationships with children!

If gay people were incapable of love, relationship or commitment, these people might nearly have a point...but, as I have said, it's not just about who you have sex with, it's about who you are attracted to...who you love...I could even run the risk of making stereotypes by saying that orientation often determines a person's taste in music or movies or fashion. I know in my own case, there are certain types of entertainment (Broadway, for example) that I have always loved and followed, and that has nothing to do with my sex-life, whatsoever. I'm not saying all gay men know and like show tunes, but a lot of them do, including me. I'm not saying all lesbians like football and shop at Home Depot, but a lot of them do. Without trying to box anyone into a label, I'm just trying to make the point that orientation is a much bigger thing to deal with than who a person sleeps with...

Another thing you hear from these people is that gay people, especially the ones who want to get married to each other, are changing the definition of marriage that we have observed from the beginning of time, and that's just not true. I've already discussed this in the book, but even the men in the Bible were nearly all polygamists and had harems. Even the concept of marrying for love is a relatively new and modern idea...and it wasn't that many years ago that it was illegal for people of different races to get married, and back then the haters used the same arguments against mixed marriages.

Just because you don't understand or can't empathize with the way someone else sees the world, doesn't mean you have the right to condemn it.



...to be continued...