Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Chosen Generation

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

1 Peter 2.9 (New King James Version)

The Best of Times

Today is the best day ever in GLBT history. But we won’t remember it as such, because tomorrow will be even better. The gay rights saga is defined by progress. Even our hardest struggles—inequality, homophobia, AIDS, violence, substance abuse, etc.—have contributed to our advancement. They've united us, raised our profile, won us invaluable allies, and created momentum that steadily continues to change society. If not yet the best of all possible worlds, it’s still the best of times for GLBT people.

The enormous strides we’ve made as a community now enable us to make inroads in places and institutions that largely resisted accepting openly gay people—adoption agencies, marriage rosters, and the military, for example. Regrettably, the church also goes on this list. While politicians and pundits fume and fuss about these other “issues,” however, a quiet revolution is underway in the halls of faith

As God’s Spirit opens hearts and minds like never before, GLBT believers stand on the forefront of an earthshaking movement. If we seize this moment with our compassionate straight sisters and brothers, what we achieve together will overflow sanctuary walls and spill into the world at large. There’s been no greater time for GLBT individuals to follow Jesus.

Early Church Parallels

A perceptive divinity student could write his/her thesis on parallels between what’s occurring in open, affirming congregations and the Early Church. In his first epistle, Peter urged his readers to realize their potential and responsibility for establishing Christ’s New Order. The religious majority had rejected Jesus in no uncertain terms. They stumbled terribly through ignorance and hard-hearted legalism. That’s why God chose a new generation to speak through and claim for His own—a people beholden to Him through personal experience and intimate knowledge of His life-changing power. The similarities between then and now are too obvious to need drawing out.

Look at Us Now!

Paraphrasing Peter as he continues in verse 10, what he says to 1st-century Christians has tremendous resonance for 21st-century GLBT believers: “Once you were nobodies prevented from receiving mercy; now you’re people of God with full access to His mercy.” That’s how God sees us; that’s how we must see ourselves. He called us from our darkness of shame, denial, and obscurity to stand, fully seen in His marvelous light. Without a doubt, we are a chosen generation. What we choose to do from there is entirely on us. 

God has chosen us for this time and place, to join our welcoming brothers and sisters, realizing our potential and responsibility as followers of Christ.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Misfits Myth

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

                        Psalm 24.1


A few years back, a buddy invited my partner and me to his bachelor party. We tried to politely decline out of concern over what it likely involved, but (Lord love him) he wouldn’t hear of it. So we went, hoping for the best. As the evening progressed, our discomfort increased. First, we were the only couple there. Many of the guys had wives and girlfriends, yet the occasion urged them to act footloose and fancy-free. Then the stripper arrived. We survived the floorshow until it turned, shall we say, “interactive.” That’s when my partner whispered, “We don’t belong here,” and we discreetly disappeared.

Who hasn’t been in comparable situations? People generously invite us into their circles. But once we’re there, they don’t quite know how to make us feel welcome or anticipate how behaviors they find innocuous might be offensive to us. And let’s be real: we make the same mistake ourselves. Although no harm is intended, sometimes it’s more uncomfortable being invisible on the inside than standing outside and looking in. The issue shifts from being rejects to feeling like misfits.

A Period of Adjustment

Undoubtedly, God is speaking to Christians everywhere, compelling them to forsake manmade doctrines and traditions of exclusion for non-judgmental acceptance of everyone—including GLBT believers. As we join their numbers, it’s imperative we’re sensitive to this being an enormous sea change for many of them. Though they genuinely desire our fellowship, it may take a period of adjustment to figure out what to do with us. And we may feel just as awkward about what we should do to fit in.

We owe one another the benefit of every doubt, staying keenly aware this is uncharted territory, a decidedly human endeavor to obey a divine mandate. It demands tolerance and patience all around. If we expect other Christians to recalibrate their thinking to accept us yet insist on holding them to idealized standards, we fail them as much than they do us. Most important, we fall short of Christ’s command to love others as we love ourselves.

Don’t Feel—Know

Following Jesus is about becoming perfect. The believer seeking perfection in others asks for disappointment. As God leads us to coalesce into one people of faith, we have to discard what we feel and go on what we know. The earth is His, everything and everyone in it. We don’t belong to churches. We belong to Him. That’s the bottom line here. Avoid the misfit myth at all costs.

We can learn from Bono's example and set aside worries about fitting in with other believers to work beside them for a higher purpose.

(Tomorrow: A Chosen Generation)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Right Where You Are

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.

                        Psalm 113.3

Sunrise, Sunset

In the past 24 hours I’ve traveled from Chicago to Seattle and back, flying into sunsets both ways. Coming home this evening, this scripture came to mind. However, I remembered it in the King James Version: “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same…” When I opened my New International Version, I got one of those surprises that catch you off-guard when you read familiar text in a more accurate, contemporary translation.

I always thought this verse admonished us to praise God all the time—from sunrise to sunset. But it doesn’t say that. It’s not a matter of when (even though an attitude of constant praise is a wonderful goal). It’s a matter of where. In other words, it calls for universal praise, recognizing if people everywhere took a moment or two to acknowledge and adore their Creator, His praise would indeed be perpetual.

More to It

There’s more to it than geography. We should offer praise regardless of where we are in our lives. If we think about it, our spiritual and emotional locations routinely inhibit our proclivity for praise. Obviously, in wastelands of despair—places a friend calls “the backside of the desert”—we’re hard-pressed to praise. If we stumbled into these dry patches on our own, we’re prone to question God. Worse still, if we got there by closely following Him, we may slip into resentment

But is it any easier to praise God as we bask in the sunshine of success and feast on the fruits of our labor? I’m not so sure. I’ve found that when I hit an unusually smooth and productive stretch, I sometimes neglect my praise responsibilities. I even get confused about how I got there, which tempts me to congratulate myself!

Disciplined Praise

Although praise and gratitude are closely related, they’re not the same. We praise God for Who He is; we thank Him for what He’s done. This makes praise a discipline, a habit we practice independently of thanksgiving. Our mindset, situation, and outlook have no bearing on our passion for praise. Once we grasp this, praise becomes an exquisitely liberating activity. It expresses faith in the face of facts, good or bad. 

Better than that, though, praise anchors God’s presence in our circumstances. Psalm 22.3 says our praise is His throne. It activates His governance and power. Whether or not you find anything at all to be grateful about, you can still praise God right where you are. Once you make room for Him through praise, gratitude is sure to follow.


Wherever we are in life--from the most spectacular places to the most desolate--praise is a responsibility we can never neglect.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What Are You Doing?

And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

                        1 Kings 19.9

Crossing the Line

This verse finds Elijah hiding out, disgusted, depressed, and afraid. Ironically, it comes after he triumphantly humiliated a group of idolaters in a sort of “Battle of the Gods.” With Israel plagued by drought, King Ahab staged the event hoping one of them would bring rain. After Baal failed, God performed in spectacular fashion. In a fit of bravado, Elijah slaughtered his enemies. Then rain poured from the sky.

God proved Himself, but Elijah crossed the line trying to end the debate once and for all. When Queen Jezebel learned Elijah murdered Baal’s prophets, she swore revenge. He fled for his life, plopped down, and whined, “I’ve had enough, Lord. Kill me now.” He kept running, eventually settling in a cave. That’s when God asked, “What are you doing here?

Déjà Vu All Over Again

“I’m Your biggest fan,” Elijah complained. “Israel turned away, but I defended You. Now I’m all alone and they want to kill me.” God didn’t buy it. “Go wait outside,” He said, “and I’ll come by.” A powerful wind shook the mountain; God wasn’t in it. Next came an earthquake and fire—no God in them, either. Finally, Elijah heard a gentle whisper. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God repeated. Elijah sang the same sad song. It was déjà vu all over again. He didn’t get the question. It wasn’t “Why are you here?” It was “What are you doing here?”

Defending vs. Doing

Today’s volatile climate can easily lure us into religious showdowns not unlike Elijah’s. First, we should avoid debates about whom God accepts, sexuality, etc. That’s His business. Second, we have nothing to prove because we can’t prove anything. The Bible clearly defines faith as belief based entirely on hope without evidence. Third, we learn from Elijah that embarrassing our adversaries feels grand at first, but it ultimately creates problems that alienate and frighten us. When we should be out in the open, following Christ, we’re holed up somewhere, going no place. We won’t hear God in tumults. But, sooner or later, He’ll quietly ask, “What are you doing?”

It turned out God needed Elijah to get things done.  He reeled off His plan to remove Elijah's enemies and provide a colleague, Elisha, to stand with him  What's more, Elijah was far from alone. God had 7,000 believers ready to do what's right.  Righteousness and truth don't need defending. They need doing.

Defenders wind up in caves...

...doers live out in the open.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You Have No Idea!

[He] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

                        Ephesians 3.20

The Power Principle

Most of us know this proverb: “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.” In essence, it equates the transmission of knowledge with the transfer of power. It’s also an apt metaphor for how following Christ works. As our knowledge of God increases, His power within us grows.

Slowly, through experience and study, we learn two things. It’s pointless to depend solely on our power. This reduces our circumstances to a human scale that plunges us into a battle of wits and endurance we may not be fully equipped to win. On the other hand, when we acknowledge God’s power in our lives, we set aside our desires and dreams to allow His plan to take effect. Inevitably, we realize His ideas are always better than ours.

Victims and Volunteers

While this sounds like Pollyanna optimism, there’s a big difference between living passively in denial and yielding right of way to God’s power. True Christians embrace reality at its best and worst. They see and feel with the same natural sense and sensibility as everyone else. But when they factor God’s power into the equation, it produces unnatural thinking and responses. They approach real life from a radically different—some even say totally unrealistic—angle.

Is it unrealistic? No, actually, how we manage our lives is many times more pragmatic and productive than running them without God’s power. For example, when I feel particularly put-upon or misused, my partner invariably reminds me, “Honey, in life there are no victims, only volunteers.” I hate hearing that, yet it corrects my course. We can’t control other people. But God gives us total power to reject rejection and conquer defeat. We must accept—and love—our enemies. Yet we’re not obligated to tolerate their abuse or respect their opinions. We don’t sign up for unnecessary suffering!

Ask… Imagine…

When faith activates God’s power in us, it also entitles us to ask for everything and imagine anything. Ephesians doesn’t say we’ll get it; in fact, it promises we won’t. Our needs and longings merely launch God’s creativity. He does immeasurably more than what we ask or imagine. We may overlook a nuance or miscalculate the obvious. He doesn’t miss a detail. You may think you know what He’s up to, but once His power kicks in, you have no idea how amazing and perfect His solution can be!

...and expect immeasurably more than that.

Personal Postscript: Who’s There?

This past weekend, a friend told me that a blog he regularly visits was closing. Apparently, the blogger was frustrated by so few comments. My friend decided to post a comment encouraging the blogger to soldier on. “But then the form came up and I bagged it.”

I sympathize with both sides. Often I want to chime in on blogs I visit—only to back out. At the same time, it’s an odd feeling, tossing out thoughts and never really knowing who’s catching them. It’s not essential to find out who drops by Straight-Friendly, of course. It was launched in faith, believing those who need it will find it. I am fully confident this will happen, if I never discover who they are or what they think.

Having said all this, though, if something here inspires or offends you, or if you’ve got an opinion, thought, or suggestion in general, please take the opportunity to express it. If you’re reluctant about commenting publicly, by all means drop me a line at:

Proverbs 27.17 tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” As your comments and encouragement sharpen me, I know God will help me keep Straight-Friendly sharply focused.


Monday, August 11, 2008

The Missionary Position

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”

                        Mark 16.15 

Back to Square One

This scripture is often referred to as “The Great Commission”—the disciples’ authorization by Christ to spread the gospel. We hold it in high regard and rightly respect those who dedicate their lives to His call. But what led up to it was not quite so noble.

After leaving the tomb, Jesus met some women who came to anoint His corpse. He instructed them to tell the disciples He was alive and would meet them in Galilee. (That’s right; Christ first entrusted women with the resurrection message.) The disciples didn’t believe. They stayed put, ignoring the command to return to Galilee, where many of them initially encountered Jesus. Plainly, He intended to begin this new phase of His ministry by going back to square one. When the disciples failed to meet Him, He had to come to them.

Alone and Afraid

Why didn’t the disciples show up? Before rushing to judgment, we should gauge their emotional state. They left everything—homes, families, and jobs—for Christ. Now He had been taken from them, no doubt sooner than they anticipated and in a far more sinister, gruesome manner than they imagined. Seeing how the public and politicians turned on their Leader, they had no assurance they wouldn’t be next. Naturally, the disciples felt alone and afraid.

Mark reports that when Jesus arrived, “he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe.” He chastened them for yielding to natural impulses instead of following the unnatural lifestyle He taught them to live by faith. He understood their feelings of rejection and fear. But rather than comfort them, He confronted the doubt and disbelief behind their emotions. After that reality check, they were ready to hear what He planned to tell them in Galilee: “Go everywhere and tell everyone what you know.”

Meet Him in Galilee

We most often associate The Great Commission with preaching and foreign missions. Yet knowing its context tells a different story. We are all commissioned to spread the good news of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. Before taking off for parts unknown, we start in Galilee, the world and people we know best. As GLBT believers, we must assume the missionary position first and foremost in our community. Given the religious hostility it’s suffered, we potentially face a similarly angry backlash. We can’t respond like the disciples, hiding out in fear, nowhere to be found. We’ve got the best news known to humanity. If we truly believe it, we’ll act on it by faith. Go.



Whether we live in big cities like these or remote rural areas, our community is our Galilee.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Be Prepared

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

                        James 5.16

Unequalled Opportunity

Our ability to ask for things significantly affects our personal and professional progress. When major opportunities surface, we gather our thoughts and outline our requests in advance. We do our best to be fully prepared to convey our desires and needs clearly and to persuade those we approach that we’re sincere, trustworthy, and sensitive to the nature of our request.

This hardly needs saying, but no person on Earth compares to God in terms of asking for things. His concern for us is supreme. His enthusiasm is tireless. His wisdom is unfathomable. And His authority is absolute. For these reasons—and dozens like them—it’s smart to regard every prayer we offer Him as its own unequalled opportunity. Does it seem odd to anyone else that we spend hours prepping to ask for a raise, yet we’re OK with praying on the fly?

What Do We Really Need?

Preparation isn’t about style or eloquence. Nothing in Scripture indicates fancy talk impresses God. “Without faith,” Hebrews 11.6 says, “it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” So before we pray, we should wrap our minds around two things. God is real, and He expects us to be real.

He’s not Santa Claus and prayer isn’t like hopping on his lap to ask for a shiny new toy. Before asking Him for anything, we ask ourselves, “What do we really need?” This is essential, because it determines exactly how we frame our prayer, which in turn affects how we feel about His answer. Why is that?

Staying in the Picture

Without preparation, we reduce prayer to two types of non-prayer: customer complaints and pipe dreams. We describe our needs and desires to God yet conveniently step out of the picture, asking Him to deal with everything and everyone but us. For instance: “Dear Lord, please help my parents accept that I’m gay.” But is that ours to ask? No, that’s their problem. If we think things through and stay in the picture, our prayer becomes: “Dear Lord, please help me love and accept my parents whether or not they accept me.”

If our prayers don’t produce desired results, we should revisit the conversation. Inevitably, we’ll see getting right answers depends on asking right questions. Thoughtful preparation refines the request. No longer is it “Fix it for me.” It’s “Fix me for it.” This is what James is telling us. A righteous attitude going into prayer produces powerful and effective results coming out.

Preparing before we pray dramatically impacts what happens after we pray.