November 29, 2008

A Good Outreach Story

Pastor Debbie George in Kenmore, WA posted this note on her Facebook page and game me permission to post it here. This is a story of her stepping out beyond her comfort zone to give the Lord an opportunity to use her among some people who desperately needed His light to shine through her.

God wants us to be at peace, but he wants us to move beyond the comfort of the familiar to share His love with the unfamiliar, sometimes in less than comfortable situations. Bless you Deb for answering that call and setting an example for the rest of us.

If you think your lacking.. Think again.. My Shelter Night
Posted by Pastor Debbie George

Several weeks ago I had answered a Craig’s list add to sing during a weekly Friday dinner that a youth shelter offers in Seattle, right by the U of W. The shelter is for the 18-25 range and is run out of the United Methodist Church for many years now.

The add said they welcomed on types of music including gospel, so I went ahead and answered the add, told them I was a worship pastor etc. They wrote me right back, excited for me to come and set my date at Friday November 28th.

The above information was about all I knew about the event. I figured that I would go and sing songs of encouragement and just let the Love of God flow out and over the youth. To be honest, I was nervous because this was so far outside my experience not in terms of seeing homeless people, I work in Seattle after all and our church has done many outreaches where we go to the streets. But this was my first time singing and somewhat performing rather then “leading” worship. I knew it would be different, but was still not quite prepared for what I saw and felt while there.

The night started with meeting a twenty something street girl named Lakita.
Lakita approached me the moment I got out of the car with my guitar and asked if I was singing etc. She proceeded to tell me how much she hated men, how she did not feel comfortable at the shelter because of the men and went out in very colorful language to tell me how she beats the crap out of anyone who crosses her... whew.. My first thought was along the lines of.. “Debbie your not in your comfortable little neighborhood suburb”
Translate too.. “Dorothy, you’re not in Kansas Anymore!”

But yet... Are these not the people that we as Christians want to touch with the love of God? I found that after my initial culture shock, I was thinking. Lord... How do I touch the Lakita’s of the world?
How do I get out of my comfort zone enough to earn their trust and bring some light to their hard life? I did not come up with the answers in the five minutes that it took to walk with her, but at least the question was asked and I know God Always answers.

Of course I knew Lakita would be hustling for cash, so after she walked us to the Alley, Yes I said Alley... She asked for coin, which I happened to have and gladly gave and wished her well.

The Alley... Well, picture a dark alley with lots of drug addicts and you have the picture. What we were not prepared to see was the needle exchange and the brillo exchange set up in the alleyway. So many young people lost to drugs.
I felt safe walking in, but then I was not alone going in either.

As soon as we got there and started setting up the person in charge asked me if I was a Christian, to which I replied yes. He said “cool” but… oh here comes the B word.
He was gently trying to tell me that not everyone might appreciate Christian music and if anyone gave me a bad time to come find him... Great!!!! Just when I thought I had all my nerves under control... I explained to him that I did not have or play any other type of music and that the songs I brought were ones of hope and that I was not going to preach to them or sing actual church worship songs so we should be ok hopefully.

Because it was an open feed, there were all types of people there and ages. The young ones seemed to be more the drug addicts and there were plenty of alcoholics there as well. Plenty of non-sober people and I saw a good portion of people that just did not have all their mental faculties. They were pleasant and wanted to talk. We sat on the stage for a good half hour before the music and just listened to one gal, show us her stuffed animal, talk to us about her job etc.. I really do not think she had a job, the mental faculties were not there but she went on and on and I just kept thinking. Oh God.. Their minds are gone, Help!!

The music started and the people were lined up out the door. My job was to really just provide background music. After the first song, I introduced myself and heeding what the person in charge had said, I just told them that I mess up a lot in life and I was going to sing songs for them about messing up and always being able to get back up no matter what.. They clapped and seemed to be ok with that vain of thinking.

It was just so different for me to not be in a “flow” musically. It was the LONGEST HOUR OF MY MUSICAL LIFE.. Honestly.. I kept looking to my left to ask Susan what time was it.. All that said.. I did see several people completely zoned into the music and hanging on the words. At one point as I was singing a song called “Hold Me” I looked to my left and saw a young lady waiting in line for her food and she had her head back, eyes closed and was absolutely soaking in the words. I could feel her soaking. I looked in front and there was an older man that was just staring at me, I kept wanting to avert my eyes until the Lord spoke and said HE is Listening, sing to him!. So I looked right at him on the final song and sang about how the Lord loves you no matter what you have done.

There were some funny moments as well. Someone said out loud “ Baby, I got a song for you” umm yet I bet you do. But I just shrugged him off and kept going..haha

I was invited back. Will I go back? Yes I will because I know that seeds were planted and I want to see them grow. In my flesh, I would like to just walk away and go back to my neighborhood Starbucks and hang out with friends, because that is where it is comfortable. But were not called to be comfortable are we? We may think we have things that we lack, but just the fact that you’re on a computer reading this report, says you have so much more than these people have. In this Thanksgiving week, think about all you really have, because I tell you there are hurting people all around us who truly have nothing.

November 28, 2008

A Few Who Give Back

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Bay Windows, New England's largest GLBT newspaper, ran a feature titled "Giving Thanks by Giving Back." They profiled four individuals who give of themselves to make the GLBT community better. They are:

Zac Brokenrope donates his time at the LGBT Aging Project’s Thursday luncheon called CafĂ© Emmanuel. Every Thursday, Brokenrope heads to Emmanuel Church on Newbury St. to set out food and chat with LGBT seniors. Brokenrope, a freshman at Boston University, just moved here from Nebraska, where there was not a strong gay community, so he wanted to connect with the community in Boston.

Rick Larkin volunteers at the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC) outreach program and was recently elected to the organization’s board. Having been diagnosed with HIV in 1986 Larkin said he volunteers because he has been lucky enough to access services that have helped him become a long-term survivor.

Jess Nieuwenhuizen has volunteered at Boston GLASS (Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services), a drop-in center for LGBT people between the ages of 13 and twenty-five. A grad student at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, Nieuwenhuizen volunteered as an intern, helping develop the agency’s literary magazine, co-facilitating a weekly woman’s group, helping out with Shades of Color, a peer education and leadership development program and most importantly was a peer mentor for members of Boston Glass.

Steve Swanberg, known lovingly around the MassEquality office as "Info Steve," volunteers by answering all of the e-mails sent to the address "info@massequality."; In March 2004 -- the height of the marriage equality debate on Beacon Hill, when MassEquality as we now know it was just taking off -- Swanberg decided it was time to get involved. He realized that organizations even needed people just to answer their e-mails. At that point, MassEquality was being bombarded with people seeking information about the issue.

Although the article doesn't mention anything about the faith of these individuals, their actions do represent what Jesus spoke in Matthew 25:40b (NIV):

'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Jesus came to earth as a servant, and we reach out to help others, we are moving toward a heart of Christ.

Click here to read the rest of the Bay Windows article.

November 25, 2008

Announcing A New Idea For Christmas Shopping!

Hi, all. I know I haven't blogged in a while, but this is one of the reasons... Erica and I have started a new business. I just finished the website at and we're really excited about this new adventure.

Basically, an acrostic takes a person's name or a business name, etc. and makes new words out of each letter. Like this:

Jesus Loves You

I will sing for joy to the Lord

My heart is towards you

So, that's how it works. We make these individualized to the person or organization or title, like pastor. They are embellished and framed for presentation and we have had wonderful feedback on them. Erica made some for visiting pastors at our renewal weekend and we've had nothing but glowing things said about how wonderful it was to receive such a personal, uplifting gift.

Okay, now that you know what we do, check out the website! If you are looking for the perfect Christmas gift this year, you've found it. (In my humble opinion. Smile.)

God bless you all this holiday season.


November 23, 2008

Setting Priorities

As leaders of the LGBT community reevaluate their goals and activism processes in the wake of recent election defeats, an important part of that needs to be understanding where those goals stand in the general scheme of things, particularly with the new Congress and President coming in January.

I am happy to see that there is some understanding among this group that, while the issue of same-sex marriage is very important, there are other issue that impact LGBT people which also need attention, and additionally issues like the current financial crisis that trump all of them in the short term.

A recent article in USA Today quotes some of these leaders:

There will be some hard questions asked about where marriage ranks on the list of possibilities and priorities" gays should focus on, says Steve Ralls of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Amy Balliett, whose website,, mobilized thousands Saturday to protest the reversal of gay marriage in California, plans more demonstrations, but she says the economy must come first. "Barack Obama can't put his initial focus" on gay marriage, says Balliett, who wed her partner in California last month. "That is just not fair to our nation."

I believe that last quote is very reasonable and demonstrates a very healthy, balanced perspective which is likely to be tested in the early months of the new Obama administration, as evidenced by this article in the Washington Times regarding the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell":

President-elect Barack Obama will not move for months, and perhaps not until 2010, to ask Congress to end the military's decades-old ban on open homosexuals in the ranks, two people who have advised the Obama transition team on this issue say.

Repealing the ban was an Obama campaign promise. However, Mr. Obama first wants to confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his new political appointees at the Pentagon to reach a consensus and then present legislation to Congress, the advisers said.

"I think 2009 is about foundation building and reaching consensus," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The group supports military personnel targeted under the ban.

Mr. Sarvis told The Washington Times that he has held "informal discussions" with the Obama transition team on how the new president should proceed on the potentially explosive issue.
Lawrence Korb, an analyst at the Center for American Progress and an adviser to the Obama campaign, said the new administration should set up a Pentagon committee to make recommendations to Congress on a host of manpower issues, including the gay ban.

"If it's part of a larger package, it has a better chance of getting passed," he said.

I know it's easy for me, a straight man, to preach patience and perspective to the LGBT community since my rights are not impacted by these delays, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. It's not about instant gratification now, it's about getting things right and, unlike Proposition 8, making them last.