December 31, 2005

Back to the Light at BCF

This week's issue of "Metro Weekly," a Washington, DC area magazine targeted toward toward the gay and lesbian community, featured an interview with the pastor of my church, Dale Jarrett. Pastor Jarrett talks about the role he sees the church filling in the GLBT community. I'm linking the whole piece, but this part is worth highlighting:

"A lot of people don't know what the Bible really said. They know what a preacher yelled at them from a pulpit. God does not have an issue with us. People do. And that comes out of their own ignorance and lack of willingness to question whether they're right or wrong. Too often, we've turned away from God because of the way God's people have treated us.''

I encourage you to read the entire interview:

December 29, 2005

Talk It and Walk It

I recently saw a post in one of the Yahoo groups I belong to refer to Jesus' ministry as "not one of ideas, but of acts." That struck me as something deeply profound, and it accurately describes His time on earth. Sure, He preached and introduced an amazing wealth of new ideas into our world, but He also took action.

Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, healed the sick, and provided food for the hungry. Most importantly, of course, was his willingness to die a painful, gruesome death on behalf of mankind and establish the path for our salvation.

This example is a fairly straightforward one to apply in our lives, yet it often proves very difficult to do. It's not because there are not opportunities--the need for service greatly outweighs the resources available. From my experience, I feel it is the sinful nature of man that pushes us toward focusing on taking care of ourselves and makes service to others seem burdensome and uncomfortable.

I, for one, have decided to practice what I am preaching. I have recently signed up with an organization called Equality Maryland and have volunteered to participate in a protest at the State House in February against a proposed amendment that would make same-sex marriage illegal. I also plan on helping out the organization in other ways, along with assisting the local county branch of the organization.

Political involvement is important, but from where I sit it should never come ahead of our service to God. That's why my wife Brenda and I continue to ramp up our involvement in our church. She will soon be assuming some pastoral duties, while I am helping establish a drama ministry and supporting her outreach work. It's a busy life we have, but it's a very good one that God continues to bless and make better as time goes by.

None of these activites may sound appealing to you, and that's fine. Trust me, you won't have to look very hard to find something that fits your personality and utilizes the gifts that God gave you. This is especially important regarding the GLBT community.

There is a very loud, well financed group of people in this nation that would love nothing better than to chase every GLBT person back into the closet and never hear from them again. If you are part of this community, your rights are being threatened and you need to take action. If you are straight like me, you need to step up and let those who are narrow-minded towards GLBT people know that you won't stand for them being treated like second-class citizens, both in the political arena and in the house of God.

As we move into a New Year, people like to make resolutions and set goals. If you are not currently active, I strongly encourage you to make 2006 your year to ACT!

Happy New Year's everyone, and may God richly bless you in 2006.

December 27, 2005

The Next Boycott Target

The folks at the American Family Organization, basking in the glow of saving Christmas from heathen retailers who wouldn't address customers with "Merry Christmas," have locked onto their next target, the NBC television network.

NBC is rolling out a new program titled "The Book of Daniel." The main character is a troubled Episcopal priest and his very disfunctional family, which includes a 23-year old homosexual son. The AFA is deeply offended by this program, which they claim "mocks christianity."

The AFA is trying to mobilize its members to e-mail the chairman of NBC, Bob Wright, to express their outrage that the network would even consider airing this type of program, and is also asking people to get their friends and family to do the same.

I have no opinion about the program because I have not seen it yet. There are plenty of other shows on my cable system which I do find offensive, and I would suggest people follow my lead if they are upset about "The Book of Daniel." It's a radical approach, but it's just crazy enough to work.

Don't watch it.

Doesn't the AFA realize that the bigger stink they make about this program, the more people they will influence to actually watch the show out of curiosity, myself included. I'm not an expert on the television industry, but their is one basic principle of a market economy that is almost foolproof that applies here--supply and demand.

If their is little demand for a television program, the supply will stop because it will be pulled off the air. Apathy is the enemy of the entertainment industry. Free press, including public protest campaigns, can be a great asset.

If "The Book of Daniel" offends you, may I suggest you turn the channel or even turn your television off completely and spend your time focused on loved ones or doing something constructive, like reading this blog.

Please don't waste everyone's time with petitions and counter-productive protests. There's a long list of ways we can better spend the precious time that the Lord gives us on earth.

December 26, 2005


I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Brenda and I sure did. We had an opportunity to entertain about a dozen members of her family and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. As an added bouns, there were no casualties or any property damage while the six kids were here.

Of course, one of the major events of Christmas is opening the presents. How wonderful it is to see loved ones enjoy gifts that you have put a lot of thought into and braved the hoardes at the mall to buy. It is also very nice to receive special gifts from loved ones who have done the same for you. As we tally up the loot, let's keep this scripture in mind.

Matthew 6:19-21: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

While its great to receive that electronic gadget you wanted or the special book, dress, or decoration for the home, Jesus told us in the above scripture we need to make sure that is not where we put our focus. Possessions come and go, but it's what we do with our lives that matters to God.

It's okay for us to enjoy what we have, especially those items that are special gifts from special people in our lives. It's also okay in our Creator's eyes if we don't have the wealth of our neighbor. We are blessed with true riches when we focus our lives on Jesus and model what we do and how we spend our time after the example he set for us.

Before he started his ministry, Jesus was a hard working carpenter who would probably be thought of as no better than lower middle-class in todays socio-economic structure. Obviously, accumulating wealth was not important to his mission on earth. What he stood for and what he did for others is what set him apart. As we catch our second wind from the holiday rush, let's try to approach our lives the same way.

December 24, 2005


If I would sum up what the birth of Jesus and the entire foundation of Christianity means to me in one word, it would be hope. On the day of His birth, an angel annouced Him to shepherds:

Luke 2: 10-11 "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

With this birth, the path to man's salvation was set in place. The birth of Jesus was the beginning of God's plan to reconcile mankind to Himself. There was hope for everyone!

As we all move through this Christmas season, some of us have families that love us and want to share it with us, and some of us don't. This can be a tough time of year for people who fall into the latter group. It is always difficult to see others enjoying something you don't have and once had yourself, or perhaps were never able to enjoy.

Thanks to Jesus, though, there is hope. Not everyone will wind up with a Norman Rockwell lifestyle, but that does not mean God will not have blessings, happiness, and joy available to us if we seek Him and follow His guidance in how we live our life.

I believe with all my heart that His love and blessings are available to ALL His people, regardless of anything, if we turn our lives over to Him.

If you are receiving these blessings, please take a moment to thank Him. If you aren't, this would be a great time to start.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good life!

December 22, 2005

"Twas The Fight Over Christmas"

I received a link to this piece today, written in the form of "Twas The Night Before Christmas." I think it is a cleaver and profound commentary on the supposed "War On Christmas" a group of "fundamentalists" have declared is ongoing this year.

December 19, 2005

What SNN is About

This little corner of the blogosphere reached two milestones recently. We received our 3,000th visitor, and the site was viewed in our 50th nation. Since we've picked up a lot of new readers in recent weeks, especially from international locations, I want to take a moment and affirm why I write this blog.

My posts will generally touch on at least one of these two main points; positive, biblically based affirmations of God's love for ALL people, or examples of how people acting under the umbrella of christianity have acted in manners that I feel are in contast to the teachings of the bible and the example Jesus showed during his ministry on earth.

It was the negative examples that made me angry and motivated me to start this blog back in June. Since then, I have had the opportunity to exchange views with a diverse group of people from whom I've learned a great deal. Whenever possible, I try to share those teachings with other readers so we can ALL grow in our understanding of God's love and his plan for our lives.

Please understand, this site is first and foremost about Jesus and the teachings of the bible as they apply, or are misapplied, to those in the GLBT community.

Unfortunately, though, politics must play a role in my content here. Politics and religion are far too closely intertwined these days. This is largely due, in my opinion, to "fundamentalists" who are part of the so-called religious right who have pushed an agenda cloaked in God's name.

I strongly feel that many of the issues where the "fundamentalists" have claimed the higher moral ground are based on interpretations of God's word that bear little resemblance to what is written in the bible. The bible is not easy, and those who put forth absolutely rigid interpretations of its message are often filtering God's word through their own agenda. When I see significant examples of this, I address it and show what I feel Jesus truly wants His people to do in that situation.

I don't want to just preach to the choir here, although reinforcing and affirming God's message to the GLBT community would by itself still be a worthwhile endeavor. I also hope people who don't accept GLBT people's place in God's kingdom read this material and open their minds and hearts to the possibility that there are other views.

Thank you for visiting Straight, Not Narrow. I am excited about having this opportunity to address important issues involving the GLBT community and look forward to continuing this dialogue to an ever expanding population.

December 17, 2005

A Response from Arlington Assembly of God

On December 6, I posted a letter that Sharone Belt, a deacon candidate at my church, wrote to the Arlington Assembly of God. It was addressed to associate pastor Lynn Carter, and she was kind enough to send a very loving, thoughtful response.

This really struck me as the type of dialog christians should be having with one another regarding homosexuality, or any other topic for that matter. Ms. Carter's note was totally devoid of hate or anything except the love of Jesus. It was very refreshing and a true example of how people act when the love of God dwells inside of them and they don't beat it down with personal agendas.

Dear Sharone,

Thank you so much for your email. I appreciate your heart and am glad you understand that we as a church are attempting to reach out in love, to all people who do not know Him.

I am glad that you felt free to write and that you have such a sweet spirit toward other believers. While I may not agree with all your views, I am thankful for your relationship with Jesus and pray that you will continue to know His love and grace.

I, too, was saved at 6 and filled with the Holy Spirit at 12. Doesn't it make you wonder how people survive without knowing Him? His love and peace are the strength of my life. What a honored to be loved by the Father.

I pray your Christmas will be filled with His light and love.

Lynn Carter
Arlington Assembly of God

December 16, 2005

AFA Vs. Ford, Round 2?

The Ford Motor Company reassessed the direction the wind was blowing this week and reversed the reversal of its policy of advertising in gay publications. I haven't seen this much public waffling since the last time my wife and I visited a Waffle House restaurant.

The American Family Association took credit for Ford's initial reversal and they now say that the automaker reneged on agreements that Ford initially denied making in the first place. As a result, they are again considering a boycott of Ford.

On the AFA's website, they claim a membership of over 3 milion people and proclaim themselves as "America's Largest Pro-Family Action Site." They have taken on a laundry list of issues they feel threatens the american family, including "The Homosexual Agenda." Any orgainzation of their size has some clout, and they are not shy about trying to use it.

I am a big believer in the family, having grown up in one myself. A chrsitian based organization devoted to helping families can be a wonderful benefit to people in need and our nation's society overall. Think of how much good they could do! Helping feed hungry children, lobbying for better education in low-income areas, working against domestic violence, helping provide alternatives to abortion; the list of areas whare a group like this could help in is a long one.

To be fair, the AFA is involved in many of these types of activites and had helped a lot of people.

So why in the world are they taking up their time and resources worrying about what publications automobile advertising is printed in? When you compare that issue to the ones I listed above and others related to them, the car ads seem quite lame to me.

My issue here is not about the merits of Ford's actions. It is about prioritizing. Jesus demonstrated the importance of that during his ministry on earth. He knew a critical resource, time, was very limited so he did not let himself get distracted with activities that drew him away from the mission God sent him to do.

Jesus could have healed every sick person in the world if that was what God had wanted him to do, and it would be hard to find fault if his ministry had taken that direction. He did perform some healing and miracles, but only enough to support his top priority-saving mankind. He did not fall into the trap summed up by the old cliche "not seeing the forest for the trees." Jesus ministered to individuals, but he never lost sight of the big picture and allowed himself to be dragged into issues that, while important, paled in comparision to the reason he was sent to earth-to save mankind.

I have certainly had many occassions in my life when I allowed myself to get preoccupied with the trees and lost my focus on the overall forest. It seems that is what the AFA and organizations like it are doing when they get caught up in debates like the one with Ford's advertising. There are a LOT of bigger fish to fry and people to help.

The devil can indeed lurk in the details and use them to neutralize good intentions, even those of three million people. Let's all use this example as a reminder to keep our focus on doing the truly important work God put us on earth to do, just like Jesus did.

December 14, 2005


Many of us are obsessing about gifts as we approach Christmas. After all, isn't that what the holiday is all about? It's easy to think that way if you allow yourself to cave in under the avalanche of advertising in every form of media this time of year.

It can be very difficult to keep anything in perspective at this time of year with the pressure of preparing the holiday for children, fighting the hordes of shoppers at the mall, working toward the end of a semester at school, or being crushed by the pressure of year-end requirements at work. Here's some help.

2 Corinthians 9:6-9
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."

Especially at this time of the year, it is important (and often more difficult) to remember why we are exchanging gifts and gathering with our families. Christmas is all about giving, but remember the greatest gift of all was Jesus. God gave him to mankind to provide a path to salvation, to bless mankind with the gift of eternal life if we accepted him as our Lord and Savior. He didn't have to do that--he wanted to.

As He has in every aspect or our lives, God has provided an example for how we should give, as Paul wrote about in the above scripture. This applies to the gifts we give to each other, to be sure, but it goes well beyond that.

As we are preparing to stack gifts beneath our Christmas tree, we need to remember those less fortunate. What have we done for them? Do we have excess we could have shared with them? Is there one gift we purchased we could have done without and given those funds to a group or individual who NEEDED it?

Even more importantly, have we given what we can to God? Have we invested in electronic gadgets, jewelry, and toys and not given the Lord a part of our wealth? If we have given back, did we make a big production presenting our donation or did we quietly slip it in the collection plate or in the mail? Did we do it for His glory, or for ours?

When were're stuck in traffic driving to the mall or standing in line at a store, let's take a moment to think about that. By addressing the distribution of our funds, we can find our where our hearts are and where they need to be.

December 12, 2005

Keeping the True Spirit of Christmas

Several "fundamentalist" orgainzations, including "fair and balanced if you're conservative" Fox News and a group led by Jerry Fallwell, are pushing retailers to use the word Christmas and to prevent local governments from prohibiting manger displays.

John Gibson, one of Fox News' hosts, even wrote a book titled "The War on Christmas". Boy, that group sure doesn't shy away from a war of any type, do they? Falwell's latest organization, "Friend or Foe Christmas Organization," is raising money to pay lawyers to save Christmas. Is it just me or does that sentence seem like an oxymoron? In this article. Falwell says, "There's been a concerted effort to steal Christmas, to deny little children their right to sing Silent Night and Joy to the World."

I'm not going to address this by taking the obvious routes of railing against the commercialization of the holiday or the separation of church and state. Something more, dare I say, fundamental, strikes me about all this hubub.

I reread the most detailed biblical description of the birth of Christ, in the second chapter of Luke. There was no ceremony regarding the birth of our Lord and Savior. He was essentially born in a barn, and angels led the wise men to him to worhsip privately.

That's one thing we so often forget about Jesus. He came into the world with no fanfare, and left it in the same way. We are not obligated to buy expensive gifts and decorate a large tree to celebrate his birth. We only need to acknowledge in our hearts how this was a critical part of God's plan of redemption for mankind.

When we go shopping, who cares if we are greeted with "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hollidays?" If I want to go somewhere to see religious displays, I generally go to church, not a courthouse or city hall. We all need to be a lot more concerned about what is in people's hearts, not what fancy display they construct or what store they shop at.

Do you think Jesus really cares about all of this? If he did, he probably would have been born in a five-star hotel and not a barn.

December 09, 2005

Taking Their Ball and Going Home

Earlier this week, the Ford Motor Company announced that it will stop advertising its Jaguar and Land Rover brands in magazines targeted to the GLBT community. This after having "discussions" with the American Family Association, which had threatend a boycott of Ford products unless they pulled their advertising from these publications. I suppose the AFA doesn't think gays or lesbians should own cars.

Nothing like a corporation stand by its convictions. Seeing Ford cave in to pressure from a neo-conservative organization like that makes ME want to boycott their products, but with that kind of weak leadership, they'll do much more damage to their own company than I ever could.

In a related story, another bastion of right-wing thinking, Focus on the Family, pulled its money out of Wells Fargo bank because the bank had the nerve not to seek their counsel on where money should be donated. Wells Fargo made a $50,000 contribution to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Apparently Focus on the Family doesn't want anyone they do business with standing in the way of gays or lesbians being defamed.

Unlike the leadership at Ford, though, Wells Fargo stood by their actions. "We absolutely made a $50,000 grant to GLAAD, and we're absolutely proud of our support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community," said Chris Hammond, spokesman for the banking giant, which gives about $2 million a year to gay and lesbian organizations.

Focus on the Family's decision to pull their funds won't ruin a huge bank like Wells Fargo despite their $146 million of income last year, but this is just the latest in a trend of religious orginizations trying to flex their political muscle with economic actions.

I hope that more companies react to these threats in the way that Wells Fargo did. This is becoming an era where some conservative organizations want to dictate the actions of people and groups beyond the scope of their constituency.

Please join me in praying that this effort fails. I pray we continue to enjoy the freedom to follow our own convictions and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives, not what someone else tells us we should feel or do.

December 06, 2005

As reported in the Washington Blade, a church in the DC area has launched a controversial (at least in the GLBT community) television advertising campaign. This news item caught the attention of a member of my church family, Sharone Belt. She sent the following letter to associate pastor Lynn Carter of the church in question, Arlington Assembly of God in Arlington, Virginia. I was moved by her passionate and well-constructed protest to Ms. Carter, and Sharone gave me permission to publish her letter here.

My name is Sharone and I have been a Christian since I was about 6 years old. I have only been a spirit-filled Christian for about 6 years now, but I have seen more growth in my walk in that time than inthe almost 30 years previous! I am also a lesbian.

I read in theWashington Blade this weekend about your television ads. I haven't seen them yet, but the description led me to write to you regarding the ads.I have no doubt that your church feels that you are reaching out to the gay and lesbian community in love. Unfortunately, when that message conveys the idea that being set free from sin also means beingset free from the "homosexual lifestyle", it implys to gays and lesbians that they are less than and that their so-called sin is more heinous that others' sins.

Personally, I have come to terms with my sexuality and believe, from my own study of scripture and the Holy Spirit's leading, that I am totally accepted by God as a lesbian. I am in a covenant relationship with my partner of 12 years. She and I are deacon candidates at our church and actively work to show people in our community that God does have high standards for conduct, but that being gay or lesbian doesn't automatically mean that you are wrong or sinful. There are many gays and lesbians that do sinful acts, just like there are straight people who commit sinful acts, but that's not the same thing.

I think that many Christians have a fundamental misunderstanding when it comes to sexuality. They believe that people are either straight or are perverts. They don't allow for anything else. Well, what if it were the other way around? What if the majority of people were gay and thought you were wrong for being straight? How would you feel?

I love my partner just the same as a man loves his wife. We don't live so different from any straight couples that I know. We just happen to be two women. The Word says that there is neither jew nor greek, man or woman, slave or free in Christ. In my understanding of the Word through the filter of the Holy Spirit, I believe that God would say the same thing about being straight or gay. In the spiritual realm, it doesn't matter what my physical or emotional attractions are. What matters is what I do for the Lord. Wouldn't you agree?

At our church, that's how we feel. We just held our first "straight" wedding of a man and woman and were just as thrilled for them as the church was when my partner and I had our covenant ceremony here 3 years ago. It's about 2 people who love each other and are committed for life to be together and work for theKingdom together.

I know I'm getting long-winded, but I just wanted to express why youm ay get some negativity from the gay community. The bottom line isthat most of us feel that being gay is part of us like being straight is part of you. It's not changeable like a pair of socks. It's not something that needs to be changed to be able to be right with God.That's all I'm trying to get across.

Well, God bless you. I know your hearts are in the right place there at Arlington Assembly. Have a wonderful Christmas season. Remember Colossians 3:12.

Love, in Christ
Sharone Belt

December 05, 2005

I Don't Understand--And That's Okay

I think one of the primary obstacles society places in the way of people growing closer to God is the emphasis on accumulating information. With the availability of the Internet, 24-hour cable news and satellite radio (a personal favorite), there is an endless stream of information proved to (if not shoved down the throat of) the average person.

This cultural trend makes it more difficult for anything that can not be scientifically proven or logically supported to be accepted by the masses.

Ephesians 3:16-19 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, ay have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

There is a lot written in the bible that I don't completely understand. There are a lot of things that have happened in my life that I don't understand. We are not promised all knowledge in our earthly existence. Quite the contrary--the above scripture is but one example of the message God sent telling us that there is plenty we will NOT understand.

The wonderful part of that is knowing that even when portions of the bible confuse us and circumstances in our lives puzzle us, we can know that God loves us beyond our human understanding. That love is the basis for our faith, which is belief in things unseen or not fully understood.

The next time you are baffled by life, try relying on that faith and know how much God loves us instead of trying to rationally figure things out. His plan for us will ALWAYS be better than we come with up on our own.

We may not understand it, and that's okay.

December 03, 2005

The recent declaration by the Catholic Church banning gay men (even non-practicing ones) from entering their seminaries and becoming priests has drawn a lot of public notice. This has caused people who might not normally evaluate their feelings toward GLBT people to take stock of their views. One such person is columnist Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe, located in one of the main bastions of Catholocism in the nation (and a diocese up to its neck in the church's sexual abuse scandal).

In a recent column, Goodman address the fact that there is a growing body of evidence that homosexuality is a genetic trait. She also quotes polling data that states the overwhelming majority of people who support that view support gay rights, while a similar number who believe homosexuality is a concious choice oppose them.

Here's the keeper line from a very well balanced and thoughtful column; "All and all, Americans seem reluctant to condemn people for who they simply are." You just don't find intelligent common-sense writing like that in a major newspaper very often. I encourage you to read her entire piece.

Anyone like myself who has been even casually involved with the Catholic Church realizes that, if they go a step further and start removing gay priests, there will be an awful lot of job openings in a church that doesn't have enough clergy to go around even now. Is it any surprise a career path that forbids men to marry would attract a disproportionate number of gay men? Common sense, people--use it.

Who gets hurt here are men willing to commit their lives to God but are now turned away (or removed), and the parisioners who would have been blessed by them.

In The Great Commission, we are called out to serve God and spread his word. The qualification in the Bible is for people to give their heart to Jesus and accept him as Lord and Savior. As man so often does, the Catholic Church filters this through its beliefs and decides who can be allowed to perform this work under their sanction. By limiting the scope of who can serve, isn't the Catholic Church working against what God wrote?

Please join me in prayer that the minds and hearts of the leadership of that organization, and all other religions that restict the involvement of its GLBT members, will be opened to receive God's unfiltered word. I pray that they can accept all people who have given their hearts to Christ as full members to serve in whatever way best utilizes the gifts God blessed them with.

November 29, 2005

Love: The Greatest Commandment

I'm back from a wonderfully relaxing and renewing honeymoon. Thanks to those who passed along you congratulations and good wishes, Brenda and I sincerely appreciate them.

On our flight back home, I was continuing my study of the Book of Matthew and was struck by this passage from Chapter 21, verses 36-40:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

It's love, stupid! How often have I been tempted to shout that at some so-called fundamentalist preaching hatred and condemnation. The message in the bible is not always easy to understand, but there are some key points that are very clear. One of those is that love is the fundamental value God wants us to live by. How do I know? Because Jesus told us so. He told us to love God first of all, then love each other as ourselves.

Love each other as we would want to be loved ourselves--the golden rule. How simple it is to understand yet often difficult to put into practice. It's really just as simple as looking at a situation, or evaluating what you are preparing to say, and putting yourself in the position of the person who is on the other side.

What would you want someone to do if roles were reversed in a similar circumstance? What would you want someone to say to you in the same situation? What would Jesus do?

It would be based on his love for us, which he demonstrated during his time on earth and by permitting his own death.

Start with trying to love others as you would want to be loved, and as Jesus loved us. If that foundation is in place, good things will happen in your life and you will be richly blessed.

November 27, 2005

November 19--A New Start

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how my life changed due to the events of October 11, 2004 and mentioned the people who shared their strength with me when I needed it. Those closest to me, my friends Robin and Brian and their wives Laura and Renee, my brother Michael and my brother-in-law Mike came together to share another life changing event on November 19, 2005.

This time, we were joined by other friends, relatives, and church family at my home church, Believers Covenant Fellowship. Robin and I wore tuxedos and, as the hour of 6:00 PM approached, we stood at the front of the church awaiting the entrance of Brenda. It was her day, after all—we were getting married!

It had been one year, almost exactly to the moment, from the first time I had laid eyes on Brenda, and our wedding was the culmination of a fascinating journey my life took from October 11, 2004 thru November 19, 2005.

Sometimes the best things in life occur when you aren’t seeking them out, and that was never truer than when I met Brenda.

As you can imagine, the weeks immediately following my wife Bette’s passing (see my “October 11” post for that story) were the most difficult of my life. Tears were a big part of my life during those weeks, sometimes spurred by a special song Bette and I shared, other times by a flashing memory. Bette had taught me I could cry and still be a strong man, but she hadn’t shown me how to stop.

There had been a theme to my last few months with Bette. We had referred to changes in our life leading up to our “next chapter.” Indeed they had, but the story had taken a very unwelcome turn.

As I tried to chart the course for the next chapter of my life, the part without my beloved Bette, I gradually resigned myself to being alone. I felt like a star athlete who had retired, deciding that I had now lived the best years of my life. I was determined, however, that I would not turn into a pathetic widower. I would find purpose for my life and not waste all the love and belief that Bette had given me. The best way I could honor her was to keep going, continue putting one foot in front of the other, until I figured out what this new phase of my life was all about.

In late October, Robin and I followed through on plans to attend the Maryland-Florida State football game, my first major event since Bette’s memorial service. It helped getting back out in the world beyond the confines of my cubicle at work or the local sports bar and my nightly steak sub.

I quickly realized that all my close friends were married. They were making every effort to reach out and include me in things, making sure I didn’t withdraw from life, but I knew in the long run I needed to cultivate single friends since I was now single myself. I didn’t seek a romance, but I deeply missed the companionship of a woman.

I decided to take the plunge and register on several personals sites on the Internet, seeking a woman (preferably more than one) who I could meet for dinner, take to a movie, walk around a shopping mall with. When completing my profiles, I was very clear about the fact that I was a recent widower and was just seeking companionship and friendship.

I quickly hooked up with a wonderful lady named Karen. She is a passionate sports fan, so we swapped sports stories and arranged to meet for dinner. The day of that meeting, I stood in front of Bette’s remains and slowly slipped off my wedding ring for the first time—it just didn’t seem right to wear it anymore.

Karen and I really hit it off and time flew by that evening. I had been very nervous about meeting her earlier this day, torn with doubts and anxiety, but most of that had disappeared by the time dinner was served. We made plans to get together again, and I ended that evening emboldened by the feeling that, while I would never fall in love again, I wouldn’t have to be alone either.

I continued to make more contacts over the next few days, spending a lot of my free time in the evenings chatting with ladies over the Internet or exchanging e-mail. The plan was working better than I could have possibly hoped.

Then I ran across Brenda’s profile, and those plans changed forever.

I found Brenda’ profile in November 15 and left a message in her in-box to let her know I was interested in contacting her. Within minutes, that interest was reciprocated, and we began a series of lengthy, deep IM conversations. The next evening, I was chatting with her and another lady at the same time (that’s as adventurous as I ever got) and was struck with the difference in the level of conversation. I found myself already sharing some of my innermost feelings with Brenda, while the other lady was passionately describing her favorite color.

I quickly realized that any relationship with Brenda would not be a casual buddy-buddy one. That was confirmed on November 19, when I met her in front of a restaurant for our first date. We already knew so much about each other, it seemed like a fourth or firth date, and by the time our evening was over, I knew I could fall in love with her.

That weekend Robin and I attended the Ravens-Cowboys game in Baltimore, and while we hung out before kickoff, I told him about how I had spent my last week with Brenda. I asked him if I was crazy, only weeks after losing Bette, to be developing such feelings for another woman. To my relief, he did not indicate I was nuts, at least not for that reason. He encouraged caution, but at the same time urged me to explore the possibilities with Brenda.

The next week was Thanksgiving, and Brian and his family were kind enough to invite me over. I had the same conversation with him after dinner and was delighted to receive a very similar response. The day after Thanksgiving, Brenda and I spoke and professed our love for each other, only eight days after we met. I was overcome with the rush of feelings I never expected to enjoy again. The love and passion I felt for Bette were still close to the surface, which I believe made it easier to express those feelings toward Brenda.

A week later, our relationship passed what she later told me was the acid test—she took me to her church. Brenda had helped start Believers Covenant Fellowship ten years earlier but had taken a sabbatical in recent months. She was ready to end it and see if one of her dreams, being able to worship God with the man she loves, would finally come true. Brenda had been married before, a marriage that lasted 20 years, but her ex-husband had seldom shared the church activities that meant so much to her. She was determined that any man she would have a serious relationship with would be willing to attend church with her.

Over the years, I had drifted away from God. I always acknowledged his place and gave him credit for bringing Bette and me together, but at least subconsciously I blamed him for the struggles we had, the illness and pain Bette endured. We had tried to figure things out on our own and only turned to God when we were in trouble. During her last few months, Bette had discussed that with me and we were ready to find a church home where we could get reconnected with the Holy Spirit. We never did that, but when Brenda invited me to her church, I jumped at the opportunity.

I had never been to a gay-affirming church with a predominantly GLBT membership, which is what BCF is. On my first visit, I saw I was the only straight man there. What was much more important, however, was getting reintroduced to the Holy Spirit. It was a very charismatic congregation, very different from the Catholic masses I had attended in recent years. In a very brief time, I felt the Holy Spirit flow through me stronger than I had in a long, long, time. A lot of churches give lip service to hosting God’s presence, but He really was there, and I was happy to get reacquainted.

The folks at BCF were wonderful. They welcomed me (literally) with open arms, and the education of a straight man began. I quickly found that we could exchange jokes about gays and straights without hurt feelings, and that any question I asked would get answered, even if I really didn’t want to know the answer. Apostle Dale Jarrett, who had known Brenda for 17 years and was her best friend, spent a lot of time talking with me and getting me acclimated to how BCF conducted their worship. Other key members followed suit. Pastor Anita, Sharone, Erica, Ken, Paul, Peggy, Daphne, Linda, Nancy, and Kathy all accepted me and adopted me into the church family.

I proposed to Brenda in February and the wedding planning was begun. In March, I had my first crisis. I fell into a serious depression as the reality of Bette’s loss hit me hard and threatened to consume me. I spiraled downward during a particularly bad weekend and reached out to everyone I could think of to help pull me out of it. Cousin Connie in Illinois stepped up big-time, as she has ever since Bette’s passing. Apostle Dale was also wonderful, and my Brenda was absolutely amazing.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Brenda is how she managed to be a part of helping me grieve Bette while also building our relationship. Most people in that situation would be terribly threatened, or at least severely put off, by their fiancée crying about their late spouse. Brenda was always there to literally give me a shoulder to cry on and to talk through whatever I was feeling. I also began grief counseling with Tom Golden, who gave me the tools to effectively grieve while being able to move forward with my life.

I commemorated Bette’s birthday in April by visiting the family in Illinois for the first time since her passing. I was deeply touched by their acceptance and joy regarding my relationship and pending marriage to Brenda. I was concerned that they would feel some lessening of my love for Bette because I was able to get remarried so quickly. I needn’t have worried, though. They had seen Bette and me together enough over the years and heard her talk about us enough to never question how deep our love was. They were also happy that the devastated man overwhelmed with despair in October was now one who was embracing life and was full of hope for the future.

In May, I took out the video of mine and Bette’s wedding and watched it with Brenda on what would have been our 12th anniversary. Seeing Bette alive and healthy again was nothing short of traumatic. I wanted to jump through the television screen and be back in 1993 again, with her healthy and the future ahead of us. I wanted to do it all “right” this time and make our lives better than they turned out. It was a long weekend, but with Brenda by my side I got through it.

At this point I realized that it was okay to miss Bette—that I could do that and still love Brenda. I didn’t miss the intimacy I shared with Bette, I had plenty of that with Brenda. I just missed the person who knew me better then anyone ever had. I missed all the history we shared, all the cute things we would say to each other. I missed my best friend, and I realized I always will, but that doesn’t mean I want to go back and relive those days.

Brenda and I had a wonderful summer, taking trips to visit her family in Lynchburg, Virginia, having a vacation week in her favorite place, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I geared up my sportswriting and radio appearances after taking the previous season off and began my Straight, Not Narrow blog. Brenda has been extremely supportive and encouraging and celebrates any little success I have. We both worked to help our church move into our new facility and prepare to expand the ministry once that move is complete.

I counted down the days until October 11th, the one-year anniversary of Bette’s passing. I scheduled my last session with Tom Golden that day and, once I left his office, I felt a great sense of relief, somewhat like I had graduated a year-long course in survival. Not only had I survived, I was thriving.

It was difficult to say this, but my life was actually better in many ways on October 11, 2005 than it was a year earlier. My spirit and soul had been fed by the Holy Spirit like they never had before. My relationship with those closest to me, my brother and brother-in-law, Robin, Brian, had never been better, and I had this wonderful church family that I was now part of. I was in the process of moving into a new job and getting a fresh start in my accounting career, and I was writing more often about more topics than ever before.

The key difference, though, was Brenda. Over 11 years, Bette and I had allowed ourselves to get beat down by financial, career, and health issues. We had gradually withdrawn into our own personal black hole, where the only important thing in our lives was each other. Brenda brought a much different perspective into my life.

One of the first things she shared with me was her desire to help others, and she always demonstrated an instinct of thinking beyond herself. Rather than be jealous of sharing time together with our church family, I welcomed it. We had plenty of quality time to ourselves, but I also found sharing ourselves with others, be it having fun or doing work, only made us stronger as a couple.

With Brenda’s encouragement, I reached out to my old high school friend Steve, who I had a falling out with several years ago. He happily responded to my overture, and I was pleased he and his wife Janice were part of our wedding. Instead of viewing my relationship, and now marriage, as an escape from the world like Bette and I did, Brenda and I embrace the opportunity to be part of trying to make the world better, drawing strength from each other, our church, our friends, but most importantly from God.

As I stood at the altar with my arm outstretched on this November 19, all of this and much more flashed through my mind. My overriding feeling, one which, big surprise, nearly drove me to tears, was one of gratefulness. I had always felt very blessed to have Bette in my life, to have known true love once. To have it happen a second time, and after so short a time following Bette’s passing, well I just felt blessed well beyond anything I could ever deserve.

Besides feeling alone on October 11, 2004, I had lost hope. God reintroduced that into my life when he brought Brenda into it on November 19, to be quickly followed by love, fulfillment, and happiness at a new level. The “next chapter” had become a “sequel”, carrying forward some of the old characters but introducing plenty of new ones that helped it become a much better story than I would have ever written for myself.

As I write this, I am fully convinced I have NOT lived the best years of my life. No, the best is yet to come and will be shared with my wife Brenda. We both thank God for each other daily and look forward to how he will bless us next. Most of all, we have hope, and isn’t that what faith is all about?.

November 18, 2005

I'm Off to Get Married!

I won't be posting again until early next week because I'm going to get married Saturday. I'll be writing about that and the process that led up to me being blessed with the most amazing woman God ever created next week along with resuming my regular posting.

November 17, 2005


Earlier this week I wrote about moving past anger. Here is an important reason why we should:

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NIV)--All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

We can not be part of a message of reconciliation if we are unwilling to do that in our own lives. It's hard folks, I know. The message Jesus brought to this earth is not an easy one to follow. Our sinful natures push back against it all the time. When we are angry with someone, we want revenge, we want an apology, we want a concession that we were right and the other person was wrong.

That is not a part of Jesus message to us. We are charged with seeking reconciliation in this world, not just to people who are nice to us or those who have hurt us and apologized. We need to take the lead in forgiveness, extend our hand, and open our heart to that individual.

Sometimes we suck it up and do this and don't receive the type of response we feel is deserved, then go away madder than ever. Jesus showed us by his very life that we should follow God's commands without expecting earthly reward. After all, how was he rewarded by man for the healing and miracles he performed in his time on earth?

Over the last few months, I reached out to two friends who I had issues with that caused us to stop communicating with each other. One of them, a very close friend from high school, reciprocated and healing has taken place without either one extracting a pound of flesh from the other. The other friend, who I knew through my late wife, initially responded well to my oveture but then drifted away again. After a couple of additional attempts to reestablish contact, I resigned myself to the fact that he was not ready to reestablish our friendship. I was saddened, but at peace because I had done what my heart had led me to do.

In both situations, I sought the will of the Holy Spirit and felt led to make the move toward healing. I'm glad I did with both people despite success with only one. A complete reconciliation with someone takes the willing and active participation of BOTH people. We can only do our part, but that's better than waiting on the other person.

As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, God has committed us to a message of reconciliation. If we are seeking his will in our lives, we need to seek it in every area.

November 15, 2005

This Message Is International

Thanks to a link from the Rainbow Ark Live Journal (check my list of links out to visit their site), this blog received a recent spike in international visitors, especially from Asia. Welcome!

When I began this blog on 6/20/05, it never occurred to me that I would receive many visitors from beyond the borders of the United States. Instead, readers have visited Straight, Not Narrow from 38 different nations! Just one of the many things I have learned during this process; the message of Jesus' love and inclusion is one that people hunger to hear all over the world.

I thank the sites based in France and Singapore that have posted links to Straight, Not Narrow. I'm glad you have found the material here worthwhile. As I add posts, I'll try whenever possible to view issues from a global perspective.

There are many false prophets spread out all over the world that would have people believe God hates them because of their ethnicity, social status, or sexual orientation. If you really know Jesus and don't filter his message through your own prejudices, it becomes clear that is not God's message.

Hate and exclusion are the message of the enemy. Love and inclusion is truly the heart of Jesus, and that's what you will find here. Thanks again for taking time to visit wherever in the world you might be. Please feel free to post a comment or e-mail me directly at straight_notnarrow@yahoo. The only restriction is that it must be in English--I do not have the gift of language.

November 14, 2005

Moving Past Anger

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." James 1:19-20

Yeah, yeah, I know--those words are easy to repeat but hard to put in practice. After all, if I knew what (fill in the blank) did to you, I would understand your anger and feel the same way myself.

What do we accomplish when we have anger built up inside our hearts? Possibly shorten our lives, for one thing, but definately diminish the quality of it. That's right, WE'RE the ones that get hurt when WE let anger become a part of who we are. When we look at the world through the filter of negativism, we don't make anyone more unhappy than ourselves. There are plenty of times in our lives when the target of our anger doesn't even realize we're upset! They can go about their lives as if nothing is wrong and we're the ones carrying the extra weight around.

We can't hear this message too often because it is too easy to let anger build up inside of ourselves and take away from whatever good we have in our lives. Even worse, it gets in the way of our relationship with God. Can we really open our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit if we're pissed off at our spouse/family/friends? No, because the noise of that anger will drown out what the Lord would tell us. He wants us to be still and listen--have you ever tried that if you're really agitated or your heart is just seething with anger? It just doesn't work.

I'm directing this to myself along with you the reader. I've had plenty of anger at people in my life, and I've held some of it for years until I realized I was the only one being hurt by it. Thanks to the work the Holy Spirit has done in my life over the past year, I've been able to let go of most of those bad feelings--it's still a work in progress.

I'm also sure that many of the readers of this blog have dealt with horriffic situations I have only heard or read about and never personnally experienced. I empathize with just how deeply some scars can run and how difficult they are to heal. They won't just go away, though, they need healing action taken to them. Talking to the person you are angry with can be a wonderful blessing. We have recently had some of those experiences at my church, and they have enriched the whole congregation.

Regardless of how deeply you have been hurt, the Holy Spirit can bring you through to the other side where you can know true peace and joy. That is available, free of charge, to every man and woman, regardless of denomination, race, or sexual orientation.

If you would like to speak to a minister or just have the prayer support of a congregation help you through to the other side of anger, you can contact Believers' Covenant Fellowship at I'll warn you, if you ask our church for prayer, you need to be ready for it to be answered because we have some amazing prayer warriors there. If you would be more comfortable speaking with a lay person, you can contact me by e-mail at

There is far too much anger in our world today. Let's do what we can as individuals to change that.

November 10, 2005

The "Threat" of Same-Sex Marriage

If you think there's been a lot of focus in recent months on the issue of gay marriage, just wait. The fire is just getting warm and is sure to burn right through the 2006 elections. The latest chapter of this story was Wednesday's approval of a measure to establish a U. S. constitutional amendment baning gay marriage by the Senate's Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution. Ironically, the measure is named the "Marriage Protection Amendment."

I must once again ask who exactly are conservatives working so hard to protect? As a straight man only days away from getting married myself, I don't feel the least bit threatened by any same-sex couples that would like to do the same (unless they invite us to the wedding and want an expensive gift). If anything, my impending nuptuals make me even MORE supportive of their right to marry, to experience the joy and fulfillment of making not only an emotional committment but a legal one to the person we love most in the world. I see couples in my own church who are in long-term committed loving relationships that should have every bit as much right as I do to be recognized as legal spouses.

How exactly would the right of men to leagally marry men or women to legally marry women diminish my marriage to a woman? Going back to the early days of this nation, there has always been a faction who felt threatened by the granting of rights to anyone not quite like them, feeling that it would diminish their stature, their power, whatever.

At one point in our history, blacks did not have the right to be educated, own land, and vote. Women didn't gain the right to vote until early in the 20th century, when the U. S. was well over 125 years old. Arguements were made back in the day about how these restrictions were needed to protect society. We now hear those same justifications to support not legally recognizing same-sex marriage.

Despite the loud and well financed message of the anti-gay conservatives, I feel this too will pass just like other restrictions have fallen by the wayside over the decades and centuries. Despite the efforts of these right-wingers to hold us back, society gradually becomes more enlightened as time moves forward.

After all, Jesus' message was about unconditional love. Let's put our effort on promoting love. One way of doing that is encouraging people that love each other to make the firmest committment possible to each other.

Is This Fight REALLY Worth the Cost?

As I read about the results of various state and local election ballot questions the last couple of days, I was again struck by how many pertained to the issue of same-sex marriage. Knowing how out of control political campaigns can get, I did a quick Google on the words "cost, same-sex, and marriage." The first story I came up with was about an election last year in Ohio. The report in The Gay People's Chronicle in Cleveland was an investigate piece detailing where the contributions came from to support the group campaigning against same-sex marriage.

Without going into great detail here (it's all in the report), I can sumarize it by telling you that most of the money, not surprisingly, was contributed by religious, fundamentalist orgainzations to the tune of well over a million dollars.

How many people could have been fed with that money? How many poor children could have been clothed with that money? How many sick people without insurance could have received medical attention with that money? How many homeless people could have received shelter and perhaps even some vocational training with that money?

How would Jesus have wanted those funds, and the many millions spent all over the USA, to be used? Would he have wanted organizations allegedly acting in his name to wage a political campaign, or help those who are cold, hungry, and sick? Just a quick glance through the New Testament answers that question very clearly.

Perhaps some "christian based" organizations need to spend a little time reading their bible before allocating their resources.

November 09, 2005

Expressing and Teaching the Wrong Message

Thanks to, I ran across another one of those really troubling stories that I felt obligated to comment on. There was an anti-gay protest in Bloomington, Indiana that, although it did not involve thousands of people, demonstarted two very disturbing views.

As reported by the Indiana University student newspaper "The Daily Student," the group was comprised of about 25 members of the Old Paths Baptist Church. They gathered on the IU campus to begin their demonstration, them moved on to a gay-owned store called "The Inner Chef," and burned a gay pride flag.

One of the chants the group shouted in front of the store, according to the report, was "Fags Die, God Laughs." I only wish I was making up such twisted, sacreligious behavior. I challenge anyone to find one single example in the bible where God showed any pleasure at ANYONE perishing. There are plenty of situations in the Old Testament where He wiped out large numbers of people for going against his will, but the part where God laughed, smiled, or was anything but saddened by it didn't make it into any translation I've ever seen.

Perhaps the most basic principle of Christianity is that God LOVES us. He doesn't always like us when we drift away from his will for our lives, that's for sure, but he NEVER stops loving us. He is the epitome of unconditional love. In that light, hearing of a group proclaiming itself christian shouting what these protesters did in Indiana makes me sick to my stomach.

The other part of this story that troubles me even more was where it was reported that the demonstration was "complete with children playing instruments and singing songs beside the sign-weilding adults."

What ARE we teaching our children? This group is teaching them how to hate, and to do it in God's name. Sadly, there are situations where hate IS a family value.

November 06, 2005

Why I Am An Activist

This is the first time I have used that word to describe myself. Here's one reason I am.

It never ceases to amaze me how hateful and deceitful people can be in the name of God or "family values."

What is most troubling is how loud some of these voices are. That's why voices of love and inclusion must speak up. If we are not heard, then the only message people will hear is that of hate and exclusion. I'm not willing to have that happen, and I hope you aren't either.

November 04, 2005

"Promoting Homosexuality"

The title to this post is one of those phrases that makes me afraid I'm going to burst a blood vessel. The latest reference I saw to it was this news item from the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas, a group not known for their open minds. They unanimously passed a resolution encouraging parents to investigate whether the public schools in their areas are...wait for it...promoting homosexuality!

How does one go about promoting that in schools. Do they set up recruiting booths with women in leather boots and chains and men wearing pink chiffon handling out pamphlets? Hardly. Do activists walk up to students and say, "Hey, have you ever tried having sex with someone of the same gender? It's great!" Of course not.

What some school systems have the nerve to place in their cirriculum is a presentation of what homosexualtiy is. Since the teachings do not include an outright condemnation, there are fundamentalits like the SBC that get hysterical and act like the schools are encouraging their kids to be gay. How ridiculous! How narrow-minded!

What some school systems are valiantly attempting to teach regarding homosexuality is acceptance of someone different. You don't have to be gay to get abused in school--kids can be a very tough crowd--but it sure helps attract negative attention from students that don't know better. Some schools try to make sure that they DO know better. Unfortunately, this lesson of acceptance and inclusion can conflict with what they are being taught at home and in their church.

Some people can't stand the thought of their kids being smarter and more open-minded than they are. What a shame!

November 02, 2005

The Burden of Proof

If you can't absolutely prove something is true, then it must be false! That's one of the arguements anti-gay groups and activists put out there to support their view of the evil attached to homosexuality. What, you can't prove absolutely beyond the shadow of a doubt that being gay is something which is determined genetically? Then it MUST be a choice--a sinful, evil choice.

Now anyone who gives that more than about two second of thought should realize the falicy of that "logic."

What if a GLBT person insisted that one of these far-right fundamentalists PROVE they were saved, that they were filled with the Holy Spirit? They couldn't do it. It can't be scientifically proven that a person has received the gifts of the Spirit.

That's where faith comes in. In the Bible, Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." That's really one of the main principles of Christianity, isn't it?

Unfortunately, though, there are "Christians" who won't apply the principle of believing what can not be seen (or scientifically proven) to something they don't want to believe. Even worse, they pass judgement on those who don't comply, assuming the right God has very clearly stated is reserved for Him and Him alone. With this kind of un-Christlike attitude, I believe if anyone would have something to prove, it would be fundamentalists who focus more on playing God than being like him.

Methodists Reject Lesbian Minister

In a widely reported story, the highest court of the United Methodist Church recently defrocked an openly lesbian minister. At the same time, they reinstated a minister suspended for banning a gay man from his congregation.

I find both of these rulings misguided, but there is one important point to make in support of them. I think it is critical that religious denominations be consistent in the administration of the beliefs they have stated as a corporate body. Therefore, if their policies state that lesbians are not allowed to become ministers, they have the right to enforce it. After all, there are denominations that won't allow women, regardless of sexual orientation, to be ordained or serve in other leadeship roles.

Similarly, if their rules allow pastors discretion over the congreations, something that seems very dangerous to me, then the governing body must uphold decisions made under those rules.

I join many christians, both straight and gay, in condemning those rules, as is my right. Members of denominations with rules that restrict (or potentially prevent) the level of participation have three choices; sit and do nothing, leave the denomination, or stay and fight for change within the system.

I know many christians chose the first option, often because they were raised in a certain church and don't feel comfortable either pushing for a fundamental change in the church's beliefs or leaving altogether. I don't have data to back this up, but I strongly suspect this is a critical factor in allowing such conservative policies to stay in place in many large denominations.

I chose the second option myself. I was raised Southern Baptist and converted to Catholocism, but now happily worship at an independent, GLBT-affirming congregation. At Believers' Covenant Fellowship, we are committed to reaching out to the GLBT community and let them know that God's love and salvation is available to them, regardless of what they have been taught over the years.

The defrocked minister, Irene Elizabeth Stroud, has chosen the third option and will stay with her congregation in Philadelphia as a lay pastor. She told the New York Times, "I, like many people, will stay and fight. I think these decisions are another step in a journey, and one day the church will receive gay and lesbian people into ministry."

My prayers and those of my church are with you, Ms. Stroud, and those like you.

November 01, 2005

Follow Him

The book of Matthew gives us another very clear example of how Jesus wants us to lead our lives. Jesus had healed a paralyzed man in Capernaum and came across a tax collector. In Jesus' time, tax collectors were even more despised than they are now. This entire area was under Roman control, and they stationed tax collectors in every town to make sure people paid proper homage to the Emperor. These men, who were above any local laws, often charged more than was actually due and pocketed the excess profit.

Jesus saw one of these loathed officials, a man named Matthew. In Matthew 9:9, he writes, "As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. 'Follow me,' he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

Please take note that he did not go home and ask his wife if it was okay, he didn't give Rome two weeks notice, he didn't say, "I'll do that after football season is over." Matthew did none of that. He immediately realized just who it was calling him, and he answered in a decisive and immediate manner. Talk about stepping out in faith!

Jesus is calling all of us to serve him in ways appropriate to the gifts he has blessed us with. In my own life, I have often been guilty of putting off that call because of going to school, pressures at work, financial difficulties, and extra demands because of a partially disabled wife. I kept God at arms' length (unless I needed something, of course) for many years, and I was the poorer for it. Once my wife passed away and my life was stripped down to its basics, I heard Him still calling, and I finally listened. This blog is but one manifestation of doing the work He has equipped me to do, and I am being blessed by it.

I have grown to understand some of the additional difficulties members of the GLBT community have in reaching this point, often torn between a partner who is not listening to Jesus' call, estranged from some if not all of their family who are unable to accept them as they are, and shunned by the very church they would want to join.

Jesus never said following him would be easy, but He also assured us he wound never ask us to do anything we were not equipped to do. He also told us in Matthew 19:19 "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or childern or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life."

We need to remove the obstacles keeping us from serving Jesus. Ultimately, we are the very ones who will benefit the most from doing so.

October 31, 2005

Take care of your own speck

As I am reading through the book of Matthew again, I have been reminded of several important principles Jesus spoke of in his ministry that I feel are very applicable to the mission of this blog.

In Chapter 7, during his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke passionately about people being careful not to judge one another. Beginning in verse 3 (NIV), he said "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Jesus wasn't being very subtle with this particular message, was he? It was about as subtle as getting hit with a 2 x 4 plank. It is very clear that He expects us to look inside ourselves first before we move forward with saving humanity.

Going around and telling others where they come up short is easy, isn't it? There are certainly no shortage of people willing to do so, that's for sure. Closely examining that face staring back at us in the mirror in the morning, now that's tough.

Jesus is the only person who has ever walked the earth with the moral authority to pass judgement on anyone. If someone in our lives is judging us because of our religious affiliation or sexual orientation, there's a good chance that they have their own issues to resolve with God.

My experience has taught me that the ones yelling the loudest about the spec they see in our eyes are often the people with the biggest planks in theirs.

October 29, 2005

One Person Learns to Unlearn

On his blog "Two World Collision", Eric talks about his struggle to unlearn the teaching and condemnation of his church becuase he is gay. He is now actively embracing both his christianity and homosexuality, an act many fundamentalists preach is a contradiciton.

The point I like the most that Eric writes about is the individual relationship he is developing with God. Eric is discerning Gods word through his own mind and heart, not that of a religious leader. Ultimately, that is what we all need to do.

Exposing ourselves to heatlhy portions of teaching and preaching is most beneficial when we take those lessons or thoughts or beliefs into our own prayer time and discern what they mean to ourselves as an indivdual person.

It matters only what God wants in your life, not what a preacher wants you to be. Hopefully we can all find a church where the messages match up and are not in conflict.

October 26, 2005


When I woke up this morning, I made a number of choices. I decided to get up early and check e-mail. I chose to feed the cat and play with him. I stopped for breakfast on my way to work. I made those and numerous other decisions before the sun was fully over the horizon today.

I did not decide that today I would be a heterosexual. In fact, I've never made that choice. Even before puberty descended upon me, I was attracted to cute girls, and that has never changed. It just came naturally.

I was fortunate that, with the occasional objection of an object of my desire, this "lifestyle" was not condemned by anyone. I've never heard a preacher tell me I was a sinner because I was a practicing heterosexual, and I've yet to endure a politician drone on about legislation that would deny me the right to marry someone of the opposite sex. As a result, I've never struggled with my sexuality--nobody every told me my natural desires were wrong, and I've always felt free and unencumbered to express and explore them.

If I had grown up in a home where I was raised by two gay men or two lesbians who railed against heterosexual relationships and told me how dirty and sinful they were, I very well could have run into some serious issues. Low self esteem and sexual confusion would have been among the likely possibilities.

If religious leaders had condemned my desires for women, I probably would have pulled away from God, not feeling myself worthy of his love because of what a dirty, rotten sinner I was at heart. I may have even felt no other choice but to find a nice man to settle down with if I wanted love and companionship within socially accepted parameters.

If I had "come out" as a heterosexual, then renounced it so I could marry someone my church and state found was of an acceptable gender, I would be a "cured" or "delivered" heterosexual, even if the desires were still burning inside me.

If, like me, you are a practicing heterosexual, try to imagine this having happened to you. Pretty horrible picture, isn't it? Then why do so many of our churches and politicians insist on putting gay and lesbian people through this type of living hell? What good can come of a person denying who he or she is and allow themselves to be reformed according to someone else's idea of who they should be? Why do so many people allow themselves to be swayed by statements and beliefs rooted in ignorance?

Fortunately, we can trust God to sort it out in the end.

October 24, 2005

The KKK and "Christian Family Values"

A while back I wrote about how branches of the KKK are entering into anti-gay activism, and here is another example. On Saturday, November 5, the KKK will hold a rally in Austin, Texas to get voters to vote against gay marriage. The kicker to this story is this quote from the e-mail they sent to ask permission to stage this rally; "We just want to come and encourage people to vote for Christian Family Values."

It is not reported what, if any, group has recruited the KKK to "help out" with their special type of rally. As a Christian, I would instantly lose respect for any religious organization/church that is involved in this campaign that does not clearly and loudly disavow themselves from the KKK. Rational christians can disagree on this issue, but anyone who welcome the KKK to their side of a debate is no longer able to claim that ground.

October 23, 2005

What Are They Afraid Of?

I saw a story regarding one high school's activity during the recent "Coming Out Week." The Gay-Straight Alliance at Pikesville High School, in my home state of Maryland, encouraged straight students to wear pink in support of their gay classmates. Some parents were up in arms about this and protested at the school, making this newsworthy.

The report, which I found on the Christian Broadcasting Network's web site (Pat Robertson's organization), refers to this action as "supporting the homosexual agenda." Honestly, every time I see this phrase used I'm afraid blood vessels in my brain will burst!

What exactly is the gay agenda? To have the same rights as their straight counterparts? To have the same opportunities to express their love for their partners that straight people do? To not be discriminated against in the job market and workplace because of their sexual orientation? To not be ostracized or the subject of hatred by the body of Christ?

That would make "the homosexual agenda" the desire of gays and lesbians to be treated with the same respect and have the same rights as a straight person. These are not "special rights" as some antagonists like to call them. These are guarantees the LGBT community need to protect their rights as an American citizen, the very rights this nation was founded upon.

Sounds pretty reasonable to me. As great as this country is in many ways, however, it has a long history of holding down minority groups, who emerge from that only after a long, hard struggle. It seems like one of the favorite targets in today's society are gays, primarily because they have the nerve to be different and because a lot of straight people have no understanding about what makes them tick.

So what are people afraid of? In this case, what they don't undestand. Unfortunately, too many people find it easier to discriminate against the LGBT community instead of educating themselves. It's okay to come in contact with them, folks, you won't catch it.

October 20, 2005


That seems to be a lost art in our society, listening. People are often too busy trying to convince someone that their point of view is right that we don't make any effort to consider what the other person or people are saying.

This also applies to prayer. It is easy, especially if we lead a very busy life, to talk to God (isn't that the essence of prayer?) and get on with the next task on our long list of things to do. We often don't take time to be still and give Him a chance to respond.

I had a great experience doing just that last night. The leadership of our church met at our new facility, still strewn with construction debris, lights dangling from the unfinished ceiling, and no functioning toilets. After opening with corporate prayer, Apostle Dale was led to direct each of us to pray about a specific area of our church's ministry. We then came back together and shared what God has told us regarding those prayers. It was some truly exciting stuff!

I'm still new at some of this, and I felt the Lord touch me in a way that I could not remember happening before. As I talked with Him about what we needed to reach the lost (the area I had been asked to cover with my prayer), I stopped several times and soaked in whatever the Holy Spirit would send me.

I stood there by myself in the shell of our upstairs office area with only the light from the parking lot providing any illumination. What I saw, though, was Apostle Dale's office, very tastefully appointed, with him sitting there providing guidance and leadership as per his Apostolic calling. I saw myself and others leading small groups in the meeting room, teaching and reaching out to people, helping them open their hearts and minds to be filled with the Spirit.
I've never heard "The Voice of God," but I never felt his presence more than I did last night. He showed me part of his plans for how he would answer my prayers and gave me not only encouragement to stay the course but also emboldened me to give even more of myself to His ministry.

I listened and I received answers. If you are praying without ceasing, you may need to stop long enough to give God time enough to answer them. Praying is a form of communication, and any type of communication is only effective if it is two-way.

October 16, 2005

The Bible is Not a Play By Play Report

If you gather a group of people together to watch a football game or a movie and ask them to write a summary, it is very unlikely that you will see two write-ups that are the same. Even though there is only one set of facts, it is human nature to filter events through our own set of values and perspective.

In summarizing the game, some would talk about the defense, others would focus on the offense. While reviewing the movie, there are those who would write about the cinematography and others that would give their views on the story line.

It is important to remember that, although the words in the Bible were inspired by God, they were written by human beings. Recently, the Catholic Church published a teaching document including instructions that some parts of the Bible are not literally true.

A key quote from the document, as reported by the London Times, states "We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision."

To put this in some perspective, admittedly mine, there are some fundamentalits that will practically fight to the death to defend the idea that Creation actually occurred in six calendar days, ignoring the wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary. Are details like that really important? Not if you're reading the Bible to seek God's will for your life instead of using it like a textbook.

God's word will not lead you to him like a set of directions to put together a bookcase. You know, insert screw A into slot B. It doesn't work like that. There are fundamentalists who swear by their literal interpretation, in my opinion, because it's easy and they don't have to open their hearts and minds.

There are people with whom I have interacted regarding the editorial content of this site who quote scriptures to point out how I am misguided and how homosexuals are sinners. When I come back with the fact that I have seen gay men and lesbian women who have been blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, they have no answer for that. It gets them out of their comfort zone where they answer everything by quoting scripture.

Don't get me wrong, the Bible is of course the most important book ever written. It contains wisdom well beyond what we as mere humans can understand and the writers could communicate in its full meaning. The Bible as I have come to understand it is a tool that teaches us important concepts about how to live our lives and be more like Jesus. It also teaches us how to grow closer to Him. When we do that, he fills us with the Holy Spirit and it is that Spirit which guides us through our lives.

The rest is just details which, if we are not careful, can take us AWAY from the Lord, particularly if people professing to be christians fight over them.

October 13, 2005

Equipping the Church to Evangelize and Disciple the Homosexual

That is the mission statement of an organization called "Cross Ministry," founded by an evangelist named Tim Wilkins. He tells a harrowing story of his childhood and a terrible home situation and details how his anger at his father led him to reject masculinity and embrace homosexuality.

After graduating from seminary, Wilkins talks about how he stayed celibate for years and was finally led to met a woman who he later married and now lives a happily heterosexual lifestyle. God bless him for opening himself up to the healing power of the Lord and emerging through the pain and heartbreak of his youth.

Now Wilkins, through his ministry, wants to deliver ALL homosexuals from their lifestyle, believing it is sinful back even when he was leading it himself. He means well.

What is they say about good intentions? Could Wilkins have mistaken deep psychological scaring as a young man for TRUE same-sex attraction, not being born with but developing it out of rebellion or escape or whatever his damaged psyche was processing? Could be, and there can be little doubt there are people out there with similar experiences that Cross Ministry could be of great benefit to.

There are many others, however, who are attracted to people of the same gender not because of psychological trauma but natural instincts. Cross Ministry is merely one of a growing number of "Ex-Gay" organizations that are trying to "free people from their homosexual desires." In other words, these ministries are determined to make a gay or lesbian person into someone who can totally subjicate their natural desires and follow the path that the ministry believes God wants them to. The blog "Ex-Gay Watch" covers this issues in great depth and is an excellent resource if you care to read more about this issue.

In one of the recent postings on the ministry's website, Wilkins writes about the arguement that Jesus did not directly address homosexuality, therefore he cannot be considered to have condenmed it. He correctly points out that, of course, not every word Jesus said was recorded, so maybe he did actually get around to speaking out about that lifestyle and those words just didn't make the cut in the Bible. That could very well be true, but Wilkins neglects the fact that Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit, so if Jesus did speak about homosexuality, God determined it was not significant enough to include in the Bible. I'm content to trust God's judgement on that one.

Wilkins also says that, since Jesus spoke out about "child molestation, domestic abuse, or rape," then certainly he would have condemned homosexuality. Do people who make statements like this ever go back and realize how misguided they are? There is an enormous diference between the sins he lists and homosexuality--the sins are where someone forces their will upon another person. Homosexual acts are between two consenting adults, and I have seen monogomous, loving same-sex relationships flourish with God's blessings within our church.

I hope God will bless organizations like Cross Ministry as they reach people who are confused about their sexual identity and lead them to seek the Lord's guidance to resolve that question. For individuals who find out they are gay or lesbian, I pray that they are delivered from an "Ex-Gay" ministry without any lasting psychological damage.

October 08, 2005

October 11, 2004

A day can come along without warning that suddenly changes the course of our lives. October 11, 2004 was mine--the day my beloved wife Bette (pronounced Betty) left this world and our home in Maryland and was taken up to heaven.

As with most life changing events, this came as a complete surprise. Bette had struggled with her health and been in constant pain for several years. She had been feeling better in recent days, though, and she was excited about our plans to move into a new home at the end of October. The main limitation Bette still faced was her stamina—she got tired and out of breath very easily.

She had a flare up on October 10 and needed to take some of her pain medication. This resulted in Bette sleeping most of the day while I watched football. She enjoyed the first half of that evening’s Redskins-Ravens game with me before heading to bed. I stayed up to watch our favorite team, the Ravens, win before I retired for the night.

When I climbed into bed, Bette asked, "Did we win?" I answered, "Yep, we sure did." "Good," she said, "I love you" and then rolled back over. I responded, "I love you too baby girl. Good night." Bette was in a very sound sleep when I left for work that morning, not unusual since our body clocks were different and she was physically unable to work. I kissed her goodbye and headed out to begin my commute.

I felt very good about life that morning. The prior few months had been the best of our marriage. We had endured some very stressful times in recent years, but most of that was behind us. We were able to enjoy some excellent quality time with each other and looked forward to many more years of the same.

Bette never woke up, passing away sometime during the afternoon of October 11. Her heart, under such strain because of her physical problems, finally gave out. When I found her body that afternoon, she was snuggled up in a very comfortable position. She obviously felt no pain and drifted off to heaven very peacefully. She had passed from this existence more excited and hopeful about the future than she had ever been. We should all be so fortunate. Bette did not have to endure those hopes and dreams being dashed because of yet more physical limitations brought on by a weak, tired heart.

Every couple likes to tell you that they share a love like no other, but we actually did. Nothing was more important to me than my Bette, and nothing came ahead of her Jimmy. Everything was better when we were together and nothing was quite as good when we were apart. We never needed a "break" from each other. During our final spring and summer together, our favorite activity was simply holding each other and savoring the amazing level of intimacy we shared.

I learned so much about what it means to be a man, a partner, a husband, and a lover from Bette. She never fully realized the depth of her wisdom. Bette knew when to give me a hug and when to apply a swift kick in my pants. She taught me how to take responsibility for my life and not to hide behind blaming others for my shortcomings. Bette was one of the strongest people I have ever known. She gave me the strength to try new things, most of all writing.

Bette believed in my writing long before I ever did. We sat in a department store cafeteria one night talking, and she kept prodding me with the question "What do you really want to do?" When I finally answered writing, she nodded, having already known that herself. She knew me so much better than I knew myself.

As I began the sportswriting part of my career, she was my editor. As Bette read more about basketball and football, she learned about the games and grew to enjoy watching them with me. Two of the highlights of our time together were sharing the Ravens’ Super Bowl victory and especially The University of Maryland’s NCAA basketball championship.

Most of all, Bette taught me unconditional love. I had never received that from anyone. My mother loved me tremendously, but always pointed out how I had to "earn" that in her eyes or else she would withhold it. Bette taught me how to receive love unconditionally, and it became very easy for me to love her in that manner.

I could never have asked for a partner more devoted or that could love me more completely. Now, twelve years to the day after I met her, she was gone and I felt very much alone.

I have learned a lot about myself and about life in general in the last year, and the first enlightenment I received was that I was far from alone. My best friend Robin showed up at my apartment later that evening and stayed until well past midnight. Bette’s family in Illinois was extremely supportive and did most of the work setting up her memorial service out there.

My friend Brian joined Robin at my place the next evening, both of them putting aside very hectic schedules to do so. My brother Michael and brother-in-law Mike drove down from Rochester, New York, and stayed with me until I left for Illinois, then made the trip out and back with me. My coworkers at BAE Systems were extremely supportive. I was NOT alone, and I learned to take advantage of the offers people made to help me, something I had never been good at before. I had always viewed that as a sign of weakness, but I now felt very weak.

God gave me the right words to say at the memorial service the following Saturday, held at the gravesite of Bette’s parents she had missed so much. The outpouring of love from her friends and family in Illinois would have touched her deeply, as it touched me. Many tears were shed that day, especially by me. Bette had taught me long ago I could cry and still be a strong man. I even saw Robin, who flew out from Maryland for the service, shed a tear for the first time in the 34 years I had known him.

Much to my surprise, the sun came up on October 12 and has every day since then. There is a certain liberation I felt after realizing the worst thing that could possibly happen to me occurred; yet I was still standing. There has been a lot of pain over the last year, but I continue to have plenty of help dealing with and moving beyond it.

My friends and family (including those in Illinois) and my grief therapist Tom Golden have been invaluable in leading me forward in my life, as has my church family at Believers’ Covenant Fellowship. Apostle Dale Jarrett has quickly become a wonderful source of spiritual wisdom and a trusted friend. Then there is Brenda, who I will write about in a few weeks. I will just say for now she is amazing, an angel God provided to lead me into this next phase of my life and help make it the best yet.

I write this today, on the first anniversary of Bette’s passing, to thank those who have stepped up over the last year, and to have a written record of what a wonderful, loving, and giving person Bette was. She accomplished many things as a social worker and activist in Illinois during the 1980’s and helped many people improve the quality of their lives. As I have detailed above, though, the person she had the most positive lasting impact on was myself. Anything I may accomplish going forward will be partially due to her influence on my life.

I wish I could build a memorial to Bette or name a building or a charitable organization after her so there would be some tangible lasting evidence on earth of who she was and what she did with her life. At this time, however, all I have are these words to share with you. I hope they have succeeded in shedding some light on the truly wonderful loving, giving woman Elizabeth Marie Johnson (Steward) was.

The twelve years Bette and I had together did not seem like nearly enough time, and there were a lot of things we never got around to doing. Rather than feel regret for what was left undone, I rejoice in the love and time we did share. Less than three weeks before she passed away, Bette wrote me a note that included this quote: "I will cherish all the memories we have made for all eternity." Likewise, my darling.

I thank God for those twelve years and for the opportunities that lay ahead.

I thank you for taking the time to read this and learn about my beloved Bette.

September 25, 2005

God Loves Heterosexuals Too

I ran across a website called "Rainbow Revival" that contained a quote I found thought-provoking and funny at the same time.

The site quotes Lynn Lavner, a lesbian comic: "The Bible contains 6 admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn't mean God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision."

After you stop laughing, think about that for a minute. Hmmm.