My Mind Made Public -

I held off as long as I could ...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Got Schooled Tonight

I just got schooled tonight. I got schooled in how to live authentically as a follower of the Way. I am completely broken right now as to how humbled I am to have witnessed what went down tonight with a bunch of folks who don’t care about book sales – don’t care about organizations – don’t care about branding, fundraising, networking, media or anything else other than being real and raw in living life as a precedent to not a belief, but rather to a way of life through that belief. It’s as simple as that, and I’ve been missing the boat because I have been too caught up in the lists of everything I have to do.

Tonight The Marin Foundation hosted another OUT! Night in Boystown. An OUT! Night is a recreation of my original immersion experience into the GLBT community by taking straight, conservative Christians into the gay bars and clubs in Boystown with the goal of striking up conversations to learn, listen and understand. There’s obviously more to it than just that as there are always other variables in play, but I don’t want to take away from the point that I’m trying to make …

I build bridges to serve and I work to bless others. Yet tonight as I was out on the town I was not the one doing the blessing, I was the one being blessed. Not by words, not by intention, but plainly by sitting on the sidelines for the first time and soaking up the genuine, non-pretentious joy of the others with me as they came to me wide-eyed about the stories and experiences they just had with strangers in the gay and lesbian community on the streets of Boystown at 2am.

I saw that pureness and I longed for what I once felt when I first immersed myself 8 years ago through my best friends. Now, it’s pressure. It’s producing constant activity. It’s that everyone looks up to me and expects me to start every conversation, be the center of attention, know what to do in every situation and be the expert in absolutely everything … and it’s the groups of people uncontrollably and constantly thanking me for what ‘you do’ and that ‘you’re so special and different.’

Well, I’m not. And tonight I saw what refreshed and refocused me back to what ‘I do’ because I saw others do it better than I, with transparent reckless abandonment of love and prayer. I watched tonight as Juan, a 50 year old blind black man struck up a conversation with every GLBT person that would walk in his path. He didn’t preach; he didn’t have to. He, in all of his smiles, love and blindness, talked for 4 hours to groups of gay men who then asked Juan to pray for them right there on the street corner in the middle of the night in Boystown outside of a gay club. Juan might be blind, but his tears are the same as yours, mine and those gay men who were blessed tonight by an unsuspecting grandpa who for the first time in his life didn’t intentionally run away from someone he definitely knew was gay. Juan is the expert. He taught me what overcoming your fears looks like and how God uses that fearful genuineness to bless and produce fruit in the most unlikely of places.

And then there was Joo Sim and Sun Joon – 2 twenty-something graduate students who just this year moved to America from South Korea to study in seminary. They speak English, barely, and neither of them had ever seen in person, let alone met or talked to any GLBT person. They were scared at the beginning, asking a million questions and writing down on a notepad every single word I said as we started walking around the neighborhood. For hours they didn’t leave my side, soaking up every word I spoke throughout each conversation I had. Sheepishly they went into the night with no clue of how to process any of this unique, cultural overload. And just like that they disappeared, venturing on their own to give conversation a shot.

At the end of the night the two of them came running up to me and told me how they just had a conversation with a cross-dressing transgender woman who was sitting on a curb in an ally crying. These 2 fearless, and very tiny (both height and weight I might add), Korean girls approach this intimidating 6’1” transgender woman and asked if they could pray for her. And with their thick Korean accents Joo Sim and Sun Joon sought Jehovah face to face as they called out to the Almighty for their broken sister in Christ.

Lives are changing because fearlessly sensitive doers of the Way are living out a certain, unshakable belief in Christ in real ways throughout everyday culture that never register on anyone else’s unsuspecting radar. Anyone, that is, unless it’s other countercultural radicals living in the same fearlessly sensitive way. And tonight I witnessed it first hand as 3 people that the everyday American person would automatically write off as not capable, had our Father lead the way in their lives as the Holy Spirit came upon them and did such miraculous things that even Juan, Joo Sim and Sun Joon didn’t think possible from themselves.

And I sit here now at a little after 3am shamed that I also included Juan, Joo Sim and Sun Joon in that incapable group as well. As embarrassing as it is to admit that, I am that much more grateful, and way ridiculously humbled, by the very important eternal lesson I learned tonight – God’s glory and power bear no bounds. Period. All He needs is a willing and faithful vessel who believes in His miraculous ways and yes, His will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. It is literally as simple as that. And it’s time that even I start to believe it again. It’s funny because I’ve seen it before, I’ve lived it, and I’ve believed in exactly those miraculous ways for many years now; but yet there are times and trials that can still shake even the core of our foundational belief systems.

Lately I have been a beaten-down, overburdened, insecure shell of tired faithlessness. And tonight God showed me what is needed from me – just like Juan, Joo Sim and Sun Joon modeled by doing nothing other than being themselves, living in God’s pure strength.

Wow. Thank you Lord for giving me such a powerful lesson tonight: You have faith in us even when we don’t have faith in ourselves. :)

Much love.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Book Cover

Here is my book cover! I know I have already posted it on my Facebook page, but I just put up the picture and I actually have quite an interesting story about how this cover design came about:

I’m not one that has ever been known to be creative in designing things. Well, anything for that matter. Cindy, who is the head of the creative department at InterVarsity Press, called me and asked if I could take a trip out to their headquarters and meet with the design team and talk to them about the potential cover design. As soon as she asked I got sick to my stomach. I didn’t want to do that at all! I told her I would try my hardest to think of something, but in the back of my head I knew it was going to be a feeble effort.

There are some things some people can do, and there are some things that some people can’t. And mine is creative design. I was hoping to just be surprised one day with a sweet looking cover that I loved. I guess that wasn’t going to happen.

So I took a trip out to IVP and met with the design team. I was quite nervous, but as soon as I got there I gave everyone a hug and felt much better. Phew. Hugs do the trick for me! When we sat down in the conference room I blurted out that

“The design thing isn’t my thing so I literally don’t have any ideas of what it should look like.”

I just wanted them to know from the start where I stood so they didn’t expect anything miraculous, you know? But then the craziest thing happened, they all smiled at me and said that was awesome because it gives them more freedom to do their thing. Now that’s what I’m talking about! So Cindy told me to just start emoting …

And if there is one thing I can do really well, it’s emote. I emoted for the next hour as they all just quietly sat there and took notes. I talked about my feelings, what I was trying to communicate with the book, my story, and how I just wanted to give everyone in both communities’ big hugs and let them know there is a hope for a better future. A few of the designers then asked me a couple odd questions (at least I thought they were odd because they didn’t seem to have anything to do with cover design), and I went on another long speech about more of my emotions, feelings and random thoughts.

I almost felt like I was in some type of improve acting class – free association for three hours!

Then we ended with the question, “What don’t you want.”

Well I knew exactly what I didn’t want! And the list included the following:

1. No Rainbows. Everything that I have ever done in the print media has been designed around either rainbows or rainbow flags. Now I totally understand that because it communicates the point very quickly. But seriously, enough is enough. And the last thing I wanted was to stare at more rainbows for all eternity on my book cover. (the links don't show the rainbows, but when they were in print there were a ton!)

2. No black cover.

3. No white cover.

When you walk up and down bookstores and check out the shelves all you see is black or white covers and book spines. Boring! Recently when I was in a bookstore there was a yellow book cover that totally caught my eye, and I picked it up just because it was yellow. I ended up buying that book and actually enjoyed it quite a bit! So the one thing I did want – color. I know, kind of sounds weird when I didn’t want rainbows. I didn’t mind rainbow colors, just not in the form of a rainbow or a flag. Easy enough? (And I wish I had a picture of the book spine – it’s awesome!).

Anyways, after almost 4 hours or so we parted ways and I had no idea what just happened. But a week later this beauty shows up in my inbox! And I LOVE IT! I don’t know how they did it, but they sure did it well. It was pretty funny because when I got it I called Dave (my editor) and said:

“That is the most gangster frikin thing I have ever seen in my life.”

He started cracking up and asked if he could quote me on that one to the rest of the staff. He sure could!

And here we are now with another new and exciting experience in the books for this whole mysterious publishing process.

Much love.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Coalition - Southern California Event #1

Yes, after my traumatic last post I wrote this one on Word, saved it a few times, copied it into my blog and did the links right before I made it public. Thanks for the outcry of love after my hard lesson learned in blogging!

After finally creating this blog I have also learned a few things that have taken me by surprise. One: I actually love it! I totally thought I was going to hate it and it was just going to add another deadline or some type of self-fulfilling pressure to produce something creative. Far be it for any of that. It’s like my own personal, yet ironically public, theological reflections of all facets of my life and work. I’ve never been one to journal, and if this is the refreshing feeling that many journaling folks get – than give me some of that good stuff! And two: I now walk around my daily life and whenever something curious happens to me I think, “hum, that’s a blog post.” Isn’t it just so funny how things like blogs can infiltrate and permeate not only mainstream, but Christian culture. So strange. So ironic. I guess we all have to thank Al Gore for creating the internet so we can enjoy hours of fun each day! (Ok, that’s me being totally sarcastic). :)

Back to the first Coalition event in Southern California. Just a side note – even though it’s been a full 6 days since I lost my heart-felt post about that unreal day, I’m still bitter because I poured my soul into that post and I’m convinced that whatever I write will pale in comparison to that original, in-the-moment reaction. Enough of my personal pity-party though:

That first event was unreal. If there would have been a best case scenario in my head before everything commenced, it played out as great as I could have hoped for. I first have to give a huge shout to Dave Gibbons, Ed Salas and the whole team over at Newsong Church in Irvine. What first class people, facilities and food!!! The tone was set right from the moment people walked in, and they represented The Coalition and the topic of gay, Christian, and Gay Christian with the intentionality, care and passion that it deserves.

In attendance were some really heavy-hitters from Southern California including pastors from some really well known mega-churches, area directors of national Christian organizations, executive committee members from Christian denominations and leaders from the local communities and universities. But regardless of the stature of some of those who were there, none were able to escape from the real and raw emotion that happened that day. The stories, the lives and the tears were flowing as we together were able to listen and learn our way through this new issue that many in attendance have never breached. Sure, there was some pushback, but only by means to try to truly grasp what it tangibly means to build a bridge with gays and lesbians coming from a conservative perspective. And to that, what more could you ask?

One Love. One Church. One God. I’m encouraged, but just not encouraged – excited, because I see the Lord moving and working in areas no one ever thought possible. I can only pray that one day each of you will be able to experience such a revival of unique bridge building reconciliation in your city. The Coalition is on the move, and let’s get it done in your local community! And if you’re looking for another unique perspective on what happened that day, check this out. Becky – love you so much. If nothing else happened in my life with The Marin Foundation other than being able to meet you and Eric; it was all worth it: the pain, joy, insecurities, doubts, fears and unbridled uncertainty of what will happen in all of our lives. John – I told you what you and UYWI have meant to me over the years. And many times over again you personally stuck your neck out for me, for The Marin Foundation and for this topic to be pushed to the forefront. You didn’t have to do any of that, but not only so, you continue to be my backbone reppin’ Cali. To my dying day am I privileged to call you all best friends.

Oh yeah – do you want to hear some crazy news I just found out yesterday? The Coalition just got some serious backing with endorsements for our Southern California Bridge Building Series event #2 for the inclusive pastors and churches from a few big name GLBT leaders ... names to follow soon when it becomes public.

And SO MANY thought that conservative evangelicals could never peacefully and productively reach out to, and work with the ‘big name’ GLBT community? And the GLBT community never thought that they could never peacefully and productively reach out to, and work with ‘big name’ evangelicals? Wrong my friends. The time is now. Together.

Much love.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Am So Annoyed

I just spent the last hour pouring my heart out on a post about The Coalition's Southern California Conservative Pastors Roundtable event today ... and when I went to publish it a big red box appeared on my blog screen saying that there was an error and everything dissapeared!!! Yeah, I know, what the heck!

So I talked to one of my main bloggosphere men Eric, and he said it has happened to him more than a few times. So now he just saves it in a word document and cuts and pastes it into the blog and then adds the links after. So smart, and yet so untimely for me to learn this information now. Ouch.

Needless to say I want to tell you all about the spiritually and emotionally moving day today, but I'm too annoyed to try to recreate the missing masterpiece that was my former, now deleated post. Drat! :(

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Speaking takes me far from the Rain

Like most places in the country it has been pouring rain here in Chicago for the last three days. I've tried to stay inside as much as I can and the good news is that I've actually gotten quite a bit of work done this weekend. I try very hard to take my 'Sabbath' every week but since my wife is in Atlanta for work I'm able to take this time to get a few more things done. That's actually a good thing right about now because I have quite the week ahead of me in sunny Los Angeles from Tues-Friday.

I have a great group of friends and collegues in Southern California who just flat out want to do some great stuff. I love them to death and over the past three years I have been privledged to be a part of their lives and work. Since the gay marriage topic is first and foremost on many people's minds in Cali (I'll save that topic for another post), so then is the broader topic of homosexuality. And many in the Christian community don't know what to do! But don't fool yourself, because many in the gay community as well are very comfortable staying put on their own turf. If there's one thing, among others, that I feel the Lord has put me here to do it's to blow-up many traditional comfort zones regarding these two communities.

So me and my friends John Lewis (, Dr. Becky Kuhn (, Eric Leocadio (, Brad Fieldhouse ( and Dave Gibbons (one of Christianity Today's Top Evangelicals under the age of 40 got together and started what we call, The Coalition - a group of bridge builders committed to seeing the broader Church engage in a productive and safe dialogue regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals within our community.

Our hope is to build a bridge between the conservative and inclusive churches, find common ground, and create a space of conversation that helps us to share Christ’s light and love for all people. It is our goal to elevate the conversation beyond the politics of our differences and into a place of common grace towards one another. The key is doing significant things for the Kingdom while still recognizing a difference in some theological belief. As we are all children of God, it's time to start acting like it.

It's going to be a three series event spanning the next three months to start off a new bridge building life for many in Southern California. This first event is a Pastor’s Roundtable for Conservative Christian pastors to be held by Newsong Church in Irvine, CA. We have about 50 pastors and churches involved (from both the conservative and gay sides!) right now, and it's just a start to see what the Lord will be doing!

If you want to bring this to your city, just give me a holler and let's start to truly make a systemic difference between the gay and conservative Christian communities. I had a meeting with some heavy hitters at Willow Creek the other day and, this might be cheesy but I don't know of any other way to communicate what I want to say, so I'm just going to quote myself talking to them:

"At 24 years old when I started The Marin Foundation I would talk to people like yourself and speak of a vision, a dream; something the Lord birthed inside my Spirit that a larger, structural, systemic bridge can be build between the gay and evangelical communities. I got laughed out of churches, organizations, busnisses, everything - because no one thought it could ever happen. And who's going to believe a 24 year old with nothing but a crazy idea? But three years later I can sit here and look at each of you in the eye and honestly say, it's happening. And it's happening all over the country. What no one thought possible the Lord deemed worthy and has risen many up to accomplish His vision. Believe with me and let's do something impossible!"

And that is how I feel about The Coalition. It's happening, and with the Lord on our side we can, and will see this dream come true. There's no doubt about it!

Much love.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pitt-Jolie and Jesus?

In a world where anyone can create a blog and write whatever they want and claim it as truth, why not get in on the fun right? It's about time I guess ... that, and all of my super tech-y friends keep harassing me to do it. And for the first time in my life, well, second if you include Facebook; I've given in! So here we go:

I recently heard on CNN that the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Foundation just donated $1 million dollars to clothe and feed the Iraqi children whose families have been killed in the war. The first thought that popped in my head was, why are celebrities doing what Christians should be doing?! I was actually offended.

If the Bible tells us to love our enemies, what does that tangibly look like in time of war? I can think of no better expression of that command then to follow in Pitt-Jolie's footsteps. As much as I can't stand celebrities and their unwarranted and annoying political opinions, I have to stand in awe that someone - especially with those type of financial resources - was willing to do such a thing. Thank you Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. (I never thought I'd say such a thing!)

Following Christ is about doing, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are flat out just out-'doing' Believers. I'm willing to put my limited resources where my mouth is ... I'm going to financially give to that cause as well. Let this challenge you, as Christians, to know what it truly means to live out your faith. No fluff, no talk, just action.

Countercultural. Faith. Love.

Go out and read my friend Shane Claiborne's book Jesus for President. It will change your life and you'll be yearning to live an authentic Pro-God, not Pro-Flag, life. We're all God's children and it's time we actually start believing it.

Much love.