My Daughter… the Wise, Wonderful Heretic!

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“If the you of five years ago doesn’t consider the you of today a heretic, you are not growing spiritually.” — Thomas Merton

My delightful daughter Hannah, whose AMAZING coming out post we ran last year, has written another great post on her Facebook page. She is always thought-provoking and I just had to share this with you (with permission). I hope you enjoy it too.

Story time!

A while back, I received a note from someone I’ve known for over a decade.

This person expressed their disappointment and disgust in my ‘lifestyle’, my love for my same-sex soulmate, and how I wasn’t the same person they knew so long ago.

They also finished with telling me that they’ll be praying for me, but requested me not to contact them.

Of course, my first instincts were sadness and anger. But I wasn’t surprised, as many of my ‘Christian’ friends have declared their presence of prayer in my life and have cut me off (because if you touch a gay person, you might get the gay virus. Yikes!)

After some time, I was able to view the situation from a new perspective.

The subject that left the most impact was the fact that they were upset because I’m “not the person I was 10 years ago”.

(MAIN POINT OF LONG RANT)

It got me to thinking, if I were the same person I was when I was 10 years ago, then someone please get rid of me.

I’m so grateful for the hardships, mountains, graceful seasons, and any second I’ve ever breathed on this earth, it has led me to where I am now.

And more so, I’m grateful for the people around me who have encouraged, loved, taught, and challenged me to constantly move forward and grow. I never want to be the same person I was 10 years ago, 1 year ago, or even yesterday.

May every day we wake up be a day we move even just one step further forward then the day before.

Let’s be grateful for those around us who TRULY understand love, challenge each other to keep growing, care unconditionally, and answer at any hour of the day. I love you, homies.

What an incredible human being. Inspirational, daring, courageous. A deeply spiritual soul whose tender, caring heart is becoming more free every day. I am a proud Mom.🙂

A lot of you reading this have some sort of Christian background or beliefs. I want you to know something. Practically everything Jesus said was heretical! Those apostles didn’t understand him in the beginning–but after they hung out with him and listened to him and got to know him, things began to make sense. Same with us! If we think we have it all figured out and that we’ll think the same in five years, we are fooling ourselves.

Going beyond what we know, beyond the words on the page, continuing to grow, is where you find the heart of God.

Take courage, my friends. You don’t need to fear! Embrace the unknown and trust God to bring you through it. See everything as part of your journey to get to know God better.

There is no right way and no wrong way to take the journey.  It is your journey and God is a personal God.

Be at peace. God’s got this, and God’s got you.

It’s all good. And you’re all good. 🙂

With love, Susan

We have programs for parents of LGBTQ children, and for LGBTQ. We help free hearts to love, heal and affirm. 

Private online support groups, books, resources and our new FreedHearts Online comprehensive video courses! For more information, please click here.

Eat, Pray, Love Who You Love. Elizabeth Gilbert Comes Out.

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I love how Elizabeth Gilbert – the bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love – came out today about her relationship with Rayya: she just came out. Not gigantic fanfare, just a Facebook post saying, this is our relationship.

She came out now because Rayya has cancer, and they want to be able to walk in a room arm in arm and, as Liz says, “feel relaxed enough to stand comfortably in simple openness about who we actually are to each other.” They want not to have to pretend, because “pretending is demeaning, and it makes you weak and confused.”

They just want freedom to spend every waking moment pursuing life to the fullest—the freedom we all want.

I know there’s still risk involved—because some people just can’t get their head around it. It is too different and too scary. If you are still at risk from those who won’t let you just be who you are, my heart goes out to you. I wish for you to be able to gain that freedom.

I love that we are approaching that day when our orientation is a nonevent—that saying you’re in a relationship with anyone is about that person, not their gender. If that scares you a little bit, you who keep checking the book for the rules and regs, take heart! We’ve done this before!

We can now come out as loving someone of a different color. We can now come out as having parents of different colors! We can even come out as writing with our left hand. We don’t have to fear prison, or a cross burning, or our own burning—all because of something some people find different and scary.

Don’t be afraid of different and scary. If you are afraid of different and scary, I wish you full-strength courage to let things just be different, not scary.

If you are afraid of coming out, I wish you freedom to be who you are and love who you love.

And Liz and Rayya, I wish you peace and healing, in your freedom to eat, pray, and love who you love.

We have programs for parents of LGBTQ children, and for LGBTQ. We help free hearts to love, heal and affirm. 

Private online support groups, books, resources and our new FreedHearts Online comprehensive video courses!

For more information, please click here.

Does Christian Scripture Really Condemn Homosexuality? (Hell No!)

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Rejection, shunning, condemnation, ridicule, bullying, all in the name of God. If you are LGBTQ, or the parent of an LGBTQ child, or anyone who is affirming and including, you have likely been on the receiving end of this kind of treatment. And worse.

Does such treatment have anything to do with God?  No, not really. It is about fear.

Does it have to do with the Bible? Not at all. Those who use Christian Scripture to stand against same-sex relationships are twisting those Scriptures to justify the marginalization and oppression of an entire group of people.

Indefensible.

The rest of this post is courtesy of our friend, Pastor Jim Rigby. With his permission, I share it with you.

5 Things You Need to Know About the Bible and Homosexuality.

1. Neither Greek nor Hebrew had a word for the modern concept of homosexuality. The English word “homosexuality” was not coined until the 19th century. This means that phrases like “a man shall not lie with a man as with a woman,” are not as clear as it may seem. They may refer to other same sex practices such as temple prostitution, rape or pederasty, but we don’t really know. Jesus did not mention the topic.

If the point of the text were to condemn all homosexuality, it is strange that women would be left out of the prohibition. The best concordances and modern commentaries no longer use the word “homosexual” to translate those phrases because they could mean other things. In any case, because the terms are not completely clear, the benefit of the doubt should be given to those being attacked.

2. It is dishonest to say biblical marriage was between one man and one woman. Many characters in scripture had multiple spouses. Some of them impregnated their slaves or the widows of their dead relatives. “Biblical marriage” was nothing like our modern concept of marriage. The Bible says nothing about needing a wedding license, nor the blessings of the church.

(For more on the issue of the Biblical definition of marriage, you can read Susan’s post about it by clicking here.)

3. The “cleanliness codes” of Leviticus were cultic practices, not ethical norms. I will let Rabbis explain what Leviticus means to modern Judaism, but in the Christian covenant such cultic practice are clearly overturned. “Unclean” foods were considered acceptable, and Christians were specifically commanded to call no person “unclean.”

The healings of Jesus seemed to focus on people whose illness would render them “unclean” by the Levitical Code, and one of the first converts to the new religion was a Eunuch. If the Levitical prohibitions were still intact that never would have happened.

4. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is often interpreted as a condemnation of homosexuality, but the prophets clearly refute that interpretation. The crime of Sodom and Gomorrah was not homosexuality, but cruelty:

“This is what your sister Sodom has done wrong. She and her daughters were proud that they had plenty of food and had peace and security. They didn’t help the poor and the needy.”(Ezekiel 16:49)

And: “Hear the word of Jehovah, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. What unto me is the multitude of your sacrifices? …And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:10-17)

5. Finally, the ace in the hole for those who try to use the Bible to attack the LGBTQI community is Paul’s diatribe in the first chapter of Romans. What homophobic theology always leaves out is the whole point of the passage, which is found in Romans 2:1, “Therefore none of you has an excuse when you judge others.” In other words, the entire passage was NOT a condemnation of homosexuality, but of judgmental Christianity.

Amazing isn’t it? That so many unloving people in the church have taken stories and passages condemning mistreatment of the vulnerable, and used them to persecute the vulnerable?!

When heard in the spirit of love, the stories of the Bible are a source of ever-widening compassion. When heard arrogantly and lovelessly, the Bible becomes one of the deadliest books ever written. When we project our current prejudices upon the ancient stories we “weaponize” the text in the same way violent prisoners see every spoon as a potential knife.

Christianity was a call to a new understanding of humankind where there are no longer religious insiders and outsiders, no longer masters and slaves, and no longer gender roles. (Gal. 3:28)

Gay bashing is a renunciation of the very heart of Christianity.

We have programs for parents of LGBTQ children, and for LGBTQ. We help free hearts to love, heal and affirm.  Private online support groups, books, resources and our new FreedHearts Online comprehensive video courses! For more information, please click here.

A Boy in a Tutu, a Mom, and the Scary Words of a Stranger

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“My son wears tutus. It was fine… until yesterday!” This is the story of the innocence of a child, the love of a Mom, and the scary, hurtful words of a stranger.

Unfortunately, it is a situation repeated on a tragically frequent basis.

Is it hate? Ignorance? Misguided interference? You decide.

I will let Jen, the Mom, tell you what happened…

My three-and-a-half-year-old son likes to play trucks. He likes to do jigsaw puzzles. He likes to eat plums.

And he likes to wear sparkly tutus.

If asked, he will say the tutus make him feel beautiful and brave. If asked, he will say there are no rules about what boys can wear or what girls can wear.

My son has worn tutus to church. He has worn tutus to the grocery store. He has worn tutus on the train and in the sandbox. It has been, in our part of the world, a non-issue. We have been asked some well-intentioned questions; we’ve answered them; it has been fine.

It WAS fine, until yesterday.

Yesterday, on our walk to the park, my son and I were accosted by someone who demanded to know why my son was wearing a skirt. We didn’t know him, but he appeared to have been watching us for some time.

“I’m just curious,” the man said. “Why do you keep doing this to your son?”

He wasn’t curious. He didn’t want answers. He wanted to make sure we both knew that what my son was doing—what I was ALLOWING him to do—was wrong.

“She shouldn’t keep doing this to you,” he said. He spoke directly to my son. “You’re a boy. She’s a bad mommy. It’s child abuse.”

He took pictures of us, although I asked him not to; he threatened me. “Now everyone will know,” he said. “You’ll see.”

I called the police. They came, they took their report, they complimented the skirt.

Still, my son does not feel safe today. He wants to know: “Is the man coming back? The bad man? Is he going to shout more unkind things about my skirt? Is he going to take more pictures?”

I can’t say for sure. But I can say this: I will not be intimidated. I will not be made to feel vulnerable or afraid. I will not let angry strangers tell my son what he can or cannot wear.

The world may not love my son for who he is, but I do. I was put on this earth to make sure he knows it.

I will shout my love from street corners.

I will defend, shouting, his right to walk down the street in peace, wearing whatever items of clothing he wants to wear.

I will show him, in whatever way I can, that I value the person he is, trust in his vision for himself, and support his choices—no matter what anybody else says, no matter who tries to stop him or how often.

Our family has a motto. The motto is this:

We are loving.

We are kind.

We are determined and persistent.

We are beautiful and brave.

We know who we are. Angry strangers will not change who we are. The world will not change who we are—we will change the world.

We have programs for parents of LGBTQ children, and for LGBTQ. We help free hearts to love, heal and affirm.  Private online support groups, books, resources and our new FreedHearts Online comprehensive video courses! For more information, please click here.

As a Person of Faith, I Fully Accept and Affirm LGBTQ

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“You’re a Christian! How can you support LGBTQ people and gay marriage? Don’t you realize you are condoning sin? You are leading people into hell!”

This is Rob Cottrell, Susan’s husband, and I have heard it all! Multiple times a day from strangers. Frequently from people who claim to be friends. And more than I ever thought possible from close family members.

When we came out as parents of an LGBTQ child, and then as fierce allies and advocates, I was pretty defensive.

More than 25 years in the evangelical church had engrained in me certain beliefs about homosexuality. To be honest, beliefs which I never really looked into. I was just running a program.

So, when the attacks and challenges and questions came, I felt like I needed to ‘defend’ my position.

My heart knew that unconditional love and radical inclusion was the very heart of the Gospel. But I needed to reconcile with the things I had heard on Sunday mornings.

So I didn’t just read the printed words of whatever Bible translation was my personal favorite.  I actually looked into the passages… the context – the motivation of the author, the audience – the original language, and much more.

And my eyes were opened. “I was blind but now I see.”

I discovered the heart of the Gospel, the heart of God, and the truth of the life and teachings of Jesus.

I discovered that unconditional love, acceptance and support for LGBTQ people does not conflict with my faith in any way.  Actually, it is consistent my faith.

I am fully accepting and affirming of LGBTQ BECAUSE of my faith, not in spite of it.

And something else happened.

I realized that I am not the one who needs to defend my position!

For most people who are not affirming, it has nothing to do with God or the Bible. I understand that they are just running a program.

I am not going to try to reason people out of a position they did not reason themselves into.

I am no longer going to defend or explain my support for, or acceptance and affirmation of the LGBTQ community and marriage equality. I am going to love and embrace. I am going to do what Scripture says God requires of me… do justice, love kindness, walk humbly. (Micah 6:8)

I take my Bible seriously. I look at it through the lens of love, the overall message of the Gospel.

And you know what…

You have the right to believe something different. But if you do not welcome and embrace those who just happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning to attend, serve and be members in your church, if you do not support full marriage equality, if you do not oppose discriminatory legislation, if you do not love without condition – it is you who needs to defend your beliefs.

Why?

Because you are the one judging, you are the one deciding who does and does not get welcomed and affirmed, you are the one deciding who deserves to be treated equally and fairly.

And the last time I checked, God was not hiring.

The consequences of this includes misrepresenting the heart of God, pushing people away from Jesus, and rejecting, condemning and shaming your fellow human beings – even ending in killing and other tragedies like youth homelessness, drug abuse and suicide.

From my heart to yours… There is a freedom, love, joy and relationship with God available to you, more glorious than you can ever imagine. Just open your box, open your heart… and listen.🙂

But I am just not going to defend my position anymore.

I am following Jesus. I will love how he loves. I will love who he loves.

I am being obedient to my faith.

I will unconditionally love, because I have been unconditionally loved.

I will radically include, because I have been radically included.

Will you join me, and trust God with the rest?

– Rob Cottrell

We have programs for parents of LGBTQ children, and for those who are LGBTQ. We help free hearts to love, heal and affirm.  Private online support groups, books, resources and our new FreedHearts Online comprehensive video courses for parents, and also for LGBTQ! If you would like more information, please click here.

To Worried Parents of LGBTQ Children

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I write today to Christian parents of LGBTQ children who are worried about their kids. Struggling with this whole thing. From a Mom’s heart to yours.

Easter is the day Christians celebrate new life in a risen Savior. It’s a day to think about crucifixion and resurrection. What God is calling us to do versus what we want. It’s a day of new beginnings.

My favorite memories of Easter as a child are the Easter baskets (of course!), the matching dresses with my older sister (a tradition the younger one loves and the older one dreads!), and the patent leather shoes and white gloves (not kidding!).

Every bit as fun as the actual baskets on Easter morning is the search to find the baskets because Easter bunny hid them! I don’t remember personally finding them (I was the youngest of six until my brother came along) but the hunt was always a thrill.

One particular year we were searching for the baskets and suddenly my mother asked me to go outside to get the newspaper. What?? Right now? We’re right in the middle of the hunt!

I dragged myself outside, grabbed the paper, and headed back in. Then I saw them. In the front window behind the living room drapes were the baskets. I bounded in the door: “I found the baskets!” Mom had a big smile on her face. Even though the bunny had put the baskets there, Mom knew—and she’d sent me out so I’d find them!

I thought that going out in the middle of the hunt was the wrong move. I thought I knew, but Mom knew. Mom had something better for me than searching in vain for the baskets. Her plan led me directly to them.

So here’s the point. I have met so many parents in turmoil because their children have come out. They feel lost, their head is spinning and they are in despair. They don’t see how this could possibly lead any of them to a peace and joy beyond their understanding, and actually deepen and strengthen their faith.

But it does–if you take the journey.

I am asking you to step outside as Mom asked me that Easter morning. Really. Step outside of your box. What? Right now? But they can’t be gay/bi/trans–I have raised them in the church.

I know. But you will not find life inside among the chaos where everyone else is frantically looking. You need to step outside and get a new perspective. God knows how to lead you in this, my friends. God calls you to love, and let the answers come when they come. You know that magnificent God you sing about and learn about and talk about every Sunday? That God really has got this.

If you can quiet your spirit, you will hear that still small voice saying, Shh… just go where I lead you. No need to be afraid—your child is fine. There’s a journey ahead, and you can trust me. I got it. I will crucify your understanding and resurrect new love, beautiful and free.

Before you even realize it, you will find yourself more in love with your family, and more in love with God, than you ever dreamed possible. It’s counterintuitive, but then crucifixions and resurrections usually are.

Give up searching in the usual places, open the door, and go outside. God will give you everything you need.

As Jesus says, Just follow me.

FreedHearts has a comprehensive online video course for parents of LGBTQ children. We also have private, secret Facebook support groups for Moms, and one for Dads. If you would like more information on this, just CLICK HERE.

*Image is original art work by Parker Cunningham

Would Unconditional Love Change Things?

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It’s women’s gymnastics time again! It is my favorite Olympic event, of all time, period. I feel the adrenaline as I watch them. Those young women perform skills so hard they shouldn’t be possible! They work years to develop their ability–and they make it look easy!

Consider the balance beam: the commentator says the gymnast’s boldness is the difference between winning and losing.

The more she attacks and goes for each skill, the less likely she is to fall off the beam.

A missed trick could literally break her neck, leave her paralyzed. But she cannot hesitate. No second-guessing. No thinking! Straightup attack. Go for it!

Counterintuitive, isn’t it?

Honestly, we live the opposite. The more that’s at risk, the more we hesitate. The scarier the endeavor, the more we weigh our options. The higher the stakes, the more we pause to analyze.

What ridiculously impossible challenges would give way if we attacked our lives the way these gymnasts—or other Olympic athletes—attack their sport? What would happen if we just go for it?

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I recently spoke to a young gay man whose parents are crazy-legalistic. His parents don’t plan on his leaving home until he marries. A woman. Uh, that’s not in his future. How can he balance his life, and face the homophobic teaching he’s been subjected to, unless he attacks it with strength and power? He’s worried about upsetting his mother, and he will have a hard time being fearless.

Every day, I interact with parents trying to balance their church’s approval with embracing their child. That hesitation can knock them off their game–and be deadly to their precious child.

Not every idea is a good one, of course. Ideas–like deciding to change your child, or employ “tough love” (and by tough love I mean bullying and ultimately abandonment)–have proven to be an epic fail and should be rejected for good.

But when we find our groove, a groove that produces life–as unconditional love does–what if we went for it full-force? What if those of us who are loving well–without condition, without hesitation–really knew that failure in love is not an option?

How would people around us, in our family, change if they knew we loved them unconditionally?

How would we change if we knew we were unconditionally loved?

People need to be loved. LGBTQ people. Parents caught in a tough place. People of color. Old people. Young people. A word of hope or encouragement. When the time comes to love, in action, we cannot hesitate or we stand to fall. Hard.

Love never fails. Love grows more mature over time. Love as it steeps brings out its full intensity.

Whole vistas are opening in front of us, new chapters are just ahead.

Are we ready to boldly go for it?

We have programs for parents of LGBTQ children, helping free hearts to unconditionally love, accept and affirm.  Private support groups, books, resources and a new FreedHearts Online comprehensive video course. If you would like more information, please click here.