You Had Me at Hello… My Advice to Adele


She was so upset. Almost to the point of tears. And nearly an hour later, you could still see the shame on her face. But why?

Her voice. Her beauty. Her charm. She plays to sold-out stadiums. She delights her fans and moves people to tears. I am simply mesmerized as I watch her—including her outstanding performance last week on the Grammys.

But as she started the tribute to the late George Michael, something was wrong, it wasn’t quite on, she had missed the key. After several measures, she had to do the unthinkable on live TV: she said “Stop. Stop.” She said a curse word and asked the band to restart.

It happens. Life happens. And to her listeners, it was not a huge deal. It is what it is.

But to Adele, it seemed like the end of the world. She cursed, she messed up on live television with a huge audience. You could see it in her face. You could sense it in her body. You could hear it when she apologized a dozen times to the audience—even after the standing ovation for her phenomenal performance.

She felt she had disappointed people she really cared about. Shame fell on her like darkness; shame consumed her; and Adele fell under shame’s corrosive and deadly spell.

The audience was not upset that she cursed or that she had to start the song again. They were upset for her, they felt bad for her. They wanted to encourage her.

When Adele went onstage to receive her Grammy from Celine Dion (Celine Dion!), the shame went with her. Celine took Adele’s face in her hands and said, “You are amazing!” But Adele couldn’t receive it—those words of honor and admiration smacked against the coat of shame and slid to the floor.

And I wondered how long Adele would beat herself up over that, how long she would think those terrible things she was clearly thinking about herself. I hoped it would not be long.

But shame lingers. It doesn’t go unless we send it away. It stays and fills our very being as long as we let it.

If I could speak to Adele, I would say, “You are lovely, you are worthy, you belonged in that place that night. That’s why you were there! Don’t let shame steal your joy; don’t let shame steal the honor of the night. Set shame aside so you can embrace the generous encouragement from Celine Dion, and the loving support of the audience. They thought nothing less of you; on the contrary, they wanted to offer you love and encouragement. It is our humanity that endears us to each other. Soak in the love poured over you that night.”

But I can relate. I don’t sing like Adele or you’d all know it, but I did sing a song once at church, and I biffed it, right from the beginning. I felt as I Adele must have felt (but without the voice to back it up!), so I can imagine how she felt. I remember. I felt alone and exposed before hundreds (for her it was millions) of people. I had nowhere to hide.

What about you? Can you relate? Have you ever felt that you have disappointed people who you really cared about? Maybe just because you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer? Do you remember what the shame felt like? What that shame feels like?

Where does shame conceal us? Where does it prevent us from receiving the love of others? Are you cloaked in shame that you’ve internalized? Are you able to hear the words of love, acceptance and affirmation people offer you? Maybe they are not the people you had hoped would encourage you, but I am just one of many here to tell you how beautiful and wonderful and amazing you are—just as you are. One of many people who love you—for just who you are.

So let me be Celine, and you be Adele. Let me take your face in my hands and say:

You’re amazing! Take it from me, because I know! YOU. ARE. AMAZING! Let go of that shame of feeling you have disappointed people. If that disappointment is still being heaped on you by people in your life, then it may be time to let go, to cut short your time with them. Let the shame go. They do NOT speak truth. Don’t stay stuck in shame because you don’t deserve it. You deserve to be loved as you are, where you are, for who you are. Let it in, my friend, let it in. After all, you had me at Hello!

FreedHearts Online has comprehensive video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, religious and community wounds; and helping those in the faith community love and include. Please just click here. 🙂

“You must obey!” It’s One of the Biggest Lies in the Church


One of the biggest lies perpetrated throughout Christendom is that God is primarily interested in our obedience. Not true. Patently false.

To say our first responsibility to God is to obey is a big fat lie and distortion of the relationship God wants with us. God’s paramount interest in us is a relationship. Didn’t Jesus say simply, “Follow me!”?

How quickly we complicate things by adding cherry-picked list of right and wrong behavior and focus our attention on that. By the way, focusing on EITHER list is still eating from the same tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, instead of focusing on the Tree of Life.

Let’s say that a couple is about to have their first child, and you say to them conversationally, “What is most exciting to you about having a baby?” and they answer, “Making sure this child obeys!” You’d be shocked. Really? That is the main point in having a child?

You would wisely identify that something is seriously wrong, and you would suggest they run, not walk, to a qualified therapist who could help them unravel this unhealthy obsession with power and rule.

The amazing thing about bringing a baby into the world is the new life this person gets to emerge into, and the astounding relationship we get to enjoy with them! That’s the main point. Anyone whose primary interest is that their child obey them is a narcissistic sociopath.

Do we want them to learn to heed our voice, lest they burn their hand on the stove or dart in the street and get smacked by a car? Of course! Because all of that protects them and facilitates relationship. But that is not the same as enforcing “first-time obedience” in some sort of patriarchal power structure so they know who’s boss.

Humans in their folly can be very drawn to fortifying their power this way. Some of us endured parents (or coaches, teachers, pastors) who imposed their will in the name of “obedience to authority.” And we wonder why many of us have “authority issues”? Yeah, we can stop wondering!

This path leads to death – of the soul of the one made to submit, and to the relationship itself.

God created us for community.

If we were here to be obedient, wouldn’t Jesus have been delighted with the religious leaders of his day?

They were extremely obedient, but without love. Indeed, they were the only group Jesus blasted, for their selfish, prideful and loveless focus on legalistic adherence to rules without relationship, and for marginalizing, oppressing and excluding those who did not adhere to the list.

Remember, it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. Kindness is relational.

We are here on planet earth to be in relationship – with God and others. Period.

Blind obedience to parents, to a pastor, to the Bible, is not healthy. It’s idolatry.

Set your heart free… focus on relationship.

FreedHearts Online has comprehensive video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping LGBTQI heal from family, religious and community wounds; and helping those in the faith community love and include. Please just click here. 🙂

We Have A Secret Weapon Hidden in the Anti-Gay Church!


Shhhhh. We have a secret weapon. Powerful. Effective. Ready to change the world. And it is hidden right in the middle of the nonaffirming conservative, evangelical church.

There is a wall, erected by Christian leaders who are nonaffirming, between the church and people who just so happen to be LGBTQI. Their teachings have encouraged or at least justified kicking LGBTQI children of their homes, removing their LGBTQI brothers and sisters out of churches, conveying an unBiblical, unChristlike message of condemnation and judgment.

Why? It has nothing to do with the truth of Scripture, or the teachings of Jesus, or the heart of God. It is because they are afraid. Keeping the LGBTQI community oppressed, marginalized and outside the wall makes these Christians feel safe.

“Every time we use religion to draw a line to keep people out, Jesus is with the people on the other side of that line.” – Hugh L. Hollowell

What they do not know is that those of us who are affirming, those of us who follow the teachings of Jesus and the heart of God, have a secret weapon. And it is right smack dab in the middle of those churches. On their side of the wall.

What is that weapon? 


Parents of children who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex. Along with other family members and allies, these parents are an unlimited force for change within the anti-gay church that has fought so hard to feel safe by labeling others as somehow unworthy, inferior.

These parents and others are a force committed to radical love and inclusion. The same way Jesus was.

The church has gotten away with this unBiblical, unChristlike condemnation of those who are LGBTQI, and with kicking them out of churches and homes, kicking them to the other side of the wall.

But things are changing.

Pews and pulpits are filled with parents who are pastors, elders, deacons, leaders, and givers. Parents who have LGBTQI children and who know in the deepest places of their hearts and souls, that the only thing their faith requires of them, the only thing in line with the heart of God and the teachings of Jesus, is to unconditionally love their precious children. Period.

I am one of those parents, and we are affirming BECAUSE of our faith, not in spite of it.

We agree with St. Augustine, who taught that no matter what interpretation of scripture you arrive at, no matter how clear you think the Bible is being or how faithful you think you are being to the words on the page, if your interpretation (and therefore way of life) doesn’t adhere to the greatest commandment – love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself – then your interpretation of scripture is wrong.

Some of these parents will stay in the closet about their LGBTQI child, but they will work in the background to bring about a change to help the church love and include – as each of us has been loved and included.

Some of these parents will come out as Moms and Dads of an LGBTQI child. Then, others will come out in support of these families. They will stand up on their firm and solid foundation, speak up with loud clear voices of love and truth, and say, “No more! We will not allow you to speak about our children the way you do. We will not allow you to treat our children the way you do. It stops now.”

Radical love and inclusion was what Jesus modeled and taught. That IS our faith. That IS our message.

Every single day, more and more parents in the nonaffirming church are standing up, speaking up, sharing their stories, defending their children.

They are our secret weapon, and the message of radical love and inclusion will change the world.

– Robert Cottrell

FreedHearts Online has full, conference-length, comprehensive video courses helping LGBTQI heal from family, religious and community wounds, and helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children. Please just click here. 🙂 In celebration, you can save 25% by redeeming this coupon code: LAUNCH25

Post 11/9: The Election is Over. How Do We Move Forward?


Beloveds, it’s a strange time, isn’t it? I don’t even mean the outcome of the election or the electoral college, I mean the ongoing aftermath. Regardless of whether or not your candidate won, it is likely that the whole thing feels vaguely gross. Like waking up someplace you should never have been, and now you just want to get home and take a shower.


But we need to take a little pause here. A big pause. Let’s take a big pause. We need to find our breath. Breathe in, breathe out. Again… in, out. And take a look around. Look at those who love you, and those you love. Find them. Tell them you love them. Reaffirm that you will be there for each other. We need each other’s community now more than ever.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Look at all those you don’t know who are supporting you. All those who will defend you though they don’t even know your name. Those who are fighting for justice and peace and a place for each one of us. We will continue to fight for those things—that has not changed. Find comfort in that.

Breathe in, breathe out.

And look ahead at the future you were looking forward to last week. And last month. Last year. All that you have ahead in your life. Look at that. Press into it. Walk with those who love you as you seek to get there. Please, don’t throw away your own hopes and dreams in despair. You are too good for that. You have too much life and beauty ahead of you and within you to lose sight of it all.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Please, take a step back from the intensity and give yourself a break.

I don’t do scary movies, because I don’t like to emerge myself in fear. But sometimes I’ll watch a movie that gets intense, and I’ll go in the kitchen and start cleaning up so I can still see the movie but get some distance from it. I don’t need to be so upclose to intense or frightening things. I just don’t need it.

Don’t let fear get you either. Fear destroys all sense of proportion. It strips your joy and vitality. And it will disable you from creatively moving into your future. You still have a future!

Some people feel their hope is gone. Some are tempted even to call it quits completely—I know that’s true. But please, please don’t do that. Please don’t let the panic of the immediate rob you of the joy of the future.

Breathe in, breathe out.

You are still here. You are still standing.

And we are still here. And we will continue to stand with you in the days ahead.

We need each other’s community now more than ever. But then we’ve always needed each other’s community. We just may know it now more than usual!

Continue to love because that is who you are. We will continue to love you.


FreedHearts Online has full, conference-length, comprehensive video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children, and for LGBTQI to help heal from family, religious and community wounds. Please just click here. 🙂

Do Those on the Other Side Love Their Children Too?


Well here we are, caught in a maelstrom. The fear has never felt so intense, the fracture never so deep. Stephen Colbert said 50% of people on both sides feel terror of what the other side might do. Abject terror. Those who fervently voted for their candidate, and those who merely voted against the other candidate. Everyone believes “their side” is right, “the other side” is wrong—and they believe it with all their heart.

My daughter said, “I just don’t know how healing is possible.”

This whole political machine runs on polarization. Flattening people’s concerns into one dimension, squishing out all the nuance. No critical thinking. Just flat.

Vitriolic epithets. Unfriending. Blocking. Even of best friends or family.

You’re for him or you’re for her. Republican or Democrat. To agree with them means you disagree with me. Multi-layer human issues have become caricatured into black and white—a binary.

Human beings are far too layered and multifaceted to be shoved into a binary, flattened into a caricature.

Our nation cannot sustain this type of thinking. We as human beings, as families, as communities, cannot sustain this type of living.

What have we come to? Is this who we want to be? And what do we do now?

Sting’s 1985 song Russians beautifully reflects the fear surrounding the nuclear threat of the Cold War. I have taken some poetic license and modernized the lyrics a little. I want to share it with you today…

In the right and left areas

there’s a growing feeling of hysteria.

Conditioned to respond to all the threats

In social media frenzy and media blitz.

 One side says, “We will bury you.”

I don’t subscribe to this point of view.

It’d be such an ignorant thing to do

If the other side loves their children too.

 How can I save my little boy

from those I think would steal his joy?

There is no monopoly on common sense

On either side of the political fence.

 We share the same biology, regardless of ideology.

Believe me when I say to you,

I hope they love their children too

 There is no historical precedent

To put the words in the mouth of those we elect

There’s no such thing as a winnable war,

It’s a lie we don’t believe anymore.

 One side says, “We will protect you.”

I don’t subscribe to this point of view.

Believe me when I say to you,

I hope they love their children too

 We share the same biology, regardless of ideology.

But what might save us, me and you,

Is if the other side loves their children too

What is so difficult is that our love for our children – regardless of your issue – is what drives our passions, and also our fears. What do we do when the thing that justifies our anger is the same thing that could save us?

This is not a new problem. This did not start with this election. It goes back further than we know, but let’s take it all the way back to the Civil War. Maybe that is a gaping wound that has never really been treated and healed.

In that war, there were many divisions… North vs South, Free vs Slave, Urban vs Rural, Working Class vs Privileged Class. In countless real-life cases, you had biological brother vs biological brother fighting face-to-face, hand-to-hand. Both felt justified, both felt horrible. Both felt trapped by circumstances, both felt like they just wanted to lay their guns down and go home.

What resulted was a war that was only resolved when the other side was beaten into submission and ran out of ammunition. There was no coming to the table to heal, no standing together in common ground.

Is that where we are heading? I hope and pray with all my heart that the answer is no.

Can we sit down and find that love for our children is enough common ground to begin to talk, to listen, to work together for our children’s sake, and then to heal and reconcile? The answer to that question is yes.

The real question is… will we?

What might save us, me and you, is if the other side loves their children too.


The Slippery Slope… of Judgment!

Freeing Hearts to Love and Be Love.  By Susan Cottrell

I’m a mom of 2 queer kids and 3 straight/cis kids. But tonight I speak to you as a pastor!

Every day I fight to stop the damage inflicted on the LGBTQI community by parents and Christian conservatives.

My name is Susan Cottrell, founder of

If you’ve had any dealings with the conservative church, you know that their MO is to exclude those they consider unworthy. Beneath them. More sinful than they.

But if you have any dealings with Jesus, the Real Jesus—not the one propped up by the church—
then you know HIS MO is full inclusion.

What’s the deal? Why the big disparity? Let’s do a little “compare and contrast.”

Full inclusion is an AMAZING THING, a beautiful thing. Why so much resistance?

You may have heard the expression the “Slippery Slope of Sin.” (Sorry if that’s a trigger!)
That’s the idea that acceptance of “unauthorized” behavior is a slippery slope toward more acceptance.

Yes it is! Acceptance is a slippery slope toward more acceptance—and it’s one Jesus modeled!
Let’s look at where this slippery slope has played out.

Women were once considered subhuman, property, “deformed men.” We shifted on that—
which paved the way to treating women as humans—
which paved the way to the vote —
which paved the way to JOBS for women—
which led the way to creating a life outside their
father’s or husband’s ownership—which led to women in business, government, and (shh!!) being pastors!

Dear Lord, what will happen next?

African-Americans—and other people of color—were once considered subhuman, property, “deformed whites.”
We shifted on that which led to emancipation—
which led to the vote—
which led to jobs in corporations and government—
which led to desegregation—interracial marriage.

What’s next?

Poor people were once considered subhuman, property, subjects of the king. We shifted on that which led to founding a new nation outside the reach of a king.
Which led to a country that says that every person is created equ—… well, every man is created equ—… well, some men… straight men… straight, white men.
So we’ve created a system in which some men are created equal!
Anyway, we’re still working on that.

The slippery slope is the normalization of people, previously regarded as subhuman. This is the growth and maturation of humanity. THAT’s what the Bible is clear about.

In truth, rethinking our acceptance of one group does open the door to acceptance of other groups!

Acceptance leads to acceptance… and Jesus shocked people by the ragtag people he accepted!
The slippery slope is toward full inclusion—I say, “Slide on down”!

Now, let’s turn this Slippery Slope idea upside-down!

It is in fact religious people who are on a Slippery Slope. Judgmental-Christians are continually focused on sin,
on defining sin, on notifying others of sin,
on trying to stamp out sin—
none of which they have any business doing!

Jesus told us to love, not judge sin.

In fact, he didn’t really talk about sin as a thing,
he talked about having a loving relationship with God.
He did not define sin in terms of what’s sin and what’s not, but defined sin as not trusting God! That’s all!
Sounds to me like Judgmental-Christians are in sin…
because they’re not trusting God.

Jesus said we ALL need God—he intentionally put us all in the same boat, instead of “You sinners and us non-sinners”! Did you know that Jesus was kindest to the people the religious leaders rejected, and harsh only to the religious leaders?

They didn’t see that coming, did they?

Jesus warned religious people repeatedly about their arrogance and harshness and oppression of the powerless, and he warned people not to judge but to mind their own damned business!
Jesus railed on them for their lack of love.

The real slippery slope is judgment.
The real slippery slope is defining other people’s sin.
The real slippery slope is the horrific lack of love.

No one has the right or authority to define for you what your journey looks like. You’ve heard the phrase, “Who died and made you king?”
Well, we can say, “Who died and made you judge!”

No human being gets to tell you who to be.
You get to discover that, as you connect with what’s real inside you.

Jesus slayed the idea that your spiritual path rests in the hands of religious leaders—or belief systems, or structures, or traditions. Instead, he taught people to listen… and follow the life-giving Spirit within.

I am so grateful for you. For your incomparable courage—courage to be true to yourself. And for not letting others define you.

You… are giving the world… an amazing gift of authenticity.

You’re indispensable to the growth and evolution of this world—and you’re making a huge difference.

Please, keep being you. This world needs you.

FreedHearts Online has full, conference-length, comprehensive video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children, and helping LGBTQI heal from family, religious and community wounds. Please just click here. 🙂

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LGBTQI: You Deserve to Love & be Loved! You Deserve to be Free!


Well, here you are! You’re gay or bi or lesbian or transgender or intersex or queer in some way or other. You may be or agender or pansexual. Or you may not yet be sure what the heck is going on! I understand. I really do.

You may even be in a straight marriage and now you realize you’re not straight. Believe me I’ve heard that dilemma many times in private conversation.

Wherever you are, I am here for you—to help you navigate your questions, your uncertainty, your spinning head, your aching heart.

I want you to find peace. True peace. Peace with yourself… peace in your spiritual life… and as far as it’s up to you, peace with others as well.

You may have been told all kinds of things—about sin, about needing to change, about a requirement to be celibate… THIS IS NOT THAT! AT ALL!

I am all about healing from those kinds of lies, hurtful comments and treatment.

Just so you know, I wouldn’t change my LGBTQI kids, or you, if I could.

It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey, you belong. You may be a Christian, a recovering Christian, an agnostic, or something else: that’s great! You belong!

You may have once believed in God but now—with all the stuff that’s gone down—you want nothing to do with any of it. You may now consider yourself an atheist—and who could blame you?! I understand that.

You belong!

Through FreedHearts, every day I engage with people who have been hurt and need to be loved. I love them, and encourage them, and offer them hope. And I tell them they are good exactly as they are. They are delightful and lovable and worthy. Period.

And so are you.

I want to walk this road with you—as a mentor, as a friend, as a mom if you need it!

I have no agenda for your spiritual life… except to free you from lies you’ve been told about God, about what God thinks of you, and about your worthiness.

Far too many LGBTQI people are bludgeoned with vitriolic lies—that God is not happy with them, that they’ve disappointed God. Really? What is God—an alcoholic rager you need to tiptoe around lest you get zapped with a lightening bolt?

As a mom and a friend, here’s my promise:

I am here for you on this journey of healing, to discover how beautiful you are, just as you are.

No exceptions. I will tell you what you should have heard in school, in church and in your family.

Together we will recover the love that belongs to every human being.

Healing is in three areas of your heart: healing with others, healing with God, and healing with yourself.

Some people may have told you that your heart is deceitfully wicked and you can’t trust it… but then… aren’t you being told that by people whose hearts are deceitfully wicked?—so you why would you trust them?! 🙂

Your spirit IS good, and you do know. You know what’s good for you—and you know what doesn’t fit you! You are the expert on you. Nobody else is!

Wherever you are, I want to help you to discover and celebrate the truth and beauty of the real you.

So your heart can be set free.

So you can love and be loved, as you deserve.

FreedHearts Online has full, conference-length, comprehensive video courses helping LGBTQI heal from family, religious and community wounds, and helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children. Please just click here. 🙂

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