Being a Gay Teenager

Earlier today, I wrote a letter to a 13-year-old lesbian in love with a 13-year-old straight girl. It shook me into the reality of being a gay teenager, and these memories just started pouring out.

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The first time I really crossed a line with a straight friend, I was about ten years old. I was at a slumber party, and I grabbed her hand while she was sleeping. Of course I got caught. Are you kidding me? It was a nightmare. I learned then that if I wanted to hold another girl’s hand, I just needed to keep it to myself. In northeast Texas, in the ’80s, there wasn’t a lot of “no, thank you.”

From then on, I thought I was a total freak of nature. Two and a half years later, the idea was reinforced to me when I met another lesbian for the first time. It got real, fast. I learned that you could lose your job just for loving women. I learned that gay people were thought of as pedophiles (though this is changing- it was 1990 at the time). I learned that being married to a woman was just as complicated and wonderful as being married to a man.

But even then, you couldn’t say anything. Back then, you had to play the pronoun game. The pronoun game is something that all gay people use when people are asking them about their lives and they don’t want to reveal that they’re gay via conversation. Every same-sex pronoun is changed to opposite; eventually, you’ll slip up one too many times, and by the time you tell everyone you’re gay, you won’t get the reaction you’ve been expecting.

They already knew. They saw you hiding it and just didn’t say anything until you were ready to have the conversation.

It always bothered me that I knew I was gay when I was a child, and yet, there are still people in my life that would call me a sinner; I am. I know I am. But not about this. They attribute characteristics in me to a global conspiracy instead of looking at their memories of me and deciding, “hey… wait a second… she’s been gay the whole time.” When I came out as a lesbian, I did not grow three heads or anything. I was just a normal kid.

I don’t think very many people saw that. I wasn’t born late enough to get the benefit of gay marriage being so out and forefront in people’s minds. When I came out, it would never have occurred to me to ask if I could get married, because I was a sinner and I knew it.

I carried a lot of weight on my shoulders due to the time in which I was born. Being a lesbian was akin to trying to find the Underground Railroad. Someone that knew a path to bring you to safety. I had that person; many of my friends did not. In those days, some of my gay friends were homeless, kicked out for no reason except loving people of the same sex rather than opposite.

It feels like I have an amazing amount of emotional scars from my childhood, and as I work through them, I realize the miracle that the generation after me is going to be.

I was shunned and isolated, but let us all hope that from this day forward, we all have the ability to be inclusive. I can’t imagine what a difference it would have made in my life if being gay just felt like a part of life instead of a sin equated with adultery.

As a child, I believed that I was caught. I was going to have to live on the outside of society, peering in, for the entirety of my life. Now the pendulum has shifted; the things I believed would get me killed are now perfectly normal and I’m still reacting like my 13-year-old self. I would like to think that I react in the same way that those in the Depression horded pennies for years afterward. At the same time, though, I don’t want to feel old. I don’t want to feel like people are going to react to me the same way they did when homosexuality was generally thought to be some sort of disease. Some claimed you could even cure it!

Until now, I’ve lived in a pretty small comfort zone. I get wild, crazy, loud, etc. when I’m with my friends at parties and such, but it takes a lot of self-confidence to feel comfortable. Most of the time, I’m just a tender, quiet geek who’d rather type to her readers than try to gather the energy to go out.

As one part of a lesbian couple, “out there” has always felt a little bit intimidating. Now I know that it started in my teenage self, and even though I need to keep working on what I need to do, I can give myself a break.

I come by my flaws honestly.

If you hear nothing else in this essay, hear this: help the gay children around you to just be kids. Stop discrimination when you can, and model for your straight children that being gay is no different than being straight. It’s the modeling part that’s hard. Say it all you want, but your actions have to line up.

Otherwise, gay children will continue to be afraid of the world around them… because it’s scary to feel that you are a mistake.

Advice Column Thursday: Teen Love Edition

I have a youth pastor friend who asked me for something I’d written about baby lesbians who hit on straight girls, and invariably get their hearts broken. He had a baby lesbian in his youth group flirt with one of the straight girls, and the straight girl says something to the effect of, “maybe we could date on a trial basis.” I do not think that the straight girl was actually interested. I think that she wanted to put off that inevitable moment of rejection when the person who loves you doesn’t love you back. I told my youth pastor friend that I would write a personal response back to her, and post it here.

Dear Amy,*

Ohhhh, honey. Let me tell you the sad truth about straight women. They can’t change their wiring any more than you can. It does happen that love can transcend gender, but it doesn’t happen very often… especially not in middle school. In middle school, you’re still trying to figure yourself out. Telling people that you’re gay or bisexual is scary, even if everybody is really cool with it. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief when it’s finished, but nothing tops the butterflies before you have to say those words now. I still get them, and I’m 35.

I was like you when I was your age. I had crushes on all kinds of women, both gay and straight. Here’s what I have the benefit of knowing now that I didn’t know then: it hurts to be rejected no matter which gender you love.

Either way, you’re going to have to nurse your pride, eat a lot of ice cream, and throw yourself into your homework and activities. Staying busy will help keep your mind off things.

I know that 13-year-old love is so tender and real. I’m sorry that it’s not likely your friend wants to date you. I’m sorry that she wasn’t brave in the moment and said so, because you got your hopes up, and that hurts worse than anything else.

You will feel like complete and total crap for a few days, so treat yourself well. Get plenty of sleep, treat yourself to soda and junk food, take lots of bubble baths, and read good books.

If you have to run into your crush at school, you might want to tell her that she hurt your feelings, but that you know she was embarrassed and you forgive her. It isn’t right to be mad at someone just because you can’t be their girlfriend. If she is as good a friend to you after you tell her this as she was before, then you should know that she is a friend worth keeping. You’ll listen to sad music on this very topic (see every song ever written). Eventually, the crush will go away, and you’ll be back to playing XBOX in no time (or whatever it is that your people do).

Eventually, you will realize that a relationship finds you, instead of the other way around.

Chin up, Amy. It gets better.

Love,

TheAuntieLeslie

Medical Marijuana

Here is what I have learned about pot since Washington, the state literally 20 minutes north of my front door, has now legalized small amounts. My friends that live in states where it’s still illegal are starting to ask the questions that other states have already answered. I’m not talking about people that were potheads to begin with. If you want street drugs, you’ll find where to get them. I’m talking about people that you’d never expect would ask you those questions in a million years.

I’m still in the stage where it’s embarrassing to talk about pot, even though I live in a place where it’s generally considered no big deal. I was raised in the South, and I have very strict definitions of what I’d consider polite conversation. Of course, when I check in with myself and realize that what people are saying is, “why is pot a big deal? Should I try it?” Before, I thought of those people asking questions as invading my privacy. Now pot is on the Today show, the nightly news, etc. I just have to get my shit together and adjust… society is already doing it for me.

In Oregon, we have what is called Medical Marijuana. I didn’t really understand the concept. To me, no doctor in the world should ever have to write a prescription for Train Wreck. There hasn’t been a whole lot to change my mind, because there are so few ailments that to me, really qualify pot as treatment. Most of the time, I think it is prescribed as “treatment.”

What started to change my mind about using pot as treatment came from this web site. I’d never thought of using cannabis balm or cream for spot treatment of injuries or relief from arthritis. I realized that I was quite uneducated and I began to read. Interestingly enough, the reason I was reading was because of an arthritis patient in her 60s who saw it on television, and just wondered if it worked.

Which brings me to my next cultural point about the Pacific Northwest. When I came here, it shocked the hell out of me that some of the grandmas and grandpas were bigger potheads than their grandchildren. Texas, where I was raised, never taught me that old people could use street drugs. But now it’s not a street drug. It’s a medicine.

My wild hair attitude and my Southern upbringing are fighting this one out. Part of me says that I canNOT talk about this. It’s just too weird, especially when the questioner is old enough to check into a retirement home. It reminds me of a story from when I was a teenager. My sister was watching TV in her room, and my dad stopped by to check in. He asked if he could sit down with her, and she said, “You don’t watch MTV WITH YOUR DA-aaaad.” Just as a teenager does not want their parents in the room while they’re watching Undressed (my particular favorite on MTV when I was a teen), I do not want to answer questions from old people about marijuana. It gives me that same feeling that every child gets when their parent says something to the effect of “now we’re going to talk about sex.”

When I get back into my body, though, what I hear is that “you are not a Texan anymore. You live in a different cultural mindset, and you don’t have to apologize for it.” My work on the subject of pot is to stop being afraid of talking about it- in the same way that I had to learn that in Portland, holding a woman’s hand on the street wasn’t going to get me served a huge helping of verbal and (frighteningly) physical abuse. Living in the South had me so trained to watch my back that I still treat Dana more as my friend than my wife when we’re out.

I have to consciously put myself out there to take her hand, and I do it. Just like I will learn not to react like a deer in headlights when an elderly person thinks that pot is the new Oil of Olay.

The AntiLeslie is More Important Than Me

Dana tells me that I talked for two solid hours, and told me that I needed to write because I was talking like I was writing. I don’t know how much of it to believe, because as I’m sure that some of my readers can attest, Dana has an interesting relationship with the truth. I’m not calling her out on it, because I think that I do, too. It’s just that her version of truth is often more dramatic than the actual situation at hand. I’m sure people would say that about me, too. I’m probably just getting a taste of my own medicine.

When Dana told me this, it sent up a huge red flag. It could be a sign that my medication isn’t working, that something is physically wrong with me, or that it just seemed like two hours. It also felt as if she was saying to me, “I don’t want to listen to you, so go tell someone else.” That is the biggest hot button issue I have- when someone close to me says that I talk too much and to just, in a sense, go away. It’s not Dana’s fault. That hot button has been there since I was 13. She does have to deal with me when I’m scared and lonely, however.

As I have said before in this web site, I was keeping secrets for a friend that a teenager should never have had to keep. As I grew, the friend became more and more distant, and all of the sudden, I didn’t have a place to go with those secrets anymore.

I don’t mean to imply that what I learned was all that bad. In fact, if I had been an adult, there would be no problem whatsoever. I wasn’t, though, and I learned a lot of operant conditioning- “if you do this, X will happen.” X was whatever behavior in which I learned my part of the dance.

I was not trained to deal with being an adult at 13, but I did my best. I think I was pretty good at it, but it limited me socially. I was much older than my peers, emotionally and spiritually. I retreated into myself, and just wrote and wrote and wrote. Tackling a blank page was my therapy, and it went well. Because I have been a writer for a long time, I have consistently had a way to deal with my problems. Art comes from pain, and there’s a lot in me. Getting it out is my way of funneling anger into beauty.

Because of writing, I never felt alone. Even if I didn’t have my friend in the corporeal sense, she was in my head. She became a diary in which I could grow and develop from the inside out.

It was also a dark time in my life because I related more to a blank page than I did to live people. When I was a preacher’s kid, it was easy to put on the mask of separation. Ministers and their families have the same problems as everyone else, but lay people have a hard time believing it. Living in the fish bowl wasn’t that bad, actually, because no one ever knew the real me. The real me was in a notebook at the back of my closet.

The same friend, so amazing as a pen pal, predictably turned out to be much different than expected when the pages and pages of letters over the years turned into you and me, face to face. Because I was only myself in my letters, she knew everything there was to know about me, except my behavior.

It is a terrible conundrum, because for me, face-to-face had to somehow line up with reality, didn’t it? Phone calls weren’t nothing, were they? Here I am, all of about 19 years old, tortured with my friend’s secrets and now I couldn’t even talk to her about them, either. The balance of power was off to the point of insanity, and neither one of us could figure out why, until the scary truth found me in a pink and purple book called The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond, by Patricia Evans. It gave me the coping mechanisms to see that I had unintentionally been manipulated because my friend needed someone to listen and I was completely harmless. The amount of emotion that she was pouring into me had some unintended consequences, and I grew up fast… both in thinking that by confiding in me, it created some sort of romantic notion that she wanted me to protect her like a husband… and that by confiding in me, she wanted me to protect her like a father. Passionate and companionate love swirled in me until I no longer recognized myself. I wanted to invert our relationship the way children of alcoholics start to raise their parents. The amazing thing is that I really thought I could do it. Every day, I’d walk past a sign in seventh grade homeroom that said, “hire a teenager while they still know everything.” I’d think to myself, “if you only knew…”

The passionate love ended when my friend got married, but the companionate love didn’t. I was hooked into the grip of thinking that my friend needed me to protect her, and because it was a learned behavior in childhood, it wasn’t anything to mess around with. It was so intrinsic to my personality that I am now rewiring almost a quarter century of memories so that I can learn to act appropriately.

By that, I mean that enablers are used to being caught in the grip of their abuser’s sunshine. She gave me so much love that my heart would flip when she walked into a room. It felt to me like the air changed, and I choose to believe that it did.

The problem is that with abusers, the sunshine doesn’t last. It is a ploy to get your attention so that they can use you for something. The dopamine in your brain gets used to the heightened sensation of emotional sunshine and then, usually without rhyme or reason, the abuser disappears… often without saying goodbye.

In my experience, which is vast, this is because abusers feel guilty about the way they’ve treated their enablers. If you have been abused in any way, there is only a small percent chance that you will ever receive the apology that you’ve been waiting for a very long time.

If you get the apology that you’re looking for, there is a large chance that your abuser has not grown with you, and will not hesitate to step all over you if you are determined to believe that all relationships go through a few troubles and this time will be different.

In my case, “this time will be different” came around several times, and each time, I fell for it hook, line, & sinker. Each time, the sunshine lasted until I started to emote. I couldn’t talk about my feelings and my e-mails became “emotional bombs.” What used to be keeping all my friend’s secrets became “let me dump all my crap on you and mysteriously disappear when you need me for anything at any time.”

I was silly to go back for seconds, and disastrous to myself when I thought it was okay to try thirds.

My friend agreed to meet with me, and I told her that I was not in a good emotional place. Please don’t let me down again.

A few days later, still in the same emotional place I was in when I said, “please don’t let me down again,” I got an e-mail saying we were beyond reconciliation. It was just one more “thanks for being my friend since you were a teenager, now let me spit venom in your eye.”

My problem is that I was willing to wait until I got verbal venom before I was willing to admit that my friend wasn’t.

The revelation in my mind was that I never intended to treat myself so badly. For so many years, I waited for a moment that was never to come, and that future lived with me for a long time until it collapsed under its own dead weight.

I tell this story to bring it back around to Dana, and how I’m so sensitive to the way we talk to each other (about certain things, anyway). When she says things like, “you talked for two solid hours,” I only have one response- “why didn’t you stop me? Why did you just let me keep talking instead of telling me to shut up?” If people are passive aggressive, they rob one of a chance to correct their behavior and the other of compassion and forgiveness when they learn the other side of the story. They just get more and more resentful.

I get verbal diarrhea trying to start conversations with people who are totally absorbed in their screens. I want someone to interact with; every once in a while, I’ll try to think of another cool thing to say that will grab someone’s attention because I feel like no one is listening to me… another direct hit from my abuser. I try to start conversations because it seems nicer than “you’ve been on your phone for an hour playing Candy Crush Saga. I’m really sorry to bother you while you totally check out.” In response, people get more and more involved with their screens because you’re trying to get them to interact. It is a Catch-22, and I am often thought of as high-maintenance because I think human interaction is important for me to maintain the personality I have in public. Equally as important as the one I have online.

Now that I’m writing and people know that I have an outlet, they’d rather just read what’s happening on my blog.

And again, no one knows the real me.

It’s a good thing I do.

The Dirty, Dirty Thirties

Actor Cory Montieth’s death hit me hard, because he was only a few years younger than me. It’s this 30’s thing. We all get to our thirties and we all start to deal with the issues that didn’t get resolved in childhood/adolescence. For Cory, it was alcohol addiction. For us, it’s X. X takes many forms, whether it’s neglect, stress, hunger, abuse… the list goes on and on. Your thirties are when you start to realize that you are indeed not bulletproof, and something will get you. Your addict friends are finding this out more quickly than you are, because as a progressive disease, your addict friends are starting to care whether they make it out of said addiction alive. Because like Cory, they struggle with the handcuffs and the ring- the seduction of a perfect glass of whiskey and not caring about consequences such as killing others or even themselves. Logically, they know they can die. Emotionally, who gives a fuck? It’s just one drink.

I have been dealing with abuse of my own- carrying secrets that no one should have to carry as a child. No ability to tell anyone that I was carrying said secrets. No validation whether I was doing the right or the wrong thing. No ability to stop protecting the people who were abusing me because the pattern had been set up before I knew what patterns were. I was young and impressionable; now, I am not. It is my job to go back and unpack these years, and learn to protect myself as opposed to everyone else. It’s something I know logically, but emotionally? No one has ever been able to tell their hearts what to do. You might have a shot with your brain, but you are never going to win with your heart.

The answer to this is meditation. The cognitive dissonance that you are experiencing is deafening. You cannot do anything else but turn this one mind worm in your head over and over, as if it is on a spit. To quiet your mind, you must quiet your body.

Quieting your body might require talking to it- a soothing voice to ease your muscles into alignment. When you are seated comfortably, you have opened yourself to the entirety of your thoughts. You can see them like a universe filled with stars. You close your eyes, and they rotate, rushing toward you. You only have to pick one as they float by.

The one you pick is your starting line. Concentrate on that one memory until you have grasped the meaning of it… until you have grokked the entirety surrounding it. Still your mind into a “people mover” of thoughts. Concentrate on one thing until you are ready to put it away.

I learned this from realizing that I had to get through almost 25 years of memories, and I could not take them in all at once. It was too close, too damaging to try and live in the past, present, and future at the same time. To me, that is the single reason that you cannot look directly at the face of God. For me, the analogy that works the best is from the British TV show, Doctor Who. The Master goes insane when he is a little boy from looking directly at the time vortex. The past, the present, and the future combined to create a scene so full of terror that The Master is changed forever.

In a sense, I think that this is what we do to ourselves when we keep those insecurities and fears from getting a proper release. You know what you didn’t get in childhood. You know how to give yourself those things, instead of asking for them from others. It’s just that you won’t find them until you give yourself a chance to think.

How much time per day do you spend thinking about yourself? How much do you dream about where you want to go? How much time do you spend raging about things that are unfair, unjust, anger-inducing? Meditation can take all of that. I call the source God, you can call the source whatever it is that you want. But as I have said before, God is willing to act as your personal punching bag so that you can work out what ever it is that you need to work out so that you’re mad at God instead of the people around you. Let go of all the fear, all the anxiety, all the everything. Just scream it at God if you need to. Because at the end, you will feel more spent than you ever have in your life, and the greatest peace. You know why? Because you sat there and talked to someone who doesn’t have a horse in the race. God doesn’t care if you’re a sinner or not. God doesn’t care if you’re an angel or not. God is the big, immovable force that provides resistance when we need someone to use and abuse.

You know why? Because we all have that potential as humans, and better to get out our anger against God than to raise up against ourselves, our families, our friends. Because God is big enough to take it, while the humans around us aren’t. When you take out your frustration on God, you release yourself from the strain of having terrible relationships because you’re directing your anger at your friends instead of the deity that cannot be offended.

When God says that there is nothing you can do to separate yourself from God’s love, it’s all in there. All the crap you give other people that you can’t get away with when you’re alone. All the anger you wish you could scream. All the tears you wish would fall. God will take them all.

Let God be the punching bag, instead of making your family stand in. Your anger is yours, not theirs. They deserve your love, and you deserve theirs. But you will not believe it until your anger is out of your body and you are capable of taking it in. So much love is lost because we just can’t believe it’s there.

Trust me.

It.

Is.

Religion Questionnaire Update

The original article was written in 2005, by a group I belonged to then called “RevGalBlogPals.” I wasn’t a minister, just a velveteen one, and they let me join anyway. The questions are so good, I want to try and answer them every few years.

Am I content with who I am becoming?

Finally, blessedly, yes. I have been trying to help myself for years, but it wasn’t until I met my current pastor that I felt safe enough to be able to let my guard down and just let her take care of me in the way that my pastor should have been doing all along. Because my dad was a pastor when I was little, I am a terrible parishioner… in exactly the same way that a doctor is a terrible patient. Every pastor who’s parented a child will smile when they read this. It is true. Learning to see what other people see in their pastors when they haven’t grown up in the church has been so freeing.

Do my family and friends recognize the authenticity of my Christian spirituality?

I hope so. I think everyone is surprised at the way I approach it, though. I don’t modify my fucking language, I dress however the hell I want, and I don’t care if you like my hair or not. People think that I am an immature Christian because they see my image and not my voice. My image is not for you. It’s for scared teenagers who need someone who looks like they do, talks the way they do, and spends their time in the world looking like an acceptable person to befriend even though they know I’m over 30. Senior pastors, I am THAT youth pastor. You know the one. The one that brings more teens into your church than you know what to do with but at the same time, cannot get me to behave when the bishop comes. Yup, that’s me. Deal.

At the same time, I have been to the mountaintop in terms of sin and have walked away every time because I know for sure that my God is stronger than my temptation for wrongdoing. God is that voice in my head that tells me not to be an asshole. God hears my anger when God tells me that I’m doing something wrong and I don’t want to be told that I’m doing something wrong I want to do what I want to do and you’re not going to stop me goddamnit I’m going to do what I want… God is capable of taking your rage. God is capable of taking your furious justifications for wrongdoing and calmly listens until you are finished. All the way until you are finished. God is the moment that dawns on you when you realize what you’ve really been fighting. God already knows you feel bad, and isn’t adding punishment to what you will already give yourself. God is that one consciousness that sees all the evil in you and just waits for you to figure out on your own which kind of person you choose to be.

Is my prayer life improving?

Everything that I’ve felt my entire life is starting to deepen. If I prayed in my childhood, now I’m praying more, because I feel the same urges I always have, it’s just that now it’s weighted with more meaning. When I concentrate on praying, I have no idea how much time goes by. I am so focused on God seeing everything that it takes me a while to get it all ready. I hem and haw and think and look off into space until a memory catches, and when the dam breaks, God is there to just receive. God receives whatever I feel about the memory that broke me open. Sometimes it’s joy, and sometimes it’s pain. God is a safe space because God has heard me use very colorful language on a number of topics. So, yes. The best thing that has ever happened to me is that I’m not afraid of God anymore. God doesn’t give a fuck whether I say fuck or not. God doesn’t care if I’m gay or not. In fact, I’m pretty sure God has never even noticed. Actually, the one thing God has ever said to me about sexuality is that I was right for being afraid of Angelina Jolie.

Have I maintained a genuine awe of God?

Awe doesn’t even begin to cover it. You only get as much out of a relationship as you put into it, and I learned that lesson indelibly seeing the movie Shadowlands. The movie is about C.S. “Jack” Lewis, a revered theologian and children’s book author. There is one scene that brings me to tears every time, and here it is:

Harry: Christopher can scoff, Jack, but I know how hard you’ve been praying; and now God is answering your prayers.

C. S. Lewis: That’s not why I pray, Harry. I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.

I pray because God’s reaction is not my responsibility. I pray because God is big enough to take all my shit. God is big enough to let me be anxious and needy and self-serving and mean and snobby and generous and loving and gorgeous and human because I AM ALL OF IT AND SO IS GOD.

The awe is breathtaking.

Is my lifestyle distinctive?

I may need a few more parameters, but I think I know what you mean. I have no problem talking about my spirituality in public. I think Jesus was one of the best preachers and teachers in the entire history of the world, and I am not threatened by any theological doctrine in all of creation. My God is bigger than all of them combined and you still wouldn’t be able to see a fourth of it. My lifestyle is distinctive BECAUSE YOU CANNOT SAY THAT YOU KNOW GOD BETTER THAN I DO, BITCH! Because the truth is that no one knows God. But we try to anthropomorphize God, anyway. I’m tired of conservative Christians tell me that I’m an outcast, and not because I’m a lesbian. Because even if I was straight I couldn’t swallow their hypocrisy. It makes me feel crazy when I show up at a church and there are clearly imbalances of power between men and women and for people to tell me that I’m a hideous sinner because I don’t realize that women’s subservience is how it’s supposed to be. I’m sorry, what? Jesus was the Gloria Steinem of his day. Do you have any idea how many kinds of weird it was for Jesus to allow Mary of Bethany to sit with him and all the other men while he lectured? Do you know how many rabbinical laws were broken before dinner? Can you imagine having enough power to be able to walk into a room and say, “I’m not going to let you get away with your inequality bullshit as long as I’m here?” If Jesus walked on earth, there is no way he would recognize Christianity. And he for damn sure wouldn’t recognize the whitey with his name on it.

Is my “spiritual feeding” the right diet for me?

It is now. I think that everything I am has led me to this church, and I will not stray. The thing that sets Bridgeport apart is that it is the first church that gave me a chance. They listened to my first sermons, they taught me how to lead a crowd, they’re just there for everything I could need as someone who wants to preach without necessarily being a pastor. My congregation feeds me by being willing to hear me think out loud. I pray just as incessantly as Jack Lewis because I don’t feel a need to prepare for it. Praying is thinking and thinking is praying. I believe all religions have that in common.

Is obedience in small matters built into my reflexes?

Yes, to the point where it has become detrimental to me and I’m trying to undo it. I can’t live this life anymore where people are content to walk all over me and just expect that their behavior is okay. Obedience is a blessing, but so is self-preservation.

Is there enough celebration in my life?

My celebration never ceases to amaze me. I love my friends, I love my family, and I love my wife. She is the cream in my coffee, and grieving her loss would be like trying to replace one of my legs, or Waffle House or something like that. Something that MATTERS.

Am I generous?

I am generous when I remember to live in the vision of bounty instead of scarcity. I cannot be generous when I feel afraid that I will not have enough. When I do have enough, I shower generosity on everything because I am so grateful for what has been given to me.

Do I have a quiet centre to my life?

My quiet center is my friend _______. There are two names that go here, and they both know who they are. One is local, one is not. One sees me all the time, one I’ve never met. But when we are online together, magic happens. We are able to talk about things that are absent in our daily lives but present in the arcs of our lives. It is a deep, abiding love that allows both of us to feel supported all the time and chastised when we need it. Because I want to know the truth, even when it’s bad.

Have I defined my unique ministry?

You’re looking at it right now. 😉

Amen.