Saturday, 27 June 2015

Convicted

In cell group last night, I was convicted.

I've been reading the Book of Proverbs and it was a nice surprise to find the church recently doing a series on it. Well, last night, as S. gave an example revolving around her husband and herself, I found myself identifying with it.

The one who knows much says little;
an understanding person remains calm.
Proverbs 17:27 

Therefore, I will make some changes with regards to this blog. I'm scraping the weekly postings. It's an unrealistic target and was the reason why I stopped posting in the middle of last year when this blog was brand new. In addition, this practice simply encourages me to shoot off the top of my head instead of prompting reflective and insightful pieces.

Words kill, words give life;
they're either poison or fruit - you choose.
Proverbs 18:21

I want my words to give life and I will be the first one to admit that these changes in no way means that the upcoming pieces will be chockfull of insights. It just means that I will take time to contemplate, chew on, and concisely present my thoughts in the future.

Careful words make for a careful life;
Careless talk may ruin everything.
Proverbs 13:3

Kind words heal and help;
Cutting words wound and maim.
Proverbs 15:4

Too often in this cultural war, people just stab with each other with soundbites. I will not settle for this. There have been too many casualties. I want to speak kind words and to heal and help. I've been cut too often in this conversation and I don't want to inflict the same hurt to another.

Gracious speech is like clover honey -
good taste to the soul, quick energy to the body.
Proverbs 16:24

Finally, I will endeavour to be gracious on this platform if its the last thing I do.

In conclusion, expect fewer postings from me. In exchange, you'll receive blog posts that will be of better quality. :)

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Gay marriage

My views on gay marriage are still evolving, but two pieces of writing I've read recently are very convincing. The first is an extremely lengthy 10k word blog post by Matthew Lee Anderson at Mere Orthodoxy, and the second is a very long 43 page journal article from the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. The former features a Christian perspective on the issue and the latter a secular one. Both are well worth the read although it might be rather difficult for Millennials in this day of short and snazzy Buzzfeed viral posts. I found it quite hard to read and had to spend some extra time reading through both a second time before having a better understanding of the arguments they made.

In addition, with regards to the welfare of children being raised in same-sex households, my views have been shaped by Brandi Walton who shared about her personal experiences growing up and Katy that points us to some scientific data about it. These two blog posts are much more readable than the two above. I would welcome suggestions from my readers on any other articles I ought to read about gay parenting.

All are very informative pieces and one would do well to read them. When one has the time to do so of course.

Friday, 19 June 2015

The day I didn't feel like going for cell group

Yesterday, I didn't want to attend cell group.

I couldn't pinpoint the reason initially, only that I had a vague sense of dread all afternoon.

It culminated in a somewhat depressed Rachel heading to Ootoya, a fantastic Japanese restaurant, and ordering a dinner that is a tiny bit extravagant just because she needed some good food whenever she was feeling like the black dog bit.

She was contemplating how she could get out of it as she ate. Perhaps she would just not tell anyone and go AWOL? Perhaps she should say something cropped up at the very last minute and go watch a movie (technically that wasn't untrue). What should she do?

Finally, she had a glimmer of insight and realised it was perhaps because she didn't want to co-lead a discussion that evening that had been planned a couple nights before. The silly girl should have let the cell leader know instead of keeping it all bottled up, but this was classic Rachel for you.

So, with that in mind, she texted the other discussion group leader and asked nicely, if somewhat vaguely, if she could divest all her responsibilities to her because "she wasn't feeling up to it". Which was true. She was exhausted. That fact soon found her lying in bed trying to take a 10 minute power nap which resulted in a rather groggy Rachel struggling to get out of bed at 7.30pm so that she could be late just so she wouldn't have to make small talk with the other cell members before cell group started. That way she could also skip singing the praise song that was these days too upbeat for her these days and just slip in to listen to the discussion, hoping no one would see her sullen look and ask her why she was so quiet.

Just before she stepped out of the house, she lugged along "The complete poems - Anne Sexton" because when she attended a poetry workshop a fortnight ago, Cyril Wong said that in a time she was very depressed, reading her poems gave him some sort of comfort, assuring him that he was not alone in that. She thought she would read it in the very long journey to the east.

Why did she go after that huge struggle? Perhaps it was because every single instance she could remember, that when she didn't want to go for cell group, God always showed up? Could it be a case of spiritual warfare? Or perhaps she was just really tired after a long day of work. Whatever the case, she was very encouraged by a text a friend sent her that assured her that was part of the Body of Christ meeting up and perhaps she had a need to meet by going there. Strangely enough, that was the same thing she she to that friend a week ago.

So, she thought she would be really late.

But God had a wicked sense of humour.

Perhaps it started late, or perhaps there were many people who needed to share about God's goodness that week, but whatever the case, when she stepped in very late at 8.20pm, someone was still sharing her testimony.

She got a seat to the right of someone she didn't know at all (this was a combined cell group with another cell), and to the left of a amiable friend.

As she got past the praise song into the mellower worship song, it really got to her. It's amazing what music can do to your soul. Especially a well written one.

During this time, she felt God speak to her:

"Seek solace in me,
instead of in Anne Sexton's poetry."

That was nice. And a good reminder.

She was still feeling a little wary when that ended. But she didn't have to worry. After breaking up into smaller groups for the discussion, she didn't have to do much as there were questions that had already been prepared. All shared from their personal experiences and she felt compelled to as well.

Then at the end, she felt like she should stay back awhile and fellowship. And she was affirmed by some other members by the other cell group who asked to see her poetry and her jokes. Then, she went home, spirits very much uplifted.

Perhaps it was a good thing she attended cell group after all.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Dear child

Dear child,

It doesn't matter if you are L, G, B, T, Q, I, or A.

You are loved.




Your Heavenly Father

Saturday, 13 June 2015

On cats and grateful living









One magical hour passed quickly by in a cat cafe as I sat there enjoying the soft music and the presence of a dozen elegant felines. Time indeed flies when one is having fun. Contrast this to the agonizing minutes that crept slowly by at a snail's pace those many times when the crushes in my mind consumed me, involuntarily, inexplicably. 

Well, those crushes have passed, and that I am grateful for. There are many things I am grateful for, such as the presence of many supportive friends I've found myself surrounded by in church ever since I've come out to them. A., C., S., L., N., are just some of the few people who had the pleasure of hearing me go on and on and on at the various stages where I grapple with my orientation and the trials that come with it. God must have placed these angels in my life for such a time as this. 

And then there was my support group where I discovered that I wasn't alone in this. It was where I found out that "gay" and "Christian" isn't an oxymoron. Friendships were cultivated and still continue today in the absence of support group sessions. That I'm thankful for as well. 

Support wasn't only local, but international in scope with the advent of Twitter and the proliferation of blogs written by gay Christians. They put words to my struggles and articulated how one's faith could be lived out, well, faithfully. Julie Rodgers, Wesley Hill, Seth Crocker, Stephen Long, Randy Thomas, Alan Chambers, Justin Lee, and Jeanette Howard are some of the people whose lives have been a vicarious sacrifice as I learn from their mistakes and draw strength from their victories. 

Then there are the many books I've bought over the years that have shaped my thinking and theology regarding this intersection where faith and sexuality meet. From classics such as Out of Egypt and Desires in Conflict to God and the Gay Christian and Washed and Waiting, from theological treaties such as Bible, Gender, Sexuality to heartfelt sharing like Gay and Catholic; all these books have helped me in making sense of all the confusion and turmoil within me. 

Now, who can forget the church with the pastor who, during an anniversary service, proclaimed that whether male or female, boy or girl, gay or straight, all are welcome to the church of Jesus Christ. Now that had a really big impact of me even before I started having issues with my orientation. And that message stuck in my head all these years since, and I am reminded of how I am welcome in the church. It's no surprise why "Welcome home" is the tagline of the  only "gay church" in Singapore. 

Of course there is God who had provided all of the above, and His Word which has sustained me through all this time. I thank God for verses such as Psalm 139:14 and even Ecclesiastes 7:13 for reminding me that I am a glorious masterpiece of God. 

Perhaps that's why my thoughts on identity have been evolving. I now hesitate to use the word "gay" to label myself because today, I first identify as a child of God. Perhaps one who is attracted to the same sex, but a child of God nonetheless. For too long I've been wondering over how being gay defines me and will define me, but I realize that at least for myself, these are issues that I am no longer so bothered by. Time will tell if this will persist but it is what it is for now. 

Still, this blog will stay, and I might use "gay" to describe myself sometimes because of how it is common parlance and easily understood as compared to the unwieldy "same-sex attracted" or "SSA". Though I must admit I'm impressed when straight Christian friends ask me how I'm dealing with my SSA. 

Well, the relaxing mood at the cat cafe certainly prompted quite a bit of reflection didn't it? Perhaps I should head over there more often. 

Friday, 12 June 2015

A silent retreat

I just came back from a 3-day silent retreat and it was an interesting experience to say the least. There is so much to share and I think if I just let myself ramble on, it would be an extremely long post so I'll just focus on the more interesting bits. Then again, this is my blog, so we shall see how this goes.

So I read about this in a book earlier in the year, and from all the positive testimonies in it, I thought it would be a good idea to try this out myself. It's quite a novelty to boot.

Day 1

On the morning of the first day, I sat in the beautiful garden, looked at all the beautiful plants and wrote a couple of haikus. Kinda felt I was channelling my inner Robert Frost. Then I tried to put together a sonnet titled "Words" that was inspired from the Book of Proverbs that I'd been reading the night before.

After lunch, I was due to meet my Spiritual Director. So as part of the retreat, we are to dialogue with a Spiritual Director who would guide the retreatant (i.e. the person going for the retreat) into a deeper journey into God's presence.

That was interesting.

I'd decided before going for this retreat that I would not come out to her. Stranger and all, I thought it would serve us both better if we just stuck to the topic of God and whatever He'd like to reveal to me. Of course God has an interesting sense of humour and near the end of the hour long dialogue, she talked about how we are created in the likeness of God and even mentioned Psalm 139 (I talked a bit about this in an earlier post.) For a moment I was like, "God, I can't handle this."

She was sensitive, or perhaps it was part of procedure, and she asked me if there was weighing me down. Am I such an open book? I, of course, told her I'd prefer not to talk about it. And she reassured me that everything was confidential and in my mind I was like, "Okay, she's safe, you can come out to her tomorrow. Or perhaps on the last day."

Then the session with her ended and I went back to the garden and sat around a bit. After dinner, I decided on a whim to catch the sunset on the balcony. 

As I stared at the stunning sky before me, I felt a still, small voice whispering, "Accept yourself for who you are." That was interesting. Because very often when I get promptings from God, I can't decide if it's God's voice, Satan's voice, or my voice. But I was so sure that that voice by the sunset was from God. 

Still, I struggled with that for quite a while even as the sun edged ever lower on the horizon. It probably was the remnants of the previous fortnight where I thought that my being gay was disordered. 

After that, I wrote a haiku about the sunset, showered, and then went to bed after reading a bit of The Message. 

Day 2

I was due to meet my Spiritual Director earlier the next day, not too long after breakfast. So I shared about the voice that spoke during sunset and she was quite affirming. 

We discussed a couple more things, and strangely enough, I teared up quite a few times during the session but blinked away the tears. I wondered if she noticed. 

It was a fruitful session. Nonetheless, when she said "God just wants you to be happy," and repeated that a few times, in my mind, I was like, "She doesn't know what she is talking about."

"What about Caitlyn Jenner? I suppose she is happy now. But is that right? I want to have a girlfriend too, and that might make me happy, but does God really want me to be happy?"

But I wasn't there to argue theology with her, so I kept these thoughts to myself. I concede that God does want us to have joy and that's different from happiness, but that's another post for another day. 

Ah well. I didn't imagine things would be so intense. Still, the session ended amicably, probably due to a lack of what I didn't say, and the rest of the day went by nicely. 

I went for a walk by the nearby canal, saw a gorgeous blue kingfisher, composed yet another haiku in my mind, went back for dinner, showered, and then to bed. 

Day 3

The last day. I went for another walk after breakfast because I was bored of looking at the garden. This time, it was a much longer walk, probably about twice the distance of the first. 

On my way back, I was arrested by the sight of a majestic green raintree. I felt God impressing in my heart that I am like a tree, and all the other related metaphors that go along with it. That was nice. 

Shared about that experience with the Spiritual Director and was affirmed yet again. As it was the last session, I asked her about the difference between Christian meditation and Buddhist meditation and also inquired about the book, "The Cloud of Unknowing" which is probably one of the most difficult books I've ever read and have not yet finished. 

Then after another couple of hours, as soon as it began, the retreat ended.

Conclusion

It was an fruitful time and I really got to hear quite clearly from the Lord more than usual and I'm grateful for that. Perhaps it might have been more helpful for me if I'd come out to my Spiritual Director, but I wasn't gonna take any chances with a seemingly conservative, old Christian lady. Been judged too many times before and I can't really take much more of it. Still, it was a good time and a good break from work. A final plus point is how I found myself less glued to my phone after I got back to city life. Yay.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Queer Theology

Okay, this may sound heretical to some, but these are just some random, scattered reflections and thoughts I've had as a gay Christian.

Note: This is post is does not feature exegesis of any biblical text nor hermeneutics of any sort, so if you're looking for those, you can stop right here.

~

[1] During cell group

As my cell leader talked about not putting God in a box, I thought about myself. Could it be that God wanted to accept myself for who I was and how I was created, even if that meant embracing the gay?

Am I putting God in the box by suppressing that side of me?

I don't know.

~

[2] At a service

We sang a song with lyrics that went,

"For we have been redeemed,
And we have been set free."

I have been set free. So why do I feel so tied up on the inside? Why am I not celebrating the freedom God has given to me? Why am I hiding and not coming out since that I've been set free and am free indeed?


I wonder.

~

[3] As I listen to the song "Nothing is Impossible"

Could it be that nothing is truly impossible with God? Could I enter into a same-sex, celibate relationship and see that bearing fruit and be blessed by God?

I'm not sure.

~

[4] After I came out to a pastor

He advised me to meditate on Matthew 7:7-12 which goes:

Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! 12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

And I did. I looked it up and meditated on it. Looking back I don't remember if it was for the reason he probably quoted the verse for - to remove this thorn in my flesh with the name of "Same-Sex Attraction". I think I might have asked, sought, and knocked on God's door for a girlfriend instead. That might have horrified the pastor but it seemed so natural to me. Then again, that might have been what I wanted to do instead of actually did. My memory fails me. This was more than a year ago.

Whisper

I don't know about you, but I go about my day-to-day life looking at things through my gay perspective. You know how some people are informed with their feminist worldview, some from their perspective of a student, and then you have me viewing the world from my gay lens.

Now that the all-consuming crushes have faded away and with no one new on the block, I have been wondering about my sexuality quite a lot and the impact it has on my faith (as you might have read in a previous post). So as I walk along the street to get somewhere, I'd inevitably think about why I am gay, how finding a partner and being celibate would be like, how I would be in a mixed-orientation marriage with a guy, wondering what if... what if... what if...

Then I would spend time online reading about celibate gay Christians on Spiritual Friendship. Then I would read about other gay Christians, some single, some attached to their partners, and some married in a mixed-orientation marriage on their blogs. I recently trawled and finished the entire excellent blogs of three of them - Seth Crocker, Stephen Long and Disputed Mutability.

I also follow others on tumblr, read lots of books on Christianity and sexuality, and read about all things LGBTQ on the Internet.

A lot.

A couple of weeks ago, I felt like it was getting too much. As Timothy Keller succinctly put it in "Prayer - Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God",

"To discover the real you, look at what you spend time thinking about when no one is looking, when nothing is forcing you to think about anything in particular. At such moments, do your thoughts go toward God?"

I felt like I ought to focus my thoughts on God more.

I tried taking a week off tumblr and a week off my gay thoughts, but found that impossible to do.

So, I did what every believing Christian would, I asked God to help me focus less on LGBTQ stuff and on him in my thoughts and in what I read.

And as I prayed, I heard the softest whisper from Him saying, "They are important too."

Finding healing in unexpected places

I attended my first ever Queer Book Club meeting on Thursday and it was just lovely. It was a relaxed, very chill kinda discussion wit...