Archive for August, 2015


Posted: August 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

PROLOGUE: As a result of my last post, I have received a few questions but mostly affirmation and support. If you didn’t read it, you may wish to check out Deep Places before reading this one. A few of the responses can be summed up in the word “why.” In this post I am attempting to describe how a life must flourish to be fulfilling. In a simplistic way, I’ve used the life-cycle of trees and my experience with an ivy as a metaphor for my life.

The corner of Grand and Arsenal in Saint Louis, Missouri, was busy, not unlike a normal spring day this past April. The gray overcast sky foretold expected rain in the afternoon. The grass was green again in Tower Grove Park, which was filled with a filigreed bright-green canopy as the fledging leaves erupted in profusion, and the dark evergreen cedars stood stalwart and eternal in contrast to the freshness of grass and trees.

The seasonal cycle expectedly returned to spring with nature’s fresh budding rampantly trying to become full-fledged summer. I forced my English Ivy on the window sill at home to assume a semblance of spring-like characteristics.

This English Ivy is over 23 years old. It was given to my mother by William Jewell College when she and Dad attended his fiftieth anniversary of graduating from that venerable institution of higher learning, “the ivy league school of the West,” so it bills itself. She lovingly and graciously gave it to my wife Barbara not long after that event. It has sustained three long-distance moves, pruning several times, and often extended mistreatment.

It almost died in January when I was away in Portland, Oregon, for over a week. It had reached the top of the windows and was hanging out a foot making some of the branches approximately eight to nine feet long needing drastic attention.

I examined it over a weekend and discovered only two long branches and a few shorter ones that came out of the maiden trunk. I decided now was the time. I began cutting, severely, until the longest of three or four signs of life were less than ten inches. I thought, I’ve either killed it, or given it renewed life. In either case, it will be better than watching it struggle to live.

I suppose I doubted the ivy would survive. I could call it a lack of faith. Sometimes life provides surprises that are not dependent on faith. God is not dependent on his creation to accomplish his purposes. Sometimes he limits himself to provide the possibility for humankind to discover on their own how life works, and thus grow and flourish so he can have a genuine, mature relationship with them.

The ivy has not only survived but flourished. Today, four months since the severe pruning, I counted at least nine new branches. Doubt has been erased by evident reality. The 23-year-old English Ivy will again be a flourishing bush with multiple branches spilling over the pot and rising up to greet life-giving rays of light through the window.

As the calendar morphed into the 21st century, I had come to a point where creativity was dry and withering away. There was only one branch that had life: my commitment to Christian faith resulting in spiritual nourishment, which was reinforced in and through my church.

I had stepped away from my work with the North American Mission Board (formerly Home Mission Board); I had come out to Barbara but was immediately returned to silent confinement by her desire that no one know about my gay sexual orientation; my stab at a church consulting initiative never rose above dry ground; the only friendships I had were connected to NAMB and were no longer in reaching distance; and I was searching for a way forward. Like the ivy, I was not flourishing.

A little hope came when I served for a couple of years as regional director for academic affairs for a small Indiana university, and for four years as pastor of a Baptist church in the southeast Missouri Bootheel. I was active. I had “stuff” to do. But I wasn’t flourishing. Life was flat.

I would not say that what has happened since leaving Atlanta has resulted in a radical pruning, the kind I did to the English Ivy. However, by the process of physical relocation from Atlanta to Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and from Poplar Bluff to St. Louis, connections with people and former activities have weakened. This has not been so much the result of conscience action as much as neglecting initiative to remain connected. The effect has been pruning away some life connections and failing to maintain those that had been a source of fruitful growth.

But, like the ivy, there remained in my life continuing growth, and the extension of a couple of living “branches.” Then growth would stall, but always something would indicate there was still life and thus hope. I was never without hope. And faith was always present. I didn’t feel that God had forsaken me. I was just on a treadmill of living without creativity, novelty, genuine joy, and empowering peace.

Then Barbara’s sojourn under the cloud cover of cancer provided purpose and direction for a spell: to “play the hand that had been dealt us” with cholangiocarcinoma. Following Barbara’s death, life paused for a few months. Then came the desire and energy for the kind of change that would result in freedom and growth—the kind of “free indeed” and “abundant life” the Christ of Scripture promises. So I contacted a counselor—someone with whom unhindered questing could help me sort out my thoughts and feelings—and began weekly conversations with him.

These very helpful sessions with a counselor, a committed Christian, allowed me to discover what I needed to do and how to go about it. Like the ivy, I discovered life with new and fresh meaning. In the summer of 2013, with the counselor as a resource, a mirror to reflect my thoughts and feelings, I began intentional work on life issues. I focused primarily on my sexuality, a part of human reality with which I had been wrestling since 1997.* I wanted, needed resolution to living an abundant, free life as a sexual being.

In the process of seeking integrity, vulnerability, and transparency, I began discovering evidence of new growth; and encouragement returned affirming the direction I was traveling. Invigorating expressions of the new growth and a heightened sense of hope have appeared like the newly emerging branches on the cared-for ivy. A recent evidence of new growth is a sense of normalcy as I come out to people revealing my gay sexual orientation—normal in that I experience little or no anxiety preceding such conversations and I do not dwell on them or worry about them past the experience. I say “normal” because it is a simple statement of fact about who I am. Being gay is a very normal for me.

I have stepped away from the counseling, a decision that doesn’t mean I “have arrived.” I don’t think any of us arrive at a full and perfect way of living this life. The process continues. I have made a public statement about my sexuality on the pages of this blog. Public knowledge allows me to fully live my life without constantly walking in and out of people’s perceptions.

I sum up this brief reflection with the word “flourish.” I’m comfortable with life right now, while at the same time I desire more. Life is good. The God, the author of life, has graced mine abundantly. It’s my responsibility to take care of it, my “ivy.”

Fall is approaching and the trees have a sameness about them. The leaves look heavy with the heat of summer and tired from the life-giving process that has coursed through their veins and into the fullness of the tree. Soon they will lose an ability to perform the function for which they were created just a few months ago. The trees however, have other life-nurturing tasks for the winter to maintain growth in their relentless quest for maturity. And so do I. The ivy at my window is flourishing—healthier than it was last year. And so am I.

*Actually, I had subliminally felt that I was different in 1952 when I was twelve years old, and sexuality didn’t crystalize for me until sometime after I reached 50 years of age. Out of fear and confusion, I didn’t consciously begin dealing with it until 1997.

Deep Places

Posted: August 6, 2015 in Uncategorized
In my last post, I dropped hints and postured innuendos, but didn’t make a personal statement. In other posts, I’ve talked about honesty; and I do value honesty. It’s time for me to be honest and invite you into one of the deep places within me. I can imagine many of you who read this will have difficulty assimilating what I am about to tell you. Some of you have known me for a long time, others for only ten to fifteen years, and yet others have met me only on this blog. Nevertheless, it’s time for me to engage you in conversation in a personal way.
The Deep Places

There are deep places in my life, wells of thought, experiences, feelings that lie deep within. These are sacred places. It is here where I walk with God, where he and I struggle with the meaning of life in the moment. Sometimes these places are shrouded in darkness and other times they are as bright as the sun at noon on a cloudless day.

It is here in these deep places that I live unhindered by anxieties engendered by what I fear people may think about my choices in any given moment, choices that may or may not affect anyone else but God and me. It is here that I joy in his acceptance of my differentness, whereas the joy would be tarnished at the least and possibly even be transformed into pain should I live out my differentness freely before other people.

The deep places are not, by their location, relegated to darkness. I live in the joy and brightness of beauty in these deep places of my soul. The light-filled, lyrical, sublime patterns and designs of the life around me often strike chords deep within and demand to be let loose in my soul to sing.

I fit in or relate to the world out of these deep places. They provide the foundation, strength, knowledge, vision, desire, commitment, and courage to be the person I am and the one who is seen by and relates to other people.

These deep places are not walled off into separate compartments; they interact with, influence, and enhance each other. It is the wonderful place from which my life, as it’s lived out in the world, finds its foundation for meaning, purpose, interest, and vitality. It is only when I place a lid on one compartment, close it up and not allow it to interact with the rest, that I lose integrity and the deep places of my soul become diminished and that particular compartment gnaws away at the well-being of my soul. It becomes a secret that I won’t let out and begins to fester contaminating the whole of my being as a rotten apple does to a peck of that delicious fruit.

My sexuality is one of those deep places that is the foundation for a significant part of how and where I fit in the world. My sexuality—to whom I am attracted, what romanticism means and how it works, how I view the world, how I make and nurture relationships—is a gay sexuality. Before coming out as a gay person, I felt as though I was living a lie, that I wasn’t being honest about who I am to people around me and that I couldn’t live into truth. As with any person, straight or gay, my sexuality is a significant part of what is undeniably and uniquely me. Leaving that part out in my relationships with people, leaving it out when I knew it was there, left me feeling inauthentic  and my integrity was degraded.

Some LGBT people, out of their desire to be authentic, to gain a sense of integrity, to be who they were intended to be, but not wanting to out themselves with words, begin finding ways to telegraph their sexuality through speech patterns and mannerisms. I didn’t take this route of expressing my sexuality in ways people would unmistakably identify me as gay. I kept it hidden in a compartment in the deep places within. Out of anxiety and fear, I not only kept the sexuality compartment closed, I closed the door on most of the deep places of my soul; I lived my life on the surface and forbade anyone access to my life within.

I didn’t invite people into the deeper places of my life because I didn’t feel safe enough to do so. To extend the invitation would have opened a door I had closed in early teen years and I was afraid of what would happen if I opened that door. To my astonishment, in coming out as a gay man, I have discovered safety in truth and that I can invite people into those deep places where I live, and can do so with integrity.

Since I have opened the door—two years ago now—to that long-closed (locked?) compartment where my sexuality lived, I have found freedom to invite more people into the deep places of my life. My walk with God becomes more transparent and my witness to him more authentic; I am able to share anxieties I may have; and choices are made without fear of what other people may think.

The deep places have not become less deep but rather they have in turn deepened my life, particularly my relationships, as I invite people to join me there. And with this post, I invite you into these deep places.


Some of you may not have read this far; others will dismiss me without desiring to engage in conversation having already confirmed their truth for me. However, you may be conflicted because you have known me and this news seems in opposition to what you know. Perhaps you are confused but desire more information and maybe conversation. Or, you believe, accept and embrace me because you know people who are gay, or have a family member who is gay, or you have engaged in a rigorous study and examination of literature and Scripture, and engaged in prayer and discernment and thus have arrived at an affirming place, or maybe because you are gay yourself. Perhaps you will accept this information because you trust me and because of the love with which God has graced your life, the love that you extend to other people, and now you extend it to me. 
Out of respect, love and deep appreciation for each of you, and with a desire to honor you with honesty from my heart, I have opened a deep place within me and have invited you in. May God grace our lives with love for each other and thereby honor him.