Category Archives: Blog

Exciting highs and heartbreaking lows, all in one crazy year

So far this year we have experienced exciting highs and heartbreaking lows. An interesting part of the human condition is how both of those can show us how fragile and vulnerable we can be. A material possession can make us feel excited and happy. Then quickly after that we can experience having no control about a painful loss and feel hopeless. And yet, above all those things we can choose to focus on the things that are important, the things that matter and choose to be happy.

When 2015 started I had no idea so many changes will happen… and so quickly. 2014 was a pretty good year with nothing incredibly out of the ordinary. One of the highlights being having my baby brother move to Dallas.

Then 2015 started and right from the beginning made itself known as the year of new experiences, good and bad.

Vroom, vroom, get out of me car

One of the first things that changed was that I got the itch for a new car and Mark guided me through the process which was great, because I really don’t know much about cars. Yes, my man spends a good amount of his free time reading about cars. How’s that for gay a stereotype? I said goodbye to my old X-Terra and said hello to a new Mazda 3, which I love.

Mazda 3

Goodbye Spork, you beautiful weirdo

Then sadness knocked at our door. Mark had his beloved cat Spork for 18 years and she stole my heart. I never imagined having a cat and even less loving a cat as much as I loved her. Early this year we had to say goodbye to her and it was a very painful time. We saw the signs but still those last few weeks were very sad. It’s crazy how empty a house can feel when that pet is no longer around.

A new, exciting opportunity

In March, I was approached with a new job opportunity as Social Media Manager for The Liberty Project and after careful consideration I accepted. It was an interesting time, especially because it was the first big decision I made without my Dad’s advice. Whenever there was something work related, he was the first person I called. Thankfully, now I have another great man in my life who stands by me and helps me make smart decisions. I know somewhere out there, Dad is happy that I found a man like Mark.

One of the hardest things about leaving my job at The Dallas Morning News was saying goodbye to some of the best people I’ve ever met. But that’s okay, in my first article for The Liberty Project I talk about relationships like that where “there is the group of people who will always be there. No matter what happens, or how far you go, they hold on to your story and you hold on to theirs.”

I’ve been at my new job for three months and it’s been exciting. The Liberty Project is the modern incarnation of Liberty, a national lifestyle magazine that was published from 1924 to 1950. You can check what we do on our site, on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Google+.

A photo posted by randduren (@randduren) on

Cloris Leachcat and Gort, then more heartbreak

Several months after saying goodbye to Spork we decided to bring some kitties home. We brought our beautiful Oriental Shorthairs Cloris Leachcat and Gort to our home in May and we fell quickly in love. They took over our hearts with their quiet meows, their running like crazy and their distinct personalities.

Sadly, last week when we took them to get spayed and neutered, Gort had a bad reaction to the anesthesia and we had to say goodbye to a beloved kitty once again. It was so unexpected and painful. He had so much life in him and was such a cute cat. We are still struggling with the loss and trying to give Cloris all the love and attention she needs now that she no longer has her brother. We will be bringing her a companion soon so she has someone to play. You can tell she misses her brother.

Big changes coming very soon

While we just got over the first half of the year, one of the biggest changes is quickly approaching. And it may or may not involve a big move (!!!). I am pushing myself to blog more often and will be writing about or whole experience, plus a fun family vacation happening soon.

The biggest fear Christianity left me with

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One of my biggest struggles through the years has been an all too common enemy: fear. While in my walk as a Christian I learned about not living in fear and my personal way of looking at life has kept me above the surface, there is a very specific kind of fear that continually tries to take hold of me.

The fear that as soon as I stray from the way I’m expected to go, disaster will befall me.

My life as a Christian has had some very marked stages. From being a new Christian wanting to please God, to being a youth leader wanting to set an example, to a youth pastor wanting to influence the lives of others, then a Bible college student wanting to get a deeper knowledge in the ways of God, to now a God-loving openly gay man. And through each one of those I got a huge amount of mixed signals thrown my way. Leaders throughout my life vehemently told me that God didn’t want me to live in fear, but along that beautiful message, there was a tiny asterisk. And on small writing was a troubling message: “as long as you do everything that is required of you. If not, you are on your own.”

This part of Christianity made me constantly feel like I was living under an imaginary dome, where if I went just an inch outside of it I would feel the wrath of God or even worse he would keep his love and mercy from me.

I was Simba and Christianity was Mufasa telling me that on that shadowy place over there, all bets were off. The main problem is that for me, the shadowy place was not a physical place and it was was way too easy to reach. As quick as making a decision on my own, against what I had been thaught by my fellow believers. As accessible as having a “bad” thought, or saying an unwarranted word, or even going one mile over the speed limit.

Every little choice I made could potentially kick me out of God’s will and move me out from under his umbrella of protection. What a terrifying and pitiful way to live life.

Our lives change and we grow but some things from our past have a way of hiding inside of us and creeping out whenever we least expected.

The fear of destruction coming into my life because of any wrong step I take is one of those things in my life. One that I’m learning to get rid of. Not because I want to be a bad person and break rules. Not because I want to bathe myself in iniquity (dramatic, I know). But because, I don’t think it is worth it and it creates an amount of stress I know I would be better off without.

Our journey is not meant to be lived as a game of whak-a-mole where if we pop-up out of turn God will smack us on the head with death and calamity. It’s much better to live in peace and joy knowing that hey, we are not perfect and that’s totally okay.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (‭I John‬ ‭4‬:‭18‬ NKJV)

Meeting Mark: Facebook, first date and a delayed birthday gift

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Next month, Mark and I will be celebrating our second anniversary and I figured it’s a good time to write down how we met and the way he asked me out on our first date.

I had started working at The Dallas Morning News in Downtown Dallas In November of 2011 and had decided to move closer to work. Everything was set for me to move the first week in January but I had not seen my loft yet.

On December 30th, 2011, the day of my 30th birthday, I planned to take the train downtown with a friend to celebrate my day. Our plans were to go to the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art, get cupcakes and stop by the building I was moving to soon. I’d been to the building before for a friend’s party which helped me decide to move there and I was super excited to see the place a bit closer after doing all the moving applications online.

When I got to the building’s office I met the manager who was chatting with this handsome dude wearing a Polo shirt. We were introduced, his name was Mark and he also lived in the building. “He’s kinda cute,” I told my friend, and then we left to see the lofts and get a tour of the building.

After moving into the building I would see Mark every now and then. We never talked much, just a hi or a polite head nod in most cases. We saw each other at several building meetings. It was at one of these meetings that while talking to Mark and a friend we all decided to add each other on Facebook. I went home after the meeting and I’m pretty sure I was all up on his Facebook by the time the elevator door closed. Who was this guy, what was his favorite music, what does he do? Yes, I creeped on his Facebook mightily. Clicked through all his profile photos and liked even more of what I was seeing, even if I had no idea what most of his music was. Some obscure stuff there.

578947_290157164427693_1863831768_n After that, I remember seeing some funny photos Mark posted from the State Fair around the time that I had also gone to the fair. My interest kept growing. I can be shy when it comes to talking to people I really don’t know but I wanted to somehow start talking to Mark. I just needed the right moment.

On October 25, a Thursday afternoon while I was on Facebook at work, the feed showed me some music Mark was listening to. A singer I had never heard before, Hindi Zahra. I decided to give it a listen and it reminded me of some other music I like. Or at least that’s what my brain told me would be a great reason to start chatting with Mark.

So there I went, I told him that his music sounded cool. We talked for a while on Facebook chat and that same day he asked me out. YESSS!!! I freaked out! I am sure I was jumping around at my desk. This guy who I had been checking out for a while but was too shy to just approach and do something about it, had just asked me out on a date. I’m sure I had a huge smile for the rest of that day.

First date selfie!!!
First date selfie!!!

We planned to have dinner on Sunday night and I was giddy for ALL of those days. We started texting and keeping in touch with each other until the time of the date came. We met by the elevators and headed out for some Thai food which to this day Mark says I didn’t like, but I did. I remember that on the drive there it was the first time I had heard Mark’s boisterous laugh and it made my heart jump. I loved his laugh and still do.

We had dinner and when we walked out of the restaurant I realized Mark was a couple inches taller than me, especially since he wears cowboy boots 90% of the time. “Huh, I thought I was taller than you,” I told him. He said nope, and started crouching a little asking me if that was better. Joker.

When we got back to our building he invited me over for an espresso and it was then when I met the other love of my life, his cat Spork. We had coffee, talked and I saw glimpses of what my life could be if this worked. I loved it.

When I was leaving, we were gonna say goodbye with a hug and he crouched so I could feel like the tall one. I was hooked.

It took me 10 months to open my birthday gift. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Since it took four days between him asking me out to our date we celebrate four-day anniversaries and monthaversaries. Win win win.  I love him.

Isnt he the cutest?!
Isnt he the cutest?!

Housewarming party goodies and fun with friends

Housewarming party goodies and fun with friends

This past weekend we finally had our housewarming party. This isn’t our first place together, we lived together at the building we met for close to a year but we never got to enjoy that apartment. The layout was all wrong and there were issues that made us move out. A shame since both Mark and I enjoyed the previous apartments we had there.

All that added to the excitement of getting a new place and having it in order quickly. We were ready to enjoy our new place and as part of that wanted to throw a housewarming party to have some of our friends come and have brunch with us. At the end of the day we were happy to have around 26 of our friends come to see us.

We had a great time at the party. We set up a nice Spotify playlist with chill music that we both like. Our music tastes are very different, but there are a good amount of artists we both enjoy. We got mimosas and French 75s, brunchy food and some other nice treats. Probably my favorite thing we got was pastries from Village Baking Co. We are fans of the place since the weekend after our vacation in Paris when we were craving real croissants and then we visited them every weekend for a month, you know to wean ourselves off the delicious memories.

Housewarming party goodies and fun with friends

We wanted to give our guests a small gift in appreciation for coming to visit us and Mark has a great idea. He mentioned test tubes we could use to fill with something as a party favor. Before he finished uttering his idea I had pulled out my phone and placed the order in Amazon for some test tubes. They were SO inexpensive and worked just right. We decided to get a few different teas and some rock sugar from Teavana, plus we ground coffee to have an extra option. The last piece of the puzzle was to get some small cards and material to tie them to the tubes. We went to Mark’s favorite store, Container Store, and got some Chartreuse raffia ribbon, hole-punched cards and a pretty basket.

Housewarming party goodies

When the tubes arrived from Amazon, I went ahead and washed them with some soapy water and after they were completely dry I went ahead and filled them using a funnel. I then cut the small cards in half and wrote “Thank You!” in the front and what was on the tube on the back side of the cards with a twin point Sharpie. Mark used his expertise tying the cards to the tubes and making them look all pretty. We made enough for each of our guests to pick two options and it was fun seeing them going though the basket looking for their favorites.

Housewarming party goodies

Materials used for our Housewarming Party Favors:

Test tubes (60 pack from Amazon)
Basket
Tea, coffee, sugar, small candy or anything you’d like to fill your tubes.
Raffia ribbon
Twin point Sharpie
Cards

Not only did we have a blast at the party, we also had fun making these little party favors, which really turned out super cute. Here are some more photos from the party.

Housewarming party goodies

Housewarming party goodies

Housewarming party food

Housewarming party goodies

Christianity and its effect on my life as a gay man

Christianity and its effect on my life as a gay man

I really didn’t know what to expect of life as a gay man. For so long I had been scared to live my life freely, without thinking about what others would say that I was terrified to do anything that could make others think negatively of me.

Being so involved in religion since I was a teenager put me inside a glass box where I could see everything around me but only through condemnation and sadly it made me look at myself through that same glass. So everything I did, thought or said was instantly measured and judged by that standard set in my head. This was especially harsh when it came to homosexuality. Back in the Christian circles from where I come from there were always rumors swirling about the sins of several people. None of those rumors were louder than the ones accusing certain leaders of being gay. I never saw any of these people doing anything necessarily gay, and that’s where I tried stay in my position. I always kept a “who knows” attitude because all I really knew was that I was struggling in that same area and that gave me no place to judge.

Most of the feelings towards these leaders came in two main flavors. First, ridicule. Look at him preaching about God’s love and judgement when he’s a “pato,” a common word that is a loose translation of faggot. These comments were thrown around humorously behind closed doors by many followers of Jesus. The second group of people had a more “righteous indignation.” How dare he? What gives him the right lo stand up there and tell us about getting close to God, when he’s living a life of sin? God is not with him. How could God be with that man? He’s a sinner and an abomination for daring to speak in God’s name when his life is not in order. I should be the one up there preaching.

Ridicule and condemnation. Being openly gay would mean that for the rest of my days I would have to live fighting these two monsters. Monsters that I could stay away from by being a good Christian boy in the eyes of others. Being openly gay would mean that I was throwing in the trash everything I believed, everything I loved, everything I lived for so far. It will also mean that I had given myself into depravity, that I would not know real love and that surely hell would be my resting place when my time to die came. I would never be able to live a good, normal life as a gay man, because “choosing” to be gay would mean the opposite of that. By living as a gay man I would be choosing to willingly hate God and his ways and to, from that point on, live a life filled with sin. Everything I had lived for so far would mean nothing because I had given it up for being gay and I would magically turn into this unrecognizable monster that was against God, his ways and his people.

All that is what I’ve had to fight through. That was what I had been told my life would be if I ever dare to walk outside of “God’s will” for me. Because it’s usually easier to tell others how to live in God’s will than to work on your own walk. Because what exhilarates many in Christianity is that they get to tell others how they should live. Of course this is not something most would admit, because they are doing God’s work. If you work hard enough on your walk you get to become a leader who gets to tell others what to do. Isn’t that fun?

About four years ago I started giving that up. I didn’t give Jesus or Christianity up. I wanted to give up constantly thinking about what others might say about my life. No, it hasn’t been the easiest thing I’ve ever done. But the funny thing is that coming into accepting that I am a gay man, and have been since I can remember, really has not been that big of a change.

Coming into accepting that I am attracted to men hasn’t changed me into someone who wants to get drunk and do drugs and who wants to have sex with every man I see. It hasn’t turned me into someone who hates God and the Bible. It hasn’t turned me into an activist who loves waving a rainbow flag and telling others at every turn how gay I am. It hasn’t turned me into a woman or wanting to be one, even if I love drag queens. Being gay did not turn me into a gay history student who wants to debate Christians on how “Being gay is A-Okay” and how gay kids these days don’t know how easy they have it. Others can be all those things and that’s fine. It’s their life, but that’s not me.

I’m just Rand. And that’s somehow the hardest part of my journey, that after all of what I’ve been through, deep in my heart I just wanted a chance to freely be myself. I didn’t want to be pressured to fit in a certain group. I didn’t want to be a certain type of gay. I just wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror and say, yeah that’s cool, I like what I see. I wanted to be able to unapologetically tell someone “I love you” without the fear of having the earth open beneath my feet and swallow me whole. I wanted a chance of living life to the fullest and for love and peace to be part of my every day life. That’s all I wanted and I am thankful that today I can be who I really am and that I get to share that with someone I love with all my heart.

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Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson & Christianity’s blindspot

What is this about? This post is mainly about some comments made by Phil Robertson, reality TV star from the A&E show Duck Dynasty which prompted the network to suspend him from the show and some of the reactions I’ve seen online. Robertson’s comments go from typical comments about homosexuals to some that make him seem racist.

Before we go any further, this man was not jailed for his opinion, he was simply suspended by one of his employers for opinions they do not condone. So, before you go on yelling PERSECUTION! Remember that right at this moment, Christians in other nations are being killed for standing up for Christ. Yeah, as simple as that, just for saying I’m a believer of Christ. A TV network suspending someone from their reality TV, from which he’s profiting and gaining thousands of dollars, doesn’t carry the same weight.

Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson. (A&E)
Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson. (A&E)

It’s funny to me to see the uproar that happens when some Christian makes anti-gay comments. The comments are usually no laughing matter but what’s funny to me is that people are shocked by what some of these Christians believe or say. Maybe it’s because I spent years deep within Christianity that I’m not surprised when I hear people talk about homosexuals without any respect. I attempted to hide my attraction to men from the religious people around me while they showed no mercy to those that in their eyes had chosen evil.

As someone who spent many years as a youth pastor, I too learned to be like that. I took my seat as a judge, which is what many still do today, and ruled as God’s beloved son. I looked in judgement over those who were having sex before marriage, over those that after the youth service would go out and get drunk, over those that were not living lives as holy as I was living mine.

I look back today with a different perspective. I’ve been through a lot, good and bad, but if there’s something I learned is that judgement can only take you so far, until you are confronted with your own frail reality and how unworthy you are as a judge to others.

While many Christians are gaining understanding about homosexuality, many still repeat what they have been taught. Many stick to the same three or four verses. Verses they have never studied further and take only at face value. Because while other topics deserve scrutiny and deep Bible study, judging homosexuals is easy as pie. Many have never prayed to their God to give them a better understanding of the scriptures they are reading, because those specific verses don’t have much to do with their own spiritual growth.

I moved to Dallas close to 9 years ago for several reasons. One was because I needed a break from living life as a youth pastor and telling others what to do while my heart was breaking for not feeling worthy of Jesus’ calling. But the main reason was to seek understanding. In order to accomplish that I went to an extremely conservative bible college in Dallas, Christ for the Nations. I learned to study scripture in a deeper way, I made some of the best relationships which I still keep to this day, and I was constantly reminded that since I was attracted to men there was a demon in me I had to get rid of.

That hurt. I had given God some of my best years so far, lived for him as selflessly as possible, kept myself from all I was told to abstain from and still I was demon-possessed. Something in that wasn’t making much sense to me. I was devoting my life to God and still I was made to believe that he hated something in me that I had no part in choosing.

Gay and Christian: My unexpected encounter with God

It’s easy for most Christians to sit in their holy corner and say “homosexuality is a sin”. It doesn’t take much effort. For them it’s a sin, period. Again, not all of them think like this but it’s usually the norm. They don’t care to go any further, they don’t care to go into the heart of the matter. They’ve been taught that if you’re gay, well you probably were sexually abused, and the demon of homosexuality took hold of you and voilà, gay for ever unless you choose Christ.

When gays complain that Some Christians are anti-gay it’s not just to keep them for expressing their opinion and their free speech. It’s because their words hurt them at a deep level. Those words tell them they are not worthy, they are not loved. It says you are evil because of what you chose, when really, they didn’t get to choose. Those words reinforce the fact that they are not equal and deserve less rights than them.

I chose Christ. I prayed, fasted, sought deliverance from that demon and was still left being attracted to men. Tried it all, fought it hard and surrendered softly. Nothing seemed to make a real lasting change. Until I broke. I came out as gay to the one I had worshipped for so many years. I was terrified because of what I had been told. I expected God to stare at me in judgement and smite me, but what I received was the total opposite. I received a warm embrace and a love deeper than I had experience all those years before. I also saw the crumbling of a wall between me and God. And that is an experience that no theologian in existence can rob me from.

So, before yo go into your “Homosexuality is sin” preaching or in defense of those who do because “hey, free speech,” remember, people who are attracted to their same sex are humans too. They are all different people, with different experiences, a difference past, different needs but all deserving of love, mercy and compassion.

If you don’t know what is hateful to others, if you don’t know what others consider hurtful, why not try to just speak words of love? Why go on ranting about the way others need to live their lives when in your own life there are things you could be working on?

Why just see and emulate Christ as a judge and not as the loving, kind savior who sat with prostitutes, criminals and lepers?

To keep you from sounding hateful, here are some tips about gays to keep handy:

Not all gays were sexually abused as kids.

Not all gays grew up lacking the love of a father figure or mother figure.

According to some of Mr. Robertson’s more crude comments, he finds a vagina more desirable. And that’s okay, he is allowed to love a vagina. But remember, not everyone loves vagina, and not everyone loves penis.

Gays don’t choose to be gay any more than you choose to be straight.

Not all gays hate Christians, in fact they are many who believe in Jesus as their lord and savior.

Comparing homosexuality to bestiality, like Phil Robertson did, is not only insulting, it’s disturbing and says more about him than about gays.

Staying positive while dealing with life’s unpredictability

Staying positive: Remember, things could always be worse
Hiking Mount Tongariro in New Zealand. A grueling experience that today I’m thankful for.

At times some have mentioned my positive attitude and optimistic disposition. They say they like how even in the worst scenarios I always come up with a “oh well, maybe this will somehow help us in the future.” I couldn’t say how it started, the whole “staying positive” thing. I do know some other things in my life that have helped me foster this attitude through the years.

My life growing up was pretty normal, my mom and dad showed me love and that I’m thankful for. Through my growing up I was made known, not necessarily verbally, that I had worth, that I had what it took to go all the way and win. Life, as I knew it, became turbulent and messy when my parents divorced and while they kept loving me there were new obstacles. New distractions, new people, good and bad, started coming by and it became my choice to learn. What could I learn from these people? What could I take from my dad’s new girlfriends, and my mom’s new boyfriends. What new families will I come in contact with and how would that change who I was becoming as I approached my teen years.

Maybe there was a part of me that would’ve still preferred a life where my parents were still together, but there was a larger part of me that was happy of this outcome. My parents relationship had become toxic, so I welcomed change. Divorce can be a hard blow to a child’s life and I’m glad that it didn’t hurt me as much as it has done to others. But without knowing it my reaction to my parents’ divorce would define many other moments in my life when I decided to see life differently, in a more positive way.

“I don’t necessarily love life’s unpredictability but it’s one of its defining characteristics, so staying positive is a must.”

Many times we are dealt cards we don’t want. Life can be amazing one day and the next a total disaster. I don’t necessarily love life’s unpredictability but it’s one of its defining characteristics. There are times of joy quickly followed by times of sorrow and I believe it’s healthy to experience both. Life can really suck at times. The pain of loss, for example, is the worst thing I’ve experienced but after experiencing its heartbreak a decision needs to be made. Losing my Dad last year broke my heart, it really shook me to my core and just thinking about him and how much I miss him brings tears to my eyes, but I would be a fool to let my loss destroy me or paralyze me. Instead I’m forced to use that pain as a reminder of having someone who loved me and believed in me. It’s still a process, there are times I can’t move or do anything because there’s still anger in having lost him, but I have to move on. While he was still alive we would talk about death and its inevitability, we know there would come a time when one of us wouldn’t be there. We worked hard for every waking moment we had to make sure the other knew the abundance of our love and the strength of our relationship. I believe that’s one of the things that keeps me going on and gives me strength while dealing with him not being around.

“There’s no need to deny life’s difficult moments but don’t stay there, keep moving forward by staying positive.”

When life is a mess, remember it could be worse. There’s no need to deny life’s difficult moments but don’t stay there, keep moving forward. There’s beauty ahead if you allow yourself to look past what’s currently hurting you.

Smile.

Being gay and Christian is kinda hard, here’s why

Being gay and Christian, what I've learned

There was no way I could live my life being gay and Christian… that’s what I had been told. I’ve been a Christian for about 17 years. I’ve been gay, well, for longer than that. I have not been openly gay for all that time, which means that most of my life I hid that part of my life, because among other things I was told there was something wrong with me.

For years I struggled with being attracted to men because all I heard was how strongly against homosexuality my all-loving God was. I fasted, prayed, received counseling, attended programs to help me control that area of my life, received deliverance from alleged demons of homosexuality that somehow had a hold on me and cried to God to rid me from this. I went through all that having to balance the fact that I did not choose this attraction, nor was I abused as a kid or raised without a father figure.

A couple of years ago, after graduating from a Bible college in Dallas, Christ for the Nations, where the notion of me being possessed by demons was only reinforced, some things started to change. I sensed that God, the one who I had believed in for so long, was taking me through some seasons of change. It was a refreshing time where I could feel the love I missed when the simple act of being different made me an outcast. You can read about that process in more detail here.

I struggled with God’s love. I questioned why was I attracted to men. What made me that way? Why did God allow this to happen to me? Why did all my efforts fail? Why did God seem to ignore my submission to him and my dedication to his ways? I was giving him my all, while my heart was broken because something I saw no escape from.

Something radical happened when I opened up before God (read the whole story here). I came to him expecting rejection because it is what most of “his people” preach against homosexuals. I expected to feel like an outcast not only before Christians who didn’t understand that “hey, I had no part in choosing this,” but also before the God who created me, who knew for sure that I didn’t choose this.

What would happen to my world if I came to realize I went on with my life being gay and Christian?

What was gonna happen? Was I expected to just leave God out of my life? What was going to be my response to feeling his rejection? How would my life change after experiencing that the God I followed for so long wants no part in my life for something that I tried my hardest to unsuccessfully beat?

I didn’t have to go there. Rejection was the furthest thing from what I felt when I opened up to God. I didn’t have to run away and hide, I didn’t have to endure any sort of abandonment. Instead of rejection, I felt love, acceptance, grace. Later on, when I went before my earthly father with the same story, his response to my homosexuality was merely a reflection of that love, acceptance and grace that I received from my celestial one.

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” – Brennan Mannning

Today, after some years of jumping through those hurdles, life and things have changed. This morning, while I drank my coffee, I considered some of the things I’ve heard and seen from many Christians lately and I came to a conclusion.

In my personal experience, Christians are the hardest part to believing in God. It pains me to write it. It sucks, because I know this doesn’t include all of them, but it’s true. From the get go, the message I have received from Christians is one of rejection, of disbelief. Many see my life as a failure because I am no longer the pastor I once was. Many see me as that guy who was a believer but has now forsaken their true God. Even close friends who have tried being politically correct, to not offend my gayness, have kept their distance because for them all that matters is that Rand now is gay, a sinner. Some of them, carrying the idea of superiority that many times goes along with being a Christian, see me as a lesser being.

Somehow my non-decision to be gay makes me the worst of sinners. That is the hardest part of being a Christian. My relationship with God does not matter to them. Gone are the days when I could make my Christianity shine by stating the very popular “Christianity is about relationship, not religion.” Many come after me quickly stating “show me the facts,” show me where in the Bible does God allow for homosexuality. Why? What for? Will my interpretation of the book of Romans shake you out of your conviction that you are somehow better and less of a sinner than me, because you are legally married? No. Will it matter that I have studied Biblical hermeneutics(the interpretation of Biblical texts, wisdom literature, and philosophical texts) in my search for the truth? No it will not. Because as a Christian you have been taught to disagree with anyone that has a different idea. It may not be completely your fault, I understand that. But it is your decision to live like that and to base your beliefs on someone else’s interpretation no matter what that is.

While I have thankfully never been bashed physically for being gay, the constant bashing from Christians using God’s “loving Word” as a weapon becomes very tiring. And what saddens me the most is that, as someone who has been a Christian for long, I can understand Christians better than most gays. Many don’t have that luck. Many have no experience in Christian circles, which makes them believe that the bashing and rejection comes from God, not from people. That is the hardest part. Because I believe Christians should know better. Because I believe Love is at the very heart of Christianity, but American Christianity has failed greatly in showing that love to all. Seeing that the love that I’ve experienced flowing around the pews and moving inside the Church building is only available there, to Christians(and obviously to poor people in the “mission field”) but not to fellow human beings in our country is painful, to say the least.

Yes, gays can be negative, dramatic(duh!), blatant and rude, but isn’t the mission of a Christian, a believer of Jesus, who follows his gospel to share that gospel? When did it all become about something other than the gospel? When did Christians determine that their main role in life is telling someone else how to live their lives. When did it become about something other than love? When did it all become about making others believe and follow what we follow, instead of showing others the power and love of God? I don’t know, but it saddens me greatly that most of Christianity has lost their main focus. That is what the church should be preaching.

Instead of focusing on telling me that I am not supposed to love a man, why not focus on loving people. I wonder how stronger would their efforts be in evangelizing if love was their main priority. I have to say this, I don’t believe this describes all Christians, nor do I believe that Christians in their majority hate gays. My problem is with love and how most Christians have left it out of their dialogue. And that is problematic. Because, after all, if love is not a clear part of your message, whose message are you really proclaiming?

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” – Brennan Manning

Cheesy bacon hash browns skillet is perfect for brunch

Cheesy bacon hash browns skillet
What’s not to like about a  cheesy bacon hash browns skillet? It’s the first weekend of summer and I got up early to get some work done, then after Mark emptied the dishwasher and organized the kitchen I decided to get some breakfast/brunch ready. I’ve been thinking about making some cheesy bacon hash browns for a while, and got all the ingredients this week.

Cheesy bacon hash browns skillet

Cheesy bacon hash browns skillet

I made the hash browns’ skillet from a recipe I found here, that included bacon, onions, green peppers(which I replaced with tomatoes because Mark doesn’t like them), and cheddar cheese. Of course, I also made some alterations, adding some delicious stuff like more cheese, plus cilantro and chopped, fresh garlic that gave it a very nice kick. I also upped the amounts a bit because my skillet/pan is huge.

Cheesy bacon hash browns skillet

Mark baked some croissants that made a great companion to the cheesy deliciousness of the skillet. The recipe was easy to put together and was enough to have a second round.

Yum!

Mac and cheese: 5 of the best and cheesiest recipes

mac Ever since I was a kid I have loved mac and cheese. There is something about those tiny twirls of goodness surrounded with creamy cheese that has always made my heart shout. Yeah, I know I may be being a little over-dramatic but I love it that much. Therefore I think it’s a good idea to make my first food post based on one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures. Mac and cheese comes in many variations nowadays, some Dallas-area restaurants like Sissy’s Southern Kitchen and Smoke keep it simple, yet leave me wanting more. While Oddfellows has a buffalo mac and cheese with bleu cheese that just the thougfht of it makes my mouth water.

One of my favorite things about this dish is that it’s simple to make and with a little creativity you can easily make a masterpiece. Without further ado, here are some delicious cheddar mac and cheese recipes to try.

Slow cooker or crockpot mac and cheese

Slow cooker Mac & Cheese

This mac and cheese recipe not only has four types of cheese, it’s also done crockpot style. Which means that all that cheesy goodness will have a long time to hug and caress the pasta. Delicious, right? Check the recipe here.

Ted Allen’s Mac & Cheese

Remember Ted Allen? He was one of the fabulous gays on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and is now the host of Chopped, which at times has been a guilty pleasure. This recipe uses only cheddar and Parmigiano Reggiano is an optional addition, but hints of nutmeg and bay leaf make this a simple yet interesting recipe to try.

Ricotta Cheddar Mac and Cheese with Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

Ricotta Cheddar Mac and Cheese with Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

Can this recipe have any other ingredients to love? I’m a sucker for caramelized onions and have never thought of adding it to my mac and cheese… that may change very soon. Here’s the recipe.

Beefy Mac and Cheese

Beefy Mac and Cheese

This is a variation of a recipe that Mom cooked often at home and it was one of my favorite meals, it’s so hearty and delicious that I often found it hard to eat just one plate. Some time soon I will write up mom’s recipe, but for now you can check this one out.

Roasted Garlic Mac and Cheese

Roasted Garlic Mac and Cheese

Garlic is one of those ingredients, along with cilantro, that I could use in any recipe. Here’s a mac and cheese recipe that makes roasted garlic be more than just a simple addition and makes it one of the stars of the dish.

What’s your favorite mac and cheese recipe?

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