Category Archives: My Life

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?!

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

One year after losing dad, heartbreak and thanksgiving

One year after losing dad, heartbreak and thanksgiving This week marks the one year anniversary of losing dad to cancer. It’s hard to believe how fast a year goes by. It’s been more than a year since I haven’t been able to pick up the phone and call him, hear his voice, ask for advice, and give him good news about my life. It’s been more than a year than someone from my family calls for the simple reason of knowing how I’m doing. Don’t get me wrong, I get calls from my family, but most of them come with side issues for me to solve. Dad’s calls were different, which may explain why I barely talk on the phone anymore. Never during my dad’s struggle with cancer did I receive a call from him complaining about his pain, about how miserable chemotherapy made him feel, about the times he thought of just giving up. Never. My dad’s phone calls were always filled with joy and love, he never missed a chance to remind me how proud he was of me. He never missed an opportunity to give me advice, which is one of the things I miss the most. Now I can just hold on to the memories, to the way he guided me while he was still around, to those things he once said that now I can just try to mold into advice that will fit in other scenarios. It hurts a lot. Many people have believed in me, but no one did it as strong as he did. When I came to him with a trembling voice and told him what had been one of my deepest secrets, his response was one filled with love. Unphazed by my confession he reminded me how much he loved me and how nothing could ever change that. It wasn’t just words. He meant it, and I knew he did. A year has passed since I’ve been able to hold his hand, to hear him burp, to laugh at his jokes, to hear the joy in his voice when he reacted to good news I’d delivered. It’s been a year filled with emotions, feelings, struggles. It’s been a year where many, even in my own family, have not understood what I’m going through. While others have focused on material things I’ve had to hide my pain, put a straight face and remind myself of how Dad would’ve dealt with them. One of my proudest achievements is not even something I did to be successful. One of my proudest achievements is that while my dad was around I strived to make him proud. I got my Master’s Degree in part because he had one, I left Puerto Rico in search of a better life, because he also did that once upon a time. You see, my Dad, as successful as he came to be wasn’t raised with a silver spoon, how could I having been raised with better things not at least attempt to be successful? One year after losing dad, heartbreak and thanksgiving Dad worked his ass off to achieve success in life. Born in Florida, he went through foster home after foster home, hitchhiked through the states while being a teen, slept under trains and went through some very difficult situations that did not deter him. He enlisted in the Air Force, moved to Puerto Rico, was a high school teacher, a college professor with a master’s degree in business from Harvard and a top executive for an international company. He had open heart surgery a very long time ago, and while Cancer ultimately beat him, he fought it for years. David Duren was one hell of a fighter. Those are just some of the reasons why I too have always wanted to succeed, he was my closest example of success, and a great one at that. While tears stream down my face I can find a certain solace and peace in remembering those times when he told me how proud he was of me. That peace is what I have been able to hang on to when my heart keeps breaking from not having him around. It’s one of the toughest balancing acts I’ve had to deal with. I never knew this pain before, the pain of an absence that will simply remain, knowing that I can’t grab the phone and call him, or get on a plane and see him. A pain that constantly shakes me to the core and that most of the time I can’t even explain. On April of last year his phone calls changed, a lack of clarity seemed to start, and that’s when the first cracks of my broken heart happened. I knew something was changing, he tried to tell me things that he would forget mid-sentence, but he never once forgot to say I love you. Then on my last trip to Puerto Rico at the end of May 2012 my pain took a visible form when I saw what his once-strong body had become. His skin had turned to a ghastly yellow hue, his eyes lacked direction and purpose, his words had become grunts of pain and discomfort. But even in the haze that he appeared to be in, every now and then I would see him stare into my eyes and without words I could still see him communicate the love that he so often expressed with words. I would hold his hand and tell him to rest, to let go if possible, to not fight anymore so he could get rid of the pain, words that pierced my heart as each came out of my mouth. But I didn’t want him to suffer anymore. Dad and I, we always had a connection. I knew he didn’t want me to suffer his death. I also know he knew his absence would create a deep void in my life, it hurt him deeply. Laying in his deathbed I saw him struggle to stay for one more day. The day after I arrived back in Dallas, he left. My world still seemed to crumble. One year after his death, my heart seems to be in a deeper pain from the lost I have experienced. Maybe because it went so fast, but maybe because as I achieve happiness in other areas of my life it saddens me to not have him rejoice along with me. As I type these things I have to look deep inside and say thanks. I’m thankful to God for he Dad he gave me. I’m grateful or the friend, the mentor, the teacher he allowed me to have for thirty years. I feel privileged and highly favored for being able to enjoy the company of the illustrious David Duren, a man of caliber, with a ridiculous sense of humor, who really liked good food and cold beer. A man who gave his relentless love to his children no matter how much pain they put him through. A man who fought for what was right and showed me that many things in live are worth the hard work. This difficult year, there have been a few people who have stood by me in the midst of all the turmoil that my Dad’s passing has brought, and I am very thankful to those people. It would be hard to mention every single one of the people who have told me “I know it’s hard, I understand” but if you’ve said even a word to encourage me through this I thank you. I do need to give special thanks to some people that have stood by me, that have seen the depth of my heartbreak and that have held my hand through the pain. Natalia(King Boo), I am more than thankful for all the time you have been by my side, keeping me in the right mindset and allowing me to grieve, it is no coincidence we both ended up here in Dallas. Karen(Pechu Jr.) we have texted each other every single day for about three years now, and through the best and toughest times you were there, thank you. Rafy, my little brother, who texts me an “I love you” in our own made-up language at the most random(and needed times) ta mo paui. And Mark, you arrived in my life shortly after Dad left, and when my pain has become unbearable you have held my hand, hugged me and made me feel loved, I love you mah boo. If you read this whole thing, thank you for taking the time, I know it was a long one. I just felt the need to let some things out that have been too hard to put into words this past year. Rand A. Duren 10 seconds

All Gays are sleazy; All Christians are bigots

In a world where every side seems to have bigots, what should be my response?

I find it incredibly sad that one of the biggest misconceptions regarding gay people is that all of them are sleazy. Something is very wrong when a whole group of people is labeled because of the actions of a few. This doesn’t happen only with homosexuals. It happens everywhere, we fail to look at the individuals. We fail to get to know people and to realize that they may not fit the box that we have placed them in. We don’t care about their needs, we don’t regard them as equals, we have no interest in knowing what they have been through that has changed their perspectives in life.

I have been through this. For a variety of reasons I have avoided certain people because of what I thought they were, to then realize how wonderful they really are. Things changed when I challenged myself to be open. I asked myself: What’s the worst that could happen? And to my surprise, only goodness came out of it.

One of the reasons many religious people avoid homosexuals, and only allow the topic if condemnation is involved is in part because they don’t know better. They have been told all the reasons why homosexuality should be condemned. Their image of gay people is a clip they saw in the news of someone almost naked dancing in the street in the middle of a parade. My question is… How can a simple image determine your perspective on a complete group of people? And if so, why stop there? If that man dancing on the street is “perverse and an abomination”, are all gays “perverse” too? Would that mean that because a woman on a skimpy swimsuit, drinking a beer on a TV ad fits the “slut” label, are we to count all women as sluts? I think not.

I don’t think we care enough. I don’t think that the almost-naked man dancing on a parade is more of a sinner than I am. I don’t get naked on parades or party every night. I can actually be pretty boring, but that doesn’t make me less or more of a sinner. I was a preacher for several years, I have a diploma in Practical Theology, I traveled to other nations to help others, but at the end of the day, there I was, someone in desperate need of true love and acceptance. Through all my years in Church I saw people condemn homosexuals time after time, the same people that shortly after were found to be in adulterous relationships or some other ugly scenarios. I could easily call them hypocrites and label Christians as a whole as hypocrites, but I believe I have learned.

People are just that, people. Humans in need of affection, love and understanding. Individuals who have been through a great diversity of scenarios, some of them good, some of them horrible. But to typecast a group of people as something because of the deeds of one individual is plain wrong. I learned not to do it while being a Christian, and now that I am openly gay and still holding on to my Christian beliefs I believe I can see both sides a little clearer. If I as a gay man decide to be intolerant against all Christians because of the opinion of a few I too end up becoming a bigot.

I believe that in order to see a positive change in the relationships between gays and Christians we need to start with ourselves. We need to choose to love. We need to elevate the discussion from “the things that we disagree on” to “the things we can agree on”. We need to understand that not all Christians are homophobic that want to send us to hell, and we need to show them that not all gays think that they are bigots who think they are better than them. I know this is an uphill battle, but I have decided to be optimistic.

Have you had any experience that relates to this? I would love to read it.

What do you do to release stress? I do dishes.

What do you do to release stress? I do dishes.

I like to do my dishes. I don’t mean stacking them in my dishwasher and waiting for two hours of incessant humming and voila! No, I like spending some time doing my dishes, and especially when I need to release stress. Mark is amused with how much I enjoy it. He doesn’t understand why I choose to do something that a “robot” has been created to do. Believe me, I am by no means someone that chooses to do things without the use of technology. I love technology and how so many things are made so much easier because of it. Dishes. It’s just my outlet, I find doing them therapeutic. And I find it funny that so many people are shocked by my confession.

Let me tell you what’s my fabulous mundane process. It is very simple actually, but it starts some time before the tower of dishes tumbles out of control over my kitchen sink. My father taught me that whenever I’m done with a plate I should at least remove the excess food I left(not a lot in most of my plates) and if I am not gonna wash it right away to at least rinse it. Then, when I am ready to go full-on kitchen maid, my job is easier and I can emerge as the triumphant king of my kitchen. My Dad obviously didn’t make it so dramatic but I like to add some flair. Mark told me today that I’m “110% flair”. I’m still trying to determine if thats a compliment or an insult. Maybe its a little bit of both. Ok, back to the dishes.

Get some good music going. Today I chose a Spotify radio station based on Marked by EMA and it just helped set the right mood. Sometimes I just choose some great Spanish music by some Puerto Rican singers and well, the atmosphere is completely different. That’s when I do my dishes to party. In Puerto Rico we never had a dishwasher, maybe that’s where it all started. Some incense also helps in setting the mood, which reminds me that Dad also liked to have incense burning at our home, during the college years I lived with him. I like to get some good detergent, the hot water running and just chill, get my mind off things. Or after a full day of doing what I exhaustingly love doing, talking about Pop Culture news, I take some time to refocus on life, the present and the future. Doing the dishes for me goes beyond dishes, I end up trying to make my kitchen shine. Which reminds me, I am writing about doing the dishes when my kitchen is half-way through. Mark is out with his mom and bringing back Indian food, I need to get this place in order.

What do you do to relax? What’s your outlet to release stress?