The Road of Faith and Manhood

Basketball Under WaterI was born to parents who were high school teachers who genuinely loved me and imparted good qualities to my sister and me. Our family attended a Presbyterian church for a while, but it was never a big part of our lives. Little by little, we found other things to do on Sunday mornings.

Even though our family lived apart from God, He amazingly pursued me in my childhood. When I was eight years old, I had a dream about Jesus. The dream had a big effect on me, and I told others about it. Billy Graham Crusades, televised during prime time, also impacted me. I learned the sinners’ prayer and prayed it daily.

Broken Reality

When I was 13, life and the forces of darkness took their toll on our family. I was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer and wasn’t expected to survive. Eight months of nauseating chemotherapy and radiation followed. But thankfully God brought me through it, though I lost my right leg through the ordeal.

Also around that time, family problems began to surface. Suddenly we were dealing with fractured relationships and hidden sin. Without the Lord in our lives, none of us knew how to handle it. Wounds and brokenness resulted. (Side note: Outpost’s Living Waters program was a great help to me in processing and praying through wounds from the past.)

Searching for Truth

Having survived cancer and junior high school (not sure which was worse!), I really began searching for truth. In high school, I took lessons in eastern meditation. But my journey to Christ began in the most unlikely place—the local movie theater. Two friends and I went to see The Omen, a Hollywood horror flick based on the emergence of the anti-Christ. We talked into the night about the Bible, even though none of us knew much about it.

Soon after, my friend Mark and I began attending a series on the book of Revelation at a local church. Stories from Revelation left me more afraid than The Omen did. Jesus is coming back, judgment day is approaching, and I knew I wasn’t ready.

Opening the Door

In college, I really started seeking a relationship with Christ but didn’t understand that it began by faith. This difficult season came to a sudden and joyful end when two Christians knocked on my dorm room door sharing a gospel tract. I invited Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior on February 22, 1978.

Wonderful days followed, as I was translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God. My life had been turned right-side up, and I was all in. The Lord brought two men into my life to disciple me, and I was baptized that summer.

Off the Rails

Naturally, I thought my same-sex attraction would go away now that I was a Christian. I was wrong. Rather, it was like holding a basketball under water. My gender identity had gone off the rails when I was an early teen, and it was still off the rails. Becoming a Christian didn’t fix it. As author Alan Medinger has said, I had undeveloped masculinity, and the only solution, was, well, development. I needed to resume my journey into manhood.

Same-sex attraction might seem horrible and undesirable to some, but as Proverbs 27:7 says, “to one who is hungry, everything bitter is sweet.”  I longed for manhood—my own manhood, really—and, eventually, the longing became sexual.

After college, I moved to the big city and lived near downtown. Soon, I discovered all of the places to get into trouble. I hated falling into sin but couldn’t resist the draw. Along with the spiritual consequences, there was real physical danger. It was the early 80’s, and AIDS was spreading unknowingly and undetected. Even though I veered into sexual sin, God spared me from that brutal outcome.

But God had a plan. A job opened up in Minneapolis. I packed up a U-Haul and headed north.

Deepened Roots

Many blessings awaited me in Minneapolis, and one of them was Outpost. I contacted the ministry within days of arriving and started meeting with one of the staff members. He also recommended a good church, which I attend to this day.

The following years brought many opportunities for growth. I was in the thick of things at Outpost as a volunteer and participant in Joshua Fellowship. I also deepened my roots at church where I joined a great small group and participated in a church plant in my neighborhood.

At the time, I believed that my efforts to grow spiritually and emotionally would cause my same-sex attraction to go away. Again, I was wrong. I was still falling into sexual sin from time to time, and I longed to be set free. None of my efforts addressed the real underlying issues.

Breakthrough

Though it wasn’t sudden, eventually there was breakthrough. When I focused on developing my wounded gender identity, I began to experience real change—a change that I would have never dreamt possible. I went on men’s weekends, joined a men’s group, read books pertaining to manhood, watched war movies and hung out at Home Depot. I pursued athletics and relished any activity that involved a power saw. Gradually, my identity changed. With masculinity growing in my heart of hearts, temptations lost their power. I didn’t need the masculinity of another; I had my own.

Same-sex attraction isn’t completely gone, but it’s nearly gone. I spent decades believing that this sort of transformation wasn’t possible. Now I can testify that real change awaits the men and women who embark on this journey. It’s been a long haul, and I’m still on the road. The rerouted journey into manhood that I’ve lived just might be more satisfying than if it had never been interrupted at all.

The Psalmist describes me when he writes, “[God] drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2, ESV). I’ve been rescued from the grip of dangerous sin, deadly disease and much, much more. I owe all to grace.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Waving the Flag of Surrender

surrenderAs Christians, we sing and talk about surrender all the time. We often forget that surrender is a battle term. It means giving up all rights to the conqueror. When an army surrenders, the victors take complete control over their lives. When we surrender to God, we are declaring that He has won, we have been defeated and subdued, and we give ourselves over to God’s plan for our lives.

I’m a proud person. I’ve always worked hard, and I have always gotten what I’ve wanted. I studied hard and got a good degree and a well-paying job. I work out and eat well so that I have a strong body. I practice so that I can become a better worship leader.

But when it came to my sexual struggles, it was a completely different story. Growing up, I had a perceived lack of masculine affirmation, affection and acknowledgement in my life. When I discovered homosexual pornography, it was the perfect drug. These were men willing and ready to share intimacy and vulnerability with me. I could control these relationships, and there was no risk on my end. What I didn’t realize was that I was training my heart and my head to receive male love through this avenue only.

It took six years of silent struggle and mental torture before I could write these words in my prayer journal, “I am struggling with homosexuality. God, I’m not asking for You to magically make it disappear, but I do want You to help me change my life. I know You have the power to intervene and change me like nothing else can.” That was my first step in surrender.

After that journal entry, it took another three years before I could take the next step of surrender and confess this struggle to another person. Each time I brought it out into the open, it weakened the pull of my addiction and strengthened my bond with another man in a healthy and legitimate way. There was freedom in admitting that I was powerless, that I struggled with same-sex attractions. But just surrendering to the reality that I was powerless over sin and lust and acting out wasn’t enough. I needed help; I needed to surrender to something or someone outside of myself and my own patterns of thinking.

It was terrifying to come to Outpost for the first time. But eventually, this became a safe place for me and a refuge for my soul. There was also great promise and hope here. I saw men fighting in strength, walking in the fullness of their masculinity, and I saw restoration. I liked what I saw, and I wanted it. So I gave myself to this process of recovery. I came every week. I shared during our small groups. I said yes to whatever the leaders challenged us to do.

From that point, this journey has been a series of cliffs for me to jump off. Each time, it has felt like I would drop into oblivion. Each time, I had to surrender another part of my heart that I had been holding on to in defiance. I had to allow that part of my heart to become reconciled to God.

When we were required to have an hour of listening prayer each day, it meant waking up earlier. And if that meant waking up at 4:30am, then I had to surrender my sleep. When I was still struggling with pornography and isolation, I had to surrender my independence and find a roommate. When I started to develop an emotionally dependent relationship with my best friend, I had to surrender that relationship.

When I pursued relationship with a woman, and she broke my heart, I had to surrender my singleness and my loneliness to God. When I moved into my own place again, I knew I couldn’t have internet. I had to surrender my convenience and only use the internet at work

Each step is another terrifying adventure where God asks, “Are you going to trust Me in this?” I have had to come to the end of myself and finally let God have a personal place in my life. And just when I think I’ve already given my all to God, He reveals another part of my heart I’m holding on to with a death grip. He asks me, “How can you receive more from Me when your hands are clenched tightly around this?”

I need to constantly remind myself to trust in God. If I believe that God knows the deepest parts of my heart better than I know myself, then I can trust Him. If I believe that God knows what will truly make me come alive, then I can trust Him.

I had to surrender my sleep for listening prayer, but this discipline has taught me how to hear God and how have intimacy with Him. I had to surrender my independence and live with roommates I couldn’t stand, but with them, I learned about patience. I had to surrender one of my best friends, but it was only in letting go that we could learn to love one another in a healthy way and have God bring a new depth to our friendship.

I had to surrender my singleness and loneliness to God, but after that I began to appreciate being alone, and being alone with God. I had to surrender convenience by not having internet, but I haven’t struggled with pornography or masturbation since moving to my new apartment.

There’s an illustration that has helped me understand surrender: Imagine life as a rollercoaster. There’s going to be a big drop and bunch of twists and turns. I can try to hold onto the handle bars and clench my teeth, or I can raise my hands and feel the rush. Either way, I’m still going to drop, and I’m still going to be held in. So why not just enjoy the ride?

There can be so much death in surrendering and letting go. But there can also be so much peace and life when we finally give God space in our hearts.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Drinking the Cup of Life

Silver Cup

The Cup. It’s a universal symbol. It’s not just something humans use to drink. Many cups speak of victory—soccer cups, football cups. These cups speak of bravery, fame, and great power. Many cups also speak of death. The cups in Isaiah and Jeremiah are the cups of God’s wrath and destruction. Then there is Jesus’ cup, a symbol of life filled with sorrows and joys that we can hold, lift, and drink.

Nine years ago, I was sitting at a local coffee shop, terrified to tell the first person about my struggle with same-sex-attractions. While waiting for my friend, I sat sipping my coffee, reading Luke 22:24 about 100 times before he showed up, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (NIV).

Jesus was willing to drink the cup; I wanted nothing to do with the cup I had been given. I had no idea what was even in my cup. I was comfortable, living a life of fantasy and addiction, and I had no idea what my reality was. I couldn’t feel anything. I came to Outpost six years later. As I shared my story with leaders for the first time and heard their stories, I began to confront the very things I had vowed I wouldn’t talk about again.

Drinking the cup we’ve been given, however, is much more than gulping down whatever happens to be in there. In our American way, we want the quickest possible result, but the Holy Spirit is in for the process of holiness. 

Holding the Cup. Well-renowned priest and author Henri Nouwen writes, “Holding the cup of life is a way of looking critically at who we really are, accepting our various skills, inadequacies and differences from others, and rejoicing in our radical singularity.”

I recently visited a vineyard and took an informal class on drinking wine. The sommelier taught us how to properly hold a wine glass, how to smell the aroma, how to cleanse the palate, and how to best taste the wine presented and enjoy the full experience. It takes all five senses to fully enjoy a good glass of wine. You have to know what you’re drinking, and you have to be able to talk about it.

Holding the cup of life means looking critically at the lives we are living. Just living our lives is not enough. We have to process, reflect, contemplate, discuss, and form opinions about it, just like wine tasting. This is living: looking deeply into our lives at the things that make us human—a living, breathing being with a body, soul, and spirit, in all our uniqueness and imperfections.

It takes great courage and can be terrifying. But don’t run, as this will be your first inclination. Confront it. Hold the cup. Ask Christ for more revelation, more truth, and more resolve.

The Cup of Sorrow. Some of us are all too familiar with the cup of sorrow. We have all experienced sadness, pain, grief, and hardship. Before coming to Outpost, though, I had hidden my sorrow in years of fantasy and addiction. All of the things I did to avoid the pain hurt me much more than actually feeling the pain would have.

I have now experienced deep sorrow over my struggle and for not owning my story for so long. I’ve had to mourn the lost years of my adolescence and young adult years. Even now, it is still painful that God has not quickly given me what I have most desired: complete freedom from same-sex attractions, addiction, and comparison. In embracing my pain, however, I’ve discovered my desire to have deep, healthy intimacy. The unfulfilled needs for affirmation remain alive in me.

Is there pain you’re running from? What are the ugliest parts of your soul, the things that cause the most shame? What are the things you have vowed that you’d never speak of to anyone?

Pain is not a mistake to hide or fix, it’s a traveling professor. When pain knocks on the door, wise ones breathe deep and say, “Come in. Sit down with me. And don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.” Pain is not something to run from. Rather, we need to run to it because that’s where healing happens. The discomfort is purposeful: it is there to teach us what we need to know so we can become who we were meant to be.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus said, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by” (Matt. 26:39). Jesus felt like he couldn’t drink the cup filled to the brim with sorrow and pain. But Jesus had a bond with the One He called “Abba”. Jesus didn’t drink the cup out of will power, determination, or great heroism. He possessed with Abba a trust beyond betrayal, a surrender beyond despair, and a love beyond all fears.

After Jesus’ prayer, Luke mentions, “Then an angel appeared to him, coming from heaven to give him strength” (22:43). In times of deep pain and sorrow, we have access to this strength. Dare I say the cup of sorrow, as extremely difficult as it seems, also leads to the cup of joy. Only when we discover this in our own lives an we consider drinking it.

The Cup of Joy. For anyone who has the courage to enter deeply into our human sorrows, there is a revelation of joy. Jesus’ life is not one of only sorrow that ended in his crucifixion. His beautiful life with sacred wounds continues in His glory and the glory of His Father.

The risen Lord invites all people into his new and eternal life. Jesus, who cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” also said in total surrender, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus, who participated fully in all of our pain on the cross, wants us to participate fully in His joy. He wants us to be a people of joy! Jesus’ “yes” while he was in the Garden was one of unconditional trust in His Father. It gave Him the ability to drink His cup, not in passivity or spite, but with the full knowledge that the hour of His death would also be the hour of His glory.

Lifting the Cup. Henri Nouwen defines lifting the cup as “an invitation to affirm and celebrate life together. It means joining in community and sharing our cravings, our fantasies, our shame or vulnerabilities and giving others permission to do likewise in a spirit of blessing, of giving thanks.”1 When each of us can hold firm our own cup, claiming it as our own, it is then that we can lift it up for others to see.

When we lift our cup together in community, it is a way to celebrate the truth that we all carry wounds. In a place of mature, safe community, these wounds become areas of healing. Lifting our cup is a gesture of hope.

I am a fiercely independent person, but I’m also a fiercely relational person. In our “I can do it myself” society, I hid my need of relationship in fear and shame. It wasn’t until I understood vulnerability, until I trusted my brothers and lifted my cup, allowing them to see me, that relationship happened. Grace and mercy happened. I learned that we are wired for struggle, but we are also worthy of love and belonging.

You are a good gift. Life is not something to be ashamed of, but it is a gift to be shared with others. The cup filled with sorrow and joy, when lifted for others to see, can become the cup of life.

 Drinking the Cup. Henri Nouwen says, “Drinking the cup of life is fully appropriating and internalizing our own unique existence, with all its sorrows and joys. It’s a challenge to forthrightly acknowledge who we are, to forsake the entrapments of our addictions, compulsions, and sins and to be fully trusting in God and Jesus who, in a spirit of unconditional love, accepted his ministry with all its consequences.”1

Drinking the cup makes us own everything we are living. This isn’t “making the best of it” or “dealing with the cards you’ve been dealt”. It’s agreeing, “This is my life, and dare I say, with all of the sorrow and joys, I want this to be my life.”

When we do not drink our cup, avoiding the sorrows and joys of life, our lives become inauthentic, insincere, superficial, and boring. We are like puppets controlled by the world surrounding us. We remain victims of other people. Drinking our cup is a hopeful, courageous, grace-filled way of living. It is standing in the world, solidly rooted in the knowledge of our true identity in Christ, still becoming who we were created to be.

 Drinking to the Bottom. In Matthew 20:20-23, the mother of James and John asked Jesus if He would grant her sons to sit next to Him in His kingdom. Jesus replied, “You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” James and John responded, “We can.” They had no idea what they were saying yes to. They had no idea that Jesus would be tortured and killed on a cross. They had no idea how easy it would be to say “yes” initially and that the subsequent “yeses” would become increasingly difficult. All they knew was that they had been deeply touched by the man Christ Jesus.

Jesus’ invitation to us to drink the cup without offering the reward we expect is the great challenge of the spiritual life. It turns our hope of a comfortable, predictable future upside down. It calls for radical trust in God, the same trust that made Jesus drink the cup to the bottom.

We have to drink our cup slowly, embracing all of the joys and sorrows, drinking all the way to the bottom, as Christ did. As we drink it, writes Nouwen, we will realize that the One who has called us “The Beloved,” even before we were born, is filling it with everlasting life.

1Nouwen, H. (n.d.). Henri Nouwen’s Intimate Letters Shed Light on his ‘Theology of the Heart’. Retrieved from http://henrinouwen.org/henri-nouwens-intimate-letters-shed-light-theology-heart/

Power Perfected

power weaknessWhile same-sex attraction (SSA) has been present for all of human history, how it is viewed has changed over time. It wasn’t long ago that SSA was rarely discussed and viewed by some as the worst sin imaginable. In recent years, it is celebrated—demonstrated by massive parades in major cities around the world—and considered to be a source of pride.

Ask our participants to describe their experience of unwanted SSA, however, and you will hear words like painful, suffering, and weakness. (Do marchers in the gay pride parades experience the same pain? Perhaps, but that is a topic for another time.) It is a unique brand of unseen pain. We know that we are different than about 98% of the population and that life has sent us on a strange, unasked-for trajectory. Relationships with the same sex are difficult and can be confusing. Relationships with the opposite sex are not what they should be, and we know it. We wonder what the future holds. Joys that are routine and second nature to the general population seem far off. This isn’t the life that we had in mind for ourselves.

At Outpost, we are accustomed to hearing these stories of weakness, pain, and struggle on a regular basis. Indeed, we know that every time the telephone rings, there may be a caller on the other end of the line in pain, sharing her story for the first time, and there may be tears before the call is over.

For those of us afflicted with SSA, how are we to view this unexpected, unwanted turn of events? There are all sorts of responses ranging from anger to hopelessness, to blaming others, to rebellion. We’ve seen all of these responses, and many of us have dealt with them in our own hearts. But for followers of Christ, is there any instruction in God’s Word that will help us rightly view this weakness that has overtaken us?

The Apostle Paul deals with weakness squarely in 2 Corinthians 12. Afflicted with his own “thorn in the flesh”, he says “I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (v. 8–10, ESV).

The Lord did not take away Paul’s affliction. Instead, he gave Paul something better.

I’ve heard many testimonies from those with unwanted SSA, and it is not uncommon to hear believers say that this unique affliction led them to Christ. If life had been all good and hadn’t been made messy by SSA, they would have never known their need for a Savior and entered into a life-changing, joy-producing relationship with Him. It’s true for me as well. It has been a rough and painful road, but SSA was the street that led me to Christ as a lost 18 year-

old. And not only did it lead me to Him initially, but it has also led me to His throne of grace day after day ever since. Thankfully, He has never failed to meet me there.

Jason Meyer, Senior Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, shared in a sermon, “God’s solution for earthly suffering is not to take away the pain and the problems and make earth a paradise. His solution is to give us more of Himself so that we have enough to make it through our struggles and our trials” (“Boasting Like a Weakling,” May 30, 2015.) If you have been afflicted with SSA, it is true that you’ve been dealt a tough hand. But if it leads you to Jesus, you have the very best that life has to offer—the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in a field. “Every heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee,” according to Augustine in his Confessions, and you have found the rest in Christ that every heart longs for. He is with you continually. He has paid for every sin you’ve committed. He hears every cry of your heart.

The long haul of SSA also gives one power. “My power is made perfect in weakness,” Jesus spoke to Paul, leading him to a 180 degree turn on his view of the thorn in his flesh. “I am content with weaknesses . . . for when I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10). Through this affliction, we have come to know a victory that, in our own strength, we never would have won. Christ is in the process of transforming us, making us strong in the broken places, not strong in the strong places. As Pastor Meyer put it, “Paul is pleased with being a weak canvas because weak canvases are the only ones that Christ will paint upon” (“When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong,” June 6, 2015.)

This wonderful truth frees us from self-pity. Yes, the experience of SSA is a profound challenge, but God is setting us up for profound strength. The strongest people on the planet have been saddled with the most challenging circumstances. SSA is preparing us to join them. Why? Because “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29).

So if you are dealing with your own issues of unwanted same-sex attraction, take heart. The piercing arrow of SSA need not penetrate your armor. Pick it up and put it in your quiver. It carries grace and power and is making you into mighty men and women of God. He is giving you more of Himself, and He is preparing you for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

Stepping into the Light

Celebrating 40 Years of Being Called Out of Darkness40 years

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. —1 Peter 2:9-10

In 1976, Outpost Ministries was born. I was born just one year later. I have often thought of the goodness of God. He knew that I would struggle with same-sex attractions, and He went before me to establish the place where I would ultimately find healing and wholeness in Jesus Christ.

I first set foot inside Outpost in the fall of 1997, and I was called out of the darkness of homosexuality and into the marvelous light of Jesus. True freedom always begins with stepping into the light. I had never before told anyone about my struggle. I was too afraid and ashamed. Now, for the first time, I was in a place where I could be open and honest about my sexual brokenness. How freeing!

In the light, we begin to see rightly. My sight began to heal through my involvement at Outpost. I began to see men and women very differently, I began to see myself differently. Most importantly, I began to see God differently. As I started to see how God truly thinks and feels about me, my heart began to change.

I saw that I am chosen. Growing up, I was not very athletic, so I generally wasn’t the first kid picked for playground sports, or the second or the third . . . We all desire to be chosen, and it’s painful when we are not. At Outpost, I got to know a God who chose me before the foundations of the world. He wanted me on His team!        Since then, I have often marveled at these words from 1 Corinthians 1:27-28:

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.

God’s standards are completely the opposite of the world’s standards, and in many cases even the opposite of the Church’s. He intentionally chooses for His team the weak and broken!

I saw that I am royalty to God the Father. What is so amazing about the cross is that not only does it afford us the forgiveness of sin, but it also give us a new identity. We are now kings and priests to God because of the blood of Jesus (Rev. 1:5-6). We have been given authority in Jesus’ name to partner with God in administering justice in the earth (Ps. 149) through our intercession. Our prayers matter to God!

I saw that I am holy. For someone who has lived in so much shame and condemnation for so long, it is an amazing thing for him to realize and truly believe that he is a new creation. In Christ, I have become the righteousness of God and am set apart to accomplish the good works God has planned in advance for me (2 Cor. 5:17, 21; Eph. 2:10).

I saw that I am special. I think my parents did a fine job of letting me know that I was special to them. There is, however, a part of our hearts that needs to hear this word from the Heavenly Father in order for us to feel confident in who we are. One who has heard the Lord affirm that he is fearfully and wonderfully made doesn’t need fame or status. He is already famous in the sight of the Creator of the Universe. It’s the angel Gabriel telling Daniel that he is “highly esteemed” by heaven (Dan. 9:23) or the angel of the Lord informing Gideon that heaven sees him as a “valiant warrior” (Judges 6:12). A person’s soul is set free from always needing to perform for approval when he learns to live before an audience of One.

In the light, I saw more clearly. I saw a God who is mighty to save. At Outpost, I learned to trade my rags for my new identity. Christ had always been holding it out to me. In the darkness, I just couldn’t see it.

Chosen. Royal. Holy. Special. What a glorious exchange.

There has been much fruit that has come forth from Outpost over the last 40 years. I am just one of the many who has stepped into the light because I heard the call of God. There are many more walking in freedom and many more to come. How much more do we need Outpost for the next 40 years! We need this beacon of hope and truth now more than ever before in the history of our nation.

Thank you for standing with us, some of you since the very beginning. It has been such a privilege to run the race with you. I hope to see you at our upcoming 40th Anniversary Celebration and Called Out of Darkness. Let us all come together and proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light!

Heroes

heroesDo you have heroes? If you don’t, you should—it’s important to look up to somebody. I have heroes of my own. As it happens, my case is a little special because some of my heroes are the young men who come to us for help.

One of the hats I wear at Outpost Ministries involves giving leadership to weekly programming called Joshua Fellowship. It’s a group of guys who grew up as Christians, for the most part, but then—frequently to their shock and dismay—found themselves experiencing same-sex attractions.

These guys spring from a variety of backstories. Some have never ceased to fight against what they regard as temptation and sinful behavior; others were out and proud for years until Jesus got in their face.  Some already have a great deal of inner-healing under their belts; others don’t yet know what that is. Some are respected professionals—dentists, architects, etc., while others are broke college students.

But there are a couple of common denominators; one is that they are all faithful men of God, indeed. You and I, my friend, could stand to learn a thing or two from the kind of stubborn dedication to Christ which these young men live out every day. And the other is that they have each survived a bloody battlefield to get here.

There’s a quote I like to use from The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous: “All of us sought an easier, softer way, but it availed us nothing!” Does that sound like real life? Well, it rings true for these guys too. There’s a story I like to tell them, and it’s remarkable how often it hits home. It goes, with variations, like this:

Adolescent Boy begins to discover his sexuality, but to his surprise, along with that comes same-sex attractions. Well, at that point, what should he do? He should probably tell somebody; he should get some help, right? But sadly, that’s the one thing which almost never happens. Why? Because the young man lives in a Christian world, and the last thing he wants is for his struggle to become known. So, he keeps it a secret and struggles on alone, often frightened and certainly confused, frustrated and ashamed. He’s a Christian, you see, and he believes embracing his same-sex attractions is wrong, and so he tries hard to change, without success.

So he resorts to religion and gets involved in church: he volunteers, leads, mentors. His parents are proud, and the community is impressed. But his secret is still there and still bites.

So he goes away to Bible school because, he reasons, what he really needs is to immerse himself even more deeply in the things of God. That will kill this struggle. But it doesn’t.

So he goes on to seminary because, after all, professional Christians could not possibly struggle with something like same-sex attractions. And then, when that doesn’t work either, he begins to realize that he’s out of options.

Except that he remembers some time ago somebody mentioned a place called Outpost. And so, in pure desperation, he finally picks up the phone.

Of course this is only a story, but when I tell it, there tend to be sheepish grins here and there in the room. And I’ve told this story to you to illustrate that favorite quote of mine: all of us try an easier, softer way, but it avails us nothing. On that level, these guys are no different from you and me.

What does set them apart, though, is that they didn’t give up. Faced with a relentless enemy, defeating them at every turn, surrounded by a public discourse which pronounces the utter hopelessness of their cause, they did not cease to seek a way to lay their sexuality at the feet of Jesus. Whatever solutions they had tried first, in the end it was their saving faith which brought them, finally, to Outpost.

That’s the kind of guys I get to work with. They’re heroes before they ever come to us. If the Church were composed of such, our enemy would have far less freedom of movement, and the world would be a different place than it is now.

They don’t see it that way, of course. They don’t call themselves heroes. They come broken, confused, angry, dispirited, disillusioned, desperate and in pain. And my role, then, is to labor to point them to the only pathway to healing that’s left to try: the genuine love of Jesus.

And so together we get to work, and we spend time talking, teaching, exposing lies, taking risks, getting honest. Sometimes, as we do those things, the time comes—not right away, as it takes a lot of work—when I am granted a very special privilege. I get to be present when something happens, and they begin to engage in real time with the real love of a real God who really is there and, as it turns out, has not forgotten them after all.

It’s like—well, the best way I can describe it is that it’s like watching the sun come up. Of course, they’re not finished; there’s lots of work ahead for them. But it does mean once that miracle happens, the playing field has changed. They are no longer smoldering wicks whose best hope was to stubbornly refuse to go out. Now they have tasted fire. They have a new capacity for desire. They’ve moved beyond mere desperation and are motivated now by a ravenous hunger for the genuine presence of Jesus. We call it “turning the corner,” and it’s when the fun really starts.

What’s a hero? A hero is someone who, faced with impossible odds, shouted down by every voice, nevertheless sticks to his guns and refuses to give up. We think of heroes as winners, but what really makes a hero is the courage it takes to refuse to lose, no matter what the odds or how long it takes or how much it hurts.

The Bible promises victory to the faithful. Victory is a marvelous thing; it is a time to rejoice and celebrate the victor. But never forget that victory comes always after faithfulness. And faithfulness is no picnic because it happens in the trenches where winning seems a happy but remote dream and defeat would be oh, so much easier.

Faithfulness is never a mountaintop experience; if you’re a Christian, you know that.

The guys and I have a name for the place where faith happens. We call it the Valley of the Shadow of Death because in that place, the enemy is all around us, and darkness and defeat sometimes overshadow us. The only way out is through, and the only way through is to follow Jesus—no matter how rocky, confusing or unexpected the path is upon which He leads us.

Are my guys heroes? You do the math.

Living Waters

Living Waters

Photo from Free Images

It is with joy and thankfulness that I am reporting on the conclusion of our 2015-16 Living Waters Program at the end of March.  Living Waters is an in-depth healing and discipleship group for any Christian seeking healing in areas of sexual and relational brokenness.  Living Waters is for EVERYONE!  Each one of us is a good gift from God; most of us are broken in our ability to love others well.  Living Waters lays a biblical foundation for sexual and relational wholeness in our lives.

After 21 weeks of intense worship, teaching and small group prayer, our participants testified to the change that had taken place as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. With their permission, here are their testimonies:

Through Living Waters, God showed me that at a deep level I had, in my woundedness, despised and rejected my gender and therefore, myself.  I learned so much through the truths expressed in the beautifully articulated, biblical and comprehensive Living Waters textbook about how Christ’s work on the cross can bring deep healing.  Through the teachings aided by the caring ministry and prayers of others, God’s Spirit gently enabled me to begin to accept the self that He made me to be.  This ‘real me’ was then able to begin to receive His love and perfect parenting in new ways, and turn from many broken ways.  I notice a new contentedness and growing joy in accepting who I am in Him.

Living Waters brought healing to my spirit especially from an abusive relationship with my ex-boyfriend.  By dealing with past wounds and traumas, I received healing!

 I came to Living Waters confused and scared.  I’m leaving with hope for my marriage!

I came to Living Waters feeling so broken.  I had just come out of a relationship where the man was very godly and good to me but I could not receive his love.  The more he tried to love me, the more I pushed him away.  Throughout Living Waters, the idea that God made me to be a good gift continually ministered to my heart.  For so many years after being in an abusive relationship, I believed that I was the problem and I had carried a huge yoke of shame.  Through the ‘cross time’, the Holy Spirit has been restoring my sense of worth and that I actually have much to give!

It started out with me coming because a friend invited me, but I got so much more out of it than I thought possible!  I’ve always had issues with anxiety, self-hatred and mild depression.  I didn’t think Living Waters was going to be able to help me with that, but it DID!  I was able to uncover things that I never thought were issues, things I thought were buried in the past and long forgotten. I never knew my revulsion toward the feminine and my desire to be a boy when I was younger God used Living Waters greatly in my life.  God showed me so much about my identity in Him instead of my sins of the past.  I’ve also grown much closer to God in my intimacy with Him.

I initially came because my wife required me to seek some kind of counseling.  I wanted to change but had been let down by so many counselors and groups that went nowhere that I was skeptical Living Waters would be any different.  In the end, I’m glad I came.  Small group was a highlight and removed my skepticism that groups can experience change and actually bond vs. being strangers stuck in a rut.  Seeing others who had overcome the same sins and struggles that had plagued me for years was very encouraging.  Becoming that person thanks to Living Waters and my church is incredibly edifying.

Living Waters has made me realize my need for community and also the importance of being in authentic relationships with others.

This has been the most beneficial course I have ever experienced regarding sexual issues and their root causes.  I have been able to walk with less shame and more transparency.  I now see my need is not so much to flee sexual sin as it is to turn away from idolatry of God’s creation while seeking and worshiping my loving Heavenly Father.  My past had isolated me in my sin, but now I see the value and ability to have real and deeply Christ-ministering relationships with other men.

The 2016-17 Living Waters Program will be starting in October 2016 and will run through March 2017.  We are now accepting applications! Applications are available on our Living Waters page.  Sign up early to ensure a place in the program, as space is limited.  Tell your friends to come!  They will be glad you referred them!

Learning to Trust: A Wife’s Journey

wedding ringsI am the wife of a man who struggled with same-sex attractions in isolation for more than 25 years of our marriage.

I am also a sister, niece, godmother, aunt and neighbor to individuals who have identified as gay. The Lord has wanted me to deal with the issue of homosexuality and to experience the pain He feels for His children at a deeper level than most people. But the Lord first had lessons to teach me and wounds to heal in me before that could take place. Two of those areas in my life were in trust and forgiveness.

My husband Dave and I were high school sweethearts. He was gentle and kind, and I fell in love with him on the very first date. He was safe! I needed someone who was safe after being sexually abused by my grandfather for two years as a child. I needed someone I could trust, and I could trust Dave!

However, one month before we were to be married, Dave came to me and told me that he dealt with same-sex attractions and had also contracted an STD from a man. He expected that I would call off the wedding. I did not! I was naïve, and I loved him too much to let him go. We both assumed marriage would change him.  But my trust in him was broken.

I resorted to trusting in alcohol to kill my pain. I began parking outside gay bars because I was paranoid about what Dave was doing. Six years into our marriage, Jesus came in and, as our Lord and Savior, took over both of our lives. I had to learn to trust the Lord, and He gave me the ability to completely trust Dave again and no longer doubt his fidelity.

I needed to trust God after eight years of marriage and no children. We then adopted the first of our two sons—a special needs child with hydrocephalus, a son given a prognosis of severe retardation. I had to trust God for what He was going to do in my son’s life, if anything!

I had to trust God when, after 10 years of marriage, He blessed me by allowing me to become pregnant—telling me in prayer “this child is sanctified by Me”—only to take that child away by miscarriage the very next day. I cried out to God because I could not understand why. Then a dear friend told me ‘sanctified’ means, ‘taken from the world and given back to God.’ I had to forgive God for not giving me what I wanted. Then in my arrogance, He humbled me to ask for forgiveness for not trusting that He knew what was best for me.

In the two years following, I had to trust God when my son went through brain surgery and when the Lord took two more children away through miscarriage. Dave, with the stress and pain he felt at home, decided to get away and think about whether or not he should end the marriage and go into the gay life.

It hurt too much to keep this secret anymore. I confided in a man who was mentoring Dave that he had left. I also told Dave he had to confide in his mentor about his struggle before he even thought about coming home. I put all my trust in God that He would work this out in Dave. He did! Dave’s love of God and love for his family was strong!

He came back and said that he was ‘in it for the long haul.’ He started his long healing journey of being ‘called out’ of homosexuality. I was able to forgive him and trust in Jesus.

In 1997, Dave asked if he could go to Outpost. Within a few months, I joined him at what were at that time open meetings, and I gained such a love and respect for all the men there. After a few months, Outpost leaders asked us to give our testimony at an open meeting. Five days before we were to give our testimony, Dave said we should discuss what the other was going to say so there would be no surprises! That was when I found out about David’s numerous anonymous homosexual encounters for almost 27 years of our marriage. He assumed I knew and asked for my forgiveness. The day had come when I would need to forgive the most! The first words out of my mouth were, “I can’t!” Then God gave me another lesson in forgiveness: He showed me all the times that my Lord had forgiven me. Within 30 seconds, I told Dave, “I have to forgive you!” It was an act of my will. I did not feel like forgiving, but I put my trust in God, and I did.

The next few days were the most intimate times with God I have encountered in my life. With my extending forgiveness to Dave, Jesus could start healing the pain and grief I was experiencing. I cried out to God with my feelings of anger and betrayal, but my times with Him ended in love. He brought me to Colossians 3:14 in Dave’s Promise Keepers Bible, “Love is more important than anything else; it is what ties everything completely together.” I screamed at God, “Why didn’t you let me know this so I could help him?!” Jesus gave me parts of Psalm 91, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, My God in whom I trust.’” Then He changed the next part for me, “’Because (she) loves Me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue (her); I will protect (her), for (she) acknowledges My name.’” Then the room filled with the sweet presence of God, and I heard his voice saying, “I kept this knowledge from you for your own protection and for David’s. Your trust had to remain high. The decisions were David’s to make until My healing was complete. Your trust must still be strong. The old man has gone away and a new creation stands before you. Look not to the past but to the road I have laid before you both! Keep your eyes on Me!” Little did I know what that meant!

The Lord had us go through the Living Waters Program, where I learned to forgive my childhood abuser. He led us to start our own ministry, Simon Ministries for married couples, attend Living Waters Leadership Training, and begin leading the program in our own church for eight years.

The Lord has allowed me to share with those who have been sexually abused, those who have gone through infertility, miscarriages, adoption, those working with special needs children and now with wives whose husbands are struggling with same-sex attractions. Since Dave has been ‘called out’ of homosexuality and daily walking out his healing with Jesus, the Lord has taken us from coast to coast to share our testimony.

We closed Simon Ministries in 2010 and joined forces with Outpost where our healing first began. Dave still works with men dealing with SSA in the group CalebSpirit. I am working with wives struggling with forgiveness and trust in their marriages in our group Simon Refuge. I enjoy watching Jesus at work!

As a side note, we adopted a second son, Paul, who is a joy to us. But our first severely retarded son, Luke (we gave him a physician’s name), graduated from a Christian high school with a 3.0 GPA, has a college degree from University of Northwestern—St. Paul, worked for Billy Graham at Amsterdam 2000 and was just married on May 6th. His doctor stated that she had never seen a child reach normal let alone surpass it! To her, Luke is a miracle!

The Lord has loved me so much He has given me walking miracles in my house. I especially thank Jesus everyday for the gift of David as my husband. Last September we celebrated 45 years of marriage, and I would not change one minute of it. I have learned trust, forgiveness, and unconditional love and we have brought each other closer to God.

Tales of a Former Prodigal

lost sheepIn 2008, I began my journey out of a lesbian relationship.  God had been deeply convicting me that my partner had taken His rightful place in my heart and that I needed to decide who was Lord in my life.  God, in His mercy, made it easier for me by having my partner leave me.  In that place of abandonment, I had to decide.  Do I look for another partner, or do I choose God?  I chose God.  Now the work would begin of renewing my mind from the previous seven years of lies from the devil and the world about my identity.  Who was I?  I didn’t know anymore.  My identity was a mystery to me.

Although I felt like an outsider, I had never stopped going to church.  As I carefully tried to be part of the Body of Christ again and shared bits of my story, fellow believers asked, “How did this happen to you?”  I couldn’t explain it.  I didn’t understand how I had come to be in the condition I was in.  I knew the journey of my life events, but I didn’t understand the psychological or emotional undercurrents of those events that had brought me to this point in my life.

I began seeing a Christian counselor, and I attended Leanne Payne’s Pastoral Care Ministry Conferences, but the most helpful resource turned out to be a program called Living WatersLiving Waters is a 20-week inner-healing program for the sexually and relationally broken.  In Living Waters, I learned about events in my early childhood—nothing earth shaking, just subtle things—that set me up to hunger for feminine touch and connection.  You see, I was the middle child in my family. Psychologists sometimes refer to the middle child as “the lost child” where no one pays much attention to you.  It plays out that as your legitimate need for love from your same-sex parent doesn’t get met, you seek other ways to meet the need yourself.  You become needy, like you want to be the center of attention.  This was me to a “T”.  People thought I was fine because I was popular and loud and was the center of conversations, but the source of that striving was a lost, hurting heart.

I hid my pain and tried to push it down for years until, in my late 30’s, the pain resurfaced.  At the same time, the pro-gay movement was gaining momentum. I began to entertain the thought of being close to a woman.  Cognitively, I was in a battle with myself thinking it was a bad idea, but my emotions were driving me in this direction.

Fast forward to my partner leaving me.  I entered the Living Waters Program, and through the large group teachings accompanied by healing prayer in my small group, God Himself met me and filled the void in my heart with His love.  I couldn’t go back and relive the early years of my life, but God is all-sufficient for the needs we have.  When we ask Him, He comes and fills every gap, every hole, and all of the pain He takes away and sends to the cross.  No longer in pain, I could then begin to love myself and discover who I was, my true identity.

Today I help others find healing and reconnect to God through the ministry of Outpost.  I lead a group called Elijah Company, a group for parents and friends who have loved ones identifying as gay or struggling with same sex-attractions.  When parents first come, they feel shame and fear, not knowing who they can talk to about their situation.  They are grieving because of the loss they feel as their loved ones have distanced themselves from them.  When they come to Elijah Company, they find a safe place to talk about their pain and receive comfort from the group.  They share their stories with each other and encourage one another to trust Jesus with their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

After being in Elijah Company, most parents testify that their faith has grown exponentially as a result of their crying out to God and seeking His face daily for their loved one.  What at first seemed like a painful and hopeless situation slowly turns into faith and trust that we have a loving Father.  We have been together for so long now that some of our original parents are now sharing in their churches what God has done for their families.  They are giving hope to others in their churches and offering a safe place to come.

I chuckle when I think of one of my grandsons: he insists on learning the hard way.  He reminds me of myself!  Having been a prodigal daughter, I can testify to the goodness and faithfulness of God.  He has led me faithfully on this journey of the restoration of my heart.

The Seven-Year-Old Boy

It was a cold, crisp New Year’s Day. Two young brothers, ages 7 and 10, were in their room playing, jumping on their beds, laughing and having fun as brothers often do. Suddenly they heard a loud thud coming from downstairs. The younger brother ran to see what the commotion was about, opened the door to his parent’s bedroom and discovered his daddy, laying in a pool of his own blood, and the gun he used to shoot himself laying beside him.

This unspeakable tragedy and the wounds this produced turned the little boy’s life upside down. Why did his daddy want to leave him? Wasn’t he a good enough son to make his daddy want to live? The pain and turmoil in the family was intense, and no one knew how to comfort them. Everyone was left in the darkness of their own silence, confusion and pain.

It didn’t seem life could get any harder for that family, but it did. On the day of his daddy’s funeral, the boy’s mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She had to leave the family to go to New York for cancer treatment. The little boy and his brothers and sisters were separated and sent to stay with family members. This sad, lonely little boy was left uncomforted, confused and desperately trying to deal with his pain. Those events sent that child on a search for a father, a search that  would last for almost 40 years.

The little boy started to think maybe it was his fault that all those bad things had happened. He began to take on the pain of the rest of the family. He tried to “make it right” for everyone else. That made him feel even more angry and alone because, no matter what he did, he couldn’t fix it. More and more, every day, his feelings of rejection, abandonment, pain and rage grew.

If his daddy loved him, why did he do this? If God was real why did he let this happen? The little boy began to feel very sorry for himself. Rage grew and grew as he thought, “Why is life treating me so unfairly?” The incredible pain from these wounds caused him to look for comfort anywhere he could find it, because pain always seeks to be comforted!

At a very early age, someone introduced him to masturbation and pornography which he used to try to comfort the pain and confusion in his life. Later in life he became a sexual addict, always looking for love and comfort in the wrong places. He suffered from guilt, shame, rejection and a lack of self-worth so deep he sometimes wished he were dead, like his father, and then hating himself more for even thinking such thoughts.

The boy became a young man and discovered that if he could perform well enough in sports that people would accept him and give him some of the love he craved for so desperately. He became a very good athlete, a competitor, because if he “hit the ball right” his coach would give him words of acceptance and affirmation. Even that was not enough to heal the pain in his heart, and he turned to drugs, alcohol, pornography and sex to try to comfort his pain. Those things did make him feel better for a little while, but then the pain came back, worse than ever, because now it was mixed with shame, condemnation, and intense feelings of self-hatred.

When this boy was 16-years-old, he came to Christ, but the shame, fear and rejection didn’t go away. He had a really hard time seeing God as his Father because his experience with a father only represented pain and abandonment. He always felt like an outsider, looking in, trying to be good enough to receive Father God’s love but always missing the mark. Then, when he would inevitably fail, he would become even more angry, lonely, and filled with rage.

That young man grew up, married, had a son and daughter of his own and became a pastor, but the wounds of his childhood were still there, buried deeply. Much of his life was still rooted in fear, shame and rejection. Even as a pastor he struggled with rage, lustful temptations and incredibly low self-worth.

Many years passed, and the man’s own little boy grew up. He was attending Bible school when a phone call came that again would change this family’s life forever. The son of this man had tried to take his own life. The pattern was repeating itself—but this time, the ending would be different. This man finally felt pain so intense that he had no choice but to change. He finally let some of his walls of self-defense down and let God touch his pain, the pain that had been bottled up for so many years.

Father God, the Father this man had been searching for almost 40 years, came in and began to pour comfort and healing into the wounds of this man’s broken heart. He began to see God as the loving Father who would never leave him. He began to allow Father to heal him and his family. He began to realize that God was a Father to the fatherless, and it was only in His arms that he would find true comfort and healing for his wounds.

That little boy, that young man, that father, that pastor, is me. I’ve finally found the Father I’ve been looking for all my life. He wants to comfort you, to heal your pain the same way He healed mine. He is your Father, the perfect Dad you’ve been looking for all your life!

Register now for the Power of the Father’s Love Conference February 19 & 20, 2016 or visit our Events page for more info.