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Full Report – San Francisco

Thursday, June 30th, 2011


Thursday, June 16th 2011


framelineSome good friends of mine held a prayer meeting for a weekend trip to San Francisco for the Frameline Film Festival. One of my personal requests was that I would not feel alone. I had contacted two people to meet with me while I was there but had only one confirmation for Saturday. I also asked to pray for our critics and enemies. In the New Testament, Jesus and others give us the exhortation to pray for our enemies so in this situation I felt it appropriate to follow that model.


Friday, June 17th 2011


Sitting at the Memphis airport waiting to board my flight for Detroit, I received a phone call. It was from a new friend named Jeff who contacted me a year ago to talk with me about his story. He told me that he had just happened to go to his FaceBook account earlier that day and read my website blog. He scrolled down on the page and found out that I was coming to San Francisco where he lives.


Jeff asked if I might have some time to talk with him while I was there. I told him I had Friday evening and Sunday afternoon and evening open. He said he wanted to meet with me on Sunday afternoon so we put it down. I was hoping he would say Friday because I didn’t really want to just sit around after getting into San Francisco. A few minutes later, he called me back and asked if I wanted to have dinner with him on Friday. I was really glad he was open and began to relax about the weekend.


MirabelleHotel Mirabelle


So I took the BART subway train from the airport to San Francisco. Out of the subway station I walked just one half a block and saw my hotel! How easy was that? I found the bed and breakfast type of hotel to be clean, comfortable, and practical. It was the cheapest hotel I could find in San Francisco! I had also booked the hotel because it was just one block from the theater where the film was going to be presented.


When Jeff called to give me directions to where he was going to meet me for dinner it was just a few blocks from my hotel. That was great! So, at dinner time I walked out of the hotel and found an easy and quite beautiful walk to meet him. I stood on the street for a little while and then he called and said he was waiting inside the restaurant.


Dinner With Jeff at “Home Restaurant”


Home Restaurant

I found Jeff to be very hospitable, kind, and interesting. Jeff began to tell me that he had been involved with Love In Action in the early 1980’s. Since I arrived at LiA in the mid 1980’s we found common ground in people we knew. So we shared our history and we related in our journey with homosexuality and Christ. After several hours and lots of easy conversation we said goodnight and I walked back to my hotel.



Mission Beach Cafe2Breakfast with Morgan and Friends at Mission Beach Restaurant


Morgan Fox, the creator of the film we were going to see on Saturday, had texted me with information about meeting Saturday morning for breakfast with him and his friends. So Saturday morning I got up and looked at the map to find that the restaurant was just a few blocks away as well. I was familiar with the location since I had walked by it the night before so again, felt quite comfortable with the plan. Morgan’s partner was along on the trip, so at breakfast we met for the first time. I found him to be quiet but very pleasant.


I was feeling anxious as I sat there. I was in San Francisco at a LBGT film festival to see a screening of a film that focused on a critical view of the ministry I had been involved in for 22 years. I tried to come up with what was in my heart but found it hard to think and didn’t have any idea what to expect. So our conversation at breakfast was pleasant but distracted due to all of us being in thought about what was coming.


Mick at Victoria Theater


victoria_theater_thumbI had arranged with another friend, named Mick, whom I had known from the early 1990’s to get together on Saturday afternoon. He contacted me and said he would be coming to the film. I was glad to see a familiar face when I arrived at the theater for sure.


As Mick and I sat down at the theater he began to ask me about my recent history regarding the protests at Love In Action as well as what has gone on since my departure from Love In Action in 2008. As I talked, I realized that God was preparing my heart for what I might say when Morgan and I gave our opening statements at the presentation. I was amazed that God had provided me with the opportunity to process my thoughts with Mick in preparation for the film.


Then I looked up and saw another familiar face. He had made a mad dash across town to be at the film. It was so good to see him. Earlier on Saturday morning I was chatting on FaceBook with Ryan who was in Love In action in the early 1990’s. Amazingly, my wife was chatting with Ryan at the same time! We arranged for breakfast on Sunday. I had contacted another friend, who knew Ryan as well, for a Sunday breakfast but it wasn’t confirmed as yet.


A Film Shown Before Ours


There was one film that was going to be shown prior to Morgan’s film so I was curious to see it. It was titled “All We Need is Love.” It was a film about an 11 year old girl who lived in a world where being gay was the norm. As she grew she realized she was heterosexual and began to discover how hard it was to be heterosexual in a gay world. As the film moved on she was teased, bullied, and beat up. Her parents didn’t seem to understand what she was going through and she felt alienated and unheard.


As this film was moving along I began to feel fearful and anxious. I thought, “oh, boy, why did they have to show this film right before our film. This will raise the defensive emotional level in this audience and I could get slaughtered when they show Morgan’s film.” His film focused on a youth who was experiencing the same internal conflicts that little girl felt and his parents took him to Love In Action when he didn’t want to go. I actually came to the realization that I could get accosted maybe even physically beat up here. I just prayed asking for God’s grace no matter what. I had to go through this and also had to trust Him in it.


So, when Morgan and I got up to give an opening statement, from my recollection, this is what I said.


“In 2005, a huge protest uprooted my life. My entire world was rocked and through this one event I began to evaluate my spiritual, emotional, moral and ethical positions. Much like when Jesus came into our world and challenged the very core of our existence, Morgan Fox came into my world with this protest and challenged me deeply. (At that point I had tears in my eyes and heart.) Then we sat down and the film began.


I listened to every word in the film intently. I paid special attention to my own words. There were excerpts from media interviews as well as some from interviews with Morgan. My reactions swung from embarrassment to confidence. I realized that this one film was taking me through a season of my life when Jesus did some of the deepest work in my own heart that has been done in my entire Christian walk.


Questions


As the film ended the crew from the first film, and the folks from Morgan’s crew, including myself, walked to the stage. The audience was then asked for questions. After a couple of logistical questions about where the films could be seen again and how they could get them for themselves, the audience turned to questions for me.


To be honest, I don’t actually remember the questions or much of what I said. Two people filmed the question time so I’ll be able to find that out at a later date what was said. All I remember is that several people spoke to the negative issues represented but affirmed my being there to stand with Morgan and to represent the changes in my heart relating to what God had done in me. It was all quite respectful and appropriate.


Connection with Friends


Afterwards, there was a line of people to speak to me and we had to move our discussion out to the street. Two people stood out to me. One was a lady who came to me in tears. “John, your honesty and your heart changes along with your apology have healed a deep wound in my heart.” She hugged me closely and said “thank you so much.” Than another man came up to me and talked with me vulnerably about how he had felt alienated from the church. He spoke of his family’s rejection and the losses he had experienced. My heart went out to him and I told him to contact me if he felt I could be of any encouragement for him.


Phew, no one beat me up. No one was rude. No one was angry with me. Our prayers for our enemies had been answered. I am certain there must have been those in the audience that didn’t like me and were angry, but the Lord had kept them at bay and I am thankful.


Just Because I Love You


So, as we all prepared to go to lunch Ryan came up to me to give me his reactions. He said, “John, I had no idea you had gone through such a change in your heart. I came here to see you just because I loved you and your wife. You took me into your lives when I wasn’t able to see my own family. I felt a little anxious coming to see you because I figured you were going to challenge me with something “out of love”. But I just put that aside and decided to see you out of being friends even if we disagreed.” He then told me of his shock when he heard my apology and that I had discovered a new perspective of grace. I was humbled that this man would come to see me even though he felt challenged by the potential of disunity.


Mick came with us to lunch so there we were on one side of the table were Morgan and his friends, the other side were my friends with me. As the discussion began, Ryan took the lead and began to ask questions and make comments about our history from years ago. It was a lively discussion especially when in front of the crew who just premiered their film that was posed against Love In Action. They found it interesting to meet these men with a Love In Action history.


Hotel PatioAfter lunch, Mick and went off to spend some quality one on one time at my hotel. As we talked our hearts were knit together once again. We were really good friends when we had lived near each other in the early 1990’s but hadn’t spoken at all since then. Mick told his story of how he had come to accept his homosexuality and that he had been with his partner for 14 years now. He talked about their involvement in a home bible study and how connected they were to their Christian fellowship and friends. I told him how my life had been and the things I had experienced through the years. I think we were both captured by the grace of God in each of our lives.



Oh, My Gosh, Something is Different


After a couple of hours we walked several blocks to have dinner together. As we got to Chow restaurant and sat down in the window along the sidewalk something stirred in my heart and I was rapt with something in my heart. I looked around me and saw about 90 percent of the people were gay. Here I was in San Francisco, just a few blocks from the Castro, the gay district. I was across the bay from where Love In Action was founded and I lived for 8 years. I was captured by this dichotomy and the current situation.


Chow - SFAs I looked around at the diversity of those in the restaurant and those who were walking by the window I realized for the first time I didn’t feel fearful of these people. Rather I saw them as men, woman, young and old, just people. I recognized that I was feeling a kind of camaraderie with them and a love for them.


Through the 22 years I was involved with Love In Action I would often say I loved the homosexual community. But that night I realized that I had loved with conditions on my love. I felt softened towards a homosexual if they were seeking Love In Action’s help but when I thought of homosexuals in San Francisco I just felt darkness, a type of pungency that kept me away. I saw San Francisco as a dark horrific place where people were lost, rebellious, anti God!



How Will You Ever Encourage Them, If You Don’t Love Them?


All of a sudden something in my soul said, “How will you ever encourage them if you don’t love them?” That’s it! I didn’t love them. I had a boundary, a barrier, a wall that I was unwilling to see through or climb. But this day, once again, Morgan Fox was used to break down another wall. His film brought me to San Francisco where God would reveal to me my own heart of judgment and showed me His heart of grace. I was in tears in front of Mick as I told him what had just occurred to me.


We finished dinner and Mick walked with me back to my hotel on his way to his car. We embraced and talked of how wonderful it was to know each other again in this season of our life.


A Good Day!


I felt fulfilled from the day. I sensed an amazing dose of God’s heart, His grace and mercy upon me. I felt protected and connected rather than fearful and alone.


Sunday June 19th, 2011 at “It’s Tops Diner”


Its Tops DinerSo, Sunday morning came. Ryan sent me a text and said that in fact, our friend Michael was going to meet us for breakfast. I was elated. I always loved Michael but hadn’t seen him for 15 or more years either. When I got to the restaurant Ryan had just arrived. When we sat down he said, “John, I had to do a pretty good sales job to get Michael to come this morning. He was feeling angst and asked me if I knew why “John Smid” wanted to see us. He said Michael, like Ryan was on Saturday, was tenuous about our meeting.


I felt grieved about what he said. I thought I always loved them with unconditional love. But as he shared of their fears of being with me I realized that they didn’t see the same unconditional love that I thought I was showing them. Obviously, in their angst, they felt conditions and expectations might be in play here.


Ryan was single and had accepted his homosexuality. He is deeply involved in events connected to the San Francisco gay community. Michael had also accepted his homosexuality and had been with a long term partner for over 6 years.


When Michael arrived, I began by telling him that I wanted to put him at ease. I told him of how God had broken my heart open for the gay community and that I was not here to confront him for his homosexuality or for him having a partner. As I sat there looking at a man I had known so well over 15 years earlier I saw his soul and could clearly look past anything that was on the surface of his life. I saw the same man I had known and loved earlier in our lives.


During our conversation, Ryan mentioned to me that he had chosen to divest his gifts and passions in fund raising and support of organizations he felt were doing really good things. He said that years ago he felt alienated from the church but still had a heart for missions and reaching people. So since he couldn’t find a place that would accept him as a homosexual in a Christian place, he found other places to fit. He talked of how the Gay Games of San Francisco embraced him and wanted him to help them. He felt significant. But along the way he had distanced himself from any public or outward connection to God but he knew that God was still with him inside.


Michael began to tell me his story. He said that when he was in his early 20’s he remembers “hiring Jesus” to fix him. He said that when Jesus didn’t seem to do what He had been hired to do he became disenchanted with God and just walked away. He came to accept that he was gay and met his partner. He said he hadn’t been in any church or read a bible in many years.


As I heard their stories my heart broke. Here were these two men that I loved dearly years ago. When I knew them their hearts were expectant for God to move and were soft towards His mercy. But when they got discouraged and lost hope they went away and those who said they loved them abandoned them. They left them because these two men weren’t performing like the others wanted them to so they just virtually left them on the street.


I was one of those who did that. I remember distinctly when I heard that Ryan was living in San Francisco. I was frustrated with his choices and just accused him of being rebellious. I thought, “why would anyone who is a Christian with homosexual desires want to live in that city if they were pursuing God?” I didn’t really care about Ryan, all I was interested in was someone agreeing with me and following my expectations. And Michael? I had lost touch with him. When I found him on FaceBook I saw that he was with a same sex partner and living in San Francisco.


This day, sitting in a diner on Market Street in San Francisco, I was in their living room of life. As I saw their faces and heard their hearts, how could I possibly be judgmental about their lives? I felt nothing but respect for their honesty, and was privileged to hear their stories.


So, God seemed to speak to me and I looked at Michael in the eyes and said, “Michael, I want you to know something. I want you to hear the truth. You ARE God’s best. Not your flesh or your life choices, YOU! You, Michael, Are God’s absolute BEST!”


I followed with an apology.


“Michael, Ryan, Please forgive me for anything I have said, done, or represented that has ever communicated to you that you are anything less than loved by God deeply, richly, and that you are both His absolute BEST!”


I was amazed and almost wept during our conversation. I saw an aspect of God’s amazing grace at work right before my eyes! The changes in the hearts of these two men were almost instantaneous. I began to reflect on something that Paul said in the book of Romans, “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.


We went on to spend the next hour or so encouraging each other in our lives and in our faith. We dug into the truth of God’s Spirit in each of us regardless of all lf the shortcomings and imperfections in our life of flesh. We talked of how God’s desires for us are always for good and that He never leaves us nor forsakes us.


jewelMichael then told me something he remembered from way back almost 20 years ago. He said, “John, I remember you telling me that I was a ‘Jewel’ and to never forget my testimony. You told me that people were always drawn to me and would remember me.”


I said, “Michael, how cool is that. It is true! You are a “Jewel” and I have never forgotten you. And… this is your testimony. The dark times, the invisible times of Jesus, and the good times, your life is your testimony. You are on the Journey of Christ!”


He said he and his partner were moving to Southern California and that he was looking forward to a new beginning in life. He said that this conversation gave him hope that maybe his new beginning would include renewing his relationship with Christ.


Oh, I sighed and then Ryan said that he also was looking to a new beginning with God. His plans are to hike the Appalachian Trail next spring and that he was looking forward to finding God there and gaining a renewed life. He talked about how being with me this weekend and hearing my story of God’s grace caused him to see the dominoes in his own life had begun to fall down rapidly this weekend.


A FaceBook Message From Mick


facebookmailFaceBook played a very significant role in this weekend.  Connecting with friends from California became an impetus for me to go to San Francisco for the festival. Throughout the weekend, it was a communication tool to keep me intouch with several friends I was meeting with as well as some comments after the meetings. Mick, my friend who came to the film, wrote me and said he felt deeply encouraged and renewed in his own faith through our conversation on Saturday. All three men told me how much they looked forward to keeping in touch and following through with what God began this weekend.


So, I went back to my hotel just for a short break to get ready to meet my other friend Jeff, from Friday evening. He was bringing along with him a friend who was in town for the weekend. This man, Samuel, had been in Love In Action in the early 1980’s with Jeff. So, we met at a hang out on Market Street in the middle of the gay community. As I sat there I felt a little uncomfortable because it was more of a social gay atmosphere. But I prayed and continued to see God’s grace there too.


As Jeff and Samuel and I got together Jeff had brought two other people with him. They were a heterosexual married couple who just happened to live in Omaha, my home town. How curious is that? As we began to talk, they brought up that they knew there were Christian programs that targeted gay youth to try to change them. I said, “That would have been me.” I went on to say that from what I knew we were the only “program” for youth and that the film I was involved with was critical of that very program. How interesting?


Then Jeff, Samuel and I went to dinner and reminisced about all of the friends from “way back when.” And caught each other up to date on those we had updates on.


As I got back to my hotel I realized that God had sent Jeff at the last minute to be my host for the weekend. Bookends from Friday night and Sunday night, Mark brought security and comfort to my angst of being all by myself in San Francisco. God had removed my enemies. God had provided incredible connections with others for encouragement and support. I had all of a couple of “free” hours of time in all three days. He broke open a new part of my heart for the gay community and showed me the value of His grace at work miraculously!


So, we’ll see what is next. This is only a milepost on my Journey of Grace.


Other Articles on Homosexuality

 

How can you impact them, if you don’t love them?

Saturday, June 25th, 2011




After a couple of hours talking on the Chow - SFpatio of my hotel, we walked several blocks to have dinner together. As we got to the  Chow restaurant and sat down in the window along the sidewalk something stirred in my heart and I was rapt with something in my heart. I looked around me and saw about 90 percent of the people were gay. Here I was in San Francisco, just a few blocks from the Castro, the gay district. I was across the bay from where Love In Action was founded and I lived for 8 years. I was captured by this dichotomy and the current situation.


As I looked around at the diversity of those in the restaurant and those who were walking by the window I realized for the first time I didn’t feel fearful of these people. Rather I saw them as men, woman, young and old, just people. I recognized that I was feeling a kind of camaraderie with them and a love for them.


Through the 22 years I was involved with Love In Action I would often say I loved the homosexual community. But that night I realized that I had loved with conditions on my love. I felt softened towards a homosexual if they were seeking Love In Action’s help but when I thought of homosexuals in San Francisco I just felt darkness, a type of pungency that kept me away. I saw San Francisco as a dark horrific place where people were lost, rebellious, anti God!


How Will You Ever Impact Them, If You Don’t Love Them?


All of a sudden something in my soul said, “How will you ever shoe them God’s love if you don’t love them?” That’s it! I didn’t love them. I had a boundary, a barrier, a wall that I was unwilling to see through or climb. But this day, once again, Morgan Fox was used to break down another wall. His film brought me to San Francisco where God would reveal to me my own heart of judgment and showed me His heart of grace. I was in tears in front of Mick as I told him what had just occurred to me.


We finished dinner and Mick walked with me back to my hotel on his way to his car. We embraced and talked of how wonderful it was to know each other again in this season of our life.


Full Report on Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco


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Report on the Film in San Francisco

Saturday, June 25th, 2011


MLG-MJF-LIA

So much happened over my weekend in San Francisco I felt compelled to write a report so I wouldn’t forget some important details.  I was surprised at how overwhelmingly wonderful the weekend was that my few words from my memory became seven pages of incredible stories of the abundance of God’s provision and grace.


I am only sharing in this post about the time I was at the theater for the premier of “This is What Love In Action Looks Like”. I will reveal more of the other stories at a later point.



Thursday, June 16th

Some good friends of mine held a prayer meeting for a weekend trip to San Francisco for the Frameline Film Festival. One of my personal requests was that I would not feel alone. I had contacted two people to meet with me while I was there but had only one confirmation for Saturday. I also asked to pray for our critics and enemies. In the New Testament, Jesus and others give us the exhortation to pray for our enemies so in this situation I felt it appropriate to follow that model.


Friday, June 17th

Sitting at the Memphis airport waiting to board my flight for Detroit, I received a phone call. It was from a new friend named Jeff who contacted me a year ago to talk with me about his story. He told me that he had just happened to go to his FaceBook account earlier that day and read my website blog. He scrolled down on the page and found out that I was coming to San Francisco where he lives.


Jeff asked if I might have some time to talk with him while I was there. I told him I had Friday evening and Sunday afternoon and evening open. He said he wanted to meet with me on Sunday afternoon so we put it down. I was hoping he would say Friday because I didn’t really want to just sit around after getting into San Francisco. A few minutes later, he called me back and asked if I wanted to have dinner with him on Friday. I was really glad he was open and began to relax about the weekend.


MirabelleSo I took the BART subway train from the airport to San Francisco. Out of the subway station I walked just one half a block and saw Hotel Mirabelle! How easy was that? I found the bed and breakfast type of hotel to be clean, comfortable, and practical. My room was the second floor left bay window. It was the cheapest hotel I could find in San Francisco! I had also booked the hotel because it was just one block from the theater where the film was going to be presented.


When Jeff called to give me directions to where he was going to meet me for dinner it was just a few blocks from my hotel. That was great! So, at dinner time I walked out of the hotel and found an easy and quite beautiful walk to meet him. I stood on the street for a little while and then he called and said he was waiting inside the restaurant.




Home RestaurantDinner With Jeff

I found Jeff to be very hospitable, kind, and interesting. Jeff began to tell me that he had been involved with Love In Action in the early 1980’s. Since I arrived at LiA in the mid 1980’s we found common ground in people we knew. So we shared our history and we related in our journey with homosexuality and Christ. After several hours and lots of easy conversation we said goodnight and I walked back to my hotel.


Mission Beach Cafe2Breakfast with Morgan and His Friends

Morgan Fox, the creator of the film we were going to see on Saturday, had texted me with information about meeting Saturday morning for breakfast with him and his friends. So Saturday morning I got up and looked at the map to find that the restaurant was just a few blocks away as well. I was familiar with the location since I had walked by it the night before so again, felt quite comfortable with the plan. Morgan’s partner was along on the trip, so we met for the first time. I found him to be quiet but very pleasant.


I was feeling anxious as I sat there. I was in San Francisco at a LBGT film festival to see a screening of a film that focused on a critical view of the ministry I had been involved in for 22 years. I tried to come up with what was in my heart but found it hard to think and didn’t have any idea what to expect. So our conversation at breakfast was pleasant but distracted due to all of us being in thought about what was coming.


victoria_theater_thumbMick at the Theater

I had arranged with another friend, named Mick, whom I had known from the early 1990’s to get together on Saturday afternoon. He contacted me and said he would be coming to the film. I was glad to see a familiar face when I arrived at the theater for sure.


As Mick and I sat down at the theater he began to ask me about my recent history regarding the protests at Love In Action as well as what has gone on since my departure from Love In Action in 2008. As I talked, I realized that God was preparing my heart for what I might say when Morgan and I gave our opening statements at the presentation. I was amazed that God had provided me with the opportunity to process my thoughts with Mick in preparation for the film.


Then I looked up and saw another familiar face. He had made a mad dash across town to be at the film. It was so good to see him. Earlier on Saturday morning I was chatting on FaceBook with Ryan who was in Love In action in the early 1990’s. Amazingly, my wife was chatting with Ryan at the same time! We arranged for breakfast on Sunday. I had contacted another friend, who knew Ryan as well, for a Sunday breakfast but it wasn’t confirmed as yet.


A Film Shown Before Ours

There was one film that was going to be shown prior to Morgan’s film so I was curious to see it. It was titled “All We Need is Love.” It was a film about an 11 year old girl who lived in a world where being gay was the norm. As she grew she realized she was heterosexual and began to discover how hard it was to be heterosexual in a gay world. As the film moved on she was teased, bullied, and beat up. Her parents didn’t seem to understand what she was going through and she felt alienated and unheard.


As this film was moving along I began to feel fearful and anxious. I thought, “oh, boy, why did they have to show this film right before our film. This will raise the defensive emotional level in this audience and I could get slaughtered when they show Morgan’s film.” His film focused on a youth who was experiencing the same internal conflicts that little girl felt and his parents took him to Love In Action when he didn’t want to go. I actually came to the realization that I could get accosted maybe even physically beat up here. I just prayed asking for God’s grace no matter what. I had to go through this and also had to trust Him in it.


So, when Morgan and I got up to give an opening statement, from my recollection, this is what I said.


“In 2005, a huge protest uprooted my life. My entire world was rocked and through this one event I began to evaluate my spiritual, emotional, moral and ethical positions. When Jesus came into our world He challenged the very core of our culture. This protest challenged me deeply. (At that point I had tears in my eyes and heart.) Then we sat down and the film began.


I listened to every word in the film intently. I paid special attention to my own words. There were excerpts from media interviews as well as some from interviews with Morgan. My reactions swung from embarrassment to confidence. I realized that this one film was taking me through a season of my life when Jesus did some of the deepest work in my own heart that has been done in my entire Christian walk.


Questions

As the film ended the crew from the first film, and the folks from Morgan’s crew, including myself, walked to the stage. The audience was then asked for questions. After a couple of logistical questions about where the films could be seen again and how they could get them for themselves, the audience turned to questions for me.

To be honest, I don’t actually remember the questions or much of what I said. Two people filmed the question time so I’ll be able to find that out at a later date what was said. All I remember is that several people spoke to the negative issues represented but affirmed my being there to stand with Morgan and to represent the changes in my heart relating to what God had done in me. It was all quite respectful and appropriate.


Personal Contacts

Afterwards, there was a line of people to speak to me and we had to move our discussion out to the street. Two people stood out to me. One was a lady who came to me in tears. “John, your honesty and your heart changes along with your apology have healed a deep wound in my heart.” She hugged me closely and said “thank you so much.” Than another man came up to me and talked with me vulnerably about how he had felt alienated from the church. He spoke of his family’s rejection and the losses he had experienced. My heart went out to him and I told him to contact me if he felt I could be of any encouragement for him.


Phew, no one beat me up. No one was rude. No one was angry with me. Our prayers for our critics had been answered. I am certain there must have been those in the audience that didn’t like me and were angry, but the Lord had kept them at bay and I am thankful.



If you want to read the full report on my weekend in San Francisco please go to the link below.



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Other Articles on Homosexuality


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“This Is What Love In Action Looks Like”

Thursday, June 16th, 2011



John, I saw that there is a documentary on Face Book that is about the story of the protests that occurred many years ago against the youth program at Love In Action when you were the director there.  I saw your picture on the FaceBook page of the documentary and wondered what you think about this film?  –  Joshua P.


JohnSmidReflectiveShotB&WFantasyBackgroundDear Joshua,


Yes, there is a new documentary coming out called; “This Is What Love In Action Looks Like”.  I am interviewed on this documentary. I will be attending the premier on June 18, 2011.  I’d like to talk about my involvement in this film so that you will see what my role is and how I have been involved.  –  John




LIA ProtestA phone call from Morgan Fox came into my office:

“Hello, Morgan? Yes, I know you are producing a documentary about the protests at Love In Action this year. What? Your asking if I will do an interview with you for the documentary? I’ll think about it and my Communications Director will get back with you.”


I had no intention of being any part of this documentary. The Love In Action staff discussed Morgan’s proposal and decided it would be best to remain silent and allow it to be what it would be without any words from me. I was frustrated about the fact that there was a protest and even more that it was being chronicled by someone I believed to be a fringe film artist in the gay community. I wanted no part of any of it.


Six years later here I am, interviewed on the film. What changed?


After an initial meeting with Morgan in 2005, while I was still the Director of Love In Action, we decided to meet again for casual talks over coffee. I began to  hear his heart. I grew to have a different perspective of him, and learned new things about myself. I had begun to see him as a person with talent and a tremendous heart for people. After several lengthy talks, I grew to respect and admire his honesty and authenticity.



At one point, a few months after I left Love In Action in 2008, I began to further process the effects of the protests. I began to feel responsible for some of the negative effects on some of the youth that were highlighted in the protest. I  talked with Morgan about being interviewed for his film. “Morgan, when I was still at Love In Action, our decision to remove ourselves from the film took into consideration my position and the ministry. But now, I am no longer with Love In Action. I feel an obligation to address some of the questions that linger. I will not speak “for” Love In Action, but am willing to share my own thoughts.”


The Filming Began

John Interview-foxSo, we began to schedule the interviews. I spent many hours with Morgan in front of a camera sharing my life story, answering questions about my 22 year work with Love In Action. We also drove around town to different spots for “B” roll footage for the documentary.


During one film session we were in my office for several hours. Towards the end of a tiring day, the person interviewing me began to ask me for my perspective about the day of the first protest. I looked over at Morgan and a bolt of nervous laughter came from both of our hearts. It was one of those “you had to have been there” moments where we just couldn’t gain control.


Morgan got up and left the room so that the interview could continue. But afterwards we talked about our reaction to  the protest. We had stayed away from talking about the protest so it was somehow tucked into our memories and hadn’t come up. Our talks were about each other, about our hearts, our families and our passions. We realized that we both had uncomfortable feelings about June 6th, 2005, the day the protests began. We decided to have a meeting just to talk about those days and got honest about our feelings and how they had changed through the years.


A Unique Kind of Partnership

Morgan and John - colorAs the film was worked into a DVD, Morgan and I talked a lot about it. We discussed the different directions it could take. I shared my thoughts, Morgan shared his, and it became a kind of project that we both flushed out together. Of course, there were many advisers that I hadn’t even met that helped him with the project. But, I felt valued that he would allow me into the discussion.


A Preview Copy of the Poject

A couple of months ago this year (2011), almost five years later, Morgan gave me a copy of the DVD that was close to being finished. I sat down and watched it. I didn’t like it! I didn’t like it at all. I was surprised that I had the feelings that I was experiencing as I moved through it. It seemed to be hours long. I just wanted it to be over.


“Wow, now what am I going to do? I am sure Morgan will ask me what I think of it.”


I sat down and tried to write down all of my thoughts on what I had seen. I critiqued it with what I thought was an honest heart. I wrote a long detailed list of things I wanted to say to him about the film. Then I set a date to meet with Morgan to share what was on my mind. I wasn’t looking forward to our discussion. I believed that our friendship had developed an honest foundation and I knew I had to level with him about my review of the film.


As I looked over the list, I realized that I had one primary emotional reaction; embarrassment! I felt embarrassed to be on the film. I felt embarrassed about the negative light that was presented about Love In Action. I realized that in a way, the entire documentary was focused on “John Smid” and his actions. The interviews with those that had spoken negatively about their experience with Love In Action were glaring in my face. There were a couple of people who were positive, but vast majority of the film is challenging the very nature of the ministry that I worked with for 22 years.


Initially, I didn’t want anything to do with this film or its release. I just wanted to go hide in a corner and not be seen by anyone. As I reviewed my list, I wondered how Morgan would take my reaction? I wondered what this do to our growing relationship? Would this be the end of our friendship? Would all of our time together getting to know each other get washed down the drain? I had grown to care about Morgan as a person and looked forward to what may occur in the future.


Our appointment to discuss the film was postponed and it gave me more time to think about my reaction to the film. I realized now that it wasn’t that I necessarily disagreed with the content, or many of the challenges within it. I saw that there were changes in my own heart since leaving Love In Action. I was gaining awareness of where I had made mistakes that had hurt people and had produced some challenging outcomes. I wanted to be able to accept responsibility.


I Have To Get Real

The “Refuge Program” for youth  was the highlight of the film. It had been laid out with some flaws in its design. As a two week “day” program it allowed parents to register their kids without their overall desire to be there. We just rationalized that it was a good thing for the kids and even if they didn’t like it. We believed it would be in their best interest to come if their parents wanted them there. I paid little attention to the things that some parents did to coerce, or to manipulate their teens to come.


There was no requirement for the parents to participate in anything for themselves other than a support group meeting once a week. This left gaping holes in the structure that was for some, destructive to the parent/child relationship. The kids did pretty well while they were with us during the day. But going home each evening, for some of the kids, became a probing nightmare of questions and expectations. Upon completion, some of the kids went home to a family dynamic that hadn’t changed at all. This left them with further wounding places in their heart and some didn’t survive this very well.


After the program had run for a couple of months, I was engaged in a staff meeting. We reviewed some things about the program and our staff discussed revamping the Refuge Program. We realized that it was all based on the wrong people. We designed a new program that was an intensive program for the parents. If their kids wanted to come we would do a thorough interview with them to make sure it was their idea and desire. This became our new program and the Refuge Program had ceased. I felt fearful of the protesters finding out that we had changed the program. I didn’t want them to think they had won this battle. I just rationalized that it was our observation and our idea to rework the program.


In review of the DVD I also felt conflicted about it’s content.  Some of the information and interviews stemmed from the adult program. The programs were quite different from each other. The adult program was a residential program for man and women who were there because they had applied and been accepted through their own efforts.  Though some of the same material was taught and some of the groups were together, the application process and mindset were distinctly different.  I was concerned that the viewers of the film may think the reviews of the information would not separate the different programs.


I now completely agree that an underage teenager should not be manipulated or coerced into this kind of program against their own convictions and willingness to participate. To do so would be counter productive.


I Feel Embarrassed

Morgan Jon FoxSo, after I had looked back over this situation, I realized that even though I felt embarrassed and conflicted, I couldn’t disagree with the documentary’s focus. Morgan and I got together and I began to share honestly the things that I had written down that were challenging me about the film. I started with, “Morgan, I feel embarrassed about being seen in the film.


“His face dropped into disappointment. He said, “I’m sorry, John. I didn’t mean……” I said, “No, Morgan, this is about me and my reaction. It isn’t about you or what you produced. His honest response to my comment allowed a very vulnerable conversation to come out. He was humble and yet honest himself. I went on to explain more of my agreement that I had been wrong and that we had done some things that needed correction.


My comments went on to more about things based on fact rather than the concept of the film. Our discussion was one more experience of two men who can disagree, grapple through things, and walk away with a respect towards each other. It was a good discussion with Morgan. I had feared this for nothing.


An Invitation to the Premier

Morgan went even further. He invited me to attend the premier of the film. It was to take place in San Francisco at the FrameLine Film Festival. FrameLine is a Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender community focused event. I had to go away and think about his invitation for sure. He also asked me to be a part of the panel for questions after the film is shown.


My first response was to not even consider going. I still wasn’t feeling so positive about the film and didn’t want to be further exposed by standing right there in front of the crowd who just saw the film.


But as the weeks have gone by, I realize that now I want to stand up in front, beside Morgan and say to the crowd, “this is my friend Morgan Fox.” I also wanted to be honest and take the heat of the film and be responsible for the mistakes I had made. I want the teens in the film, or in the audience, to  know my heart. I want them to know that I hear them and to make amends for the things that lay at my feet of responsibility.


framelineFriday, June 17th 2011, I will be flying to San Francisco.


I’ll be meeting with Morgan and his friends prior to the presentation of “This Is What Love In Action Looks Like.” We’ll see the film together with the audience. I’ll stand beside Morgan at the end to listen to comments and take questions. I am trusting that God, my Lord, Jesus, will be with each of us and that He will make a way through this difficult challenge.


I may still feel very embarrassed to be in that spot. I will probably feel anxious and curious to walk this through.


But, I do not regret for one minute the outcome of the protests of 2005. Those protests helped to set the stage for many changes that came into my life over the next several years. In 2008, I left Love In Action. I found a new sense of God, His grace, and His love for all people. I have met some wonderful new friends and they have taught me more about grace, God’s forgiveness, and how prejudiced I had been. So, in some ways, this film is a mark in my own life that I don’t want to forget. Morgan has helped me to discover more of who I am because of who he is as a person, and as a friend.


new product shot front  cover whiteI’ll also be promoting my new book “A Journey of Grace”.  The book is based on how to build and maintain healthy relationships through using nine core values. It contains a storyline that shows the history of how Morgan and I developed a friendship through the years. I also includes an editorial of the book by Morgan.


So, here we go! The premier will set the mark!


During one of our film interviews Morgan and I talked about how we had developed a friendship. One of the technical assistants said, “Hum. Morgan, isn’t this title interesting?”


Morgan and I looked at each other and realized that it has a great title. The behind the scenes victory is how we once were enemies, and now we are friends. Through my involvement with Morgan as this film has been developed it has shown me:


This — Is What Love, In Action, Looks Like.


MLG-MJF-LIA













Connected Articles

by John J. Smid from Grace Rivers Ministry


Changes in My Own Heart


A New Life – a testimony by John Smid


A Letter of Apology by John Smid


Love Your Enemy


Articles on Homosexuality



Links of Interest:


This is What Love In Action Looks Like – Blog


Information for Frameline Festival Premier


Premier Announcement from “Live From Memphis”.


 

“Ex’d Out” Coming Soon!

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011



ExdOut cover pic-cropNew Book by John Smid is coming out soon!


Ex’d Out – How I Fired the Shame committee is currently being designed and will be available soon.


The protest in Memphis on June 2005 brought a challenge to John Smid’s heart and to his belief system.  Since that day, there has been a dramatic transition of thought.  John has created a manuscript of the major challenges and his reactions to those challenges that is now in the process of becoming a book.




John Smid at GCN 2012-web flipAfter twenty-three years of faithful service to hundreds, if not thousands of men and women through a formal ministry called “Love In Action,” John resigned in May of 2008.


John has been known worldwide as one of the stable men who fought fearlessly for the truth of God that he believed condemned the practice of homosexuality. His ministry included one of the largest ministries that also included a residential program unparalleled other models of ministry that proclaimed “Freedom from Homosexuality through Jesus Christ.”


His ministry included speaking and leading conferences on three continents and travelling throughout the United States to release thousands of pages of personally written material into the hands of those hurting and desiring to hear that God could and would dramatically change someone’s sexuality so that homosexuality would no longer be a burden.


It was at the time of his resignation after several years of painful stress and personal challenges, that he chose not to make any plans for his future and prayed, “God, I don’t want to contrive my future plans, so surprise me!”


During the next four years, John began to evaluate his years of ministry and realized that there was something new coming directly from God that changed his entire baseline of thought. He also realized that he had made many mistakes. So, John took a deep personal inventory and has chosen to write an extensive weekly web-blog which would later also include a formal acknowledgement of the ways he feels he has been wrong.


Through these pages you will find not only vulnerable and extensive personal process, but also a serious apology unlike any that has been written before by anyone who was in leadership within the culture of what has been known as “Ex-gay” ministry.


John will also share with you the dramatic transition he has gone through that has brought waves of questions and shock to those involved in the communities he served for over two decades.


Morgan Jon FoxMorgan Jon Fox

June 6th, 2005 a major protest occurred at a ministry that John was leading called “Love In Action”. The protests were organized by Morgan Jon Fox, a local Memphis film producer. The protests created an international stir which would have naturally created a field of animosity to sort out. Morgan developed a documentary called “This is What Love In Action Looks Like” that chronicles the two week protest event.  Due to their conflicting positions that drove a wedge between John and Morgan, it was clear that these two were virtual enemies. Amazingly, John and Morgan developed a respectful friendship stemming from honesty, and being open with each other.


John  asked Morgan to write his thoughts on the book. This excerpt from what Morgan wrote gives some insights as to how Morgan saw these tools work in his relationship with John.


“Over time as me and John began to meet more and more we had long conversations about what was going on in our lives. We both shared deeply personal things about our families and friends. We didn’t debate, or argue about our differences. What this allowed was a chance for two people to find out they had plenty in common without dwelling on what made them opposites. It created a mutual respect that would lay the foundation for growth and trust. It opened the door for something I never could have seen coming…a friendship.”


Morgan Jon Fox, Love In Action Protestor; Filmmaker – Sawed Off Productions


***************************

 

Grace, Grace – God’s Grace

Friday, June 10th, 2011


Clouds and forest in the valeyFrom up here it’s all beautiful.


What is the big picture of our life with God? It is a picture of all of life framed in grace. God’s design from the very beginning of creation was to show us His abundant love. His intent was to offer us forgiveness. Was it a surprise that Adam sinned? I think not. He had a plan that was to be revealed over time. After a season of allowing the human race to run amok he offered extravagant forgiveness through the cross. As I am thinking of His love I am reminded of a wonderful hymn:


Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin.


Do you believe that His grace is greater than your worst sin? Your darkest shame? It’s not about being able to recite “I am forgiven”. What I am talking about here is do you KNOW and have EXPERIENCED His grace personally?


I am reading a book called “Connecting” by Larry Crabb. I am amazed to find that this book is written to convey so much of the same message I have been embracing for some time now. At times I feel very alone as I speak about the amazing nature of God’s grace. I have come to realize that many who know Christ have not truly experienced His transforming grace.


In Larry’s book he says “the most powerful thing we can do to help someone to change is to offer them a rich taste of God’s incredible goodness in the New Covenant. He looks at us with eyes of delight, with eyes that see goodness beneath the mess, with a heart that beats wildly with excitement over who we are and who we will become. Sometimes he exposes what we are convinced would make Him turn away in disgust in order to amaze us with His grace. That is connecting. When we connect like that, we can change people’s lives.”


Did you hear that? “Sometimes he exposes what we are convinced would make Him turn away in disgust in order to amaze us with His grace.”


The Pharisees exhibited the antithesis of this truth. This is why I believe Jesus was preaching so strongly to their legalism. This is why I have become so disenchanted with some organized churches that promote works oriented gospels. I often hear spoken the notion that Jesus will turn away from us when we need Him the most.


I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either. Matthew 23:12-14 (The Message)


Why did Jesus see their teaching as a roadblock to God’s kingdom?

They were legalists teaching a works oriented lifestyle. They were leading the lost into believing they had to follow laws to please God. Many of them were blind to see the message of Jesus as being valid. A message of God’s incredible grace.  I once saw Jesus’ messages in the gospels as seemingly harsh, even at times uncaring. But in further process I found that this was typically true when Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees.  To those who were willing to admit they needed help He was kind, gracious, and forgiving. He exhibited sharp direct responses to those who blocked others from His message of grace.


I was speaking to a group of business men about God being present with us in our worst sin. I said that God never leaves us, nor does he forsake us no matter where we are or what we are doing.  I talked about my own life experience when God and I had a very meaningful conversation as I was involved in something that was clearly wrong. It was in our conversation that I discovered a deeper level of relationship with Him.  I spoke of the loving reality that God’s presence is with us in the darkest part of our hearts and lives. One man stood and said, “John, you are preaching a gospel from the pit of hell!” “I’ll never agree that God is with us when we are in sin behavior!”


What?


Oh, my goodness. If I thought God abandoned me in my greatest hour of need then I would also think I had to do life all by myself. The thought that He somehow comes and goes from my life based on my behaviors reminds me of human conditional love that can’t handle my imperfections. God is certainly present at all times and in all situations even though He may feel grieved, His arms are always present and reaching out to me.  His first example of this was shown in the way he searched for Adam after he sinned. Think about it, Adam’s choice to disobey God cost all of humanity the garden of life that God established.  And yet, God was grieved and searched for Adam with His desire to connect.  God shows His never ending passion to be with us. We run from Him and attempt to hide while He desires us to acknowledge His presence when we are in sin.  How else can we deal with it?  Without Him we are left with our own inability to do anything to please Him.


Grace on the Streets


A good friend said that his church decided that on Good Friday two years ago they wanted to show God’s love to the gay community in the heart of a prominent city. They decided the best way they could do that was to set up a communion table on the street offering God’s grace through giving them communion to anyone who wanted to come.  They were shocked to find how many came to them and sobbed as they walked up to the table. They found a spiritual hunger that was great and they prayed for those who came seeking His grace. Tears were shed, lives were encouraged, and Jesus was lifted high in their display of acceptance and unconditional love.


Whoa!  In some circles that would be heretical!  Some would consider that unholy and potentially blasphemous!  I could imagine some churches, some pastors, some denominations that would never consider doing such a thing. They might be standing at the doors of their churches with invitation but what about an outward expression of love? Jesus went to the byways to seek those that needed His touch. But can you imagine what the people in that community might have thought?  I am sure the grace that was present in the presentation of communion for them was profound!


woman_at_the_wellWhen I heard this story, I wept.  I thought, that is exactly what Jesus would have done – actually, that is exactly what He did! On many occasions Jesus offered Himself to those that were seemingly, according the culture, not clean enough for His presence.  Well, none of us are.


I am just beginning to grasp His goodness, His love for me. It is my prayer and hope that I will continue to grow more and more in embracing Him this way. Knowing grace like this has been a freedom that I have never understood before. I have been freed from the practice of manipulating others into a conforming life because I no longer believe I need to conform to be accepted by Him. Rather, my deepest desire is to show the real Jesus to those that are struggling with life. The Jesus that loves us right where we are with a redeeming intensity and an overreaching cover that only He can provide.


I was speaking with a friend the other day and he said, “John, aren’t you speaking of a permissive religion?” As I thought of that word, “permissive” I realized that when we fear permissiveness, we attempt to apply the law to somehow control other’s lives into conformity. This kind of practice will never produce a transformed life. It is when we realize we are completely and totally free that we finally take responsibility for our own lives and understand what grace is really all about.


Larry’s book also says, “God’s method is neither to merely issue commands from the general’s tent (do what is right) nor to improve the functioning of diseased organs (fix what is wrong). Instead he becomes so intimately a part of us that we want to resist whatever he doesn’t like and release the good things he has aroused within us.”


This is the truth that I discovered over a year ago. When we grasp His love, our desires change quite naturally to conform to His, not as a cultural or social modification. This is done without someone standing over us with a stick warning us of the wrongs of our ways. In a conversation with someone about this they said, “don’t we have to teach people about what it right and wrong?” My reply was, “I think we already know, don’t we?” He has spoken to our hearts from His and I believe as followers of Christ we know what He wants from us.  He says His sheep hear His voice.


“Connecting” speaks about God exposing the wrong in our lives, not to slap us with them but rather “to reveal the grace that the difficult content of our hearts provides”. He says, God’s message (from Him to us) throughout the exposure process is “I’m that good, I still like you, I’m for you, I want you to know it. And what’s ahead for you is beyond description.”


Our flesh is exposed for the purpose of more fully revealing the depths of God’s kindness and then the intent of change is productive.


Romans 2:3-4

So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?


mighty crossSin and despair, like the sea waves cold,

Threaten the soul with infinite loss;

Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,

Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.


We all understand that sin has caused us incredible harm. As a Christian, I have certainly seen the destruction of sinful selfish behaviors in my own life and in the lives of those around me. At one time I was motivated to crush the actions of others that cause pain or problems. I may have even thought about crushing them! At times I think I may have crushed a part of the soul of those involved instead.


I used a prophetic gift to challenge people about their sin and negative choices. Now that same gift can attach itself to my passion about making sure people know of God’s love for them. I have become protective of this message and get prophetically riled when I hear of any teaching that would block His message of grace. As Paul often wrote, he was incensed at the thought of any new believers going back to the law and turning away from grace.


I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Galatians 1:6-9


Amazing GraceGrace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin.


The cleansing within that occurs comes from a transformational relationship with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, our greatest Cheerleader. (read my article on the Holy Spirit) When we understand the depth of His love for us a cleansing occurs that is beyond description! It is deep, thorough, and complete. The challenge is that our contemporary recovery movement has been couched in attempts to corral sin into safe boxes. It can be more about focusing on the sinful behaviors than it is on the glory of an amazing, radical God! We have therefore lived in the deception that this works. If I ask anyone who has struggled with patterns of negative behavior if the “seven questions of accountability” worked to transform their heart I think they would all say a resounding “NO”!


Some of our churches have become” behavior police” rather than ministries of the gospel of authentic grace. Programs have been developed to chase down counterproductive behavior rather than to offer God’s incredible love in the midst of failure. We have divorce recovery programs rather than leading men and women into how to live in grace with their struggling marriage. We have specialized programs to restore those who have lived in sin patterns that are separate from regular gatherings of Christians because we fear that the general body of believers will further wound them from criticism and sneering eyes. What?  Who are we and Who are we following?  Are we really a bunch of Pharisees? I know I have been and can still be like that when I am not careful of my own short comings.


The only way someone really changes is when they realize that they are free! I know, it sounds like an oxymoron but I have come to believe that it is absolutely correct. In knowing I am forgiven, free, totally in right standing with my Father regardless of what I do, I find I want to serve Him more and want to move towards what He wants for me. I realize that I am not commanded away from wrong choices, I am freely embraced by an abundant radically loving God.


Red20TideDark is the stain that we cannot hide.

What can we do to wash it away?

Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,

Brighter than snow you may be today.


Our sin shows up every day. We go through all kinds of antics in an attempt to hide our internal struggles but they come out. We are totally helpless to hide our sin. We see it. I am well aware of my bad choices. Others will see it and ultimately, God sees it. But, He loves us so much that he provided His present grace that is big enough to cover all of it and all of us.


grace cubesMarvelous, infinite, matchless grace,

Freely bestowed on all who believe!

You that are longing to see His face,

Will you this moment His grace receive?


Freely bestowed – on ALL who believe? “Freely?”. Yes, “Freely”. Interesting that in this stanza those words are followed by “you that are longing to see his face”. I don’t want to see the Lord’s face when I am living in shame. It is only when I truly believe that I am free from shame that I can look up into His face with desire knowing of his incredible unconditional acceptance.


Do you need to know that you are free today? Does your heart sing with the knowledge that no matter what you do today, He still loves you? I used to think I knew that, but I found out it was an intellectual understanding that had not sunk into my spirit.


Today, I am often moved to tears when I know my Savior loves me that way. In the midst of my darkest sin, He is present, available, with arms stretched around my heart. Who else can understand me that way? No human, only a loving Creator who had planned all along to provide His “infinite grace” to me “freely”.


When we get this big picture, we will become world changers.


Now let’s go love us some people.


From up here is it all beautiful!





 

Our Mailbag: 1 Corinthians Chapter 6:9-11

Friday, June 10th, 2011


mailbag_3John,

I have supported “Love in Action” ministries over the years because I feel it was a source of help to those with same sex sins. I know you left there and started your own ministry, but I must say I am shocked by your reply to the question about whether someone can be gay and a Christian. (to see article click here) As a married man who experiences same sex temptation and has for many years, I have to disagree with your approach.


I believe that we as followers of Jesus Christ are instructed by the scriptures to repent of our sinful ways, not to accept them and hope we can grow out of them. How do you interpret Galatians 5:19-21? These verses are very clear to all sinfulness in our lives (which include homosexual fornication which is sex outside of marriage) and that we are to not practice these sinful ways any longer. How do you interpret 1 Corinth 6:9-11?


We know there are daily battles with the flesh and we are instructed  to flee temptations and repent of our sinful ways.  Homosexual sin  is sinful and we need to flee from it and repent, turn away from our sinfulness. I would like your response if you would.


Thank you,


Shocked


Dear Shocked,


You are referring to the article I wrote entitled “Can my friend be gay and a Christian”.


Thanks so much for responding to my recent “Mailbag” answer. I’m not sure what drew you to find it but thank you for reading it.


I am not sure exactly what aspects of the article brought you to be shocked by my response. I am thinking through how to respond to your comments and questions so please allow me some time to compile an answer.


I have done a lot of work to learn more about 1 Cor. 6:9-11 since it is so commonly brought up in connection to the issue of homosexuality. Gal. 5:19 is also similar so I will attempt to respond to those two passages. It is really hard to do that quickly or in a few words.


When I said we must accept homosexuality as “it is what it is” I think we need to quit trying to change people and to allow God to do the work He wants to do. The crux of what I am discovering is more of what I am learning about how to respond to people who experience homosexuality with God’s grace and His redemption. I have seen how I have been like he Pharisees in presenting a “law” type of message regarding homosexuality. I also recognize that I have laid heavy expectations on people that have on some occasions pressed them into some places that maybe God may not have been leading them.



The passages you wanted my thoughts on were:


1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.


and


Galatians 5:19-21

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.


First of all, I can certainly appreciate your life experience since I am also a married man who has has experienced homosexuality for my entire adult life. While I have experienced it at varying levels, the way God has dealt with me has been a progressive process since I first discovered my own faith walk 35 years ago.


I believe sanctification (the life changes He brings on as a result of the gospel) is an ongoing process in all of our lives. None of us can say we are without sin. Many of us can say we have grown away from many sins as a result of God’s intervention in our lives. We are hopefully better today as a result of His work. But thankfully, I understand that Christ’s redemption has covered all of my sinfulness from birth and on into the future.


I do not believe in “completed work today” theology with regards to my temporal life here on earth. I am, with His help, improving each day. However, I will not be completely changed until I see Him face to face. Therefore, I will struggle with various sins off and on throughout the duration of my life. One of those sins may be rebelling against some things that I know are right but just don’t want to face them now! But I also understand Christ has forgiven rebellion too.


Having said all of that, I am NOT, hear me now, NOT saying that sin is ok, nor “sin – is what it is”. Sin behavior is harmful, negative, divisive, challenging, and God clearly warns us to heed His words and attempt to stay from it, with His help and our submission. But we must be very clear about what God does in light of the fact that we do sin.


Galatians 5:13

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love.


I am not saying to give hearty approval to something.


My objective is not to forget the scriptural truths about God’s desires for our life and relationships. And by the way, the jury remains unclear on some of the things we think are set in stone.  I’m rather going through how to respond to people here on earth, which includes myself, who are trying to wrestle through our earthly lives.


I believe what Paul is saying is this:


To understand this passage we MUST first understand that Paul’s letter is addressed to the church in Corinth. This is VERY important! He is writing to Christian believers.


Secondly, in chapter 6, verse 9 he changes to address another audience:


“But to the wicked,(or the the unrighteous)” I say this.”


This means that through the next paragraph he is speaking about those who DO NOT know Jesus. This is VITAL to understanding the next few verses.  In the context of the Greek language He has given a list of  outward signs so as to say, those who do not know Jesus, who act in habitual patterns like this. It then says they will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Something else we must consider.  The list of behaviors is not intended to be an “inclusive” or “exclusive” list.  It is more of a list of examples of those around them who do not know Christ that exemplify the unrighteous people Paul is referring to.  As humans, we want things in nice neat packages.  If this list were an exclusive list than maybe I am off the hook if I didn’t do some of the things listed.  I can also stare down at those that are on the list because their behavior is in the list. Paul didn’t intend it this way.


Another point is that theologians all over this issue tend to argue the issue of homosexuality with attempt to define the Greek words, “arsenokoitai” and “malakos”. This is problematic for many reasons. First, there simply does not seem to be a consensus on what either of those words really means nor how the many definitions seem to apply to our lives today. I am sure in Paul’s day he had something very specific in mind that everyone understood. But, 2000 years later, we do not clearly understand it.  To attempt to define something that is not clearly understood and then apply our own interpretation to it can cause all kind of havoc.  And it has. It seems that how these words are translated often has more to do with preconceptions and convictions of the translators than the sense of the original Greek language.


I think the main problem is that regardless of how they are defined,  Paul’s list in this passage is not the point of the passage.  Therefore we can argue about the list but never get to the point.  We can also argue about what it means to gossip, how far is too far in adultery?  We can try to define what it means to be a slanderer and when our back door discussions will cross the line.  Our discussion about the real meaning of the list is all tied to “are we good enough” or “have we crossed the line”? We often want to know if we have gone so far as to lose our precious salvation. Which are all a distraction from the amazing message Paul has to give us.


In its original context and language it would be more understood like this:


“Believers in Corinth, there are those who don’t know Jesus around you and they act like this. They do things like lie, cheat, steal, and are sexually out on a limb.  They don’t seem to know life any differently. You know people like that and you do some of these things yourself.  Don’t hold on to an identity that hangs on your behaviors. If someone hasn’t imparted my gift of redemption to their lives, they will not enter my eternal kingdom. But for you, you know and understand my gospel.  I really want you to live honestly through your new identity  and restored image in Christ.”


Well, of course the “unrighteous” won’t go to heaven! He is using them as an example to make a point. But he goes on to return to his audience, the church. He says, “But, that is not who you are!” He affirms their relationship with Jesus, their salvation, and says to kindle their position in Christ as being washed, sanctified, by Jesus Christ. He is charging them to remember who they are.


We all know that Christians all over this planet still struggle with “habitual sin” patterns like those revealed in the list in verses 9 and 10. Knowing this, says to me, that he is not saying that  heaven or the kingdom of God is only available to those who are NOT on the list.  He is also not saying that those who wrestle with, or may even be habitually involved in the things he mentioned there, will not enter eternity with Him.


Paul is challenging their identity, not so much their actions. He is saying, “lose the sinful identity and recognize Who you belong to!” In doing so, you will nurture a relationship with the One who loves you so that your lives will continue down the path of sanctification. If we remain overly connected in the old identity we will likely continue to function out of the shame of the old identity.


The interesting Transition


He then says, “all things are permissible” but not “beneficial”. This is a profound truth. So profound that Paul repeats it twice. Think just a minute about the freedom He speaks of here. He is calling them to further maturity in their actions. As a more mature adult He is calling us to ask ourselves, “is this beneficial”? Christ still loves you, is still at work in your life and will complete the work He has begun. However, He is charging us to grow in making better decisions along the way.


In Christ, we are absolutely free.


Oh, boy this is where it gets sticky. Either God gave us a free will or He didn’t. I believe He did. I see this as one of the most amazing differences between God and humans.  He is able to allow us total freedom and yet still love us completely.  He will certainly allow consequences for our bad choices. It is through this that we grow into more maturity.  He does not control our lives.  So, we are absolutely free to do with our lives as we want to.  None of our choices will in any way remove God’s love for us.  This is one of the most difficult things for me to understand.  We are so used to conditional love from other humans it is hard for us to embrace a God that loves us differently.


But in our freedom, we also have the freedom to choose to serve Him? Will we follow Him sacrificially? If we do not get that fundamental truth, our assumptions may lead us to stray from Him – fearing his retribution based upon our failed attempts to act appropriately. Moralism seems to please our human senses.  We like to check off the boxes of what we do right and what they do wrong.


Paul comes back to the same message in his letter to the Galatians:


Galatians 5:13

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love.


Our church communities are far too full of performance expectations and sin management. We are trapped in a legalism of expectations that keep us weak, immature, and fearful of a God that we believe may be a dictator. We may sense He is ready at any moment to remove His hand, close His heart, and maybe even shut us out – that is if we don’t act right.


I now realize that Christ does not hold a hammer over my head waiting to tromp on me if I make the wrong move. I have come to realize a fuller love from Him that is truly as the bible says, unconditional.


I’m starting to gain a better understanding of all of this.  If I make the mistake of going against His desires, overt or covert, He loves me, accepts me and offers me His hand. He will be there with me to work with me along the way. No matter how long it takes. He is the divine surgeon who will remain with me through the end of this life and usher me into the next with His abundant grace. (please see my article, “I Have Failed”)


My only option at this point is to love others with that same love. This doesn’t mean I will not approach someone with a challenge to do better. If I have built a relationship with them, laid a foundation of trust, I will know when it is appropriate to speak with them as a brother to help them see things through the eyes of Christ that may help them grow.


Paul goes on in his letter to urge believers to consider their sexuality and to recognize that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  He lines out for us the deeper motivation to walk in righteousness that is imparted by the gospel.  He is exhorting us to consider our lives and our choices.


Galatians 5:19-21

He starts by saying, “acts of the sinful nature” are… I do not have a sinful nature any longer! I am a new creature in Christ. I have a new heart, a new identity, a new motivation for life! Oh, this doesn’t mean I don’t have the flaws of humanity. I do wrong things, but these are not because I have a sinful nature, they are because of the humanity I live in today. God’s new nature is working in me day by day throughout my lifetime. As I read this passage, I see it as a repeated message from Paul. Know who you are!  Walk in your new identity! Recognize the differences that are in you as opposed to those who do not know Christ and walk them out! It is NOT a statement of conditions for salvation. And it is a call to maturity. But it is NOT a call to performance based religion.


Again, he is relating to what the unredeemed are like and if you take into account the entire chapter 5, it is saying what I am saying. We are free. Don’t take this freedom lightly, but we are free. It speaks to legalism as the enemy. Submitting to the law as though through it, you will be sanctified by doing the right things.  It reiterates the message of the gospel:


Galatians 5;14

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.



We Are Free in Christ!


John


 

Response to the Gay/Ex-gay Divide

Friday, June 3rd, 2011


handshakeI received this email from Europe from someone who had read a recent article on my blog called “The Gay /Ex-gay Divide.


In my ongoing discovery of the incredible freedom that we are provided in Christ this man’s story exemplifies changes in his life that have occurred.


He has received a loving relationship with Jesus as his church has accepted him right where he is with no agenda.


I appreciate most, the journey without an expected timeline of growth. This man is following the Lord’s leading in his life. The message here is that God will do His work, in His time, and in His way.


God’s work in any of our lives cannot be duplicated and sold off for someone else to follow. It is unique to who we are and where we are in life’s journey. For Robert, he clearly describes some of his journey below.



Hello John,


Thank you for writing the article on your website blog about the battle between the gay and ex-gay community!


I believe the church has missed a lot of chances to reach out to the gay community. Although I am on the “side” of literal interpretation of the scripture . I can still get angry about the judgmental and in my opinion totally stupid attitude of a lot of fundamental “straight” Christians who do not know WHAT it is like when one is dealing with same sex attraction. I get a lot of support in my church, fortunately.


When I dedicated my life to Christ about a year ago, after about 20 years of hedonistic plunging into everything gay. I told the pastor everything about me and my life and I did not hold back. Sometimes I told him to brace himself for what he would hear from me. But I needed to do this in order to have no secrets or secret places in my heart anymore. I learned that secrets can grow and take hold of one’s life after growing .


Now from my pastor and other people in church, there was no judgment at all…nothing….. When I recall the conversations with him I can only recall a listening ear and understanding…and then a hand on my shoulder during prayer. I was welcomed into his house his family. I had dinners at his place together with the partner I had at that time, because they wanted to welcome my partner too.


I knew If God would change my life…my partner had a right to know God as well. My conviction that homosexuality is a sin actually came from what I read in scripture and from the gentle voice inside of me from the Holy Spirit . My church friends never pressed me into anything.


This was such a relief for me, to be welcomed and accepted in the midst of this Christian community. Just people showing me Jesus through their lives, and their attitude. That love …..that unconditional love ….. broke me….. it tore down the walls around my heart ….. it is the most forceful power.


God has worked miracles in the past year. Although what I feel is the “thorn in my flesh” comes up now and then, and sometimes a lot, but I feel so free. I experience God so close, God speaks to me . God’s spirit shows me inner wounds that He wants to heal and take care of. Sometimes stuff I did not even know it was there. Sometimes walking alone in the woods or driving the car the Holy Spirit has His private pastoral sessions with me :-) ) showing me all these things. I feel so privileged. Sometimes it’s like being in a desert. then it seems I am all alone. But then I hold on. I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to let go of this God.


I am still officially in a relationship with my partner. But the physical stuff between us has stopped. We are now good friends. We have been together for 14 years. Slowly and gently God is leading us into separate ways. We are not there yet. But I am so thankful for God’s grace in this.


A New Friend

Robert


 

A Letter to Oprah

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011


mailbag_3

John,

I saw that you have had some pretty profound thoughts on Oprah’s 25th Season Finale.  I stopped watching Oprah years ago because of her liberal stance on life and felt strongly that she was deceiving people.  How can you see anything positive from her worldly life?


Signed,

No Oprah for Me


Dear No Oprah for Me,

I see Oprah’s life as not different from my own. I have walked a journey of life that I don’t want anyone to judge by where I am at “right now” because I am a work in progress in the hands of a living and powerful God.  I am not where I was, and am not where I will be. But I am where I am right now.  I want to share a letter with you that I recently sent Oprah that has many of my responses to her recent 25th Season Finale.


Dear Oprah,

oprah early yearsI am one of those unusual men who have followed your journey over the last 25 years with a very personal interest. In 1990, a godly lady, and sincere pray’er from Church of the Open Door (the church we attended in San Rafael, CA at the time) was talking about her observations about the then current trend in “Talk Shows” and their hosts. She was concerned about the negative direction they were taking and the moral digression represented through them. She said to me, “John, I’m praying that Oprah will turn the tide and become a more positive influence. I’m praying that Oprah will glorify God through her show.”


I have watched your show regularly all through the years waiting for the answer to her prayers. I took on her dream of seeing a turn through your show. I never forgot what I hoped to see. I saw, year by year, the positive turns that you took with the interviews and life lessons you and your staff took on. Very quickly at the time and through the years, you moved towards exactly what she and I hoped for, a more positive and redemptive approach to daytime talk show messages.


This last season was better than all the rest. Many of your episodes brought tears to my eyes and caused my heart to open up within me as I heard your ability to draw each person’s heart to the surface for us all to experience. On some days I would say, “Oh, that one probably isn’t something I want to watch.” I thought that largely because it just didn’t look really interesting. But sometimes I’d click on it anyway and each time I was impacted and impressed with the show because of how you made each one significant to the heart.


There have been some significant people that I had previously dismissed because of what I thought they conveyed through their life or values but when in an interview with you, the deepest part of their hearts came forward and revealed what was going on underneath their public lives. I was then able to see the positive sides of each one allowing me to embrace their humanness just like me.


Rosie-ODonnell-Oprah-Winfrey-thumb-320x180-5373For example I had judged Rosie O’Donnell to be brassy and just a “gay” activist until I saw your show that revealed the struggle she went through from her separation with her partner and the effects on the children. You revealed the real “Rosie” beneath the issue that opened my heart up to see her as a real warm blooded person! You showed me her dedication to loving her children and truly caring about their little lives and hearts.




Ricky_Martin_Oprah

The show with Ricky Martin where he talked about the battle of coming out in the public regarding his homosexuality and the way he had chosen to follow an honest life rather than to live beneath a facade. What I saw was how you could take a controversial subject that had great potential for judgment by many, and show the human heart beneath the “issue”. I could see that anyone with half a heart could embrace the person and leave the judgment behind. I saw his choice to be authentic and open about his homosexuality even when the potential was there to lose his whole career! Can we all make those kind of choices to be honest and authentic when a great risk is at stake?


Oprah-200men-1Of course the dramatic representation of how child abuse had impacted the 200 men through the show with Tyler Perry was deeply impacting for us all. I have also watched Tyler Perry’s career and deeply respect his passion for the gospel of Jesus and those who see his movies.







20110209-tows-iyanla-vanzant-returns-9-300x205I was awed at how you revealed the reconciliation between you and Iyanla Vanzant. For your to feel free enough to have that discussion live and in color was a tremendous act of humility. The AHA moment when you said, “I got it, I got it!” was profound. The lesson in that moment of how we need to dig for another’s heart rather than continue to react to the surface messages was significant. I have heard some people refer to her as the “crazy lady” but regardless of how she comes across, that day, her deepest heart cry was brought to the surface and I saw a person, broken and hungry for affirmation of her “self” rather than what she could give.


I could go on and on about how different shows affected my own heart but to keep this email within your ability to read its contents, I want to give most of my emphasis to the finale. Oprah, I have recorded the episode and have watched it over and over and tears come to my eyes each time. My spirit leaps within me through each point you made.


I have talked to many people about the show and how you “preached” an astounding sermon to millions that has included things that are very important to God and were deep in my own heart. Since you aren’t a “pastor” or representing a “church” the value of what you had to say was so much greater. They were greater because you preached from your very own experience, not just an intellectual ascent of the matter, but real life experience.


You challenged people to search for their own passions and calling, to embrace their intrinsic worthiness and to learn to be responsible for their own lives. These truths are foundational for us to live a life worthy of the calling of God! Your heart cry for them to listen for the voice of God in their hearts and call Him close (He’s closer than your very breath) to themselves was a pinnacle of the message from you to the world. You gave an “altar call” from the heart of God to his beloved children that I pray many from your audience would heed.


When you described “the God you serve” with such profound passion it was a crescendo that reached the heavens! Your comment that your answer to their question might not be popular and yet to go ahead with your description of God being, the Alpha and the Omega, the Omniscient One, G-O-D, the great creator of all life, I wanted to stand up and shout! I can’t think of many within the worlds renowned who would make that kind of public statement.


oprah finaleAs you closed with your arms outstretched saying “To God be the Glory” I heard a resounding answer to my friends prayer from over 20 years ago. You became a profound positive impact not only for television, but for our world. And all of this from your heart, in front of millions, your last words gave God the glory.


Oprah, I was a significant leader within the ex-gay movement for over 20 years . I was a right wing, evangelical with plenty of judgment in my heart for those that “choose an immoral lifestyle”.


I resigned from Love In Action and Exodus International (as a board member) three years ago. In the last three years God has been doing a deep heart change in my own life. He has dug into the deep recesses of my own judgment and criticism of others and brought me to take responsibility for all of those things I have thought and said through the years that were critical and certainly unloving from the deeper sense. He has taught me what it means to be a representative of His love for His people.


I have taken to heart what God has said to us, “I have not come to condemn the world, but to save the world.” He is showing me how to love others into His arms of redemption and restoration in His time and in His way. I believe you also have followed that path.


Oprah, you have allowed us, your audience, to sit in the living room of your own journey as God has transformed your life. I believe I was so moved by your 25th season because it resonated with my own journey away from traditional evangelicalism into following the real path of Jesus into other’s lives. I am as passionate as you are to help people to believe they are “worthy” and that someone cares about what they have to say without judgment of where they are in life.


I could go on but will not at this point. I am not sure who will actually read through this email but I felt compelled to write it for whomever does read it.


Supporting articles I have written regarding my own process:


www.gracerivers.com/apology


This is an apology to the gay community from my heart


www.gracerivers.com/change-heart


This reveals the beginning of how God worked through some challenging circumstances to chisel away the judgment from my heart and revealed how many people are missing from our lives due to their own wounds and rejection.


www.gracerivers.com/gay-divide


This is an article I wrote to challenge the divisiveness between two primary entities within homosexuality.


Thank you for all you have done. I look forward to following your journey through OWN.


Sincerely,

John J. Smid

Person loved by God, Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Friend, House Cleaner with Hollywood Homes, and serve as the Executive Director for Grace Rivers Ministry