Archive for the ‘Through the Windshield of My Life’ Category
Friday, August 5th, 2011
At the center of this story, I am riding in a vintage 1982 Corvette Collector Edition on the freeway in Southern California. My very first time to ride in a ‘vette.
Loud, stiff, low to the ground, there is nothing like the “All American Sports Car!” the creaking of the fiberglass shell is part of the whole experience of riding in this rare classic.
With all of the cars I have owned, ridden in, and admired through the years, I had never ridden in a Corvette until this moment in time. How incredible to have my first ride in Southern California with a great friend. He loves his very own piece of American History and I felt privileged to have been able to share in it with him.
The ride didn’t stifle the anxiousness I was feeling as we flew by the others along the way. Staring at the rocker panels of most cars, the low slung position was indicative of what I was feeling inside as I moved towards something that I was about to experience.
As I continue to transition away from having worked with ex-gay miniisty for many years, an editor from a well read blog called the “Ex-Gay Watch” contacted me about my resignation from Love In Action. He began to ask me questions about why I had chosen to leave and what was going on in my life at the time. As we talked, I shared with him about how my heart had become more open to building relationships within the gay community. He recommend that I come up with an authentic apology first. He talked with me about how many people within the gay community didn’t trust the ex-gay community and that if I could find it in my heart to apologize for things I had done to wound them through my involvement with Love In Action it might help me to build a trust in order to be heard.
I wasn’t sure I was ready for that. I didn’t know what an apology would consist of and how my life had wounded others. But, my mind was open because I wanted to badly to develop this outreach to bring the gospel into the lives of those that were gay. The request for an apology became deeply lodged into my heart and I began to pray about what that may entail. God brought some things into my life to help me see what that might look like. Before I could think more about this some other opportunities came along.
About a week or two after Todd Ferrell and I talked for the first time (see Part Two of “God Surprise Me”), I got a call from a ministry in Washington state. It seemed they wanted me to facilitate a conference for their area that would include mostly ministry to the parents of gay children. I wanted to do it so I said I would put it down on the calendar. As soon as I looked, I found that Todd’s conference was just one weekend after I had scheduled to be in Washington.
How interesting? I talked with my wife and realized I could easily arrange a “circle trip” to accommodate a flight from Washington to Southern California that would only slightly change my airfare. I called Todd and said I could now come to the conference he was holding. I was extremely nervous about attending this conference with Christians that are gay. Years ago I learned not to criticize something that I was unfamiliar with so for no other reason than to look and see for myself, I felt I needed to attend the event.
As time came closer I asked Todd about a referral for a hotel roommate. I just didn’t have the money to front the entire cost and was looking for someone to share that with me. Of course, I was trusting Todd to find some appropriate and knew he would understand my situation. So as the weeks went by, Todd contacted me with the name of a good friend of his that he said would have a lot in common with me. His name was Gary.
So, I completed the conference in Washington and flew to Los Angeles. I had arranged to stay with some good friends there for a couple of days just prior to Todd’s conference. I spent a lot of time talking with them about my plans and running this decision through our friendship filter.
The Low, Stealthy Corvette Ride, and an Anxious Arrival
On the morning of the event my friend drove me to the front door of the hotel and dropped me off. I felt extremely self conscious going into the hotel. My mind was racing with questions and fears. Once I was inside, I got registered and went to my room. Gary, my roommate was already there so I introduced myself to him. He was very gracious and we decided to have a meal together that evening and get to know each other. I found him to be a wonderful guy. He was about my age.
He had previously been married and had a daughter. His marriage had ended in divorce but they had done a lot of work to become amicable and had become good friends as they raised their daughter. He was kind, and honest as he shared his story. And, he was gracious with my story as well.
The next morning I went to the first workshop and walked inside and saw someone that looked very familiar to me. As the morning went by, I knew for certain it was the man I remembered. I really wanted to talk with him. As we walked out the door I turned to him and said, “Hello, do you know where we know each other from?” He looked puzzled and then I told him. “You were in the Love In Action program in the mid eighties. I was there as a House Leader and remember you very well.” He laughed and embraced me and then seemed really glad to see me. He was using a walker which at his age told me he was going through something difficult. I was so glad to see him. His smile was so joyous and he seemed to be so in love with Jesus which showed through every pore in his body.
He began to tell me about the last 20 years of his life. He was HIV +, he had just had surgery for cancer and was in recovery, hence, the walker. He said he had lost many friends through his recent illness and he said that today his family was all he had. And yet through all of the pain and suffering, he said, “But I love Jesus. He has been so good to me.” He went on to say that he was really glad he had been in Love In Action because it was where he learned how much he needed the Lord. He talked very easily about how messed up his life was when he went there and that the experience at LiA helped him to begin his own journey of healing and growing in Christ. “John, I’m gay and I’m OK with that. Jesus loves me and I’ve never been so complete and satisfied in Him.” There were several people that I met that weekend that really challenged me to listen to them without judgment.
I was so surprised! I never expected the first person I would see, other than my friendly roommate, to be one of the first people I met when I began working with LiA so many years ago. He and I talked often over the next several days of the conference and every time I saw him, he was encouraging someone, laughing with someone or showing evidence of a wonderful connection to the Lord. There is nowhere else he would have gotten that kind of joy.
A Silent Observer
So, I began to listen to others and closely evaluate what I was seeing and hearing. On the evening of that first day I decided to go to the common area to relax. When I got there I saw two younger guys who were talking with each other. I introduced myself to them. They asked if I was part of the conference. I hesitated to affirm their question but said, “yes”. They said “Oh, that’s wonderful, so are we.” Just a few short surface questions later they asked if they could share their story with me. I obliged their seeming hunger to tell me more about their life experiences.
Once again, I was shocked at what I heard. “John, we were huge druggies. We have known each other from the drug culture for over 15 years. We’ve been together since we were teenagers.” They went on to talk about how their pastor pursued them for over four years. “John, his kindness and his faithfulness finally won out. We accepted Christ a year ago. It has been an amazing journey for us. We have seen a real change for the better in our lives and in our relationship with each other.” It was apparent to me they were talking about their same sex partnership for 15 years or more now.
I’m sure if someone had looked at me they might have seen my head spinning in disbelief of what I was experiencing. I had such a deep hunger to see people come to know Jesus in a real, solid, life changing way. Right here before my eyes was the answer to my prayers. But it didn’t look like I thought it would. These young men were obviously very excited about Jesus and truly understood the gospel. Yet they were seemingly very comfortable in their relationship and with being gay.
From their relationship with Jesus, their lives were changing for sure, but not in ways I would have expected. I had always assumed that an acceptance of Christ would have brought a increasing discomfort of a gay relationship in two guys who were seeking Him like these two guys were. They told me how much of a mess it has been for their pastor to walk alongside of them and yet he had continued to love them. One of the guys said, “My parents didn’t used to like my partner when we were drugging. But now, they say they are thrilled because of the positive influence he has had on me in my growth in God and how he has encouraged my faith.”
Then, they talked about how they wanted to go to the beach while they were in Southern California, but decided not to. I asked why not? And their answer was another example of their walk with Christ. I saw the fruit in their next statement, “Oh, we don’t think it would be a good idea, we’re trying to keep our minds pure and seeing all the guys on the beach might not be helpful.”
As I spun around in my head from what I had just experienced, I got up and said goodbye. I went up to my room and just felt such a sense of joy for God allowing me to hear the real life story of these two guys. But at the same time, their story challenged so much of my own “doctrine” that I was unsettled and questioning so many things.
Two Men, Different Paths, Similar Experiences
As I got back to my room Gary was still up. We talked late into the night. He shared a lot of his own life with me and I told him most of mine. We really connected. I loved his sensitivity to my life and his own humility was amazing for me to experience. He was genuine in his faith and yet was comfortable in being gay. He seemed to have found a place where both resided in his life with peace. All of this challenged my former philosophies. I had always said that God would not allow anyone who is His to find peace if they had embraced being gay. I just assumed that God would certainly cause them to be unsettled, convicted, or at odds with Him and themselves at a deep level.
This process for me has been interesting, threatening, and life shaking. This was just the first day of this conference. The next two days weren’t any less earth shattering for me. I remained on the periphery of the groups and just kept a low profile.
Tomorrow is another day.
This is Part Three in a series called, “God Surprise Me!” Click Here to read more.
Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Meeting Two Strangers I Didn’t Want to Know
Three years ago I had time to evaluate, to think, to reestablish a new layer to my life. In the process I had many discussions along the way.
I was in a passionate conversation with a friend of mine about how each of us processed the issue of homosexuality. She began to talk about friends she had that were Christians and yet were involved in same sex partnerships. I felt frustrated because she just didn’t want to tell me what she thought about being for – or against homosexual relationships. As we talked that day, seemingly for hours, I began to speak strongly about someone I had heard of for many years that was gay and claimed to be a Christian. Michael Bussee was one of the men who arranged the very first Exodus International conference.
Many years ago I watched a video where Michael shared some of his life story and I felt challenged by the things he was sharing. As I talked about Michael I had a disdain in my heart towards him. This led me to profile him with many others I judged to be rebellious and compromising of God’s standards. I had never really wanted to know anyone who claimed to be a Christian but was living in an overt gay relationship. If they wanted help, they should say so, otherwise, I figured they would have to deal with God on things and I kept my distance.
As I talked with Lisa, she got quiet. When I was done, she said, “John, don’t you think it is unfair to form such strong opinions about someone you have never met? Don’t you think you owe it to him and talk with him personally before you form an opinion about his character?”
Phew, that was humbling.
Lisa was absolutely correct. I was unfair in basing my opinions about what I had “heard” rather than from my own experience with someone like Michael. I had a lot of “Michaels” in my life. I was smug in my heart regarding people like Michael. But for some reason I thought it was enough to gauge my opinions on what I had heard from others and didn’t feel I needed to spend any time with them.
So, Lisa asked again, “John, would you be willing to talk with Michael? I can arrange a phone call if you are willing to hear his heart.” What could I say? I had already crossed the line in what I had said about him. I at least owed him the respect to talk with him. Now , I wondered if he was even willing to talk with me? After all, I am sure Michael had heard things about me through the years as well. I have no doubt that Michael was familiar with my involvement in ex-gay ministries and was sure he didn’t think so favorably about me either. It was interesting to see how I went from “I don’t want to talk with him” to hum, I wonder if he’ll talk with me?
So, Lisa called me back and said Michael was willing to talk with me. We arranged a phone call and I remember sitting in my office in a comfortable chair in preparation for the call. I was feeling nervous about the call. I wasn’t sure what to expect in our conversation. So, when the phone rang, I answered and after a little introductory conversation I was surprised at what transpired. We talked comfortably about our lives and experiences. Michael and I had a lot in common having both been previously married and then got divorced. Michael went into a gay relationship and I went on to get married to Vileen but we had many shared experiences to talk about.
Michael Bussee Became A Person
I left the conversation feeling a sense of peace. I found Michael to be endearing, humble, honest, and very respectful of my life and experiences. He talked about some of the painful things he had experienced in his life as well as the joys. We related to having children and grandchildren as well. I felt a desire to talk with him again largely because he was a genuinely nice guy. He and I have formed a friendship that I respect as person whose life matters and has value not only to God, but to others as well.
A New Land – People Who Are Significant to the Kingdom of God
So, wow, I’ve now gone into more uncharted territory. I wondered what would come next. So, I called Lisa and gave her my report, “Lisa, actually, I enjoyed talking with Michael.” She said she had another friend she wanted me to talk with. She told me of a man named Todd Ferrell. She said he was someone she admired a lot and wanted me meet him. She connected us and we set a time to talk. I figured since Michael was a great guy maybe Todd would be someone that was nice too.
Todd and I decided to use Skype to talk. After setting up my first Skype connection we had a great time talking about our lives. Once again, I felt surprised at what I heard. Todd, like Michael, was sincere and willing to share pieces of his life that were filled with humility and honesty. Since I had never been in a friendship with someone that was “gay affirming” like Todd, I guess I expected to hear something different.
I was looking for excuses, rationalizing Scripture to their own tastes. I was sure I would hear things that would offend me but I found none of that. I am not sure what it was I expected but I surely didn’t expect to hear this.
“John, our church saw the pain in the gay community in San Francisco. As an outreach to bring Jesus to the streets we decided to serve communion on Castro Street in San Francisco on Good Friday. There were requests for prayer, shared tears, hunger for God that left us speechless. Yes, there were those who were on drugs, those who were angry, and other distractions. But in the end, we knew we had touched the hearts of many who were hungry to connect with God.”
I was left in tears myself after hearing this story, “Todd, your heart beats the same as mine for the gay community. Of course you know there are many “evangelicals” in our country that would think what your church did was blasphemous. But, I am right there with you, my new friend. I love what you are doing.”
I realized that many outreach attempts in urban areas like San Francisco are based on singing on street corners and handing out tracts. But in this case, Todd and his church were really going for it to touch these people in a very real and physical way.
Wow, how unexpected? Another surprise! Actually, I began to see the surprises as “gifts”. It was like God had prepared many gifts for me and put them underneath a Christmas tree to be opened one at a time. I knew they were all good since they were coming from Him but I had not opened all of them yet.
I’ll never forget the conversations with these two men. Both of which are friends today but not that long ago, I don’t think I would have walked across the street to talk with either one of them. It would have been my loss for sure.
Through my former ministry involvement I certainly knew hundreds of Christians who would say they wrestled with being gay. For some reason I separated these men and women into two camps. There were those who were “seeking to change” and those who had accepted being gay. Until just recently I didn’t realize how I had compartmentalized my view of people who are gay. Those who had accepted being gay were somehow not worth knowing or maybe I was just afraid of crossing into the other side of all of this.
In my conversation with Todd, he invited me to attend a conference his ministry was hosting in April of 2010. I said, “Todd, I would like to come to that but I am very low on funds and couldn’t see having the money to come.” He was talking about “The Evangelical Network” which is an organization that has a heart to connect Christians who are gay and to support their faith and ministry efforts. Not having enough money was a great excuse to know have to think about going. I really felt quite hesitant to the thought of being at a gay-affirming conference. I had no idea what I would see there or experience.
A Significant Meeting With a Friend
I went to Mike’s house to ask him to consider being a board member for Grace Rivers. In our conversation he was very direct with me. He was asking me to describe the focus of the ministry. I struggled to find the words that would effectively tell him what we were. It was obviously a struggle for me to begin with. I did everything I could do to avoid “homosexual” or “gay community”. I wasn’t willing to step out onto that limb and admit what was really in my heart.
Mike said something that really challenged me, “John, what is your strength? What is at the core of your heart for people and for ministry?” He went on to tell me what he saw. He emphasized my history and what he had seen in my life for many years. “John, isn’t your real burden for the gay community?”
Well, I had tried to stuff that away for almost two years. But, I couldn’t deny my heart. When I had only been a Christian for a year or so I wept for those in the gay community who needed a purpose for life, a hope for the future. I asked the Lord to give me the calling to help, to share the hope that was in my own life. My heart’s desire is truly for the gay community to know how much God loves them.
I couldn’t deny what Mike was trying to point out. I still wanted to push it away. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back into the battle zone that often centers around homosexuality and the church. I had lived in that battle for so long I kind of liked the more generic form of ministry. It seemed to be easier to talk about and was more comfortable for many people to accept.
But, Mike clarified for me that it is hard to share such a generic vision for ministry and to get people on board to walk alongside me if I didn’t have a focus to tell them about. Oh, yes, generic ministry will always be a part of our lives as Christians, but it is important for me to know what my special calling really is.
Ok, Mike, I Have to Admit…..
Mike was right. I still had a deep burden and it was definitely focused on people within the gay community. Meeting Michael Bussee and Todd Ferrell challenged me to a very deep place. I realized that there is an entirely different side to homosexuality that I had never explored before. I never wanted to admit that there were gay people who had a sincere heart for God who truly wanted Him to fill their lives and to follow Him to their best ability. Todd told me about how their church members go into the gay bars and make themselves available just to talk, to listen, and to pray for those they come into contact with.
“What? Do you mean they want to reach the gay community with Christ just like I do?”
Again, I was surprised and at the same time challenged. I recognized that I had not met many Christians who would go to those lengths to share the Love of Christ with people in the gay community. Here they were, people I had judged to be rebellious and compromising, doing the very things that God called us all to do.
God had a plan for me that I had never expected. A large gift was waiting for me to open it. The surprise inside was unsettling, but at the same time touched my heart deeply and brought my faith to a new place. The conflict in my own heart was about ready to begin.
A New Car, A New Life Part 1 (Click Here)
Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
1963 Chevrolet Corvette
When I was about 10 years old my dad and I began going to the car dealerships to see the newly revealed models each fall.
We also went to the local car shows each year that were held in our local coliseum. We would walk and walk just looking at all of the shiny steel and chrome.
I remember one year sitting in a really sporty pure white Corvette coupe. It must have been 1963 because this lovely specimen of American sports cars had a split rear window.
Inside I saw a red ball that slid sideways to open the door. I thought that was so unique and yet strange and uncomfortable to manage for my little hands.
None the less, cars followed me with my dad all through the years. When I was older, in 1982, my dad asked me to go with him to buy a car. He wanted to trade to a new car and it was so cool that he asked me to go with him to pick it out.
We decided on a Chevrolet Celebrity. This car was somewhat of a new design and name for Chevrolet. It was a mid-sized sedan. As I looked at the options available I picked out a car that was a beautiful mix of two shades of copper. The interior was a new ribbed fabric and darker, almost like a rust color. So, off we went with dad’s new car.
My dad retired when he was just 52 years old. He had some problems with his feet that limited his ability to walk and stand. This was a challenge since he was a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service. He looked forward to retirement because in his mind he could spend more time with his kids and grandkids.
This became difficult because my sisters and I were in the throes of building our own lives and we were all busy with so many things. I remember my sisters telling me that dad would stop by their houses as odd times of the day and how this had become kind of a challenge. They were in the middle of things that had to get done and dad would stop by and want their attention which was awkward for them to manage.
Retirement Didn’t Set Well
A few months into his retirement we could see dad getting depressed and frustrated with his life. We didn’t know what to do other than to suggest that he get involved in volunteering to take up some of his time. He kept trying to build his life around us and got more and more bitter because it wasn’t working to satisfy his many hours of open time.
One day he came to us and said, “Well I did what you wanted me to do.” He found a home for developmentally disabled children that was led by a nun, Sister Evangeline. The kids went swimming several times a week and dad decided to go swim with the kids. In time he found odd jobs that needed to be done at the home and began to spend time there regularly helping in any way he could.
On his birthday that first year Sister Evangeline sent him a plant. He commented sarcastically, “Oh, they just want more work out of me so they sent me this plant.” He was truly not into this volunteer job and seemed to be doing it out of an attitude of spite since he wasn’t with us kids he had picked a second option. This was hard for me to hear but at least he was doing something.
My dad’s church began a helping ministry called “Stephen’s Ministry” which offered training for people to learn how to help people who were going through difficult things in their lives. Dad decided to go through the training. It involved bible study and small group interaction.
I had just become a Christian at this point and was excited that he was in a bible study. So, I bought him a new bible to take for his bible study. I knew he only had a larger “coffee table” sized bible so this surely would come in handy. I had stopped by his house one day and he sat down with me and told me about something he was learning in his training about servanthood. His eyes had been opened to what it meant to listen to others and serve them from his heart.
Dad Began To Change
I began to see a turnaround in his attitude about many things in life. He showed a sign of the resentments leaving that he had been carrying around with him. He began to show true joy in spending time with the kids at the school and a real thankfulness for his connection with Sister Evangeline.
After several years of seeing a great change in my dad I was getting ready to move to California to work with Love In Action. I came home to visit several times.
When I stayed with dad we had several late night conversations. This was very new for us to talk that much and I really enjoyed hearing his heart. One night I asked my dad why he never dated after he and my mom got divorced. It had been over 25 years since they separated.
His response was, “John, I didn’t want to be tempted. I am afraid I might find someone I am attracted to”. My dad whole hearted followed his church’s teaching that unless your marriage was “annulled” by the church then you were not able to remarry. I found something deep in my dad’s heart that amazed me. He was so convicted to submit his life to what he believed in, that he sacrificed his own personal desires for many years.
As I thought about my dad and women, I couldn’t forget all through the years that he had often talked about a lady named “Monica”. He had a green army trunk that had all of his life memorabilia. In it were pictures of many people from his past and he always pointed out the pictures of her. When he was nineteen years old he was engaged to her. He went into the Army Air Corp during World War II. He told us that when he returned home she didn’t want to marry him. I think his heart was crushed and he moved on to never talk with her again.
Teenage Love Rekindled
My dad’s cousin, Merc, maintained a relationship with Monica through the years so he heard a couple of things about Monica but never pursued knowing more because again, he was guarding his heart and I actually think it was too painful to know more.
I never heard my dad talk about any other women. He married my mom just a few years later and that was it for 16 years until they divorced. My mom as a very complicated woman to be married to and their relationship was very painful for my dad. So, I think he also didn’t want to go through that again. So, my dad was a confirmed single adult. I think this is why he had so much focus on his kids. We were all he had in life to put his time into until God began to work something new into his heart.
Dad called me one day and said he was going to go to International Falls Minnesota. “Really? What are you going there for?” ” I called my cousin to see what had happened to Monica and I found out she is a widow, and that she is there visiting family.” I hadn’t seen dad so strangely excited in my entire life. Dad went on this trip and came home like a teenager in his heart.
He had learned that Monica had also lived in Denver for a season when he lived there. She had married and had several children and then after many years of illness her husband had died just a few years previously. He said they also talked about the last conversation they had had, Monica straightened him out on one thing. She had not said she didn’t want to marry him, she said she “didn’t want to marry him at this time.” She told him she just didn’t feel ready for marriage at that point.
All of a sudden, dad was consumed with trips to Las Vegas, where Monica lived and letter writing back and forth. He had found his childhood love had been stirred again. I knew that he wasn’t compromising his morals in the least bit but it sure was interesting when he said he was going to Las Vegas to stay for a month!
As I reviewed the ten years prior to his reunion with Monica I saw that the affirmation from Sister Evangeline, the unconditional love from the kids there and his Stephen’s ministry and bible study all worked to soften dad’s heart and allow him to once again search for love. His call to his cousin came from this internal desire.
They Get Married
So, after a few months, dad and Monica decided to get married but they had a hurdle. Dad’s marriage to my mom wasn’t annulled by the church. So, they pursued an annulment through his church in Omaha. Through a lot of paper work and interviews with family members who knew my mom and dad when they got married, the annulment was not approved. So, again, my dad wasn’t satisfied with the process and chose to try again through Monica’s church in Las Vegas. More paperwork and interviews occurred and during the process the priest at her church told them to go ahead and get married by the Justice of the Peace. He said they would continue to pursue the annulment and could get their marriage sanctioned by the church in time but for now his advice was to go ahead.
Well, my dad got some approval from someone he trusted and took advantage of the opportunity. Dad and Monica got married in 1989, the year after Vileen and I got married.
Everyone was ecstatic for them. They really loved each other. It was all positive! After a few months had gone by they got the word that dad’s marriage to my mom had been annulled. Now they could get their marriage fully sanctioned by the church and it was all good.
Vileen and I took a trip to Las Vegas to see them. I could hardly believe my eyes! I had never known my dad as a happily married man. They were so devoted to each other, sacrificed for one another, and were very affectionate with each other. I saw them pray together each night on their knees. They held hands every time they could.
My dad was now not only a model of faith for me to see, but he was modeling a godly marriage for everyone to see. They were both so happy. It wasn’t all a fairy tale, however.
They went through many very challenging circumstances together. Monica had cancer and two knee replacements. Her daughter had severe illnesses and passed away. Her son’s life was a challenge for my dad to experience and found he had to lay down some boundaries to keep their home peaceful. But through it all, their love grew and they had a wonderful marriage and life together.
My dad’s health was a challenge as well. He had a lung disease that he had suffered with from being in India during the war. He had a debilitating chronic cough that had caused emphysema and several bouts with pneumonia. Monica was by his side and always seemed to manage his life, her life, and that of her kids with such grace.
Dad Passed Away
In 1997 we got the call that he was once again in the hospital with pneumonia. It was really severe this time. My sisters and I went out to Las Vegas to see him. He was on a respirator which was very troublesome for him. He got so frustrated that he couldn’t talk with us and writing notes was a real challenge due to having to lay on his back.
The doctor came in to give some tests and we asked him if my dad’s lungs would heal. He said that the disease had caused a hardening in his lungs that would never get any better. He told my dad that he would have to live with a respirator.
After the doctor left dad said he would not live this way and that he was going to have the doctors remove the respirator. We all knew that this would cause his death but my dad’s desires came first. Shortly he communicated his desires to the doctors and they did as he wanted. Dad passed away in about 24 hours.
His plans were to donate his body to the University of Nevada for science. So, there would be no traditional funeral. They had planned to have two memorial services to remember his life. One was in Las Vegas for their friends and Monica’s family there. The other would be in Omaha for all of the other family and long time friends.
As I thought about my dad, I wanted the privilege to eulogize his life. So, when my wife and I arrived we went with Monica to talk to the priest about what I wanted to do. I was honest with him about what I wanted to say. I wanted to reveal my dad’s character through the way he handled life challenges. I said I wanted to talk about how he handled my homosexuality with such grace.
The priest sat there with a pondering look on his face and finally said that he would give his blessing to my plans. Then I took it a little further and also asked if I could take communion at the memorial service. I had not been a practicing Catholic for many years which could make this a challenge. But, once again, the Priest said he would definitely allow me to do that. It seemed that God was in the plan and Monica thought it was all a very good idea. So, I drafted an outline of what I wanted to say.
While my sisters and I were in Las Vegas following the memorial service Monica asked us if we wanted to go through dad’s things to sort out what we wanted. As we searched through his papers and personal things we discovered more of his character. We looked through his cancelled checks and saw our names written on many of them. We discovered that he had helped us out when we needed it. We learned that we had no jealousy or comparisons that caused any problems. We even joked about how we were each his favorite child. We found that dad had the gift of loving each of us as though we were his only child.
We Saw His Character Through His History
When we sorted through things that were his we were able to completely defer to each other and compromise for one another. If I wanted something specific, my sisters would agree to me having it and the same was done for each of us. We were amazed at how much we were able to do this without any difficulty and attributed this to what we had gained from being children of our father. He had raised us to know this kind of integrity because that is the way he lived.
The second memorial service took place in Omaha and I asked for the same permission and the local priest gave his approval. So I was allowed to share my heart once more before my own family and long time friends. As people entered the church I wanted to greet them personally. When my female cousins came in one by one some would stop by me and show me a special “angel” pin they wearing and said, “Your dad gave me this pin.” It became kind of funny because three cousins did this in a whisper almost to hide that they felt as though he had only given them a pin like that. Again, I saw the say my dad could unconditionally love people a though they were the only one he loved like that.
As I spoke for this second time, I knew that my dad was in his eternal place with God giving whole hearted approval for what I was sharing. This gave me the courage to speak. I just knew it was ok with him because he was in a place where he would know the whole truth of his life, and mine.
It was amazing that God had opened up such a door to talk about His grace through my own dad finding it for himself. After I returned I wrote my notes into a Tribute to my Dad which has been publicized in many periodicals and remains on my own website today.
Through the following years I often grieved but also recognized Monica’s loss. She had a very tumultuous marriage with her first husband much like my dad had. He struggled with many things as well as severe health issues and she had come to find such joy with my dad. They only had seven years together and it would have been so wonderful if they had more time to enjoy their love for each other.
Since my dad’s passing, Monica lost another daughter to cancer and her son died far too young. Her sister in law from her only brother passed from a severe disease as well. She has one daughter left that fortunately lives near her.
It has been humbling to know her. She has faithfully acknowledged all of the special holidays each year for all three of us kids as well as many of our children. No matter what was going on, we knew we would receive a card every year for birthdays, Christmas and often our anniversaries. Monica was just like my dad. They were both cut out of the same cloth. Her faith in God has never wavered and her love for people has revealed that all through the years I have known her.
She is now living in an assisted living community home because she has struggled with TIA’s, or mini strokes. She still is able to talk and remember but physically she isn’t able to live alone any longer. Her fortitude remains strong!
It seems that serving others and learning how to sacrifice was the turning point in my dad’s life. Giving to the developmentally disabled kids even when he did it out of spite began to change his life, it seemed to do something in his heart. Sister Evangeline’s gifts to my dad, even when he received them with a blocked heart, changed his life.
Every time my sisters and I get together or talk, my dad comes into our conversation. We remember how challenged his life was and how he ended it with such grace and joy.
One of my cherished possessions happens to be a rib that was removed from my dad’s chest during a lung surgery when my dad was in the Army. It was kept in the green trunk with all of his other life memorabilia. When I was a boy I used to ask him to see his “rib” and we would open the trunk and go through all the stuff there. When he passed I asked my sisters if I could have the rib and they let me have it.
Although it may seem strange to some of you, I have continued the practice of showing the rib to my grandson, Devin. He has now begun to ask to see the rib from Grandpa Norm. Oh, I have other things like a pocket watch that was my grandpa’s that my dad had restored to give to me. I also have his army jacket and the American flag from his funeral. And his green army trunk sits in our guest room.
He (John the Baptist) will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:16-17
Friday, May 27th, 2011
1988 Plymouth Voyager
This was the latest trend in family vehicles. After their debut in 1984, the refinement had enhanced the look and feel of the upcoming all American transport for parents and their children.
Velour interior, power everything, spacious interiors, it was like driving a tall limousine.
“Hello, I’ve been getting your newsletters and I have a donation to make to Love In Action. I have a 1988 Plymouth minivan that I don’t want any longer. I thought with all of the clients you have that it may come in handy for your use.”
One of the largest donations we had ever received at Love In Action. We anxiously waited for the delivery of our “new van”. It was almost brand new! It only had a few thousand miles on it. We couldn’t figure out why this generous man wanted us to have it but we were ecstatic. It was decided that Anita Worthen would drive it daily to the office but in any event that the ministry needed to transport clients she would release it to our use. She grew pretty comfortable in her new luxury vehicle and sometimes seemed reluctant to give it up for a day, or a weekend retreat. I can certainly understand that . Our new van came in pretty handy. Allow me to share how this van fit into my life.
About one month after Vileen and I were married I was scheduled to go on a retreat with our new program participants with Love In Action. Leaving on Thursday evening and returning late Sunday night meant I would be away from Vileen for the first time. These retreats took place twice each year regularly so it was something that Vileen had known about for two years. I was selected to drive the new van on this retreat. Oh, Boy! I was looking forward to the retreat as I always had and driving the new van made it especially good.
Our First Marriage Battle
I came home from the office to get ready to leave and Vileen was crying and said she didn’t want me to go. Oh, man, I felt trapped, confused, and blindsided by her heightened emotional response. I had no idea how to handle this one. She had never been like this before so I was also shocked.
As I tried to think in an instant about what to do, I could only imagine that there was some Spiritual warfare involved in her attempt to sway me from going. To my own surprise out of my mouth came, “get thee behind me Satan.” The look on Vileen’s face was that of shock and surprise! But from her own shock she stopped crying and we were able to talk about the weekend. She said, “I am going to miss having you here and I’ll be alone in our apartment and I don’t want to be.” I told her that I understood and that I would miss her too.
I learned that she didn’t want to stop me from going, just that her feelings of fear and potential loneliness were causing her reactions. We were finally able to find peace in the situation and I left to go to the retreat. But as I left, I was still in shock and fear that this would happen again.
This was the first of many other struggles between us that came up in the newness of our marriage relationship. All of the talking and counsel before our marriage hadn’t prepared us for these days. It seemed that every weekend something caused us to engage in an emotional battle. There weren’t fights or heavy arguing but rather, just emotional discomfort or misunderstanding. Since we weren’t fighting, it just didn’t seem to fit normal marriage struggles that I was familiar with. I was caught with seemingly nowhere to go to get through this.
As it so happened, the retreat that took place in January of 1989 was incredibly memorable. It snowed in the Mendocino California area for the first time in over 15 years. It was overwhelmingly beautiful. To wake up with snow on the roofs of the incredible hand built cabins was awesome. We toured into Mendocino to see the snow on the Victorian buildings next to the Pacific Ocean coastline was beyond belief. Even though Vileen and I struggled through my going to the retreat, God was there and blessing us with His love and care. Vileen also felt His closeness to her while at home. We both learned so much about life, marriage, and each other through our battle.
Managing Our Finances
“Vileen, why are you crying?” Another confusing situation came up. I thought it would be best for Vileen to maintain her own checking account. I just figured that most women would want their autonomy financially. We tried desperately to figure out how to manage the two accounts and Vileen was struggling to keep her’s balanced. Finally, I asked her if she wanted to move to one account and she said she felt tremendously relieved to do that. We chose to do that and it turned out to be the very best thing we could have done.
In response to moving to one account, we decided to keep a record of every dime we spent. Through this exercise we managed to find a financial balance that laid the foundation for all of our financial management. To my own surprise, we have not ever argued over money! Strange, I know, but I think that our first few months of keeping these records gave us a clear understanding of our individual spending habits and we accepted it as it was. We are completely transparent in how we spend money and all large financial decisions are made together. It seems to have worked from that day until now.
Most of our battles have been emotional. Some of my thinking led me to blame our struggles on my homosexuality. There were some things about our intimate relationship that seemed to confuse me, so it seemed to me that the root was contained in my homosexuality. This brought me to do a lot of blaming myself for all of our struggles. I just couldn’t get passed the thought that this was all my fault.
One of the men in our program was in partnership with his mother in developing a marriage retreat ministry. They privately invited couples they knew of to come at no cost to the couple. The weekend was held at a high class hotel with well known speakers. So, one day his mother contacted Vileen and I to invite us. In our conversation she mentioned that they typically didn’t invite “newlyweds” but in this case she felt led to invite us.
We quickly agreed and they flew us down to southern California for the retreat. Many of the typical topics were covered but the work that was done in our lives took place outside of the meetings. One morning I was praying and talking with God about our struggles. God posed a question to me, “John, do you love me?”
I had always struggled with the concept of loving God. I knew of those who always talked of this wonderful over the top “love” relationship with Jesus, that I never seemed to understand. I often felt inadequate in my relationship with Jesus because I didn’t seem to be able to muster up that kind of experience.
So, my answer to God was, “I can’t say I feel that way every day.” After my honest answer, He posed a second question, “John, are you going to leave me?” I said, “no, never, Lord. I am committed to You for life and have no temptation to lose what I have with you. I clearly understand who You are and what you mean to me.” So, He posed a third question.
“John, do you love your wife?”
Again, I could only think of comparing my relationship to others I had admired or at times felt jealous of. I could not honestly say that I had gushy feelings towards my wife all the time, at least not like I felt I needed to. We had known each other now for five years. We had a significant connection and relationship that was very important to me. But, to say I loved her in my mind meant that I couldn’t stand being away from her and that every morning I woke up with a dramatic need for her affection.
I had experienced emotionally dependent and exaggerated relationships where I used the word love to describe them but our relationship was nothing like that. I didn’t have the same needs to control her life. I didn’t feel enmeshed with her. There were days when I didn’t have that over the top kind of emotional connection with her in our relationship. So, to say I loved her was something that didn’t seem to match up with my past experience.
So, another question came my way through my time with the Lord. “John, are you going to leave her?” “Lord, no way. I was divorced once and that doesn’t work, no way am I going to leave her. It has never entered my mind to leave her.”
Oh, I am getting it. Then the Lord made a statement, “John, do you know what love is?” Now this is getting interesting. He said, “Love is commitment.” I went on to ponder the amazing reality that just came into my heart. Love isn’t based on a feeling, it is based on commitment!
Do I love Jesus?
YES! Do I love my wife? YES! This little but significant piece of wisdom has laid a foundation for my life and my marriage that has never left my side. A lot of the emotional turmoil that was going on in my heart in my marriage was relieved in this time with the Lord.
From the many places of confirmation that prepared us for getting married and the commitment that I have with Vileen I have never been tempted to run away, leave, or even think of ending my marriage. This brings me the much needed peace and confidence necessary for me to have experience a deeper love than I have ever known with the Lord, and with my wife. Our life together has never been a “Romeo and Juliet” relationship. But, through it all we are significantly bonded together and have seemed to make it joyfully and with some level of ease.
I also recognized that weekend that our struggles were not all mine. During our marriage “renewal” retreat we were assigned to spend some time talking face to face. It was one of those times when Vileen talked with me about some things in her life that I had not known about. I was aware of some things that had wounded her in her past but this time she talked in more detail of the depth of wounding that had occurred. I was surprised and had to do some thinking about all of this. But, I was now much more aware of some things that contributed to our emotional and relational battles.
When we got home our marriage life was distinctly different and much better but it wasn’t all cured. We went on to discover more things that were playing into our struggles. At one point I was walking and the Lord prompted me again. He challenged me to pray with my wife every day and bring a more spiritual foundation to our marriage. For some reason, praying together was a very challenging and vulnerable thing to do so I had not done that with her in our relationship.
So, that week, we began a daily prayer time. In a few months it seemed Vileen was more settled and our pattern of highly emotional “Saturday’s” calmed down. The pattern of upheaval that seemed to occur every Saturday was replaced with daily prayer.
After about six months we were settling in nicely with our marriage and life style. As I thought further about our marriage I was fearful of not being able to meet Vileen’s emotional needs. A focus of this fear was when I thought of her parents passing on. What would I do when that happened? Would I have what it takes to comfort her in such a devastating loss?
As I grew I began to learn that Vileen didn’t need me to fix the problems that came up. She just needed me to listen and validate what she was feeling. I had always had a struggle with the sense that I needed to resolve the feelings she had experienced, rather than to allow her to just experience them.
And of course, in just about a year or so we got a phone call that her mother had passed away. I remember distinctly sitting on the side of the bed with her when she put the phone down. I put my arms around her and just remained with her. I felt such a peace knowing that I wasn’t going to take the grief away but I was committed to be there with her. I think the lesson of commitment regardless of feelings was something that has added to our being able to build the marriage we have today.
Vileen was faithful to support me in all that I was involved in. After we were married for just two years I became the Executive Director for Love In Action. This meant that many priorities would have to hang on my responsibilities there. I had daily office commitments, as well as evening meetings that I was leading. And yes, there were the annual retreats, speaking engagements, and national travel that would take me away from home. Vileen always understood and after our initial few months of adjustment, she has never in any way attempted to control my life so as to take me away from the things that were part of my ministry life.
The Audi Loses It’s Glamour
Back to our Audi 5000, Vileen continued to enjoy driving it but it began to have some problems. The transmission began to slip and the sun roof stopped working. I felt overwhelmed with what this could mean. I already had learned of the high cost of repairing this luxury European vehicle. Vileen accidentally “sliced” a tire on a curb that cost us over $200 to replace it through having to special order it. I couldn’t imagine how much a new transmission would cost us.
I was talking to Frank, the ministry director, about my financial concerns regarding our car. He said simply, “John, put a sign in it, park it on the street, and sell it.” I didn’t think that would work but I got a sign and put it up for sale. Within two days, someone came into my office and said “I want to buy the Audi you have for sale.”
I told him it had a bad transmission. He said, “I’ll take it and get it checked out.” Upon his return, he informed me that one of the five cylinders was bad as well as the transmission needed replacing. He said he still wanted to buy the car. He offered $2000 to take if off my hands. Amazingly, $2000 is just what I owed on the car. Frank’s suggestion worked! I was free of the burden of the broken car but now what would I do to replace it? I didn’t make enough money to get another one or even make a down payment on one.
I often pondered what an incredible privilege it was to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. At times the natural beauty would take my breath away. The brisk, clean, bright sunny mornings were often so refreshing. There was so much to see and do but to be honest, like most people, we didn’t take full advantage of what was given to us for the years we lived there. I often wonder what may have been different in our relationship if we had done more walking, touring, and visiting the many sights that were there. Don’t get me wrong, we saw all of the main attractions and every time a friend or relative would come to town, we always took them to the things many wanted to see there. But, what if…. What if we would have walked in the redwoods more, or traveled around San Francisco to really digest what was there? But in the end, we did enjoy living there and still to this day count is as an amazing time in our lives.
The time was drawing near for Frank and Anita to leave for a new ministry in Manila Philippines. Anita sat me down one day and said, “I think you should have my van when I leave. It seems right since you will be the director, that you it take over. I was so excited to have this wonderful vehicle! I felt honored and privileged to be able to drive it. I knew how much she liked it and this made it even more special that she would give it to me. Much less, God provided once again for our needs.
This experience was the beginning of learning to trust God with my fears and concerns. It was a lesson in how He will miraculously provide when things come into our life that can make us feel overwhelmed with burden or need.
A upcoming marriage that was unexpected turned out to be an amazing surprise and a change of life for many people.
Friday, May 20th, 2011
1988 Mustang Convertible
The third generation mustang in its later years. This car was similar in size to the original mustang from the mid sixties.
This car was a rental we drove on our honeymoon trip in Hawaii. We knew a convertible would be the way to go for seeing such a strikingly beautiful place.
It was great fun to cruise around the island with the top down!
Our wedding story unfolds.
Our First Kiss!
Standing in our church fellowship hall with all of our friends and family around the wedding shower was almost over and everyone energetically shouted “kiss, kiss” over and over. Vileen and I had been in different cities for a year and a half with only short visits in between. We had not kissed each other so this moment seemed like a strange one to engage in our first kiss, but here we go.
Later, Vileen told me that she appreciated that we had not engaged in kissing prior to that time. She said that if we had begun physical affection before that, the long distance and time between would have been much harder. So, our relationship was now being cemented by the invitations, the shower, and – the kiss.
I had found an apartment that seemed suitable for us to begin our life together. There was a lady who was coming into the Love In Action program in January of 1989 and needed a temporary place to live until that time. It seemed to be an answer to prayer to provide Vileen a roommate and some help with the rent so she moved in when Vileen did, in September 1988. Their relationship went well and it proved to be a good thing for them both.
During the last months before our wedding we did a lot of talking. Our relationship was very comfortable and we discovered more about ourselves and each other. December came fast and it was time to go to Omaha for our wedding which would take place on the tenth.
Since we understood the slim finances of all of our wedding party and our pastor, we decided it would be best to provide the dresses and tuxedos rather than to burden them with the cost. Our maid of honor was Debbie Smith, which happened to be one of the first girls I met in our singles ministry. She later became good friends with Vileen. My best man was Clark Peterson, who was a great friend of mine that spent many hours with me talking through my life and his.
We asked Dennis Franck to marry us. It seemed only right since he was our pastor when each of us came through our previous lives into the singles ministry in Omaha. Dennis knew us through and through, down to the nitty gritty details of our lives.
Travel to Omaha
Several men from our ministry in California had planned on coming to the wedding which was a tremendous blessing for me to have their support and encouragement. As we all got to the airport, my mind was certainly not on the details. All of our luggage was unloaded onto the curb. We were all trying to get into the ticket lines and Vileen turned around and said, “where is my dress?” I had left it on the curb! Thankfully, it was still there when I ran outside to get it. We have joked about that moment many times through the years.
When we reached Omaha, I took all of our friends on a tour of our home town. We saw all of the highlights including where I was raised and went to school. I love to tour people around things I am familiar with, so they got the whole story.
Our wedding was really spectacular. I didn’t want to wait in some room away from the people so I was in the foyer to greet all of our guests and put corsages on the special people in our lives. After everyone was seated, I remember standing there waiting for it all to unfold with tears in my eyes. I could hardly believe I was there and that all of our family and friends had gathered to celebrate with us.
It was December so we utilized the decorations that were already in place for the church Christmas program. The sanctuary was filled with poinsettias and red and white all through the place. We arranged for a simple cake and punch reception to keep our costs down.
But the simplicity didn’t hamper the joy, laughter, and meaningful comments from our guests. Jill Frank, our pastor’s wife, donned the infamous “nose and glasses” to read a comical poem that symbolized her memories of our budding relationship. She wrote it on the “barf” bags she found in the seatback pockets. It was hilarious and memorable. We still have the bags she wrote on. I am amazed to this day that Jill knew us both and our relationship so well.
This is the story of John and Vileen
‘Tis found to be a wacky if you know what I mean.
They met on a trip with some folks out of FOCAS,
when John prayed over a car – this was no hocus pocus.
The car belonged to a girl named Dawna
When urged to keep going the car said “I’m not gonna”.
When John’s prayer flowed like water from a cup
Lo and behold the car started up!
With mouth wide open Vileen almost lost her lunch
And said to herself “how’d I get with this bunch?”
As time quickly passed and the Lord had His way,
John and Vi discovered Cupid’s arrow had hit them both that day.
In ‘86 on Memorial Day they had their first date planned in John’s special way.
They rode “Ollie the Trolley” in Omaha town
From that day forth they went round and round.
Alysha and Amanda were always there too
They wanted to see what their dad would do.
Their romance began on that glorious day
John showed Vi what he thought by moving away.
A typical FOCAS man showed what he intends
By saying to Vi, I just want to be friends.
But alas and alak, he began to miss her;
And wished that he could hug and kiss her.
So they wrote and they called and they visited too
And they prayed to their God “Oh, what should we do?”
Watching the sunset John proposed to his love
And Vi exclaimed loudly “Praise God from above!”
He gave her a diamond dear to her heart
And two weeks later the ring fell apart.
‘Twas two days before the wedding at dawn’s early light
No wait just a minute I believe it was still night.
From across the land in the area known as “Bay”
Came 10 crazy travelers, yes 10 in one day.
They brought with them luggage, both boxes and bags.
Now Vi, don’t you nag, just because your fiancé had abandoned your dress;
Left outside the terminal, come on John, confess.
Then came the rehearsal when arose such a clatter
In Amanda, Alysha, Dan, what’s the matter?
Michael, Debbie, Clark, Vileen, come walk this way.
John’s here and he’s waiting, it’s now the big day!
This poem you asked for so as you hear it please don’t gag;
But if you do, I brought you some continental barf bags!
A Famous Photographer
Jeremy Marks, a good friend of mine from London, came to our wedding and agreed to take our pictures. Jeremy was the official St. Paul’s Cathedral photographer for the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana. It was great fun to have him with us much less to have something to talk about later concerning the photographer!
Since both of my parents were there I wanted something that I didn’t have, a picture with both of them and myself. So, this is the only picture I have with them together with me.
Afterward, we spent our first night in a local hotel near the airport since we were leaving bright and early the next morning we didn’t want a fancy place. We were headed off to Hawaii! The hotel that came with the gifted package was the Hyatt Regency Waikoloa on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was a brand new hotel with the best of amenities.
When we arrived we could hardly believe how wonderful our honeymoon was going to be. The hotel had a boat channel that took us to our room. There were hammocks hanging around the property underneath the palm trees. The swimming pool was not only one, but several places of cool enjoyment.
We planned our days so we could see everything there was to see. Since our hotel was on the lava rock side of the island, there wasn’t a ocean beach right near us. This meant we would take one of our days to spend at the beach. The others were planned so we could see the black sand, island forests, rainy Hilo, and volcanoes.
We got up each morning, walked down the beach side path to breakfast and got ready for our daily tours. By the end of the week it seemed we hadn’t rested at all! Our last day was our beach day hoping for a little rest there but when we got up to go, it was raining and continued to rain all day. So much for the beach in Hawaii.
We loved being there, seeing the sights, driving all around in our little convertible and all of the luxury of Hawaii but, emotionally, our honeymoon felt like the ocean wave we seemed to miss on our beach tour.
I began to experience some depression in the reality that my life was going to change dramatically. I had spent two years in a community that was a wonderful experience. I loved the variety of people, the conversations and the camaraderie of friends. I realized that had come to and end and began to grieve the loss of what I had enjoyed so much.
Neither Vileen nor I were prepared for what we were going to experience. All of our conversations, prayer and counsel had not prepared us for the emotional roller coaster that rushed into our relationship. Our struggles began on our honeymoon and followed us back to San Rafael in our new married life.
Within one month after our wedding we had some serious things to conquer and it seemed no one had any answers for us to help us make it through.
Thursday, May 12th, 2011
1984 Audi 5000 Turbo
5 cylinder engine, all leather interior, sun roof; the Audi 5000 was one cruising machine! This car actually listed for $25,000 when it was new! That was a chunk of change for anyone to pay for a four door sedan.
I bought this one in 1988 for my fiance as a welcome to California gift when she moved from Omaha. You may think I was the man with all of the big bucks but actually, surprisingly, I got her Audi for a whole lot less than $25 grand and boy was it a pretty car. I had picked out two cars, the other one being a 1984 Volkswagen Cabriolet convertible, but I decided she may be happier with something a little more “sedan-like”. I remember listening to this automobile start up and run with a low but powerfully solid purr. Taking it out on the curving roads of Northern California was a dream come true.
This Audi had five cylinders and turbo so the configuration was a bit unusual. Driving it was certainly “European” in feel. It didn’t start off quickly but once she got running, it was like driving a large yacht on land.
Yes, I now had a fiancé. Please humor me a little to hear how all of this happened. In the last chapter I mentioned that there was a Christmas gift that was about to change my life dramatically. Well, that is true. During my first year as a house leader at Love In Action I struggled greatly with my relationship with Vileen. We weren’t really dating since we lived 1500 miles apart from each other. She came to visit a couple of times and I went home to visit as well. But one would hardly call that a dating relationship.
We wrote letters a whole lot and spent time on the phone but the relationship was missing something that seemed to keep us focused. With counsel from some more mature men it seemed that the right thing to do would be to release Vileen from the relationship and free myself from the ongoing conflicts. Actually, I was advised to either “crap or get off the pot”. Sorry for the explicit analogy but I needed to get some motivation to do something.So, my plans were in place.
We’re Breaking Up
In July of 1987 I had arranged a trip to Omaha and knew that my assignment was to take care of this uncomfortable business of telling Vileen that I had to break up with her. So, a dinner was planned and as we sat down, before I could say anything, Vileen said, “John, I have something that I have to tell you.” She went on to say that she felt a strong leading from the Lord to release our relationship from any kind of dating or romantic expectations on either of our parts. I am sure my face turned white. “Vileen, that is very interesting because I have the same message from the Lord as well. We both looked at each other in astonishment.
So, after our visit I returned to San Rafael with a new freedom and a new search. I wasn’t done with my dream of getting married. I remember wondering who would come into my life next. I saw one lady who drew my attention but I found out that she had become engaged to another man that I knew. That didn’t stop me and I continued to pray and look further.
Vileen and I didn’t stop our communication, it just felt different now that we apparently were not an “item” any longer. As Christmas drew closer I had gotten a large box in the mail from Vileen. It looked like some sort of picture. I thought it might be one of those collage picture arrangements that she had put together from our friends from the singles ministry. When I opened up the box I was completely blown away!
I had sent her a photograph of my favorite cabin at “The Lord’s Land”. It was Faith Cabin and the surrounding redwoods and fog had really captured the ambiance of the place. Inside the box was an oil painting of the picture that I had sent her. She had a friend of ours paint it for me.
My emotional reaction to this picture drew me to an inner truth that had been hidden away. Vileen and I really did love each other.
We’re Back Together
So, shortly thereafter, I asked Vileen if we could start over and rekindle our relationship. She agreed so we moved forward into a rediscovery of our goals. Vileen was coming to visit in the summer so I decided that would be an excellent time to ask her to marry me.
I was enthused about her coming, and the plans I had in my heart, so I wrote a letter to my sister and included in it that I was going to ask Vileen to marry me.
Well….. I had said some other things in the letter that I wanted Vileen to read and absentmindedly copied the whole letter and sent it to her. So, Little did I know that she now knew my plans, but didn’t tell me that she knew.
When the trip came about, we traveled to the Lord’s Land to spend a few days away from the ministry. My kids were there and we began to enjoy the wonderful place that Lord had set aside. I had planned on proposing there. Vileen loved the sunsets on the ocean which was only a few miles to the coast from where we were staying.
In my desire for complete obedience to the Lord, I made a deal with Him. I said, “Lord, if there is a sunset on the ocean, I will know you are in agreement with me to marry Vileen.” The day I was planning on asking her was overcast, dreary and wet. I woke up with FEAR in my heart. “Oh, no, what am I gonna do now?” I just kept praying, “Lord, help me, I want to marry her but without a sunset on the ocean – it is off!”
We’re Getting Married
As the day progressed I remained focused on my plan waiting for the Lord’s will to be made known. At 5:00 PM we drove to the ocean view. As we got closer something became clear – a sunset began to shine through as the clouds and fog lifted. Wow! This is amazing. God had shown me that we were free to go forward.
So, as I planned, I wanted my daughters to feel included and yet we needed some privacy. So, I asked them to take the camera across the road so that they could take pictures of me asking Vileen to marry me. They did and we have a picture of the exact moment!
So, our plans became a reality and we had set a date of December 10th to get married. Interestingly enough, Vileen’s job was coming to an end in Omaha so she made arrangements to move to California in September to get things settled in. A good friend continued on with all of the plans for our wedding which would take place in Omaha were all of our family and many friends remained. We were also excited to get married in the church where we had met and spent most of our time together for the previous two and one half years.
My aunt who was a second mother to me had passed away just a few months earlier. I found out that she had left me a little money from her savings. We were thrilled to be able to finance our wedding and some other things with what she had given us through her passing. As the time drew closer for Vileen to move to San Rafael, she decided to sell her car in Omaha before she came. This is where the Audi came in to play.
As September arrived I tried to think of a way to present her with her new car. She didn’t know I had gotten it. I have always wanted to give someone a car with a huge red bow on it like on TV. So, when she arrived I went to show her the apartment that I had arranged for her to live in. It had a garage attached so I parked it in there with the front end pointing out. I put a huge red bow on it. When I opened up the garage all you could see was the bright gold car with the bow. Needless to say, Vileen was quite surprised. I think it was a winner!
During the next few months as we prepared for marriage we talked a lot. Our pastor at church went through some premarital counseling with us. We made all the preparations that we could from 1500 miles away. We talked with our pastor in Omaha at length, Vileen had a new pastor on the church staff that she spoke with about our plans. I called her parents to get their blessing as well as my own. Throughout all of our conversations and discussion, there was not any hesitation in those who knew us and loved us. The wedding was on.
During the first month of Vileen’s living in San Rafael she got a job as a travel agent. This became a great asset right away. A friend of ours who worked for a travel agency had won a one week vacation in Hawaii. It just so happened that the date he was scheduled for the trip was the week right after our wedding. He was unable to use the package and offered to give it to us for our honeymoon! And, her new boss offered two airline tickets for our trip. We were so ecstatic about what God was doing!
Preparing For A New Life Together
We had just a few months to prepare for our new life together. We were really enjoying our conversations, our walks on the beach, in Sausalito, CA, and many other very romantic places I felt tremendously privileged to be engaged to Vileen in such a wonderful location in our world.
Many surprises waited for us after our wedding.
Thursday, March 10th, 2011
California, Here I Come
A very strange limousine was seen in Beverly Hills California. I took this picture during a major life transition. This car symbolizes my first introduction to this new world that I had entered. Having never been there before, it all looked so strange to me. It was a brand new season of my life that began with a prayer and a pursuit of full time ministry. I had no idea how God was going to answer that prayer but it ended up in a place totally unexpected.
Dear Dave Reddout,
“I am writing to see if you have any need for help with “Stained Glass Ministries” in Amsterdam.” I sent a letter to him in May of 1986 testing the water to see if God may send me to help. Dave’s ministry was for singles in the Netherlands and I was praying desperately for God’s leading and for opportunities to leave the railroad job and work in full time ministry.
This letter and the following prayers for an answer brought me to ponder what it would take to put my life on hold for one year while I worked in Amsterdam. I was impatient as I waited for a response but I laid out plans that would work if the answer was “yes, c’mon.” These plans would come to fruition later in a way I was not expecting.
I got a response and it was a “not at this time.” I was so disappointed. But my prayers continued with the hope that God would bring them to fruition in His time, in His way.
So, through the summer I went through the man dying of AIDS, and a deep heart change that postured me for hearing the radio broadcast introducing me to Love In Action. Therefore, when Anita called me about the House Leader position she mentioned that the commitment was for one year. What? Did you say one year? Well, I had already set plans in place for how I could make a commitment to a one year ministry position.
The Union Pacific Railroad was offering buyouts for people who were willing to give up their jobs. After Anita’s call, I received the paperwork for the application to Love In Action. While I was filling out the information there, I was talking with the UP about applying for the buyout. I just knew that Love In Action would accept my application.
God’s Impeccable Timing
It dawned on me that the Lord and I had agreed on when I could leave the railroad. I had thought that when the clown ministry had become too busy for me to manage it and work at the railroad, then it would be time to quit. But the funny thing is that the day that Anita called me I had just started a new job at the railroad that was so busy that I couldn’t have kept up with clown ministry while I was at work. I did some phone calls and arranged dates while I was at work some times because the job I had was really easy and I could do it with time to spare. The new job was totally unmanageable in a day’s time. That day, I went home totally depressed because it was the kind of job that would never have been caught up. So, when Anita’s call came, it was my ticket out of this new overwhelming job that I hated. Gee, could it have been God’s special timing?
I was seeking accountability from the pastors that were at my church about the decision to go to Love In Action. One conversation stuck out to me. “John, I believe if you don’t say yes to this opportunity, you may never say yes again.” The encouragement aligned with a time of prayer earlier in the year. A man prayed over me with a prophetic word, “John, you will readily accept a challenge, and you will work in mission work, both foreign, and local.” This was certainly a challenge, and it was a mission work. And… it was called Love In Action International. I could see the writing on the wall all around me that I needed to pursue this opportunity.
Ok, so some practical details are turning quickly, but I had to consider facing the reality of the relationships that would be impacted by this move. I had just begun the process of integrating my daughters back into my life. We spent three to four days each week together. And, I had a girlfriend I was spending a lot of time with. Much less, I was building some awesome new friendships. The clown ministry was growing and becoming really active. What was God’s answer to all of this? How could I just pick up and leave Omaha for a one year ministry position 1500 miles away? There was no pay involved so I would have to figure out how to financially manage all of this.
I talked to my dad about this and his response was, “John, I am very concerned about you doing this. You have always struggled with keeping commitments.” I said, “Dad, you are right, that was the old me. But I am different now. I’ve grown up.” I was sad that my dad wasn’t supportive and it concerned me. But, I continued to move forward believing that this was God’s time, and God’s plan.
There was a pretty big bump in the road that aligned itself with this opportunity. Vileen and I had begun to struggle in our relationship. I was feeling challenged about my heart with hers. I had become scared to remain open with her and had begun to close off my heart. When I saw this opportunity, in my selfishness, I believed it was a way out of the relationship that was admirable. I talked with Vileen about my struggles so, she was aware that I was troubled. But I figured that when I left Omaha, that would be the end of our dating relationship. Little did I know that God was sending me to a place in life where I could get some much needed healing for myself.
A Doctrinal Challenge That Brought a God Answer
I filled out my life story, the applications, and had talked with Anita many times but one conversation I’ll never forget. “Anita, is Love In Action a “Spirit Filled” ministry?” What I was asking was, are they Holy Spirit filled, do they speak in tongues? I wanted to make sure they were in line with my doctrine. Her response was, “John, of course. We can’t do anything without the power of the Holy Spirit.”
She wisely answered that question! But her answer was the first of many that would challenge my pride of doctrine. God’s response to me was “John, would you have not gone if her answer would have been “no.” I was humbled and more ready to move to another part of the country with new people, a new church, and yes, my doctrinal boundaries would become expanded by the experience.
Waiting, Waiting, Waiting
I was on pins and needles every day waiting to hear back from Love In Action on my application. I finally got my answer. They accepted me! Now it’s time to get the ball in motion. The plan I set in place for a one year departure would have to now become a reality.
It was time to talk with my kids about the plan for my move. I don’t handle conflict well and changes in relationships are really hard too. So, when it came time for me to sit down with them, I told them I was leaving but I tried to paint it in a positive light. I talked about the way we could write each other and talk on the phone. They both cried and I didn’t know what to do with all of that. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for how to handle their feelings so I avoided dealing with it. Oh, if I could only go back to do it differently I would, but life just isn’t that way. I saw this as such a positive thing that I overlooked their feelings in the whirlwind of preparation.
It was no less than an a Miracle!
The Union Pacific Railroad accepted my “buy out” and the check was in the mail. I would receive $30,000 for quitting my job. I put the house up for sale and began telling people I needed to sell my furniture and household items. Literally within two weeks, my house sold. In just a few more weeks, everything else was sold without even placing an ad. I was ready to pack up the remaining keepsakes and a few things I just couldn’t replace. I put them in long term storage for a later date when I would settle in again to something more permanent. I only had this one year in mind.I only had two months to get everything ready to go. I was to leave on December 26th for California.
My Father’s Blessing
My dad sat down with me one day to talk about my decision. I was totally surprised at his response now that he’d thought more about it. “John, I want you to know that I think your decision to go to Love In Action is a good thing. I am supportive of your plans.” I can’t tell you how good it felt to know that I now had my father’s blessing to move forward.
In talking with Anita about what I would do once I arrived in San Rafael. We thought maybe I could clean houses, or work at a bank part time to bring in a little income to help. I put my buy-out money in a special savings account to pay the things I needed to pay such as child support and insurance expenses. The lack of surety in all of this was both exciting, and challenging at the same time. I really had never read anything on ministry to homosexuality, nor did I really know anything about Love In Action or other ministries like this.
So, I was really going blindly into this new opportunity. It was totally built on faith that God knew what He was doing and I was just following along. I am sure many found it uncertain. But they just didn’t say anything to me about it. It was an entirely new world that I had never explored.
My friend George told me he’d like to make the trip to California with me. We made plans to go through Southern California and see some things there along the way. I was really excited to see a part of the country that I never thought I’d be able to see.
Leaving the clowns and FOCAS was really hard. The clowns decided to keep the ministry going so we set those plans in motion. The FOCAS group had a big going away party for me. I felt really loved and appreciated there. There was no discussion with Vileen about our relationship other than that we’d stay in contact with each other regularly. She knew we were struggling but there wasn’t a decision to break up when I left.
Pastor Dennis, Vileen, myself and Diana
FOCAS Thursday evening group
Vileen and the cake “Look Out California! Here comes John!
I couldn’t wait for the future to unfold. I was leaving a job I absolutely hated and moving into a brand new challenge ahead.
Christmas day came and we all celebrated together. I was pumped and ready to go. Afterwards, I packed my car with all of my worldly belongings to take with me, other than the things that didn’t fit and were in storage. I left a space just big enough for George and his suitcase.
The next morning we started our journey across the land for California. I couldn’t help but think about the radical folks who had made this same journey years earlier in their covered wagons. In some ways, it was the same for me. Going westward with no idea what I was going into but it was a great adventure.
All during the drive questions kept going trough my mind about what this place would be like. How do they help homosexuals? What is this small “low-key, charismatic” church really like? What will I do with my time?
George and I loved the experience of driving out together. Seeing he mesas in New Mexico and Arizona were amazing. We finally got to California and all I wanted to do was to see Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and other well known sites. Of course, the beach was high on the list too.
After our whirlwind tour of Southern California we drove north along the California coast which was absolutely gorgeous. We finally arrived in San Rafael. Of course this was before GPS or Google Maps and we had no idea where we were going.
We stopped several people to ask for directions but none of them knew the street we were looking for. Anita had given me some ideas of where they were located but none of those descriptions helped so we finally called the office. “Hello, John! Welcome to Marin county. What, you need directions? Oh, here’s Frank, he can help you.”
Talking to Frank for the very first time was so weird. But Frank gave us directions to the office. It was all so surreal. To say “strange” wouldn’t describe what I was feeling at this point. But at the same time, it seemed I was right where God wanted me to be.
We got to the office of Love In Action. It was on the second floor so walking up the stairs a flood of questions went through my mind. As I entered the door I was greeted by a man named Roger. Then Anita came out, along with Frank. They talked a little then sent me and George on our way to the house I would be living in. Anita had described their house this way. It was an old house near a bus stop. The girls lived upstairs as she and Frank did as well. There were five other men who lived downstairs where I was going to stay.
Well, when I arrived at the house I realized it wasn’t that old, it was in a suburban area and there didn’t seem to be a bus stop near the house. But, I was happy to find the place to be what it was. It was previously a two bedroom, one bath home, that had been remodeled. This made it seven bedrooms and four bathrooms. It was pleasant and comfortable. They had planned a space for me. My bedroom was all set up and I felt so loved already just by the fact that they had gone through so much to prepare for my arrival. George stayed the first night and then I took him to the airport to send him home. He was such a good friend to have gone all this way with me. I really don’t know what I would have done if I had done this all by myself. God had prepared the way and I felt confident that I was in the center of His will each step of the way.
The first day in San Rafael was a blur to me. While I had only prepared for one year, little did I know God had other plans. I spent the next 22 years of my life giving myself exclusively to a ministry life that brought me into thousands of lives and changed me dramatically. An amazing mystery is about to unfold.
I am going to take a breath here, and get ready for chapter two in my life as a Christian. Life would never be the same again.
Thursday, February 17th, 2011
Valentines Week, 1984. When roses were being handed out, I was calling it quits with a gay partner.
The 1970 Continental Mark III was a personal luxury car produced by Lincoln and sold in North America in the 1969 through 1971 model years.
This car came into my life through a new man that I met at the “Stage Door Lounge”, a local gay bar. Jim, one of my partners, bought this car because he had always wanted one and he found a perfect model at a reasonable price. It was beautiful, luxurious, and he was so excited to find it. I have to say, I loved it too. When I rode in it I felt rich, sassy, and first class.
The Cars Keep Coming
As I write all of these stories about cars that remind me of my life, this car symbolizes for me the confusion, immorality, and brokenness I experienced. I was trying to find a gay partner that wouldn’t cheat on me and leave me. But was blind as to how I was the one who cheated, lied, and left people hurting in the dust.
After such devastation of Steve leaving me and becoming involved with my friend, Don, I was determined I would find someone who would love me. I went to the local gay bars and discos on the weekends hoping that one of those nights I would find the right person.
Saturday nights were obviously the main gathering time but since I was desperate, I started my weekend going out sometimes as early as Thursday nights. There were many ways a guy could manage the bar depending on his circumstances. If I didn’t want the pressure of approaching men, I would sit with friends on the side and make it clear I was with a group. If, on the other hand, I was looking for someone then I would stand alone and show that I was open to someone approaching me.
On one night in particular I remember driving to the bar. It was about 10:30 at night and I saw a handsome young man walking down the street. I stopped to ask him if he need a ride. As we talked I found out that he was gay and I asked him if he knew about the local gay bars. He said no and I asked if he’d like me to take him there. So, he agreed and I escorted this young man to the gay bars for the very first time. I always felt guilty that I introduced him to the gay bars but that was the only way I knew of to connect to the gay community. When I took him home, as was often the case, we had a one night stand. I saw him many other times at the bar. Many times I wondered what it would have been like for me if I had found a place to connect that wasn’t through the bar scene.
Maybe This Will Work Out Better
One night I saw a guy standing alone. He had jeans, a plaid shirt, and suspenders on with boots. He looked quite alluring. I walked up to him and he seemed aloof to talk with but he also seemed kind. He wasn’t drinking much so that was a good sign. I didn’t like to be around people that were drunk.
We introduced ourselves and he said his name was Jim. Jim and I really hit it off and at the end of the evening he asked me to follow him home to his apartment. I was more than eager to spend more time with him. I thought maybe this would be the man I was looking for.
We went to his place and it was in a classic, really cool, old building. In his apartment I found his things to be organized like an antique store display window. It was done with great attention to detail. He had a lot of things and talked about how he really didn’t care much about them but valued relationships more.
Jim and I talked into the middle of the night. Well, I am not so sure Jim talked that much because he seemed to be more of a listener. I was very open about what had just happened in my life and Jim seemed to be a comforter for my wounds.
So, Jim and I began to hang out a lot and he always wanted to see me more. One Sunday Jim said he wanted to go with me to get my kids and hang out with us. This was very new! Jim really liked my kids and they liked him. He was funny and enjoyed teasing them a lot. By this time, they were three and four years old so they were easily entertained.
We exchanged staying at each others houses and it seemed we were moving into a deeper relationship. However , Jim made it clear that he wasn’t eager to share a home. There seemed to be a resistance to giving up his apartment and his personal way of living. I couldn’t say I was very interested in giving up my place either. I had a great apartment and my home life had calmed down since Steve moved out and my personal time at home became very important to me.
Jim had a large, boisterous Italian family. He talked a lot about his mom and dad, who had passed away. His aunt “Babe” was now like a mom to him. He loved her so much and talked of how he loved to go hang out at her house. She was very dramatic and he loved that about her. We used to laugh a lot about how Aunt Babe responded to life. She reminded me of an old screen actress who always had some drama going on.
His Sister is a Jesus Freak!
Jim also had two sisters and two brothers that he loved dearly. He was particularly close to one sister. Her name was Jen. Jim wanted me to go with him to meet Jen and her family. Before we went, he wanted to brief me on some things. He said that Jen and her husband were Jesus Freaks. He said they talked about Jesus all of the time and he wanted to warn me before we got there.
Jen was delightful! She clearly loved her brother, Jim. She talked of his homosexuality in kind of a distracted way. She treated Jim’s friends with respect but called them Jim’s “funny friends.” We all laughed about the way she put things and it was clear she had loved the other men Jim had introduced her to as much as she showed me she loved me. As a matter of fact, Jen and I are still connected today.
My relationship with Jim became kind of complicated. Jim would at times say he didn’t want to hang out on a particular weekend and said he was tired. He and I worked out a special telephone signal that would tell each other we were going to bed rather than to talk. So Jim would ring the phone at 11:00 PM and I would know he was going to sleep. I felt close to him with our special code system.
On one Friday night I decided to go out to the bar and arrived around 9:30 PM. Jim had said he was tired and was staying home so I took advantage of the free evening to be with other friends. I walked in to the bar and Jim was standing in the “looking” pose? I felt betrayed and distrustful for obvious reasons. This began a series of ups and downs for Jim and me. I loved Jim a lot and overlooked the open, unspoken agreement. Actually, I took advantage of the opportunities to be with other men. We hung out often and spent time with family and of course, Jim loved my kids so we did fun things with them too.
There was a guy named Jerry that kept calling me to get together. One day he came to my house and it was clear that he wanted to have sex. I didn’t see him in that way and really didn’t want to do anything sexual with him. But he kept trying and eventually I gave into his advances. It was at this time that I realized I was compromising. I felt disrespected, used, and certainly unfulfilled. There were sexual opportunities with men that at the time I wished would have moved into more of a relationship, then there were those I wanted to forget completely. My friend, Don, always told me that it wasn’t a good idea to have sex with your “friends” because it would ruin the relationship. That happened to me too.
A Revival Service? What’s That?
Jim’s sister, Jen, called me to invite me to one of their church services. She described it as a “revival” service which sounded quite interesting to me. I hadn’t been to a church other than a wedding or funeral since I was married to Kristy. So, on a Wednesday night, I met Jen and her husband at a small church in Council Bluffs Iowa, without Jim. He wasn’t interested in going.
I don’t remember much about the speaker, or the event but something happened to me that evening that was quite amazing. I heard this voice, not out loud, but it was clear. “John, you don’t have to live this way any longer.” I clearly understood what that meant. I had gone through such turmoil and disappointment that it seemed that God Himself was telling me that I could make a dramatic change in my life that would free me from all of the unhealthy relationships and sexual promiscuity that I had been involved in.
I had not been sexually faithful to any of the men I had been with. I had many one night stands along the way. Steve’s rejection wounded me greatly, Jim having other relationships was hurtful. My own promiscuity was messing with my mind as well. This message from God changed something deep in my heart. It seemed He had heard my cries for help and acknowledged my inner pain.
After those words, came an instruction. “Call Laurie, and ask her out to dinner.” Laurie was a girl that I knew from the community theater that I was involved with. She was delightful, fun, and spending time with her was something I knew I would enjoy.
So, I went home from the “revival service” and called Laurie. Her response was energetically “yes.” So We went to dinner at a little place in mid town Omaha. As we talked I mentioned to her that God had spoken to me and that I was seriously interested in finding out more about this Jesus that so many had talked about in the recent months. I also was also honest with her about my divorce and being gay.
Laurie’s response was surprising. She said she was a Christian and that she had been divorced too. She went on to tell me that her first husband was gay and that his homosexuality was the reason for their divorce. She still loved him but their marriage didn’t survive and ended amicably.
Oh, my gosh. This is the first time I had put all of my lives together in one discussion. Laurie told me she knew I was friends with several of the gay guys at the theater and that she accepted us the way we were and didn’t reject us for being gay.
I didn’t spend much more individual time with Laurie but our time together made a huge difference in my view of Jesus and other barriers between me and religion were knocked down. I became even more vocal about what I was discovering about Jesus. Jim and I would argue about this often because he was Catholic and held to different views than I was discovering from people that I was talking with.
Another Jesus Freak on the Scene
I worked with a girl that was a very energetic “Jesus Freak.” Her name was Pat and she had a bible on her desk, Jesus stickers all over and she frequently talked about her faith with all of us at work. She began to open up the Bible with me and talk about things it said. One day she walked in with a paperback Bible that she gave to me as a gift. She told me to read it starting with the book of John.
Pat also invited me to go to church with her but I wasn’t quite ready for that yet. So, I began to read the book of John and found I actually understood it for the first time in my life! I started to understand what the “gospel” meant and Pat and I talked about what that would mean for me if I would accept Jesus’ offer of eternal life through His sacrifice. Yes! I get it!
Oh, now I am a Christian and Jim and I battled even more. He thought I had become like his sister Jen and our relationship became even more rocky. But I still loved him and it seemed he still loved me. After a season of challenging circumstances Jim and I separated. Now what? Well, now I’m a Christian and I am thinking differently about many things.
Have Sex and Tell Him About Jesus!
While walking in a city park I met an attractive young man. After we talked we arranged to meet again. Of course, we did and it ended up in a sexual evening together. But this time was different. He was hurting about something that was going on in his life and I spent a lot of time talking to him about Jesus, the gospel, and how God would help him through the challenge he was facing.
With Jim out of the picture I figured maybe it would work better if I met a guy that was already a Christian and would support my new understanding of Jesus. “Yes, that’s it! A Christian partner.”
You’re a Christian, and You Love Me!
At the theater there was one guy, named Pete, that everyone really liked. He was kind of close to Laurie so that was a good sign. One evening Pete and I were alone in his car talking and something came alive in our time together and we ended up going to his apartment. We started off our closeness with a lot of talking and ended up having sex that night. But this time something was different. Pete was different than all of the others I had known and slept with. He seemed to have spiritual convictions about life, relationships, and was very strong about his faith.
Pete was a school teacher at a local Lutheran grade school where he wasn’t necessarily open about his homosexuality, but was dearly loved by the other teachers and by the kids. His dad was a Lutheran pastor and he had been raised in the church, knowing the Bible, and clearly having a relationship with Jesus. I loved that about him.
We spent every night together after our first date. Mostly at my house, he began to move his things in from his house to mine. After a couple of months, Pete decided to let go of his apartment and totally move in with me.
Pete drove a 1980 Toyota. It was a simple, yet practical car. His car was much better than my ‘75 Dodge colt so he’d almost always drive when we went places. I felt special when he’d often come downtown to pick me up from work. I usually took the bus so this was a real treat.
New Partner, Christmas in Florida! More Christian Growth
Christmas was coming and Pete had planned a trip to his parents home near Orlando Florida. He talked to them about bringing his “roommate” with him this year and they were delighted to have me to come. This was 1980 and Disney World was very new and a brand new park opened up that year called “Epcot Center.” I was more than elated that I was going to go to Florida, to “Epcot”, and to be with Pete and his family. We were ecstatic about our new relationship and the future looked bright for us.
When I arrived at his parents’ home they were more than gracious. His dad and I would discuss the Bible and he answered many questions I had about my new faith. I am sure his parents were encouraged to see this new Christian coming into their home. We slept in the guest room and spoke many times about his parents not knowing anything about our “friendship” that was occurring in their guest room. But we just kept our little secret and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with his family.
When we got home something inside me tripped and I began to feel drawn to talk with Jim again. I missed him. We had been together for a couple of years and I liked the way he made me feel. So, unbeknownst to Pete, I called Jim. We got together and this just stirred things up all over again between me and Jim. I didn’t seem to be able to keep from calling him. This of course created some stress in my relationship with Pete.
Eventually, I thought I wanted to get back together with Jim. So, I told Pete and he moved out and was obviously very hurt. Jim and I started our relationship up all over again and soon the disappointments came back. Jim was unfaithful and lied about some things again. I was so disappointed. I thought it would be different this time.
It had been only a couple of weeks so I called Pete and told him I wanted to meet with him. I told him I was very sorry and that I really loved him. So, Pete moved back with me and life was good between us. I had gotten into such a pattern of lying and deceiving that all over again, I contacted Jim. I was so unstable with all of this. Pete found out that I had deceived him again and after just knowing him for about 8 months, Pete made a healthy decision and broke up with me for the last time. I was now alone and had no one.
By this time I had begun the process of buying a little house. Maybe the third time is a charm. I called Jim once again and he seemed to have made some big changes in his life. He said he was ready to move in together. This had mostly been the breakdown between us so this was quite the step for Jim. I felt he had changed, so I was game to take this step as well. We began talking about the house and what it would mean for us both to settle down and make a life with each other.
Me! At a Pentecostal Church?
By this time, I had agreed to go to church with Pat. I found her church to be alive! It was exciting to go there. One Sunday morning after I had been out with Joe the night before, the Pastor, John Walker, came up to me and said, “That’s a fine yellow sweater you have on there, my friend.” He didn’t know that I bought it special for my date with my gay partner the day before. The yellow sweater became symbolic of my two lives. The life with Jim who didn’t want anything to do with my new religion, and going to church at a Pentecostal church! I felt torn, but I didn’t want to be alone either.
I had now begun to evaluate my life at a deeper level. I had divorced my wife and abandoned my children. I became sexually promiscuous and couldn’t maintain a healthy relationship with any of my partners. I was emotionally dependent and compromising with Jim and it seemed he was all I had. But the conflict grew within me.
I reflected on what God had told me at the revival service and realized He had given me hope that I didn’t have to live in such relational turmoil and insanity. I found out that there was a singles ministry that was pretty active at the church I had attended and that they were hosting a semi-annual singles retreat in February. I wanted to go to that retreat but I knew that Jim wouldn’t like that too much.
Valentine’s Day Week, 1984
Interestingly the day I am writing this is February 14, 2011. Valentines week, 27 years ago, I called Jim up and told him I couldn’t see him anymore. Our relationship had always been rocky, confusing, and hurtful for us both. Jim’s response was, “One day, I’ll pursue my faith like you are but I am not ready yet.”
I hung up the phone and my life was about to dramatically change.
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the LORD: “LORD, save me!”
The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.
For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
I trusted in the LORD when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”;
in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”
What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.
Truly I am your servant, LORD; I serve you just as my mother did;
you have freed me from my chains.
I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD—in your midst, Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD.
Thursday, February 10th, 2011
1975 Dodge Colt
Nothing fancy about this car. It wasn’t even a real Dodge. It was a Mitsubishi incognito. After a crash and a fill in car, it was a new start from a bad place in life. It was easy on gas and ran well so it fit the bill.
Leaving John’s house in my ”67 Olds, I drove up to the apartment building where Ben and Don lived to unload my things and climbed up three flights of stairs. Ben opened the door welcoming me in with a great big a hug.
The song, “What I Did For Love”, was blaring throughout their apartment when I arrived. It was from the soundtrack “A Chorus Line.” There was a gay character in the musical that I seemed to resonate with and my new life felt like a blank page to be filled in.
That’s the way I saw it, the old is gone, the new has come and John Smid is going to redesign his life.
I stayed in the guest bedroom at Ben and Don’s apartment for about a month. I went to bed the first night in a haze, like it was a dream that I was living in. I felt safe and yet I recognized nothing around me. I had only been around these guys a few times. Their conversations, their friends, this was all so strange but at the same time exciting. I felt relieved that I didn’t live in the tension that I had been in for so long.
Ignoring the reality of what I had just done, I could hardly wait for the next weekend when I could spend time with my new friend, John. I wondered what he would show me, or open my eyes to next. It was a discovery process to find out what my new life was really all about.
On Friday night, we went to the “Stage Door Lounge”, a local gay disco, where he introduced me to some of his friends. The scene was full of excitement, dancing, men embracing each other. Some men were standing alone, postured to gain attention. John said they were hoping to find someone to go home with that night. The cultural education of the local gay scene began. The place smelled of smoke and alcohol making it pungent. But, with the loud, energetic music like “Evita” and “Donna Summer” songs, John and I enjoyed the music and the evening and went back to his house with yet more sexual contact.
Going to work on Monday morning was quite different from all the many years before. I was now getting a divorce and my friends around me knew but no one really said much. I kept my reasons for the divorce vague to most of them. So, the questions on Monday morning were as usual, “What did you do this weekend?” I talked about partying, going out, enjoying new friends. It felt so odd but yet I was proud of my answers because for the first time in my life it seemed I had something exciting to talk about. I was now popular in party circles. Unlike my high school years and those following, I was now like others who enjoyed their social lives intensely.
The next weekend I went out again. But this time some of my friends and I decided to go out to the local pancake house after the bar closed. Once we arrived in the door two girls came across the room to greet me. “John, come sit with us for a minute.” It was Pat and Randy. These girls had been high school friends and bridesmaids in my wedding with Kristy. Pat had actually introduced me to Kristy in high school.
“John, you need Jesus!”
So, I sat down and right off the bat, “John, you need Jesus!!” It seemed like they were speaking in unison. They began to tell me how they had found Jesus and how exciting it was to be Christians. They were extremely energetic about their new belief. We all knew that the life they had lived after high school was less than moral. They were party girls who lived together. I remember going to a party at their apartment. Since I was the conservative married guy at the time I was surprised at the atmosphere they were living in. So this was really strange to think of them as “religious” people.
I had no idea what this was all about. I had been raised Catholic, Pat was too. So she talked about that, “John, this is nothing like going to Catholic church.” Oh, boy, what did I get myself into? I felt trapped by these two girls who cornered me to tell me about Jesus. I didn’t want to hear about Jesus. I wanted to be with my new friends. After some time of listening to their spiel, I got up to go back to sit with my friends. In my entire life, I had never been approached like this about religion, much less such a strong emphasis on “Jesus.”
What? Where did they go? My friends had left and they didn’t even say goodbye. I felt rejected, abandoned and all alone. These girls had robbed me from time with my friends then they just left me. So, I went home and didn’t really want to think about the discussion with Pat and Randy. It was all too confusing and certainly contrary to the direction I was heading.
The time had come for me to find my own apartment. Ben and Don had been extremely hospitable but I wanted my own space. I found a great apartment that was just right for me. It was a classic midtown apartment and cool. It had a living room, a bedroom, a long primitive kitchen and a small sun room. Old woodwork with wood floors added to the feel of the place. It wasn’t very clean so I scrubbed it to a shine and began to dream of how I could decorate it to be really cool. I gathered a couple of things to make it a home and started my new independent life.
Then one afternoon, my life was once again challenged. After the shock of the “Jesus girls” it seemed like “someone” was trying to get my attention. I was driving to the mall after work one day and a huge storm came into the city. I felt the winds pick up, the rain started to fall and it soon felt like a cyclone was hitting. Going down a hill the water began to rise and the winds blew harder and all of a sudden “CRASH!” I heard the back window of my car cave in. Leaves were blowing all around inside the car. It felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz! As I was going down the hill a large tree branch had fallen on the back of my car. The car stopped suddenly and it was trapped underneath the tree.
I got out into the street and the flood of water took me off of my feet. My shoes, my glasses, and my watch all went down the gutter . I got out of the water, socks soaked and hanging over the end of my feet and ran into a garage close by where others were standing.
The storm subsided and not knowing what to do about my car, I decided to walk 10 blocks to my home in my flopping socks. As I stood in the bathtub taking my wet and muddy clothes off, for one moment I pondered my life. I felt confused and alone. But surely, there would be a time when I would find someone to help fill my life again. Much like when the girls talked to me, this was a moment of personal honesty, but I didn’t want that right now. I just wanted to get on with where I was headed. My office had a little newspaper they compiled for moral building and my “tornado” experience made the next issue. It was titled “John Smid was mugged by Mother Nature.”
My friend, Don, was selling his 1966 Chevelle, so I replaced the Oldsmobile with his car. It was only $600 so that was manageable for me. It seemed to be the right provision at the right time.
John was pretty social and remained uncommitted to a monogamous relationship with me and would often proudly speak of other sexual conquests. This was not my plan. I wanted to find that one person who would love me, and me alone. Even though I was heading towards promiscuous relationships, there was something in me that still wanted something stable, trustworthy.
The New Guy
One evening John said, “Hey, John, I think you should meet a guy that I just met. His name is Steve.” I was interested, so John set up a meeting with Steve and we seemed to hit it off well. It felt like John wanted to expand our relationship boundaries so I wasn’t so focused on him. Steve invited me to spend the afternoon at his suburban home one Saturday afternoon. We sat outside in the sun while Steve fixed Pina Colada’s. Steve seemed really interested in spending more time with me. He talked about working in town just a few blocks from where I lived. I was so romantic to share a quiet afternoon sipping cool drinks. Steve pridefully talked about his roommate being a very wealthy business owner in Omaha. He seemed to have a strange connection with him, but I was so enamored with the attention he was giving me that I just ignored the thoughts that it might have been a sexual relationship.
Steve came by one night after work and the evening ended up with one more sexual encounter with yet another guy. This was now the fourth man that I had sex with. This one seemed different. He seemed like he wanted some kind of home, some kind of committed relationship. He was good looking, energetic, and seemed to enjoy life. To top it off, he made me feel really special, significant. That night, Steve stayed at my place since he was close to work. This began to reoccur and I thought he wanted me.
We soon talked about moving in together in our own place. This seemed fast but it was what I was looking for and it seemed to be mutual. So, it happened that there was a great apartment open in the same building that Ben and Don lived in. Amongst our friends, that building was thought to be a premium building to be in. It was all gay, and right in the middle of the mid-town location that we all wanted to live in.
Since my 6 month lease was up, Steve and I moved in together I had found that one person to be with. I put all of my energy into making this a home for the two of us. Steve was excited and it felt like we were married! I didn’t go to the bars anymore and just enjoyed every minute I could have with the new man of my dreams. Steve drove a 1978 Pontiac TransAm. It was bright red and boy did I love riding in it. I got to drive it sometimes too. I felt like I was really something when I would drive this hot car around town. At times I would drive it to pick up my kids. I felt pretty puffed up showing up in the driveway with a car that I knew Kristy would be jealous of. I wanted her to think my life was going pretty well.
My birthday was coming up that first year away from Kristy. When it arrived I waited for something special from Steve. But actually this birthday was one of the hardest ones I had ever had. I received nothing from Steve and as a matter of fact, I didn’t get a card from anyone. I felt so hurt that he had not done anything and everyone had forgotten my
This was just the beginning of an extremely painful season of my life. Steve not only didn’t acknowledge my birthday, but worse, he started going out without me to be with other friends. He said he needed some freedom outside of our relationship. I sat home grieving over him being somewhere without me on many nights. I would go to bed worrying that he may be getting involved with someone else. It got to the place where I was desperate to keep him even if it meant that I had to put up with whatever he may have been doing. I became sarcastic and manipulative because I was so fearful of losing him.
Our sexual life became a bargaining ground. He began to ask me to sleep in my own room because he said he needed his own space. I often begged him to allow me to sleep with him. He didn’t always agree and I wondered what in the world had happened to the “dream relationship” that I thought I had with Steve.
Halloween was coming and Steve and I decided to host a party. Since everyone around us thought of us as a couple and Halloween was a big gay holiday, this party was the talk of the town and many of our friends were coming. There were people I didn’t know because of Steve’s independence, but it didn’t matter, it was Steve and I that were hosting this party so there was still a resemblance of “the perfect gay couple.” At least he was living with me, believing I had the better end of the deal.
The Tin Man
During party, Steve seemed to be absent. I went into the kitchen asking if anyone had seen him and they seemed kind of awkward as they answered, “No, we don’t’ know where he is.” So, I went through the house to look further and found the bathroom door was closed. “Steve, are you in there? Are you sick?” From the other side of the door I heard, “Just leave me alone, get away from the door!” I was devastated at his response and couldn’t understand why he seemed so angry. A couple of minutes later the door opened and Steve came out, not alone, but with another man dressed as “The Tin Man.” Needless to say, the word devastation couldn’t begin to describe my broken heart about what I knew was going on.
When the guests all went home Steve was really drunk and he laid on the floor. I’ll never forget the picture of me sitting on the floor next to him sobbing, “Why would you do this to me?”
Our relationship obviously took a turn for the worse that night but I did everything I could to try to keep him. I did anything he wanted, let him do whatever he wanted, begged, suffered and cried. I couldn’t be alone without him.
Some of the greatest wounding I have experienced came from what happened between Steve and me. One day Steve and I talked in the kitchen and I’ll never forget him saying, “John, I have to be honest with you. You just don’t have what it takes to please me sexually.” The next day he moved out and I reached a new low in life. I was completely broken.
He told me that Don had said he could live with him. Don had broken up from Ben and was living alone. I felt deeply betrayed by Don. Why would he allow Steve to live there? Don was my only true friend and I needed him right now, but he had chosen Steve over me. He seemed oblivious to how I had been hurt.
With all of Steve’s things moved out I tried to put things together at my apartment. I used the coping mechanisms I had used other times to just shut down and move on. I just looked forward. I would find someone who would love me. But, the devastation went so deep this time I wasn’t sure I could move on.
1975 Dodge Colt
I had to get rid of Don’s car and it was time to look for a more economical one other than the gas hog V-8 of the Chevelle. I began the search and found one at a small local used car dealership. It was bright metallic green with white interior. Kind of sporty. It was a 1975 two door Dodge Colt. With a four cylinder Mitsubishi format, this was the one for me. It was a whopping $1300 dollars and I could afford that. It smoked a little bit, burning oil, but it was clean and easy on gas.
I haven’t said much about my kids. That is because I didn’t want to think much about that and saw them on Sunday afternoons and sometimes on Wednesday evenings. In the community I was in, kids weren’t really celebrated much.
When I was with my kids I knew that my friends didn’t really want them around and I am not sure I wanted them around these people anyway. The only friend that understood was Don since he had kids of his own and by this time, Don was out of the picture.
I had been attending a gay Alcoholics Anonymous group. Some of my friends said it might be helpful for processing my grief. One particular day in the group I shared some of what I had been going through and a young girl stood up and said, “I can relate to what you are feeling….” Something switched in me and all of a sudden I didn’t feel so alone in my pain. I learned the “Serenity Prayer” from this group that would come to be very helpful.
Driving across town to pick up my kids one Sunday was another turning point for me. The route to my kid’s house took me right past Don’s house where Steve was living. It became apparent to me that Steve had moved into Don’s life further than just a roommate so my personal pain had just increased. This house was the “scene of the crime” and the anxiety that I felt seemed unmanageable. As I drove by and entered the interstate all I could think of was how I could drive off the road and hopefully die. The suicidal thoughts were pretty heavy and then I thought of the prayer and began to cry out; “God, grant me the serenity…..”
Something miraculous happened that day. I had spoken to God in a very personal way for the first time in my life and it seemed that He answered.
The deep grief I was feeling seemed to lift and for the first time ever I saw that just maybe, God was real!
Thursday, January 27th, 2011
1979 Chevrolet Malibu Station Wagon
The Malibu name replaced the Chevelle name on all mid-sized Chevrolets for the 1978 model year. After OPEC, this was the down-sized version in comparison to previous mid-sized Chevrolets, only two trim levels were available, Malibu and Malibu Classic. This 1979 model was the second year for a complete redesign when all American cars had downsized to appear more fuel efficient. The engines were smaller, the interiors had shrunk by making the dashboards and the rear shelf narrower. There was no room for any extra unneeded space. The front console was like a narrow box that had been attached to the dashboard. The car ran smooth, was comfortable, and since the redesign, it was very modern!
The Malibu became symbolic of many things that were about to happen in my life.
Just one year after we were married we had the fortune, with the help of my dad, to buy our first house. Costing only $20,000 we moved in and began to make it our own. Working on remodeling an older home was both fun, and challenging. I had a next door neighbor, Dean, who was a retired carpenter from the old school. He taught me now to fit windows, scribe cabinets to uneven walls, hang drywall, and so many other things. He was a great neighbor. I learned the habit of eating ice cream EVERY night around 10:00 from Dean and his wife. They invited me to their house virtually every night for “icy-dicy time”. For all intents and purposes, I was an active young husband and dad. Everyone knew me for being conservative and committed to my family.
I was so committed that working a part time job to make ends meet was the norm. Kristy was taking care of our children while doing some of her own odd jobs to help. I kept thinking about my goals in life and it seemed to be time to fulfill them.
In 1978, We discussed building a new home and found just the right place and just the right builder. Our new home would be built in a modern designed suburb. It was developed with smaller lots and a common greenway behind each of the homes that was intended to become a park. I wanted it to be custom so that it was unique and had all of the things we wanted in it. We began to build our “dream home” in the suburbs. We got a great price and at the time they were offering special “buy down” FHA interest rates to it seemed to be the best thing for our family.
The home was finished and moving day came. I was really excited and we began to extend our credit to fill the home with new things. My part time job was at a furniture store, so we got some good deals on new furniture. Goal two was accomplished, new custom home and all new furniture in it. The yard and fence were done and I began working on the inside to finish out the basement family room.
As I looked up and down the street we lived on, I felt alone, strange, and disconnected from the other men along the block. Questions about who they were, and what they were all about didn’t seem to find answers. One guy was pretty friendly and it seemed we got along pretty well.
We got together when our wives went bowling or shopping and would play cards together. That was good for me, but we never really talked about much or got close. We just talked about surface things and enjoyed a game or two.
I felt cold and distant from Kristy and I was feeling pretty desperate to somehow make our marriage relationship better. It seemed that I didn’t know how to make it better and I could only think of using material things. After our move to the new home I felt desirous to find a way to work this out. In my small mind and closed off emotions I thought it might help to become extravagant with a Christmas gift for Kristy. She liked to sew and had an older machine to work with. So I decided to get the latest “Singer” electronic machine for her. We were trying to curb our credit card spending but in this case, I opened up a charge account to purchase the machine on time payments. I was hopeful she would be thrilled with the way I wanted to show her attention.
One day I returned from work and she had opened up the mail from the Singer store which included a credit card. She asked me why we got that in the mail. In my extreme reaction of disappointment that my secret had been uncovered, I told her what I had done. Now that the surprise was ruined, I felt determined to make this happen.
So, I thought maybe if I could ask others to not buy me anything for Christmas but to just give me money I could put it toward a gift for Kristy. I wanted to buy her the latest electronic micro-wave oven. In 1978, that was a pretty extreme idea! So I bought one through a 90-day charge paying the down payment with the money I had gotten from others. I knew this would certainly blow her mind, not only a new sewing machine, but the ultra modern, GE Touchmatic Microwave Oven would surely work to show her how I cared for her.
“John, I retrieved this from the mailbox today.” Kristy’s sister came out to meet me in the driveway after work one day. She handed an envelope to me before I went in. I opened it and found the payment card from the store where I bought the oven. Phew! She saved me on this one.
Christmas day after all of our gifts were opened and the main events had finished I opened up and said, “Kristy, I have one more surprise for you.” Carrying the huge wrapped box into the room. “I HAVE A SURPRISE FOR YOU!” She opened it but didn’t seem overly excited, but seemed to show a contrived sense of surprise. After everyone left she disclosed to me that the envelope wasn’t found by her sister, but rather she had seen it. She told me that she and her sister arranged to cover the fact that she had seen it.
I felt totally embarrassed, and humiliated that I had acted so excited to surprise her, when everyone knew that Kristy already knew about the surprise. Much like six years earlier, something that was beginning to open up inside me was slammed shut once again. I truly believe it was that day that my heart finally closed towards Kristy. I just couldn’t muster up enough trust to go that place in my heart again.
Maybe a new car will help? It was time to go for another life goal. Since we lived in the suburbs and now had two kids we needed a station wagon. For those of you who are younger, that would have been the vehicle of choice for a family at that time. Mini-vans hadn’t been created yet and SUV’s were for business.
So, I went out on a Saturday, by myself I might add, and found a beautiful 1979 Chevrolet Malibu Wagon. It was metallic chocolate brown with nice tan interior. I remember vividly standing in my garage polishing the pretty finish to keep it pristine! Now I had a custom built home, a brand new station wagon, two kids and I had reached my life goals. I don’t remember any fuss about me getting a new car without Kristy going with me. I traded in the 1974 Datsun B-210 and this car was much bigger and more practical for the kids so I guess it was an improvement for her as well.
We only had one car now and I rode a commuter bus to work or carpooled with a friend. It was practical with high gas prices. I walked across the street to a shopping center to pick up the bus with other commuters.
With a closed heart, confused emotions, loneliness, and deep needs for connection, I began to develop a fantasy life during my daily travels. On the bus there were some handsome men that rode it each day and I would look at them and wonder what it would be like to know them, I mean really know them. What did they think, how did they feel about life, would they want to know me?
Churning inside me was something greater than a benign sense of curiosity towards men. I now actually wanted more of a relational exchange. Something deeper was in my heart with a curiosity of what it would be like to intimately know another man. I wanted something reciprocal, something meaningful.
As all of this grew deep inside me. One day during a conversation that I was listening to at work the word “homosexual” came into the discussion. “Oh! That must be what is going on here. I may be a homosexual!” I didn’t take it much further because this was a very strange concept to me. I had never known one of those, but began to ponder this in my heart with a sense of desire. Maybe that is what my curiosity is all about on the bus, and with others I had known.
I worked in a large office building where we talked a lot with each other and built relationships. We had a sports team that I was a part of and as I got to know the others, one man stood out to me. He was a little older than I was and had always been single. For many reasons I got to a place where I assumed he was probably gay. In my new frame of mind this brought some hope to me that maybe I could talk with someone else who might relate to my questions.
I stopped him one day and said, “Ken, I would like to talk with you about something personal.” He said “sure.” No more was said until one Friday evening. My wife was bowling and I was with the kids. The phone rang and Ken asked if I could meet him at the bar across the street from where I lived. When my wife came home I proceeded to tell her he had called and she asked if I was going to go over and meet with him. She knew him from work parties and events so it didn’t seem strange to her that I might do that. It was very strange to me since I virtually never did anything without her. But I was internally excited to go and talk through this with him.
After some light conversation and a couple of drinks, I disclosed to him what I had been experiencing. His response was, “John, I knew you were gay.” I felt somewhat offended and at the same time, curious. He mentioned that we might go to another place where some gay people hung out. Without a hitch, I wanted to go. He had peaked my curiosity after we had shared some common ground. We drove some distance away to a bar/restaurant. I began perusing all of the men, women, couples and whoever else walked into the place. I felt totally out of my own skin and yet, even more stimulated at the potential of knowing others like me. Ken assured me he would introduce me to others that he knew.
Several drinks later….
When the bar was about to close, Ken asked me to go with him to his father’s apartment to talk more. I didn’t want this new connection to end so I agreed to go with him. We got to the apartment and talked some more. With a lot of curiosity about this new piece of my life being exposed and a lot of alcohol, Ken proceeded to initiate a sexual encounter with me. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing something that I had only dreamed of and really had never known could happen. I was not thinking at all about whether or not this was wrong.
Hung over from drinking, and blurred from what I had just done, I went home at 3:00 AM and slid into my usual place in bed. The next day, nothing was said between my wife and I about the late arrival. The entire event was hidden inside my heart.
Something huge had changed within me and I could hardly believe that I had just broken one of my most solid convictions. I certainly would never commit adultery! But was this adultery? Actually it didn’t seem to be what I considered to be adultery. It was two men, not with a woman.
After about two weeks of virtual silence from me, Kristy knew something big was up. “John, what is wrong with you. You haven’t spoken for two weeks.” After a tremendous amount of thought on my part I just blurted out:
“ALRIGHT I’M GAY, OK! I WANT A DIVORCE!”