Same-Sex Attraction and Homosexuality

Some topics are a joy; others are painfully difficult. This is one of the latter, but the subject of same-sex attraction has become one of the most prominent issues in our culture today, and it’s beginning to touch the lives of so many both in and out of the church that I feel led to address it. I’ve actually read a lot of books on the topic over the past couple of years, and rather than individually reviewing them, I would like to recommend a few of the ones I’ve found most helpful for trying to understand what’s going on.

Frankly, facing questions about same-sex attraction have almost become routine for our young people today, although it was virtually non-existent (as an issue) just one generation ago. (Both Alan and I first learned about homosexuality in college at the end of the 1960’s but we never even heard the term “same-sex attraction” until post 2000.) Today it’s an in-your-face everywhere issue that all young people have to negotiate. If you have children growing up in the public schools, you can be sure they will be exposed to the opportunity to consider whether or not they prefer the possibility of sexual interaction with their own sex over that of the opposite sex. Even children with robust heterosexual inclinations will be asked the question and have to consider it. So, “same-sex-attraction” is going to be on their radar, and many children and young people will find it confusing.

As parents, I think it’s important to be able to listen, guide, counsel, and give our children space to make wise decisions without responding with revulsion. I don’t think same-sex-attraction is any different from any other temptation, and as human beings, we all have to face and deal with the temptations in our lives. Our sexuality is ingrained in every cell in our body (literally), and controlling our physical appetites for food and sex are among the most difficult lifetime challenges all of us face. There’s no shame in this; it’s just acknowledging the reality of our human natures. However, how we respond to those challenges makes a huge difference in our lives and can deeply effect our wholeness and holiness.

If you are a parent with a child (or adult offspring) who is struggling with same-sex-attraction, I would like to recommend Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story, by Dr. Christopher Yuan. This 2018 book is up to date with the latest research while maintaining a balanced, sensitive approach, written by a professor at Moody who himself struggles with same-sex attraction but is living a vibrant, holy life of faith. Two other excellent resources for parents (or mature young adults, as they are heavy reading—can you tell by the covers? 🙂 ) are:

Kevin DeYoung. What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015.

Robert Gagnon. The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. Nashville: Abingdon, 2002.

If you have a young person who has taken a firm stand that he/she has committed to a gay lifestyle, then I highly recommend two more books for your own mental and emotional health:

Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope. This 2011 book was co-written by Christopher Yuan and his mother, Angela and gives insight into the problems and pains of both the parent and “child” (offspring), with a lot of opportunities to think through what was and was not helpful to them, and what might be most beneficial as you pray for and continue learning to love your own son or daughter.

Another excellent resource is When Homosexuality Hits Home, published by Joe Dallas in 2015 through Harvest House Publishers. This book definitely tackles the arguments from both sides (with talking points), but it also gives some really practical advice on topics like how to negotiate family boundaries, whether or not to attend same-sex weddings, and what does love look like in the face of grief?

This Thursday, I’ll be discussing the arguments found in Karen R. Keen’s book, Scripture, Ethics, and the Possibility of Same-Sex Relationships, recommended to me by a young friend who was studying for the ministry before recently deciding that it’s okay to be gay. The author of this 2018 book describes herself as someone who was a celibate gay for sixteen years but is now reconsidering her position. I’ll let you know if her deliberations change my opinion on what the scripture teaches, but meanwhile, I would also like to hear your thoughts! Thanks! I’d also appreciate your prayers, as this is one of those hot topics that’s sure to discourage some of my followers, more than a handful of whom self-identify as homosexuals. Blessings on you all as you seek to walk in the Light!

If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

If you’re more apt to listen than buy a book just now, here’s a link to a very helpful and insightful discussion with Dr. Christopher Yuan on his latest book, Holy Sexuality. (Dr. Jonathan Armstrong, the interviewer, also teaches at Moody and is my son, so this conversation was especially interesting to me! 🙂 )

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (65): Casting Beams

Have you ever had the experience of looking into someone’s eyes and feeling light and peace, like you can see straight into their soul? I have. I have also had the experience of looking into someone’s eyes and sensing impenetrable darkness, like a black, iron curtain has been drawn to keep me from understanding their thoughts. One makes me feel loved; the other gives me the creeps! Do you know what I mean?

In today’s text for meditation, Jesus warns us not to judge others, but to “first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). I want to consider and contrast the “beam” and the “mote.”

“Beam” has many meanings. All biblical translators and commentators seem unanimous in their opinion that Jesus is using hyperbole and referring to a large timber used for construction, but I’m such a concrete thinker that this word picture never really makes sense to me. You can’t have a literal beam of timber in your eye, because no eye could contain something that large. I’ve heard preachers try to explain it by saying it’s probably just a splinter that looks like a beam of wood to the person who has it in his eye. However, a splinter would totally block a person’s vision and be terribly painful. Anyone with a splinter in his eye naturally goes into a state of emergency and can hardly think of anything else until it’s removed.

No, this “beam” has gone unnoticed by the person. It is of huge significance, but it has blinded him and made proper judgment impossible, even though he is oblivious to this truth. So, that’s made me think about other possibilities for what Jesus could have really meant, and it occurs to me that a beam can also be a shaft of light.

A mote—on the other hand—is a speck . . . just a tiny particle . . . a bit of dust floating through the air and drifting across a shaft of light. If you put those two thoughts together, it makes a beautiful picture of what Jesus might have intended for us to understand on the spiritual level regardless of how we interpret his metaphor! Could it be that Jesus is warning us that when we judge and condemn others, we are most often doing it from a state of our own darkness. Our understanding has become skewed. We are not thinking God’s thoughts; we are judging based on our own selfish, self-serving opinions. Our heart has become blind, and what’s coming out of our eyes are beams of darkness that cause ourselves and others to stumble. Jesus points out, “Can the blind lead the blind?” (Luke 6:39).

Look at the orchids above. Only the ones that have been illuminated with light are clearly visible. There’s no way we could we know if there’s a tiny mite or a speck of fungus threatening the health of the flowers in the background which are out of focus and in the dark. Similarly, I think Jesus is telling us to cast the beams of darkness out of our own eyes so that the Light of life can illuminate us from within. Then, and only then, can we see well enough to know what the real needs of our friends are . . . and not simply what they are doing that irritates us!

Also, I love the vision of a mote as a tiny fleck floating along through a beam of light. Although specks of dust can be seen in strong shafts of light, most of them are insignificant and will drift into obscurity before long. I wonder if God, with his infinite patience, watches us with longsuffering, knowing that the bits of dirt in our lives will soon enough pass into oblivion, cleansed away by gentle puffs of the Holy Spirit.

Are we casting beams of light or darkness to those around us? Do you suppose others sense that we love them—or are they feeling creeped out? Does the light in our eyes illuminate or darken others? How much better to concentrate on becoming filled with Light! Then we will see more clearly to give others true help . . . and I suspect many of the motes that are so disturbing to us now will float away . . . or at least turn into mole hills. 🙂

Want more light in your soul? Look up at Jesus. Fill your heart with his Word, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). “They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed” (Psalm 34:5). Jesus said, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18). “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Shine On Us
(—Phillips, Craig and Dean)

Lord, let Your light
Light of Your face
Shine on us
Lord, let Your light
Light of Your face
Shine on us

That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let Your light shine on us

Lord, let Your grace
Grace from Your hand
Fall on us
Lord, let Your grace
Grace from Your hand
Fall on us

That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let Your grace fall on us

Lord, let Your love
Love with no end
Come over us
Lord, let Your love
Love with no end
Come over us

That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let love come over us
Let your light shine on us

Passages for today’s text: Luke 6:39-42, “And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-6, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

The Art of Life

How is your January coming? Have you noticed that it takes a certain amount of leisure to be meditative and creative? I have to confess that between all the marvelous company (beginning November 21 and lasting into January, which made me extremely happy but exhausted) and a strangling cold that wouldn’t relinquish its grip until Alan and I went on a two-week cruise through the Panama Canal (where we rested in healing, sunny, 82° sea breezes)…until these past two months came and went, I’ve been so focused on living that there’s been precious little time for meditative reflection or writing. Have you also noticed how valuable it is to take a step back from your daily routines every once in a while to gain perspective and recalibrate your spirit?  During our break, I was encouraged by these words from Leonardo da Vinci: “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment…Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen.”*  Isn’t that the truth…not only for the creative genius of a Renaissance man, but for the creative art of making our lives a work of beauty and goodness?   I’m well, refreshed and ready to begin anew. Here is my first offering…a little poem that came to me while enjoying this peaceful Pacific sunrise last week:

Light

I long to write a poem:
Simple.
Elegant.
Filled with God.

Even more, I long to be a poem:
So filled with light that all are drawn to the Light.
So beautiful that those who draw near are also warmed and filled.
So deep that even eternity will not end our unity.

If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

 Jesus prayed, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:23).

(*The three middle photos weren’t taken in Central America but from a different vacation, with our two youngest sons, while visiting da Vinci’s residence in Amboise, France known as Clos Lucé.)

The Mayflower and Other Ships: Are You Aboard?

  I now understand why genealogical research is so popular…and a bit addictive! It’s like treasure hunting for your family roots! Yesterday’s discovery that I am related to the Puritans was super exciting to me (although you might be glad if you’re not related),  but after poring over my 200+ forebearers who immigrated to this country (about 95% from England during the 16oo’s), I’ve discovered that I’m related to George Washington and Robert E. Lee via Captain Nicolas Mariau (French), who landed at Jamestown in 1620 and became “The Father of Yorktown.”  I’m also related to a lot of people I’d never heard of before, like Captain Gabriel Francis Holland (from England) who came to Jamestown on the ship Supply in 1621 and married Mary Pinke, who was born in James City, Virginia back in 1596 just after her father Henri died. The stories are fascinating! One forebearer, Edward Bosworth, died in 1634 on the voyage over to Boston on the Elizabeth and Dorcas (one of nine ships sailing in that fleet). In 1635, Colonel William Ball immigrated from England to Virginia in the ship Planter. My ancestor John Sutton married Julia Ann Little in England in 1616 but moved to America in 1638 on the ship The Diligent. Captain George Denison I came over to America as a boy but later returned to England, where he married Ann Borodell in 1645 although they both died in America, so they must have returned at some point. My forebearer William Denison came to America on The Lion after his wife, Margaret Chandler died in England in 1645.  But, the most surprising thing to me was the discovery that out of the 101 listed passengers on the Mayflower, I’m related to 11 of them! I was amazed, although I had been told as a little girl that my parents were both from British stock. Just quickly, let me tell you a couple of tales about my relatives on the Mayflower (which might not be too interesting to anybody but my relatives). There were four sets who eventually became intermarried into two related groups. The first group were Francis and John Cooke, a father-son duo who had left the rest of the family behind (although Francis’s wife and the other two younger children did join them in 1623 aboard the ship Anne).  Also aboard was Richard Warren, whose wife Elizabeth, and their five daughters, likewise came over on the supply ship Anne in 1623. In 1634, John Cooke married Richard’s daughter, Sarah, which is good for me, because they are my (many) great grandmother and grandfather.  I’m also descended from John Tilley and Joan (Hurst) Tilley through their daughter Elizabeth, who was about 13 when they climbed aboard the Mayflower with John’s brother Edward, and his wife, Agnes (Cooper) Tilley, who had no children, although they had the care of an infant niece, Humility Cooper, and a young nephew, Henry Samson. Sadly, all four of the parents died shortly after coming ashore in April of 1621, leaving the children as orphans. (Nearly half the pilgrims died during that winter and spring.)  Young Elizabeth married John Howland several years later. John had come as an apprentice to Governor John Carver, but Carver also died during the same epidemic in April 1621. On the way over, John Howland had been swept overboard in a huge storm and only survived by grabbing one of the ship lines so he could be hauled back on board. Lucky for me, or I wouldn’t be here today!   John Howland became an elder in his church and with Elizabeth (Tilley)  raised a large family with ten children, all of whom survived and married, so it’s thought that they have more descendants living today than any other Mayflower passengers.  Some of their descendants include Franklin D. Roosevelt, both President Bush’s, Humphrey Bogart, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Doctor Benjamin Spock.  In her will, Elizabeth ended with this counsel to her children (and descendants): “It is my will and charge to all my children that they walk in the fear of the Lord and in love and peace toward each other.” Amen to that! Not only do I ascribe to this counsel of my ancient mother, I pray that for my children as well.  And, for all of us! I was thinking about ships and passages. There is only one sure ship that will give us safe passage to heaven, and that is Jesus, but there are also many “fellow ships” on this earth—numberless groups of believers who have joined together for worship and community. It doesn’t matter if we’re on The Diligent or the Mayflower, but we won’t get to heaven without being aboard some ship that belongs to the King! Are you aboard? Are you enjoying fellowship? So many stories. So many journeys! So worth doing!

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

(Only the three genealogical images are mine; the rest are all from Wiki or other sources, but I’ve labeled them as best I could.)

What about Bob? Creativity and Kindness

Bob isn’t a psychiatric patient, he’s a psychiatrist, and a great one…or, at least he was. Bob and Beth are about our age, although they’ve recently retired while Alan and I are still in the “shall I? shan’t I?” stage. I’m quite sure Alan will retire in the next few years, but one of the things that holds us back is the question all retired people inevitably ask and have to answer: What will we do after we retire?I got a forward a few days ago about an elderly man who took a position at a retail store but arrived late for work more than once. After a couple of offenses, he was hauled into the boss’s office for a lecture. At the end of his severe reprimand, the boss asked, “What did they do at your previous job when you were late?”

“Well, I guess they just said, ‘Good morning, Admiral! Can I bring you a cup of coffee?'”

I think it’s easy to forget that “old folks” had active lives. Most retirees held down respectable jobs, reared families, and have children and grandchildren. One of the hardest things about retiring is the loss of feeling respected and valued. Both of my brothers continued working/consulting until they were 70. My oldest tried to retire at 65 but missed feeling needed and respected.

If you know retirees, would you please take a little time to find out more about them? They often have mental storehouses filled of memories and wisdom that they’re more than happy to share. If you’re thinking about retiring yourself, please consider reading the inspiring book Billy Graham wrote a few years ago called Nearing Home…about “life, faith, and finishing well.”

And, what about Bob? Well, Bob is an avid photographer and a deeply spiritual Christian, so he’s been adding scripture verses to some of his favorite photos, which he’s been sharing lately with me!  Here are a few for your enjoyment, and you’ll most likely see more of them on later blogs! Thank you, Bob! You’re an inspiration to me!                    Cute, huh? Beth posed for this rather humorous one…(All photos are used by permission of Robert Hardee, who owns the copy rights.)

(I wrote a post with more information about Nearing Home last year:  https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/reflections-on-nearing-home-by-billy-graham/  )