I marched at San Francisco Pride Parade

How does a Christian get to march in a gay pride parade? In my case I have been working on LGBT inclusion in United Methodist churches for two years. I received an invitation from Reconciling Ministries Network about an opportunity to walk with the delegation from Glide Memorial UMC.

When I replied to the invitation I received a response from senior pastor Karen from Glide Memorial. “Hey, join us for the 9 AM service, and you can march with us afterwards!”

On the day of the event when I arrived at Glide Memorial I noticed their homeless food service located at the first floor of their church. I realized the priority of their service to the homeless population because that is the first thing you see when you approach Glide Memorial. Some churches have beautiful entrance ways, but Glide’s food service facility looked more beautiful in my eyes.

I experienced an energetic praise music based worship service. The population in the church was a good representation of the city center: Black, White, Asian, young people, older families, gays, and straight. They accepted everyone, and on that day they celebrated the arrival of marriage equality, which they have been praying and working for a long time.

How about the march itself? Imagine 26,000 people marching down San Francisco’s Market Street, cheered on by a crowd 100,000 people strong. I felt so much love and joy from the marchers and on-lookers alike. I waved both of my arms to welcome the crowds, not embarrassed at all. I was just happy to be there.

In my group of people from Guide Memorial UMC there were a number of marchers that I remember mostly clearly. One was a female transgender marcher who walked, skipped, and struck up poses showing her muscular features. God made her female and this was her displaying that she was wonderfully made just as well as the rest of us! I also remembered a gay couple that had me tearing up by just marching contently holding hand in hand. Their commitment was not at all second class in my eyes. These are real people who fortunately found a spiritual home that they can claim as their own. They are my brothers and sisters as well.

I was grateful for the Pride march, for it healed a lot of my pains. I have carried some of the pains suffered by LGBT people within me when I started working for the inclusion of LGBT people in our churches. We will have heartbreaks and tears, but never forget the joyful occasions as well !


Recovery of my Emotions

When I was suffering with the burden of social anxieties, survival was all I cared. I was terrified of my fears and anxieties that I tried to suppress my emotions.  I reasoned that if I felt nothing, then fear should pop up less.  However, this did not work for me.

Sometimes I tried to fight my anxieties. This might work for a few seconds, but I would get an adrenaline burst, then things would just fall apart. Sometimes I would try to be passive and stay limp, but I would just end up suffering in silence.

In year 1992 I started seeing a psychologist. At my first appointment with my therapist I dumped a lot of my sad stories on her. I probably cried a river during that session. I was a little embarrassed, but I felt quite relieved afterwards.

If tears could make me feeling better, then I realized that I might not need to suppress my emotions. Rather, I wished to experience emotions like normal people do.

I had one book that my therapist recommended me to read, and it had a practice on how to uncover emotions. When I initially read it it sounded far-fetched to me. I was supposed to lie on a bed, and be very relaxed. After reaching this point then I should prompt myself to bring out my feelings.

After a while I felt an emotion starting to emerge. I was feeling a very strong sense of anger coming out; I was raging against all the suffering that I had to go through. The unfairness of it! My anger was so strong that I was literally shaking.

I felt a different emotion wanting to come out. It was sadness. I felt all the sadness when I was forced to be by myself without friends. This was also very intense and overwhelming. I had another bout of crying.

After my emotions subsided I felt more peaceful and more hopeful for a reason that I could not explain. I vowed to experience all my emotions as they were, and no longer suppress them.

I told my experience to my therapist in the next session. She did not criticize my rashness, but commented that I did very well, and that I might begin to recover soon. I felt happy after hearing that news.

Waiting Three Hours for a Church Service

(All names were changed, as usual.)

Last Sunday I had a small group church meeting in the afternoon. When I was ready to leave I noticed there was a lady sitting by the curb side of our church parking lot. I thought I recognized her, and I approached her for a greeting. Indeed it was Elaine sitting there. Elaine is a homeless person that has visited our church service once before. She was one of our clients from our Church’s outreach soup kitchen. She told me that she was waiting for the start of our evening service, which had three hours of waiting time!

I was very impressed by her patience. She had no radio or IPad to pass the time, but she could enjoy the nice weather of a comfortable California afternoon. When I paused to talk to her, I did notice the pleasant weather. Had I dashed off to my next appointment as I usually do then I would have missed this experience.

(Photo by Adrian van Leen, Creative Commons public domain license)

A Homelesss Person’s Sharing

Last Saturday I was serving in a local soup kitchen when one of our clients approached me and pulled me aside. He had finished his meal and wanted to talk to me. He appeared to be in his 50s, sturdy, and cleanly dressed.

He said, “we homeless people are good people, except when we are addicted, then we become bad. It could be alcohol, gambling, or drugs. We are constantly struggling against them. Please remember us and our problems.”

I was touched by what he shared, so I patted his back and said, “I will.”

He waved to the few volunteers he knew, and left the place.

That night I thought about this encounter. The time I gave at the soup kitchen was just two hours out of a Saturday, but the gift this homeless man gave me was a piece of his life and his struggles. I seemed to have received more in return.

I prayed in response before I slept.

Heavenly father, thank you for what you let me see today. What we do is very little, but what you gave us is much more. Let us serve in gladness and with love. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tough Beginning

When we face tough obstacles that no earthly means can overcome we have no choice but turn to God for help. Indeed when I look at the troubles around the world, most of them I consider to be serious, or dire. If there is a time that we need to be close to God, this is it. However, some people grow apart from God, or even curse God when conditions are tough. I supposed that applied to me for a period of my life.

I had a difficult young adult life suffering from a severe form of Social Anxiety. At that time I often questioned why I had to be the one suffering. Other people seemed to be enjoying their prime of life, while I was isolated to a single room where I can claim as a safe space. Eventually even that was taken away from me because panic attacks found me right in my room.

It took me a great deal of courage to seek help, because it was just easier to hide my problems. Outward I appeared to be a successful technology worker, but inward I cried for help. To get that help I had to admit to my doctor that I was sad and miserable.

I did not realize at the time but I had a miraculous recovery in a short period of three months. I shed much tears telling my stories to my therapists, and I worked with them, not hiding anything, and trusted that things will improve throughout that time.

I knew I made tremendous progress, but my insurance was about to run out. Could I stand on my own without further help? My main therapist said “yes”, and surprisingly bid me fair-well on one day. One door closed in my life, but a new door opened. I have regained my life, finally!

I found myself had to admit that God might exist, because I did not have to do that “I believe” stuff to be saved. Just saying “I need help” was enough, thankfully.