I’M NOT GAY and you probably aren’t either

380656_3110034995316_541607756_nPerhaps you find yourself among the many young men of our day who wonder whether or not you might be gay. The conventional wisdom is pointing you in that direction. Some of the things you are feeling and experiencing seem to confirm that hypothesis. But you are also experiencing a good deal of confusion and anxiety over it. I’m writing this bit of testimony today in order to offer you a different paradigm, a different way to think about yourself, in hopes that it will encourage you to embrace the real you, the creature God designed you to be. I believe that in embracing that design you will find fulfillment and joy in your life and peace in your soul.

If you have no confusion, if you have no anxiety, and if you find the perspective I’m offering offensive, then you should probably stop reading here. But if you are wondering, please read on.

When I was a teenager my friends used to take bets on whether or not I was gay. The reasons, based on the conventional wisdom of the time, seemed pretty clear to them. I was not terribly aggressive or competitive. I enjoyed playing team sports but I was never very good at it. For me it was more about camaraderie than competition. I was and continue to be, unlike most men, a very verbal, expressive, emotive, empathetic and relational type of fellow. I am very comfortable expressing what I feel and talking about where those feelings come from. I am easily wounded by harshness and hate and avoid conflict, preferring to smooth things over rather than engage in confrontation. I have a very high emotional IQ and operate, like many women, with a decidedly developed sense of intuition.

That, however, wasn’t all that my friends had in mind as they gambled over my orientation. I was and am also very musical and love to move with it. Some of my earliest memories revolve around music and dance. I sang, tenor not bass, and acted in musicals and plays from elementary school through college. I LOVED the stage. My dream was to grow up and take over where Fred Astaire left off.

None of those traits seemed to fit the accepted masculine mold of the time which was, and still is to some extent, athletic, competitive, emotionally reserved, and “concrete / rational” in perspective rather than intuitive. You may also have noticed that “real men,” (a dubious phrase if ever there was one) are good at math, engineering, construction and carpentry and enjoy hunting, fishing pick-up trucks and hot rods. They don’t like to read, unless maybe it’s Field & Stream or Car & Driver, they never write and they would rather do things than talk about what they feel any day of the week. Heck, many of them are so divorced from their emotions they don’t even know what they feel.

Finally, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, my friends were betting on some of my behaviors and associations. I’m not sure what the “cues” are today, but when I was in high school certain behaviors were considered indicative of homosexuality. They seem silly now, but I’m not making this up. Does he cross one leg over the other like a girl? Or hang an ankle on a knee like a guy? Does he like to wear colorful clothes that match? Or T-shirts and jeans? Does he file his nails with his fingers spread like a guy or curled toward him like a girl? All of these things were considered to be indicators of gayness and I was guilty on all counts. (BTW: The very fact that I’m writing on this subject is today considered an indicator that I am indeed gay).

But perhaps most important were the people I hung out with. One of my best friends in High School was one year ahead of me and was struggling with his sexual identity. I didn’t know it at the time. I just knew that he was my friend. He helped me get my first job and gave me a ride to it before I could drive. When he and two other mutual friends went to a six-week, college credit, summer drama school in Alabama I went along and hung out with him and the director of the play we were producing. Our mutual friends hung out with the technical team leader and his crew. I was still unaware that my older friend, and the director, a high-school music and drama teacher from Dothan, Alabama who was working on his master’s degree, were practicing homosexuals. I just knew that they would smoke pot and get drunk with me and I thought that was cool. They were my friends.

I had more gay friends over the following years although I was often unaware of their lifestyle. What I was aware of is that I had more in common with these friends than other men. I enjoyed their company because we enjoyed many of the same things, music, the arts, and reading and shared many of the same traits. When, after high school, I finally learned of my friend’s secret life I was deeply upset by it and lashed out at him in anger. I couldn’t have explained then why I was so upset. But looking back on it thirty years later I realize that I felt a deep sense of betrayal, and not a little bit of fear. For reasons I’ll cover later I was a deeply insecure young man. If my good friend was gay, what did that really say about me?

If you are like me you are probably wondering two things: Where did those similarities come from? How come you didn’t turn out to be gay? The answers lie in two words that are hotly debated today: Nature and nurture.

Nature covers much of what I’ve said above. If men are from Mars and women are from Venus then I’m on some planet between the two whose orbit is closer to Venus. The encouraging thing I’ve discovered over the last thirty years is that I’m not alone. Many men, more than you might imagine, share the traits I’ve outlined above often attributed to women. And many women share traits more associated with men. My guess is the ratio is something like 30/70, or, three in ten women have personalities and gifting traditionally associated with men. Ditto for men with traits associated with women. That doesn’t make us gay. It does mean however that we will often feel somewhat out of the loop, disconnected, from the majority of our sex. If we take our cues from the culture, which is increasingly pro-gay, we may conclude quite erroneously that we are gay too.

One other aspect of our nature plays a major part in this drama, the power of which cannot be overstated: sex. The chemicals released in the brain during sex, dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin, serotonin, and testosterone have a supercharging effect on human emotional and psychological bonding. We might say that we “imprint” on the other person – be they male or female, photographed or in the flesh – in the sex act. I call it crossing the shame/ecstasy threshold. Once we overcome our inhibitions and experience our first sexual act, even if we were coerced or manipulated into it as a child by an adult or other child, or even if it was acting out as part of the consumption of pornography, we are forever shaped by it. The supercharging power of the chemicals released will drive us to seek that experience again. I was exposed to heterosexual pornography at a very early age. I followed a heterosexual path into adulthood. Had I been exposed to homosexual pornography at that age the outcome might have been very different.

Nurture covers the rest of it. Copious research indicates that children need healthy emotional connections with both of their parents. That connection includes three important elements: respect, identification, and affirmation. The child needs to respect both his mother and his father; identify with the parent of the same sex; and be affirmed in that identity by that parent. They gain their understanding of who they are and how they will get along in the world based on the models they see at home and the affirmation they receive. Failing a healthy connection with one parent, they will seek it in the other parent. By that I mean that sons who cannot connect with their fathers will get their emotional needs met and learn to orient themselves to their world through their mothers. It is possible for a mother to take her son too much into her world where, bit by bit, he loses his identity as a man. It is possible for a father to take his daughter too much into his world, where bit by bit, she loses her identity as a woman. Or a boy might identify more with his mother because she is a stronger personality than the father. Or a daughter might identify more with her father because her mother wilts under the father’s overbearing personality. There are many variations on this theme but the bottom line is that the balance and harmony of male and female in the home is lost and the sexual identity of the child easily confused.

It is a father’s job to help his sons orient themselves and find their footing in the larger world. But like many of my homosexual friends I had a dysfunctional relationship with my father. My dad loved his sons. But it was difficult for him to express it. (It will come as no surprise that he did not have a good relationship with his dad either). I desperately wanted his approval but it was difficult for him to give. (Dad said I was “pretty” and threatened to put a bow in my curly brown hair). My father also had a real problem with anger. He often lost his temper and occasionally beat my brothers and me far out of proportion to our offenses. This alienated us from him. Identification was lost. Still, I think those incidents could have been overcome had he been able to establish a healthy emotional bond with his sons. He was getting there when his life was cut short in an accident.

Why did that state of affairs not lead me into the homosexual world when so many in my situation have gone that way? Early heterosexual exposure, as mentioned above, is certainly part of it. A powerful, life altering encounter with Christ, where I submitted my will to his and promised to obey him no matter the cost was foundational as well. The rest I attribute to a specific answer to prayer. I lost my Dad when I was not quite sixteen. That loss launched me into a period of great emotional insecurity. Over the course of the twenty years following God provided a series of healthy, responsible, godly and mature men with whom I could identify and bond, who modeled healthy manhood for me, and who affirmed me. They gave me what I needed to become the man I am today.

If you’ve read this far then please stick with me a little while longer because I want to affirm you. If you feel different from most of the boys and young men around you, if you seem to be attracted to other young men instead of young women, if you are wondering what might be the matter with you, you are not alone and you are not gay. Even if your first sexual experiences have been homosexual and you feel that powerful chemically based pull toward that life, you are not bound to it. You can be free. Jesus Christ can set you free and can give you the strength that you need to change. He can empower you to resist the urges that you feel and bring the chemicals raging within you back under control. He can reshape your mind so that you can begin to see his world and his creation from his point of view. He can help you become the man that you were meant to be.

I stand ready to help you. There are other men in the church I lead who will do the same. Please contact us through our website http://www.fccsobo.org and we will help you find the support that you need to build a life of blessing.

Thank you for reading. My deepest prayer is that I have encouraged you and given you hope. If I have offended I apologize in advance and trust that you understand that I have written out of desire to help and a conscience bound by Christ to speak his hope into our world.


The glory of young men is their strength,
gray hair the splendor of the old. Prov. 20:29

“I’m going to dye my hair. I think I’ll go with blonde, since that’s what it was when I was a little guy.”

After they finished laughing, my wife and daughter said, “No! You have beautiful grey hair.” And “What’s the matter? Oh, it happened again didn’t it?”

“Yeah, the lady at Bojangles gave me a Senior Discount, and she didn’t even card me!”

On the bright side, at least I still have most of my hair, which is more than I can say for some of my friends. And the episode made me think again of what it’s like to be on my third life.

Before you assume that I’ve adopted some form of Hinduism, allow me to explain. Think of your first twenty years or so as your first life. You have time to grow up, learn the basics, develop a few skills, maybe get some education and a driver’s license, but that’s about it.

Your second life happens between about twenty and forty. You finish your formal education, get married, and start a career, maybe two or three. You add children to the mix, a home, a mortgage, some pets, join a church or social or professional organizations. The education, career, and marriage choices you made in your teens and twenties reveal their inherent opportunities and limits. You are either happy or frustrated with them. If you’re happy, you buy life insurance. If you’re frustrated you get divorced.

If you are a winner on the Life Insurance Actuarial Lottery your third life runs from fortyish through sixtyish. Life speeds up as your body slows down. The kids you coached in soccer are now the nurses taking care of you during the appendectomy. You are making more money than you were in your twenties but most of it is obligated and doesn’t last long in your wallet. You are reaping the harvest, whether good or bad, of the choices you made and the habits you developed in your first and second lives.

But something else is happening too, a strange sense of detachment, coupled with a bit of Déjà vu. You recognize yourself and some of your friends in children on their first lives, even more in the adults on their second. Patterns emerge, predictable cycles born of similar circumstances intersecting unconscious habits of heart and mind, compounded by the sin nature or else corrected by the Living Spirit. Often it speeds by like a rain-flooded stream, but you can see it, you can see the patterns.

That’s where we third-lifers become useful to the first and seconds. We can help them see the patterns, find the fault-lines, identify the Spirit’s path, and choose carefully. It isn’t because we’re better educated, or more intelligent. It’s just because we’ve lived with Christ long enough for our hair to turn gray.

So, to those of you on your third (or fourth, or fifth!) life I say: Don’t be afraid to share your mistakes or to give God glory where he showed you how to succeed. And to those on your first or second, don’t be too proud to ask and listen.


It happened again this week, in conversation with a cherished friend. We reflected on the power of a simple wedding service to move the heart, to heal, to anchor the spirit to the deeper reality of which we all are part but see only “as through a glass, darkly.” Our thoughts mingled with memories of the weddings I performed earlier this month and weddings past; of tears springing from timeless wells, of longing and of joy, of fulfillment and of hope. Why do weddings move us so?

Why, especially, in this moment of cultural upheaval, when ancient ways are being scavenged for ornaments to decorate our ceremonies, while the ancient truths that birthed them are dragged like worn-out ships to the wrecking yards?

I tried to capture it in a poem composed for one of the ceremonies. Understand please that I am not a freckle on the nose of a real poet. But those feelings we experience in a Christian wedding have a basis in spiritual reality, a foundation in the unseen world that calls to us like nothing else. I hope you can hear that call in these few stanzas of sad verse.

It is the oldest story in the oldest book
How God came down and from the ground
A man and woman took
And made them one
In flesh and soul
First parents of all men
T’was in the garden, free and sweet
It all began back then.

All down the ages
All through the book
The wedding song was sung
But no one knew the deeper truth
Until we met the Son
And saw the sacrifice he made
And heard his joyful cry
“It is finished!” Price is paid
On the Cross he died.

Death could not hold
Grave could not keep
The Groom of which we sing
He rose again and left this place
To come back with a ring
To claim his bride
And take her home
His Kingdom hers to share
Oh glorious feast, oh glorious day
When we meet him there.

So there’s no such thing
As “just a wedding”
Nor “just a bride and groom”
But memories deep as Eden
And echoes from the empty tomb
Laughter from the halls of heaven
Dancing to the drum
Invitation from the King
Whoever will, may come!

Mike&Dane's las tride Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Heb 12:1 NIV)

Nitrogen fumes from the Shell premium gas Mike burned in his Honda CBR 1100 XX motorcycle drifted back to us, threading their way into our helmets along with the mountain aromas of cool granite, green laurel and fresh-cut grass. Family friend Jessica McGill and I kept pace with Mike and my daughter Mikeala on a borrowed BMW, railing the tight curves and slowing to a walk on the one hundred and eighty degree switchbacks of Georgia SR 180 as we wound our way up Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the State. It would be our last motorcycle ride together before he died on August 5th – and one of the best – climaxing as it did with a view of the world from 4,784 feet above sea level. He had already covered 200 of the 350 miles he would ride that day and wasn’t even tired. It stands as a metaphor to me of an even greater climb that the big guy made.

My older brother Mike, Uncle Fuzzball to my daughters, suffered from a chemical imbalance in his brain diagnosed as atypical bipolar disorder. In the mid nineties I watched this disease grab him like the imaginary monsters of childhood, shake him like a ragdoll and fling him to the ground.

Big Mike, his nickname in the neighborhood where I was born, stood over six feet tall from the time he was twelve years old. He was always bigger and stronger than me and most of my friends. He was also a spiritual rock for me when I needed him most. Watching him break into a thousand mental pieces was almost more than I could bear. But watching him climb up out of that psychological black hole, a place from which few men return, was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever witnessed. We talked about writing a book on it. I’m writing this today to encourage you and anyone else that you know who suffers from a mental disorder.

Mike’s climb back up the mountain toward mental health was marked by three things. The first was humility. He was a proud man, a strong man that submitted himself to hospitalization under the care of competent, professionals who prescribed medication and psychotherapy. Once out of the hospital Mike took responsibility for himself and worked the program. It took years. And like many bi-polar patients, along the way Mike decided he no longer needed the meds. This led to a relapse and another hospital stay. But the second time was the charm. He humbled himself by taking his medicine every day and visiting a counselor every week for years. Even when he no longer needed the counselor he stayed on the medicine and visited a therapist now and then just to keep a check on himself. He knew the monster all too well and as strong as he was knew he couldn’t handle it alone.

The second thing was his faith. In all the years of his suffering Mike never turned his back on Jesus Christ. I never heard him blame God or use his illness and disappointment as an excuse to quit worshipping or neglect his devotions or stop meeting with other believers. He wanted to be well and he knew that in the end, only walking with Jesus would give him the strength to get there.

The third thing that characterized his recovery was perseverance. Sadly, in twenty years of ministry I’ve known a lot of people who’ve given up, wallowing in the slough of self-pity, and let their illness define them for the rest of their days. Mike never gave up. Even after two years of fruitless searching for a regular job, something that spins many men down into depression, he kept up his courage. He was as healthy on that day at the top of the world as I have ever known him, enjoying the good gifts God gave, enjoying the ride, and discussing plans for his new business. No one knew that even though his mind had healed his body was diseased. He was working on a motorcycle in his garage on the day his heart stopped.

So if you know someone who is struggling with a mental disorder tell them about my brother. Tell them they can recover. Tell them there’s a big guy in that great cloud of witnesses, cheering them on.RailingtheCherohala


Courtesy is the oil that lubricates the fine machinery of civilization. L. R. Barnard

I can see it now, an ad headline on Yahoo or Youtube: SECRET BIBLE CODE PREDICTS FACEBOOK SUCCESS! We are such suckers for looney lines like this that it would likely get a million clicks. The surprising thing is that the headline is true, from a certain point of view.

I discovered this by doing something else you will no doubt find looney: Reading Proverbs backwards.

Before you call for the guys in white jackets, let me explain. I read the Book of Proverbs through two or three times a year. Every time its accuracy and insight fascinates and instructs. But the phrases and cadences have become so familiar that I found I was just passing through, ignoring the scenery the way you do on an oft-traveled road. So I decided to read the book in reverse order. That’s when things started to pop, especially regarding FACEBOOK.

I am a daily FACEBOOK visitor. Sometimes it is a time waster. But other times it is, as it was designed to be, a great facilitator of relationships. Given the shredding of our sense of community in the last fifty years FACEBOOK, and mediums like it, is increasing our ability to know and understand one another across the artificial divides created by our suburbanized, isolated, hyper-mobile car-culture. It is the electronic front porch where neighbors stop briefly for a friendly chat, share helpful information, and strengthen the bonds of civilization. That’s a good thing, usually.

Then there’s the dark side of FACEBOOK, the crude comments, political rants, and thoughtless posts and re-posts that in a public setting, even with neighbors on one’s own front porch, we wouldn’t normally utter. FACEBOOK can’t recreate the proximity that prevents us from disgracing ourselves and as a result people have lost friends, jobs, opportunities, careers, and reputations, sometimes permanently. As a result most large employers now have strict social media rules in place and restrict access on their in-house networks.

That’s why THE FACEBOOK PROVERBS are so important. They were written long ago for a people trying to achieve honorable community in the land of Israel. Their composer and compiler, Solomon, was one of the most wise and successful leaders who ever lived. Using them as a guide to all of our social posts will help us achieve that rarest of cultural commodities: courtesy. They are marked in the margin of my Bible with a large F and now that this post has grown so long I will only share a few in hopes that they will whet your appetite to look for more. You will be amazed at how relevant they are.

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding
but delights in airing his own opinions. Pr. 18:2

A fool’s lips bring him strife,
and his mouth invites a beating.
A fool’s mouth is his undoing,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to a man’s inmost parts. Pr. 18:6-8

Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud,
but humility comes before honor.
He who answers before listening—
that is his folly and his shame. Pr. 18:12-13

The first to present his case seems right,
till another comes forward and questions him. Pr. 18:17

From the fruit of his mouth a man’s stomach is filled;
with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied.
The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit. Pr. 18:20-21

One last one is not from The Book of Proverbs but from the late L. R. Barnard, professor of Historical Theology:

Cultivate courtesy gentlemen; it is the oil that lubricates the fine machinery of civilization.

Now, I wonder how many clicks this title will get. 