Sunday, 24 January 2016

A hug

Attended Chinese service today and as we were singing the last song, one line, with the lyrics roughly translated to "... ... into Your embrace ... ..." reminded me of a Dad Hug I got from an affirming father at the GCN Conference. And then I thought about God. And how that was like a hug from Him. That totally got me sobbing like crazy in the middle of worship.

Hugs can be so powerful.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Loveability - an extract

"The more I thought above love, the more I had to admit to myself how important love was. I could see the urge to love and be loved is our primary desire. Love is as important to us as air, water, and food. A life without love isn't a life. The more you love and also let yourself be loved, the more alive you feel. This primary desire is something we share with each other: we all want to experience love, to know we are loveable, and to be loving people. Love feeds all our basic desires, including our desire to be connected, to be known, to be safe, to be happy, to be successful, and to be free. Love is the stuff of life. Even I could see that, and I was only 16 years old.

I understood that love was important, but what I couldn't understand was why people didn't talk more about love. The Beatles were singing about love. So too were Stevie Wonder, and Bob Dylan, and Van Morrison, and Joni Mitchell. There's no such thing as too many love songs. At the same time, our favorite authors and poets send more love stories and love notes into the world. Love is all around us, but we don't talk about love that much. Politicians don't. Newscasters don't. Schoolteachers don't. My friends didn't. We talked about girls but not love. Conversations about love - real love - are thin on the ground, especially when you consider that every day we buy a million love songs and read a million love stories.

... ...

The more I paid attention to love, the more I realized how necessary love is. Love is an essential growth ingredient in your life. From conception, love is helping to birth you into the world. The study of evolutionary psychology recognizes that love is a basic growth medium of cells. Love matters, because when children are loved it influences the central dogma of their DNA, develops their nervous systems, and helps to build their brains.1 Love helps to us to grow, and not just in the early stages of our life, but in every stage thereafter. Scientists tell us that this is true not just for humans but for other animals too.2

When you remember the basic truth "I am loveable," this helps you to evolve in the direction of love. When you choose love, you prosper. Conversely, when you believe the basic fear "I am not loveable," you stop growing in the direction of love.

... ....

My view of love was expanding. Love wasn't just about girlfriends, romance, and sex anymore. Love wasn't just an emotion. Love wasn't just about family or the people you like. I began to see that love is about everything - that it's about our whole life. When you make love your purpose, you are fulfilling your destiny. You didn't come here to make yourself into somebody; you came here to be what you already are, which is the presence of love. That's what's meant to happen, but then we take the detour into fear and get distracted and lost. Now we have to turn to love again, so as to be saved and so that we can keep on loving and being loved.

... ...

The real work of your life is to know how to love and be loved. This is our shared purpose. It is the purpose of your life and the purpose of humanity. Despite what you have been taught, the purpose of existence is not solely to grow more dollars, more yen, and more Euros. Your real employment is not to acquire job titles, conquer the market, and kill the opposition. The goal of your life is not to inflate yourself into an ego that is bigger, smarter, or more powerful that another ego. None of this is real. These are all trivial pursuits. How would it really profit you if you gained the whole world and you forgot about love along the way?"

Extracted from Chapter 3 of Loveability: Knowing How to Love and Be Loved, Robert Holden, Ph.D., (Hay House, Inc. 2013).

1. Love and science. Read Sue Gerhardt, Why Love Matters: How Affections Shapes a Baby's Brain (New York: Routledge, 2004); also David Hamilton, Why Kindness Is Good for You (Carlsbad, CA, Hay House, 2010); also Helen Fisher, Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love (New York: Henry Holt and Company 2004).

2. Love and animals. American psychologist Harry Harlow is known for his research on rhesus monkeys. He famously said, "If monkeys have taught us anything it's that you've got to learn how to love before you learn how to live." In This Week, March 3, 1961. For more information, read Harry F. Harlow, "The Nature of Love," American Psychologist 13, no. 12 (December 1958), pp. 673-685

Thursday, 14 January 2016

My reflections on GCN Conference 2016

Here's my main takeaway from the GCN Conference that ended a little less than a week ago:

Fellowship is life-giving.

There were so many great keynotes, dozens of excellent workshops, but the thing that made the strongest impressions were the many friendships forged during that 4 precious days in Houston.

Just like the very last Exodus conference I attended in 2013, I met so many gay Christians and heard so many stories. I was gratified to know that I wasn't alone in this. From those at my table in the Women's Retreat before the official start of the conference, to those newbies at my First-Timers' table, to Table 23 on the very first night, to the Side B dinner, to the strangers I met at workshops, the fellowship was warm and everyone was so open to share their stories.

And what stories those were. From being fired from a job for being gay in Texas, to being expelled for the very same reason in a Christian university, it is hard to live as an LGBT person in certain parts of America. I thought Singapore was conservative, but whoa, Americans can be quite conservative too.

I remember 2 stories in particular that made a deep impression on me. The first was at a workshop by Robert Cottrell and his wife. He mentioned how when a son came out to his mom, that she handed him a gun and said that she'd rather he shoot himself than be gay. And he shot himself right there and then, in front of her.

I was lost for words.

And then, on Saturday night, during testimony time, I remember a girl, the daughter of two pastors who shared that she was told to hide ever since she came out to them. This naturally brought about much pain and suffering. When she came to the conference this year, she found so much love and affirmation in the hugs and comfort of moms. At the end of her testimony, she gasped, sobbing,  "You have given me such hope."

Needless to say there are so many times I cried, or almost cried, during the four days there. 

I've been convinced that it is essential to set up an LGBT ministry of some sort in this little island of Singapore. Like what I've learnt from a fellow participant in the Side B workshop helmed by Eve Tushnet, prayer is important. So pray and fast I will, and God shall open the doors. I'll strive not for God shall lead the way. I'm not a ministry leader in any capacity, but even if this allows LGBT Christians to find fellowship and share their stories, I think half the battle's already been won.

Thank you so much Justin Lee and co. for organising this conference.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

2016 GCN Conference Day 4

The last day started with a beautiful liturgical service. There were robed pastors/priests, call-and-response type prayers and lovely hymns.

We had communion and that was awesome. I was wondering how long it would take to serve 1,500 people but the organisers were really smart and had many stations one could take communion at.

I was taken a bit off-guard at the sign of peace. Never had that in my church but it was nice to hug people and wish them well.

What I was most impressed about was the fact that they had both wine and grape juice, regular bread and gluten free, and even a roving station for those with mobility issues. Very well-thought out and inclusive.

Then Rev. Eric Mason gave a short message followed by a benediction. Finally Justin Lee spoke about intersectionality. Both of which I'll elaborate in a later post.

And then it was over. At the end they announced that it'll be at Pittsburgh next year. I wonder if I'll be there...

It was a wonderful experience throughout and I'll be blogging my reflections in greater detail after I get back to Singapore, so watch this space!

Saturday, 9 January 2016

2016 GCN Conference Day 3

The morning started with a keynote by Allyson Robinson and it was lovely.

Then I had lunch and hurried back to rest for a bit before attending the workshops.

Workshop C for me was by Eve Tushnet on "Side B: Changing our Church Communities" and it was really helpful. Got to talk to Misty Irons one-on-one and that was great. Am gonna check out her blog real soon.

Workshop D for me was "Advocating without Debating" and was really useful and full of practical advice of which I'll blog about sometime later together with all my other reflections on this conference at a later date. I got a dad hug from presenter Robert Cottrell and it felt lovely.

The person sitting beside me was one friendly Californian who invited me to dinner which I gladly accepted. Had some awesome fried chicken before coming back for testimony time.

Teared more than once hearing all the stories. Especially the girl with the pink hair - "You've given me so much hope" she said before breaking down and having moms surround her with hugs. I had to keep myself from bawling too.

Now I'm back in my room typing this out and looking forward to the last day tomorrow.


Friday, 8 January 2016

2016 GCN Conference Day 2

Woke up early today to grab breakfast from Starbucks before the first general session started. Had an awesome bagel, a banana and my usual flat white. Am so glad I got there by 8am because half an hour later the queue doubled in length. And I hate queues.

In any case, Misty Irons was brilliant. I texted two ministry leaders back home in Singapore about watching the conference and one of them actually did. I was pleasantly surprised and happy she did because she said she'd learnt a lot and realised she needed to be more loving and sensitive to LGBT folks. Which is amazing because those were exactly the reasons why I had trouble communicating with her. So thankful for live streaming.

Then I went to the exhibit hall and got 5 books for just under US$100. Yes, I am quite the book nerd. Got Deborah Jian Lee to sign hers and we shared a hug.

I was then surprised by friendly strangers hailing from Austin who asked us to join them for lunch. Had some fish tacos and sweet potato fries and lovely conversation. And I must add, I had some sweet tea that according to my Texan friend was "really sweet" for sweet tea (she mixed hers with some regular iced tea to balance it out while I had mine really sweet).

Workshop Session A was next and I attended the one called "Advocacy: God's Love in Action" and benefitted so much from the sharing of the panel of speakers. They were really inspiring.

In the break between that and the next session, I grabbed a mocha at Starbucks and met blogger John Pavlovitz, had a chat with him and that was really nice.

Then it was to Workshop Session B conducted by my Twitter friend, Austen Hartke, titled "Exploring the Bible Alongside Transgender Youth". He's really a lot taller than his YouTube videos make him out to be, so that was interesting. Anyway, it was a thorough Bible study we had on various texts relating to a variety of topics from the creation story to eunuchs to Jesus remarks on sexual minorities. We then had a small group discussion which was lovely.

After that, I joined a bunch of Side B Christians for dinner. Met another bunch of awesome people and had some ribs and sweet tea that wasn't sweet.

Braved the rain and came back. Saw a protestor carrying a sign and that was a bit scary.

Was too tired to attend the night session with Mary Lambert so I'm now blogging about it and heading off to bed soon (jet lag is taking its toll - it's a 14 hour time difference). I guess I'll catch the broadcast on video later on.

So that's it for today! What I really loved about today was the very tangible presence of God during worship and meeting a bunch of new people and getting to know them. It's awesome! Everyone is so friendly here. :)

Well, that's all for today. I think I'll consolidate my thoughts and blog in greater detail on some of the sessions when I'm back in Singapore and have access to my MacBook Air.

G'night y'all!

Thursday, 7 January 2016

2016 GCN Conference Day 1

Being at the GCN Conference has been a blast. It is so incredibly well-organised and all the volunteers are so enthusiastic, it's unreal.

So far I've been to the Women's Retreat doing some amazing art therapy (employing the themes of loss and of hope) with Emmy Kegler and General Session 1 where Broderick Greer killed it with the opening message.

Absolutely LOVED the Acts 8 / Isaiah 56 Bible study that he did.

But what I treasured most of all were the getting-to-know-you sessions that were interspersed throughout the session. First at my table at the women's group, then at the first-timers' meeting, and then again at Table 23 out of a hundred over tables at the gigantic ballroom at the Hilton Americas Houston hotel we were in.

Also happy to connect with my Twitter friend Kevin Garcia and glad to meet Deborah Jian Lee.

Also loved the mint chocolates, a little but lovely touch to end the night with. :)

I can't wait to experience the rest of the conference!

See y'all!

P.S. Apologies for the brevity and incoherence. I'll consolidate and post an update when possible.

A conversation with a Geography teacher


That's the word that stayed with me long after the conversation with my friend ended.

Too many Singaporeans love to fit into a mould. Or perhaps they have been forced to fit into one.

With the tall poppy syndrome asserting itself ever so often in Singapore, or with people critical of difference, it is difficult to showcase your individuality if it doesn't conform to societal's preconceived notions of what the norm is supposed to be.

Old people are discriminated against, seen to be less valuable. Why else would the government have to run ads to encourage fair employment for those who've had a lifetime worth of experience?

Gay people are discriminated against with 377A. Although not actively enforced, the presence of this penal code means that gay people are seen to be less than in the eyes of the law, than heterosexuals. I never quite seen this as a problem, and only appreciated it when she brought it up in our conversation.

She then added that she wasn't a conventional Christian.

I said that that's alright, there's already too much hate from Christians to the LGBT community as it is.

People are different. We need to recognise that. As much as rules are important for the healthy functioning of society, legalistic adherence to things that do not matter only enforce a herd mentality and groupthink.

Some other friends who've studied abroad often comment how one is free to be themselves overseas and no one would judge them for it. They would then emphasise how it is that this is not found in Singapore.

I wonder what I can do to change this.

One person at a time I guess.

One conversation at a time.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Happy Feet and Otherness

Wrote the following post on the plane and reproduced it here...

It's 6.45am, Tokyo time and I just finished watching the movie Happy Feet. If you're not acquainted with it, it is a tale about Otherness.

Mambo is a young penguin who is skilled at tap-dancing. Unfortunately, in a group of penguins that value singing much more than dancing, he is seen as an aberration. A weirdo. A freak. Sound familiar?

He is one tone-deaf penguin. In this penguin world, all the penguins are required to find their inner love song to woo their partner. And he just turns everyone off with his horrible screeching.

Even a maestro his parents sent him to couldn't help him.

Charmed as they are by his dancing, his peers still find him strange, isolate him and eventually force him to leave the colony.

He left and found a group of a different species of penguins that are amazed and value his dancing.

As the movie progressed, I began to identify more and more with Mambo.

This theme of Otherness is so vivd.

To be asked to change when you are perfectly fine.

To be seen as a freak.

To find one's own kind.

To speak, not with one's voice, but living your life authentically, utilising the gifts God's bestowed you with.

To change the world, one small step at a time.

I'm inspired!

Discovering Hayley Kiyoko

Today I discovered Hayley Kiyoko on tumblr in an It Gets Better video . Then I went to watch her music videos. Watching them helped norm...