Sep 192020

Life isn’t always fair

Fair

The readings this weekend are hard reading to preach on. In the Epistle we have Saint Paul struggling with a Shakespearean dilemma “to be or not to be”. In the Gospel we hear Jesus basically say that life is not always fair, but we have accept what is given to us and be happy.

These are hard messages to hear during a worldwide pandemic. It is even harder for me to hear in the midst of all the struggles I have right now. Many of you know that I am taking a break from the hospital and that I have receive a ton of hate on the internet lately. Death threats seem like a daily occurrence. People writing me messages just to tell me that I am a horrible human being for supporting black lives and the LGBTQI community.

How can I not love and support everyone? Even in the midst of despair and darkness, Saint Paul told the Romans that “love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10) How could I deny them love and expect God to love me?

As a genderfluid pansexual priest I can no more refuse anyone love than I can refuse loving myself. And for many years I did try to refuse loving myself. I tried to refuse love to everyone else. And it made me a bitter and hate-filled person. It nearly destroyed my marriage and it did destroy many friendships.

Only when I accepted who I was, was I able to love others. The thoughts of suicide started to go away and the world seemed much brighter. Sharing love with others has helped me heal as an individual. So we could all learn a lesson that life should be about loving others rather than hating them. We should all learn to accept that all things are not fair, but life is worth living.

Then and only then can we truly say that we are Christians.

God loves you all and so do I!

Father Greg

Jun 082018

Suicide

I had started writing this week’s blog post when a notification popped up on my phone. My stomach sank as I read that Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide. This after reading earlier in the week that fashion designer Kate Spade had also committed suicide.

So I threw away what I had written and decided to try again.

Many people say that these people had so much going for them. They were rich, famous, well-liked, and had many friends to support them. Why did they kill themselves? Others will claim that if only they had more faith, more love, more strength, more courage, they would not have killed themselves. And then there will be those who will say they took the cowards way out or that they were only being selfish.

All of that is crap.

I tried to kill myself as a teen. I have had thoughts of suicide throughout my life. And I can tell you that it was not because I lacked faith. It was not because I was not strong or courageous. It was because I had come to the end of my strength. I had come to the end of courage. And I believed that I would see God and that maybe, just maybe he would be merciful to me and let me into heaven.

I was tired of being abused. Rape and sexual assault had left me a shell of who I had been. I had no hope that life would improve. And when I dared to speak up, no one would listen or believe me. I was strong, but even that strength had its limits.

And to those who say I was being selfish, I was not. I believed that others would be better if I was not around. Society had convinced me that my struggles were a burden to others. I was left feeling like I had caused the abuse, rape, sexual molestation, and that everyone would be better off if I was not here. I was not suicidal because I was being selfish, I felt it was the ultimate sacrifice for others.

It is not being selfish, but it is also not going to help others either. Having to help families cope with the loss of a loved one who killed themselves has shown me the other side of those situations. Families are left in despair. They realize, all too late, that they missed the warning signs. Guilt consumes them. And then there are the questions about how they could let their loved one die. There are the condemning looks.

And even that is not fair.

That is why more and more people need to speak up about their struggles. That is why, as pastors, we share our brokenness with others. And yes, you may get tired of hearing us talk about how broken we are. But if it helps one person find the help they need, if it saves one person from killing themselves, then I will speak about my brokenness night and day!

After all, that is what I am called to do. That is what you are called to do.

My struggle is not over. And the struggles of my brothers and sisters who wear the collar are not over. Our struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of worthlessness may never end. It is my commitment  to do whatever I can to help others through their struggles and to find the help they need. And in a way, helping them helps me. It helps me find peace with my lot in life.

So, what can you do to help those of us who struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of worthlessness?

BE THERE. Be present to us. You don’t have to say a word. Just listen. Be a shoulder to cry on. Invite us to dinner. Ask us to join you for lunch. See if we want to go to the mall.

BE PREPARED. There are many resources that you can find to help those who need it. Carry the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number in your phone. Have business cards printed up with the help line numbers on them. I am planning (when I can afford to) to have new business cards made for the parish. On the back, I will have the Lifelines listed.

BE LOVING. Be ready to give them a hug. Just pick up the phone and call someone for no reason. Send them a message on Facebook or via their phone that just says you love them. And understand that sometimes they may not respond right away. Your message of love, your call, just knowing you are there and you care, could mean the difference between life and death.

AND DO NOT BE AFRAID. If you feel someone is in immediate danger of committing suicide, DO NOT hesitate to call the police or EMS. They may be angry at you for calling for help, but in the long run, they will thank you for caring enough to reach out for help. They may not be able to reach out, you might have to reach out for them.

At the end of the day, a person may still end their life. As a Bishop, as a Christian, let me make this very clear: Suicide is NOT a guaranteed ticket to Hell. NO WHERE in the Bible does it say that if you kill yourself you will go to Hell. The church for many centuries was wrong and caused so many people hurt and pain when they needed love and compassion. But if your loved one has committed suicide, God understands what they were going through and in his mercy, he will grant them peace and joy in his kingdom.

If you need help, please do not hesitate to ask. We have a new page here at our website that give you resources that can help you through your struggles.

Please know that God loves you and so do we!

May 052018
loneliness

I have been very open about my struggles with my health and with my past. It is not always easy to be this open and it has led to hurt in the past. However, I make clear my struggles in the hope that it helps others who also struggle. One of my greatest struggles is with loneliness.

I am have this horrible curse that even when in a room full of people, I can still feel lonely. In reading Holy Scripture, I find that Jesus and even John the Baptist, may have felt this way too. I am certainly no Jesus or John the Baptist, but I can understand how they felt.

There are many reasons that people feel lonely. It could be because they have very few friends or family members. It could be because, like me, they suffer from PTSS or depression which make them feel lonely even when they are around lots of people. They might also feel inferior to those around them and thus they feel alone.

Whatever the reason, we are never truly alone. Even in the dark of night, when I tend to feel the most alone, I know that God, the saints, and even the Blessed Virgin Mary is right there with me. And for me, I know that I am not alone, but I have many brothers and sisters in the church who are there for me.

Here lies the other big issues. Despite knowing that all I have to do is pick up the phone and call one of my family members in the church, I don’t because I do not want to be a burden to them. They all work so very hard and the last thing they need is me burdening them because I am lonely. However, this is only in my own mind. They would be the first to say that I am not a burden and that I need to call anytime!

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy! When we allow ourselves to believe that we are burden to others we feed into the cycle of depression and loneliness. Instead we need to remember that we are fearfully and wonderfully made! We need to remember that there are so many people that love us! And we need to be unafraid to reach out to those around us, to our biological family, church family and friends for support during our dark moments.

And if you know someone who struggles from depression or loneliness, take a moment to reaffirm to them that you are there for them. Take a moment to call them out of the blue and express how much you care. Invite them to get a cup of coffee or to go to lunch.

You never know how such those small acts will mean to someone struggling with loneliness!