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Writer Wednesdays: Your Voice

Think of the stories that you tell your friends and family. What triggers you to share? I can think of three main reasons I share my experiences with others. Moving forward, I would like to formally invite you to consider a moment or some moments in your life that need to be share with others.

These moments could be tragic. These moments could be hopeful. They could bring laughter or they could bring tears. Most importantly, these moments are truthful.

What are the three reasons I share stories from my life?

  • I share stories to give encouragement

There are times in my life that have been straight out of a Law and Order: SVU episode. I grew up in rough circumstances. My choices as a teen were destructive. My young adult life has been plagued by trials, grief, illness and shame.

Yet, God has brought me through. I am an overcomer by nature and my blood type is resilience. If I can share who I once was in light of who I am now–my voice matters–it gives people hope.

  • I share stories to bring abundant laughter.

I’m hilarious. It’s true. Sometimes, I forget how funny I am. People get used to me. Then, I’ll be out at an event or in public and I’ll say or do something that’s classically Cheryl–and people will choke from laughter.

When life tries to suck the joy out of you, when all the news is bad news, when people seem to be negative for no reason–humour aptly placed can bring life. Just think of how much time we spend (waste) laughing at memes or watching Youtube videos. Laughter is the best medicine for many things.

  • I share stories to create understanding.

“What’s the big deal?” & “Lighten up.” are two phrases you wouldn’t expect are spoken to someone as laid back and hilarious as myself. Fact is, I hear them more often than is comfortable. You see, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve had a lot of hurts and I’ve helped a lot of broken people.

We might not know why something is important until someone tells us how it impacted them. Casually mentioned atrocities can cause deeps wounds in those around us and retraumatize them without our knowledge.

This is where you come in. Your voice, your story, your humour, your experiences can make the differences in the lives around you.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “you have no idea”, here’s your chance to give the world an idea–a new perspective. Who knows, you just might change a life.


5 Things I Learned from Discussing Sexuality with a Pastor

Recently, I did something that I was afraid to do. I talked with a local pastor about LGBTQ people and their relationship with the church. I was scared before I went, even though I know this person and knew the content of the conversation, that it was going to be about trying to convince one another of opposing views. Here’s what I learned:

1) Bridging is bumpy.

One of the most helpful things we did for one another at the start of the discussion is define our terms and our lack of exhaustive knowledge on the material we were about to discuss. We laughed a bunch and admitted that it felt weird to talk this openly about being “not straight” (as I put it) and loving Jesus.

2) Something’s got to change.

The reason for today’s conversation was the recognition that when people come out as LGBTQ they feel, for one reason or another, they need to leave the church. LGBTQ Christians feel like they have to choose between fellowship with people who love Jesus and worshipping/serving together and their sexual orientation. We both recognize that conversations need to be had at an open table. This table needs to have listening ears on both sides–not to convince each other about theological ideologies but to listen to one another with empathy and understanding. There will be an “us” and “them” as long as we talk past one another.

3) People are hungry.

Pastors and lay workers within the church (read many churches, not one specific church) are meeting outside of Sunday services with LGBTQ community members to learn how to engage with people and begin ministering out of a place of love. What’s being discovered is the amount of people who were raised in church, attended youth group, and even went to Bible College who identify as other than straight and left the church. They desire greatly to worship alongside other believers without being seen solely for whom they love. They want to be seen as God’s children walking out faith.

4) We don’t agree on every sin.

In the course of our conversation, we discussed whether or not conservative and mainstream Christian churches would be able to understand that LGBTQ Christians do not believe that their orientation is sin. We talked about how wide the spectrum is within the LGBTQ community–where some hold to traditional male/female marriage teachings opting for celibacy as the way to honour God with a same gender orientation and others hold to same-gender long term committed marriage. Similarly, Christians don’t all agree on alcohol consumption, secular movies and entertainment, swearing and modesty.

5) One important question remained.

How can we remove the stigma, isolation and fear for those who come out in faith communities?

There’s a few ways to do this. All of them take a long time.

First, sexuality regardless of straight or LGBTQ needs to be discussed in the context of church teaching. How can we expect a conversation round sexual orientation and inclusion if we can’t even discuss sex in the context of marriage? It is astounding the amount of young adult Christians who didn’t know how their body worked…or why it worked that way when I was at Bible College–because it was dirty and taboo.

Second, we need to create a culture where someone disclosing sexual orientation, sexual confusion or gender related questions is met with compassion and not solutions. Thank them for sharing with you. Admit that it must have been scary and difficult to talk about. Let them know that your love for them has not and will not change. Maybe consider waiting until later to discuss they why and how they know or are questioning. First just hold them and tell them it will be okay.

Third, how can the church make space for LGBTQ people and families to participate in church? We discussed the various reformations in church culture: women in ministry, divorced leaders, children outside of marriage–and how the church has embraced and including those once marginalized groups (some better than others). In light of those revelations of grace, how can the same attitudes be applied to the LGBTQ people in our communities.

What about you? Did you feel at one time or another like you had to choose between living authentically and being accepted? How can we walk with you?

Reflections on Orlando Shooting

I just can’t stop crying. This is insane. The amount of hate that goes into a crime like this.

Please, if you’re of the mind that God is judging LGBT people through this act of senseless violence, keep it to yourself. Think of the families, the friends, those who are injured but will survive–don’t add to their trauma.

If you’re looking for a way to help, a GoFundMe page has been set up to support the 50+ families effected by loss today and the costs associated with that.

Lastly, if like me, you are too heart broken to participate in Pride events today, that is okay! Take time to feel this loss. Don’t judge yourself for being effected deeply by the deaths of people you didn’t know. As a community, they are us. We are them. 50 people just like you and me were gunned down, it’s right and acceptable to be devastated. Do not allow anyone, even yourself, to nullify that pain.

Likewise, we need to take time to reflect and heal. Moving forward, fear is real, but hiding is not an option. If we hide, hate wins. I learned something when I was young and I keep telling and re-telling myself this truth “being brave isn’t the absence of fear, it’s doing the scary thing anyway.”

With that, I encourage you to be brave, love fiercely and choose not to hide.


Time for an Upgrade

Due to the amount of traffic to my previous blog, and to make a cleaner more professional impression–we have moved! In the past two months traffic has gone from 32 views a month to well over 1500.

Thank you to everyone for their support in this journey. I’m looking forward to bringing you content that is personal, passionate and authentic.

Fridays will be “Fan Fridays” moving forward. This is where you can write in, Tweet or Facebook me questions or issues that you’d like covered on the next week’s blog.

Are you a writer? Writer Wednesdays are a place where guest bloggers can have their work showcased. Send me an email follandcheryl86@gmail.com or a direct message on Twitter @cherylfolland to learn more. I’ll even do the editing for you!

Live your story, only you can do it. Talk to you soon.

~ Cheryl

Firsts and Lasts

Tomorrow is the first ever #NanaimoPrideWeek, not only is it the first week, it’s the first ever public event to recognize diversity and equality in our city.

I watched a beautiful video this morning of the crosswalk being painted. Community members stood conversing and recording this historical event. The spokesperson for the Nanaimo Pride Society spoke about diversity and inclusivity. He spoke about community, support and family friendly events.

This was a far cry from the stereotype we see portrayed in the media.

I was struck with excitement and also a little fear. Would the rainbow remain untarnished from vandals and nay-sayers until the conclusion of the events on Sunday? I’m praying for love to win the day as people choose to either participate or remain silent.

This next week is not about the “gay agenda”,  it’s about equal rights to be as human as anyone else. I once watched a TED talk about the gay agenda. I cannot remember who was speaking, but his words stuck with me:

“What is the gay agenda? As a gay person, I would like to know. I don’t wake up in the morning and have my gay coffee, my gay breakfast and drive my gay car to my gay job.”

If I had to put this hypothetical agenda into words, I wouldn’t suggest that LGBTQ people are trying to make everyone, everywhere, in everything queer. We’re trying to make it so that people don’t have to come out anymore.

Wouldn’t it be great if youth stopped taking their own lives because they no longer have to choose between a half-life or a lie? Wouldn’t it be great if weddings were about love and not about politics or religious legalism? (I could go on about this, but I won’t, maybe another time). Wouldn’t it be nice to go to the bathroom without someone checking your genitalia?

How about eating in a cafe? Wouldn’t it be great to be treated like a human instead of a disease? It would be great if not every conversation was about who you do or don’t sleep with, I mean do straight people get asked about their sex life (or lack there of) by any well meaning concerned citizen?

Fact is, people in civilized society are being refused medical treatment, hospitality, services, funding, protection and insurance–to name a few. Pride week isn’t about making out with a pink pixie and tie dyeing your poodle–it’s about saying “we exist, we’re human, do something about it.”

On this first Pride Week celebration, I am looking forward to the day when I can share with my loved ones “and that was the last time it was legal to hurt a person for who they love.”

“That was the last time I was afraid to bring my boyfriend/girlfriend home to meet my parents.”

“That was the last time the church fired their youth pastor/worship leader.”

“That was the last time fear spoke louder than love.”