Friday, October 16, 2009

Review Coming: Donald Miller

I love books. I just received this one in the mail to review! Give me a week and you will have it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Another Viewpoint

After a tragic event in our city, the following is a letter from someone from the Soul community:
Warning: the following is explict and may not be for younger folk.

Today, the headlines read “Bathhouse Blaze”, early Sunday morning a fire broke out in one of Winnipeg’s two bathhouses. Aquarius, a two floor bathhouse, was a low light place to connect with other men for the sole purpose of having sex. The facility also hosted co-ed nights for women to also come and “hook up” or go there for a date night, as one female patron said, a safe place to go.

Having graced the rooms of Aquarius, I know full well what went on behind the entry way. Bathhouses were at one point my friend. A place to have as many encounters with other men as possible, to explore different avenues of sexual pleasure and it played into the excitement of voyeurism. Aquarius was no exception to this fact. The basement of the facility was the dungeon so to speak, with a round bed in a large dark room where I saw men in bondage. Opposite that room was a maze of chain link and a blackened maze of corners, small rooms where one could go and have sex and not see the other person.

Realizing the destructive behavior of the facility, especially in the degrading acts being played out on men as well as women, it became evident that Aquarius was a glorified whore house, only money was not exchanged apart from the entry fee, and the availability of poppers (a drug which induces a person to put aside all inhibition, placing that person in a position of potentially dangerous activity).

I write as a writer who has been to some pretty rough places to get the high of a sexual encounter. What is sad today is that two men died in this fire. One of these men a 23 year old aspiring drag queen, wanted to go into the entertainment biz. When I saw his face, I saw the face of a clean cut male, young and pretty, yet deeply masculine. A face with hope in his eyes. Yet his hope won’t amount to anything, as his life was taken far too early. But the deeper issue with his death is the correlation between his life as a drag queen and his issue with the bathhouse. A drag queen often is one to do fundraising, is looked upon as someone who lives in the public realm. Is often the voice of those in need. Today that voice is no longer speaking, singing or entertaining.

This brings me to the issue of pride. Pride is the big quintessential word of gay, lesbian, bi, transgendered people. The Pride Parade is all about being proud of who you are, and yet, there is a deep seeded, dark issue of sexual addiction in our midst, that is being normalized in our culture today.

“We are proud of who we are, we want rights…we demand them, and we will take down every voice that is against us. Because being against us means you are full of hate.”Are words that at one time, I used, and heard other gay people speak out loud, and full of force.

Yet having been to bathhouses and having to look at the destructive behavior of my own sexual addiction, I wonder, what kind of pride that was? I wasn’t loving myself, I was actually feeding my addiction and couldn’t see past not getting a sexual fix, the next guy who would turn me on. It was all about sex. Not pride. Pride would be taking care of myself, honoring and respecting myself and others, not using them, for the sake of my own pleasure. Pride is not taking away my inhibitions with poppers and putting myself at risk of disease, or injury. Pride is learning what the roots of sexual addiction are, that are causing us to go to all lengths to get off. Pride is looking at our behavior and or allowing someone in to speak life to us, rather than encourage us in behavior that is hurtful to both ourselves and to others. When did we first come to understand that multiple sex partners are okay, good or healthy? Why isn’t the gay, lesbian, bi, transgendered community standing up in Pride and shouting enough is enough? Treating each other as objects, as sexual toys, as a way to get our needs met, is exactly what Pride isn’t. When will the community that demands respect and pride and the “same” rights as everyone else realize they have a long way to go to “get there”, if they continue to applaud sexual addictions, drug use, and criminal activity.

It is a quiet secret regarding the realm of sexual exploits and the areas of town these exploits happen in our city, where gay men hang out, late at night or during the day, all in the hopes of having sex. Men congregate in bathrooms across the city, to meet someone to have an orgasm. Putting at risk, young children, teens and others who would rather not see what is going on. Sure, you can be as safe as you think you are, but you never know who will walk in, who will see. Why do we sugar coat the issue of sexual addiction?

It is easier to turn a blind eye, to stay silent rather than speak the truth. Maybe it has to be someone who has been there, done it, who has received help regarding his sexual addiction, who needs to stand and speak. So today I speak. I say, “when is enough, going to be enough.” How many lives are we risking when we stay silent? To disease, to injury, to death? How many souls are we actually killing when we don’t say anything? Lives of men and women, struggling with sexual addiction, not knowing their worth apart from the buzz of the moment, only to wake up, empty and alone or empty in the arms of a stranger they just met a couple of hours before.

I know that I have pride in who I am as a man, who I am as a husband, who I am as a father. Would I want my child to grow up desperately hungry for love and affirmation and a sense of worth, so much so they have sex in a bathhouse, in a dark, dingy, smelly cage, inhibitions gone, not knowing how many people are having sex with them? Hardly, the thought of that actually makes me feel sad. So why would we want our friends, our co-workers, our family members, our loved ones to go to those lengths? When will we say enough is enough and stand for human rights, respected and honored?

Bobby Rogers, President and Acting Manager of Gio’s stated…“Thank you to everyone who came out tonight to help start our community's grieving process. As part of this process, CJOB 680 AM Richard Cloutier respectfully invited members of our community to discuss some aspects of our culture. After consulting with some community members, Chris Vogel was asked to help us out. Chris Vogel , one of the founders of Gio's (The Oscar Wilde Memorial Society Inc.) and leader in Manitoba and Canada with LGBT rights will discuss some of the unique aspects of our community with Richard, Tuesday at 9am. This is such a sensitive topic and troublesome time for us all - please trust that Richard and Chris will help sort through the stereotypes and homophobia that have been drifting in and out of media comments as a result of this tragedy.”

Key words used here are:
Unique aspect of our community

This is a sensitive matter. Two men died, in a senseless fire. But what are the bigger issues here? Is there one? What about the reasoning of Pride, and the oversexualized…unique aspect of the gay community? What about sexual addiction? What about respecting oneself and others? This is rather troublesome.

I listened to the interview with Chris Vogel who stated a few misinterpreted facts. 1. He stated that Aquarius was renovated and was a great establishment. Unless it was renovated in the last 5 years, it was a pretty dark and dingy place.2. He stated that drugs and alcohol were not used on the facility, and it is a known fact that Poppers are sold and drugs and alcohol are ingested on site (brought in by patrons).3. He did however say that they needed to have installed fire detectors.

I found that an odd statement, “no fire detectors?”, is that not mandatory at all licensed established businesses. Yet, in the radio broadcast, it was stated that bathhouses do not need a license to operate? So a tragic event took place, 2 men died in an establishment that was not regulated by regular fire and health inspections. So regarding the establishment being a great place to meet and greet, it really was an accident ready to happen. It was irresponsible for the owner as well as the city to allow the establishment to open and operate.

In our city, our motto is “Take Pride Winnipeg.” How is this taking pride? How is this being committed in raising citizen responsibility?

In the end it comes down to citizens making a stand to what is allowed in their neighborhoods, parks, businesses. We live in a free country in which we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion and the right to say “enough is enough.”

Today, I have had enough.

A concerned citizen of Winnipeg.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Paying Tribute

January 13, 1930 – October 5, 2009

Dad, was born January 13, 1930 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. On Monday October 5, 2009 he passed away peacefully with me at his side. Dad was predeceased by parents Fred and Mary, infant daughter Pearl Hope, brother Fritz, sister Ann, and nephew Kevin. Dad is survived and remembered by his wife of 58 years Elizabeth. After a lifetime of dedication to his wife and family, and service to his Lord and Savior, dad leaves an indelible legacy to us and our families; Ron and Jill (Elise and Fred, and Todd and Rayael with their children Brendan, Andrew and Chloe), Bruce (Jessica and Joel) and myself and Sharon (Joshua, Jordan, James and Jesse). Dad is also survived by his brother Ed, sisters Olga, Eleanor, Jennifer and Lydia as well as many nephews and nieces.

Dad was a North End Winnipeg boy who graduated from St. John’s High School, with great stories. He quickly went to work to help support and care for his family as times were tough. As a young man he excelled at swimming, diving and gymnastics. He was a lifeguard and swimming instructor at numerous camps in Manitoba and City pools. Dad came to faith as a teen and never waivered from the call of God on his life. In his early twenties he got the courage and asked a particular woman out for a coffee at the end of a church service and the rest is history. He married Elizabeth Sedun and together they devoted themselves to their family and building a home based upon a foundation of faith, love and support. Newly married, they moved to Swan River to attend Bible College. Later Dad would begin his ministry at Living Word Temple in the North End of Winnipeg where he served for 27 years as pastor. In order to provide sufficiently for his family, he held a full time position with the City of Winnipeg, ending his career as a Supervisor for the Waterworks Department after 35 years of employment. Dad’s initial retirement was but a brief intermission. He resumed his calling upon invitation, by Rev. H.H. Barber to serve as Visitation Minister for Calvary Temple. At the same time Dad acted as the Supervisor of Phone Counseling Services for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He thrived in ministry! Throughout his lifetime, many people were influence by his ministry. His gentle spirit, genuine compassion, and earnest concern is still remembered today.

When we were about to start Soul Sanctuary, Sharon and I approached both my in laws and Dad and Mom. After explaining the vision that GOD had given us to start this new church we asked for their blessing on us. This was not your traditional type of church and one that was going to be out of their paradigm of what church ministry was all about. One statement that rings through our head after that meeting was that it was dad who said “We will know by the fruit.” Well, Dad would often share with me his concerns with the way we “did church,” but he was always supportive. One Sunday dad saw an older man sitting in a wheelchair crying after the service. As dad told me the story he said “I approached him and introduced myself and said, “I cannot help but noticed you are in distress, is there anything I can do for you?” The person responded by saying his name and then added “it’s the music.” To which dad said to himself, “the music makes me cry, as well.” But then the older man responded to dad, “I absolutely love it.” Dad walked away from that encounter with trying to figure out how can an older man like this type of music, especially in church! Eventually, the gentleman would commit his life to Christ. I would say from that point on dad worked really hard with trying to understand the way we did ministry to people in a form that he was not used to. There were times that Dad, and mom, have been more than stretched but Dad would occasionally comment on the “fruit” that he has seen. People committing to Christ, “young people” (I guess when you are 79, most everyone is a young person) in attendance and numerical growth.

A week prior to Dad’s passing I received an email from someone at Soul that I was able to share with him. It reads:

It really resonated with me when… Gerry said on Sunday that Soul would not have been possible without the blessing and prayers of his parents. I firmly believe, without any exaggeration and all the honesty that I can muster, that Soul saved my life. So, in that way, I guess your dad and everyone involved with the making of Soul are greatly responsible for getting me back on track in my walk and with my ministry. The Bible says you can tell a great deal about someone by the fruit of their labor and by that reasoning, your dad was an incredible man. I know it wouldn't mean much coming from me, someone he barely knows...but tell him, "thank you".
A loving husband, a proud father and doting grandfather and great grandfather, dad delighted in the joy of family. This past December, I moderated a special interactive service at our church on “A Father’s Legacy” featuring Dad and the three of us boys. Dad has always referred to that day as “That service was the crowning moment of my life.”

If you still would like to help leave a legacy I would encourage you on your way out to make a donation of any amount, in his memory to the orphanage work that we sponsor in Indonesia, called Wisma Kaseh. It was important to dad that these kids were cared for and this was his request. You can make a donation off our website using paypal!