Explore my Journey with me!

Stop the Stereotypes!!!

While talking with a few women at work yesterday, the subject of LGBTQ individuals in the ministry. I’m sure she only meant to compliment me, but she mentioned that I, as a gay man in this field, am better at relating to others and being sensitive to emotions. Like I said, I know it was meant as a compliment, and I felt honored that she thought so highly of me. However I was troubled by the the fact that she apparently thought my heterosexual male friends and classmates who are in ministry, being educated to go into the field, or waiting for a call, were less capable at dealing with emotions and making emotional connections with others.

Despite her good intentions, she was upholding a stereotype that gay men are more emotional and empathetic than heterosexual males. And while I’ve often heard of this as a negative aspect of homosexuals (ex: gay men are too effeminate or flamboyant) using it as a positive is still stereotyping, and thus flawed. I know plenty of gay men who would absolutely suck at dealing with other people’s emotions, and I know tons of heterosexual men who are waaaaay better than I am at dealing with other people’s emotions.

If you were to ask my CPE supervisor, he’d tell you how screwed up I was emotionally when I first began CPE. Well, okay he wouldn’t because he’s a professional and respects confidentiality, but I’m sure he’d say that I grew in several aspects of my ministry, just like everyone else in the group. It doesn’t matter that I’m gay and my classmate is straight. That doesn’t determine how effective we are at dealing with emotions. To be quite honest, emotional outbursts still tend to make me freeze in place, terrified that I’ll do something wrong and damaging. Same goes for some of my straight and gay friends.

It reminds me of when my friends, again, intending it as a compliment, would say that I was “such a good gay friend” for opening a door, going shopping with them, helping them choose which dress, whatever. I finally had enough one day and said “No. That doesn’t make me a good gay friend, it just makes me a good friend. Period. Being gay has nothing to do with it.”

Uplifting stereotypes to try to compliment a person based on their group is still wrong. And why? Because it’s over-simplifying things and just isn’t true. It also permits us to put others down or ignore their needs because of these supposedly “positive” stereotypes. Imagine an Asian student, struggling with math, or a woman who asks for help with baking, or an African American who isn’t good with sports. What does that say to them? It says “You suck. And in fact, you double-suck because this is something that is supposed to come natural to you.”

I understand that you might be trying to give me a compliment, but please, don’t say that I’m such a good gay friend, or such a good gay intern. Just say “hey, you did good. Thanks.” No stereotypes necessary.

Internship has begun!

Hello everyone!

Thanks for reading! As most (if not all) of you know, I recently moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to begin my internship. Well, the beginning has begun now as of church service this morning. I’m happy to report that, besides some mic difficulties and stepping on the hem of my alb once or twice, the services went fairly well.

Tomorrow I look forward to my first full day with both St. Luke’s hospital and St. Stephen’s Church. I’m hoping they go easy on me for my first day, but you never know. I’ll be learning the ropes at the hospital from 8-4:30 and then head back to St. Stephen’s for evening events including Bible Study. It’s going to be fun, I promise!

I’ll have more to report later (and hopefully some awesome pictures of my new place) when I post again. Hopefully sometime mid-week you should see another post.

Thanks again for reading!

God Bless!

 

- Intern Paul Andrew Johnson

I’m currently in the process of packing up all my stuff. And by packing, I mean throwing everything out into the open and organizing it into bins.

It’s amazing to see how much stuff I’ve accumulated over the last two years, and now I’m scratching my head over how I’m going to get it all into the aforementioned boxes. After several days of it looking progressively worse in the midst of organizing, I’m finally starting to see progress. I’ve fully packed five tubs and two cardboard boxes with books, toiletries and cleaning supplies, electronics, decorations, yarn, more yarn, and still more books!

I’m hoping to pack at least two more boxes tonight before bed and then get the room semi-cleaned until next weekend when I’ll clean even more! Little by little, I’m chipping away at the process. I’m hoping that by the time my moving weekend arrives I’ll be able to get in the car, drive home and load up the truck in De Pere, drive back to Dubuque and get everything organized so that Sunday morning we can load up, drive to Cedar Rapids, enjoy the church service, and then unload all the boxes and furniture in one fell swoop!

Until then I keep switching back and forth between packing things up and remembering all the stories behind each item.

The spider plant my Aunt gave me which became my first official houseplant.

The mug that, after serving one of my teachers for many years, was given back to me so that I could remember her. I still use it every morning with my coffee or water.

The microwave, refrigerator and towels my grandmother made sure I had so I’d be “all set” for school.

The cross painted and stamped by a dear classmate that didn’t continue with the program, but continues to be a close friend.

The poem given to me from someone who only writes when inspired and has managed to inspire me each day.

The Bible, Book of Concord, Memory book and several other mementos from my Sisters and Brothers in Christ back at St. John’s.

The drawing Jim made and framed for me, the beautiful cross my dad made, the journal from my mother filled with notes from her and spilling with love…

The memories go on and on, making each item a precious memento and a wonderful reminder of all who walk with me through this journey. When the people of St. Stephen’s church in Cedar Rapids help me unpack, they won’t just be looking at my personal effects… They’ll be looking at the loving support I have received and continue to receive from those whom I am proud to call my friends and family. Everything I own here, down to my underwear (Thanks Aunt Lynn and Uncle Larry!) have been from generous gifts of love from others.

And those items just scratch the surface of all the wonderful memories made on this epic and beautiful journey. Thanks be to God!

 

Goodnight, Jesus

With one of my responsibilities on campus currently being to lock up the Castle (Wartburg) each night, I’ve added in a little perk. Each night as I’m turning off lights and locking doors, I say goodnight to Jesus.

Let me explain…

It started several months ago (maybe even a year ago) when a good friend of mine, Sara, saw me in the chapel helping move some furniture and said hello as she walked past. She was showing someone around the campus (her mom, perhaps?) and this woman looked in with a puzzled expression until spotting us, and then said “oh, you were talking to them!”

Apparently, she thought Sara was waving and saying “Hey!” to Jesus.

Sara said that was crazy. I thought it was hilarious. And so when I would walk past the chapel, I’d wave and say “hey” to Jesus. Then when I started locking up at night I noticed they would leave the altar lights on during the day (which to me seemed like a nightlight for Jesus) so when I climb up the steps and turn of the light, I always turn to the crucifix and say “Goodnight, Jesus” before turning off the lights.

It may seem a bit weird, but I’ve come to enjoy these quick comments to Jesus each night. And while I was originally irked that the sacristan was leaving the altar lights on each night (one more light switch to flip) tonight I was saddened that they were already turned off and I didn’t have to say “Goodnight, Jesus.” But fear not, because even though I didn’t have to, I still did it.

Who knows, maybe at my internship site this upcoming year I’ll be turning out the lights and be able to say “Goodnight, Jesus” in a whole new setting. If not, I guess I’ll just have to say goodnight each day at home.

I realized, quite ashamedly in fact, that I haven’t really shared some great news with my friends and family near and far. So for all who haven’t heard, I’m sorry.

Proclaim Retreat, 2013

With that, I am happy to report that, beginning this Thursday at 1pm, I will begin my adventure to California to attend the Proclaim Retreat again this year. I am excited to see some familiar faces and get to know a ton of knew people as well during this trip. I only hope that I’ll have enough to do between flights on Thursday afternoon/evening and Friday morning as well as Monday afternoon/evening and Tuesday morning. Despite my best efforts, I’ll be spending nearly a day in airplanes or airports before and after the retreat.

If you’d like more information on the retreat, you can click here and it will bring you to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ website on the retreat. Please pray for me on Thursday and Tuesday that my flights go well and send warm thoughts my way over the weekend. I’ll definitely be doing the same and will even try to send a bit of warm weather and sunshine along with it. It’s looking like mid to high seventies all weekend long. Ahh, I can almost feel it!

I’ve been published!!!

Hey everyone! I just wanted you all to know that I have recently been published in one of our school’s newsletter. The article (about a page long) is in response to my feelings about the Boy Scouts of America and their decision regarding homosexuality. If you have a few minutes, I would be tickled pink if you’d read my article and the posts by others as well. There are some truly amazing people who have helped out with this newsletter through the years. I am incredibly honored to be published with them.

You can find the newsletter here, and my article, titled “To Protest by Persisting in Remaining” here. <–Click on the word(s) to follow the link!

Thank you and God Bless!

 

Prayer and Authenticity

Hello Dear Friends!

So I’m in the midst of reading “Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible” by Elizabeth Drescher and Keith Anderson, and it has encouraged me to write a post in response.

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with my identity in many and various ways in the past, so I feel it should come as little or no surprise that I wonder about my boundaries and identity as a future minister (God willing) in the ELCA and, even sooner, an intern. I wonder about facebook, e-mail, cell-phone numbers, etc. in regards to how much to divulge and where to draw the line. Moreso, I wonder what my “identity” should be in these regards. In reading Drescher and Anderson’s second chapter which addresses this issue (thank goodness I’m not the only one conflicted!) they suggest an intentional presence and, above all, an authentic one. In speaking with my advisor, professor, former boss, facebook friend and an all-around awesome person, Susan had also told me to do the same. Be intentional about what you post and be authentic.

This got me thinking about what that looks like even more, and with the help of Elizabeth, Keith and Susan, I’ve realized that I’m already doing it. Who I am on Facebook and on here is authentic to who I am, and I’m (usually) intentional in what I post. Sure, I like to have fun and talk about gardening, cleaning, reading, weight loss, frogs and unicorns in addition to talking about God, but that’s because it’s part of who I am. I hope that others feel comfortable with that and feel free to respond authentically as well.  I also hope that my friends will challenge me when they disagree with me!

That being said, I hope that you (whoever you are) will feel free to share a bit about who you are with me. You can post a comment on here, e-mail me at pjohnson@wartburgseminary.edu , post on my facebook page, message me, send me a letter, or any other way you can think of to contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

I also want to let everyone know that I’d love the opportunity to pray for/with you. If you have a prayer request and you’d like me to pray as well, please let me know (again, by any of the aforementioned means) and I would be honored to pray. Please know that, unless directly specified by the person being prayed for, I will not post prayers or those I am praying for. I would like to respect everyone’s privacy, so unless you would like it specifically shared with others, it will be between you and me.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless! I hope to hear from you to chat about life, for prayer requests, or for any other reason. Have a good one!

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