Let's talk about Innovative Love Coalition and why this project is so important for the Christian church.
Music has always been one of the most significant ways that I connect with God, and I know I am not alone. From a very young age I was singing and leading worship in church. I grew up with Christian radio in the car and lots of gospel and Christian music playing in our home all the time. I remember buying my first record, Amy Grant's "Age to Age" when I was only 12 years old. My family went to concerts, we sang together in the car... Music surrounded me as a child and teenager. And the words nourished me, gave me hope when I felt hopeless.
"I have found a place where I can hide. It's safe inside Your arms of love."
All through high school and into college I listened to and sang this music. 2nd Chapter of Acts, Bebe and Cece Winans, Sandi Patti, First Call, Leslie Phillips, Kathy Troccoli, Kim Hill, Clay Crosse, dc Talk, Adam Again, 77s, Kirk Franklin, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Rich Mullins, Margaret Becker, Russ Taff, Avalon, Point of Grace, Anointed… I LOVED Christian and gospel music. I was in a college singing group that performed all over the country. I sang in my college choir. I graduated with a music education degree, and as soon as I could, I was leading worship in churches, first as a volunteer and then as a staff member.
In 2000, I got my first job in full-time worship ministry. I was immersed in early-2000s worship music, and I LOVED it. Vineyard, deliriou5?, Paul Baloche, Darrell Evans ("Yes, Lord, Yes, Lord, Yes, Yes, Lord"), Matt Redman, Darlene Zschech and Hillsong (Remember hearing "Shout to the Lord" for the first time?). I led worship for three different worship services every single Sunday.
When I came out of the closet for the first time and dove headfirst into "ex-gay therapy, back in 2002, I found comfort in Christian music. All these songs about finding strength in Christ, songs about overcoming temptation, songs about forgiveness and freedom, songs about fresh starts. It was like they were singing to me and for me and with me.
“Hold me, light of the world. Love me, say you love me, and I will be free.”
Fast forward to 2017. I was newly out of the closet. I was unstable in so many ways… financially, things were rough. I didn’t have a full-time job yet. I didn’t feel comfortable, or even very safe, in my housing situation. Many of my close relationships were fraying, and I was being looked at as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by people who used to trust and support me. My first dating relationshi with a man had ended, leaving me feeling lonely and hurt. I was exhausted from my multiple jobs and the many miles I had to drive every week in order to just pay my bills every month. If I ever needed comfort and encouragement, it was during those difficult times. But when I turned to the music that had always been there for me, when I listened to Christian and gospel music, I didn’t find the comfort I was seeking.
“He brought me through hard trials
He brought me through tribulations
Never let a day go by and not realize
Had not been for the Lord who was on my side
Back was against the wall
He looked out for me
He heard my cry and rescued me
Never let a day go by and not realize we are blessed…”
Even though these words, at face value, were comforting and encouraging, I had nagging doubts… I didn’t know if they were really *for* me anymore. Most evangelicals would tell me that as long as I was “living in unrepentant sin,” that comfort from God was not something I could enjoy. I know that some people were praying for me to “hit rock bottom,” to be so miserable that I would have no choice but to “turn back to Jesus,” repent of my flagrant sin, and “come back home” to my former conservative faith and understanding of sexuality. They certainly were not praying for my comfort.
Even though I knew deep down that God was with me, that I didn’t need to “turn back to Jesus” because I had never left him, I still struggled to find comfort in words that were most likely not written with me in mind. It was lonely and difficult. I felt like my faith, and especially the music of my faith, had lost its ability to bring me hope and peace.
In the years since I came out, I have been introduced to songs written by and for progressive/queer people in the church, and I am always grateful for them. I loved singing "For Everyone Born" at MCC San Francisco. More recently, I have appreciated the beautiful, inclusive words of The Many and the drop-dead gorgeous “God Is” by The Outer Banks. To know that these songs were written for ME by siblings in Christ who fully affirm the goodness and beauty of my identity and my relationships makes them so meaningful when I hear and sing them.
I feel the same way about the brand-new single from Innovative Love Coalition. Written by Lauren Evans, Christine Smit, Aaron Aiken, Kevin Garcia, Jess Grace Garcia and Gattison, the words and music are like a warm embrace from our loving God:
”Just when I thought I was forgotten
You came and called me by name
You’ve shown me I’m never forsaken
I’m awakened to Your love for me
My protector, my helper
Friend and my King
My defender, my treasure
You’re my safety
All are welcome in Your arms
Because love is who You are
Nothing can take You away
I adore You, for all that You are
I adore You, I pour out my heart
You adore me just as I am
You are God, You are God our ally
When the voices are rising against me
It’s your name I can call on
When they say I’m not in Your family
It’s Your love that calls me home.”
This is music that expresses beautifully the way that so many of us feel in our day-to-day lives. Whether you’re LGBTQ+ or straight, it’s so comforting to know that even when everyone else turns their backs, we have an ally… a friend that sticks closer than a brother. The One who has always stood with the marginalized, always leaves the ninety-nine to find the one who is lost. GOD is our ally.
I’m so excited to help get the word out about this project. I’ve been singing “God Our Ally” ever since I got a sneak preview of it last week, and I’m planning to lead it at The Quest in May. Will you join me in helping bring this project to life? Visit the Kickstarter site to read all the details and give what you can. And please, if this project is exciting to you, share this post or share the Kickstarter link on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Thank you for reading, and may you feel the powerful love of our good God embracing you tonight and always. ❤️