Sunday, August 30, 2015

Burt's baptism

Since I’m not sure if this photo is going to be used in our movie, I’m putting it on this blog. The boy is Burt Humburg, the subject of Out Here In Kansas, being baptized at the YMCA.

I’ve seen baptisms in lakes, rivers and even outdoor swimming pools, but I’ve never seen one at the Y. Until I saw this picture, I'd never even heard of that. Is this still a thing?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Can we leave politics out of it?

It's not often I de-friend someone on Facebook - I have a thick skin and I'm certainly not petty - but I'm think it might be a good idea to drop this dude. I've never met him and I don't even know what he looks like, but I somehow doubt he is on board with what we're trying to do with "Out Here In Kansas" (which is not a "liberal movie," just for the record).
In fact, being liberal or conservative doesn't have much to do with our story, and it's definitely a dumb time to bring it up in wake of the Roanoke, Va., shooting this week. WDBJ is a sister station of Wichita's KWCH, where I once worked and still have many friends. It's obvious many of them are shook up, including my friend Pilar Pedraza, who is in Virginia with several others from the KWCH team to cover the story .

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

So glad I did this

This is a little write-up about me that appeared in the newsletter for “Leadership Butler,” an organization in which I was immersed right about the time I wrote the article that sparked this documentary.
I was a newspaper editor at the time. Most of my classmates were city officials in Butler County (the largest in Kansas, geographically - and it's also where the subject of the movie grew up). It’s a time intensive program. We had to take several days away from work – and in my case, that meant I had to work twice as much the next day. 
So what’s the point? Well, no two classes get quite the same experience. But speaking from mine, it forced me to learn more about my community’s challenges and about myself. 
In other words, Leadership Butler doesn’t teach you how to be a leader. If you’re accepted into the program, you probably already are a leader. 
I can’t imagine that any class before or after us was as close as we were, or had as much fun as we did. To this day, I can’t run into one of them without grinning from ear to ear.
I’m not involved too much with Leadership Butler these days, just like I’m not really involved with my college alma mater, Wichita State, or my high school alma mater, Bluestem. But when any of them ask me to do something, I do it. Why? Because I'm comfortable with them, and I know they're always behind me.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Speaking of sports ...

You may have missed this, but a first baseman in the Milwaukee Brewers organization recently came out of the closet. David Denson hasn't made the major leagues yet, but he's just 20 years and is considered one of the organization's best prospects.
It's been interesting to follow gay athletes like Jason Collins (basketball) and Michael Sam (football) come of the closet the last couple of years. It's a development that's come about much more slowly in men's sports than women's. did a story getting reaction from those in the Brewers organization, including the team's biggest star, Ryan Braun.
"I've never met him, but I hope baseball as a whole is at a point where we judge people by their ability and not their race, religion, ethnicity or sexuality," Braun told "I can't speak for everybody on our team, but he would be accepted and supported by me. And I would hope all of my teammates feel the same way."
Let me be clear about something. I don't like Ryan Braun because of this. But that was a pretty cool thing of him to say. I guess is dislike him a little less now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

In praise of sports

This photo is my daughter and me before one of our soccer games a few years ago. Since then, she's played softball, basketball and is currently a sophomore on her high school tennis team.
She's hinted that this may be her last year of playing organized sports. If so, 10 years is a pretty good run. My goal all along was in keep her in in sports as long as possible, because I believe it's an excellent way to build confidence, self-esteem and all that good stuff - especially for girls. It certainly worked with her.
And of course, sports have been a major part of my life, too. I made a living writing about them for a long time. And if I hadn't done that, I never would have met Burt, which means I would never be making this documentary. Again, good stuff.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Coming to Tallgrass ...

Our official trailer will debut at the Tallgrass Film Festival, which is Oct. 14-18 in Wichita.
This is not to be confused with the videos our editor Kenny put together to promote the film earlier this year. This is the preview in which we try to give people an idea of “Out Here In Kansas” in 90 seconds or less.

There are many ways we could do that, but I don’t think any are better than what Kenny and I agreed on this week. I wrote it, but that didn’t take much. The ideas he brought and the work he’s put into it are what make it really pop. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. Kenny somehow managed to make it gritty and beautiful at the same time. Which is so Kenny. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A quick word about Westboro

Some of you may think that Westboro Baptist, a little church in Topeka, Kan., that has gained worldwide notoriety for its anti-gay protests, is going to be a significant part of our movie.
It’s not.
First of all, there’s already a documentary about Westboro and its founder, Fred Phelps. It’s called “Fall From Grace” and it was well done by writer and producer K. Ryan Jones, who was a student at the University of Kansas at the time.
Secondly, Westboro is just not a big part of the story I’m trying to tell.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. The people at Westboro are going to hate this movie. Then again, they also claim to hate the United States of America and the soldiers that protect it.
Just watch “Fall From Grace” and tell me it doesn’t send a little shiver down your shine, particularly when Jones interviews the children from the church.
I’ve had a couple of little brushes with Westboro the last couple of years, the most fun of which was playing Fred Phelps’ gay guardian angel in Wichita Gridiron. And one of them started following me on Twitter. But when we spent the afternoon documenting a celebration at the gay-friendly Equality House, which is right across the street from Westboro, nobody heard a peep out of them.
Westboro was actually in Butler County earlier this year, protesting the graduation of El Dorado High School, for some reason. This photo is from that day. It’s a motorcycle group that does its best to shield people from Westboro’s nonsense.
The bikers call themselves the “Guardian Angels,” and they’re interviewed in Jones’ documentary. I encourage you to check it out.

Monday, August 10, 2015

My brother-in-law's last sermon

For the past three weeks, my brother in law has been preaching about sex.
I should first of all mention he is a pastor at Real Life Christian Church in El Dorado. And yes, the potential for awkwardness is ripe. For one thing, he is married to my sister. I’ve been seated next to my teenage daughter for every minute of the series, and my parents too.
So there are the family dynamics … and then there’s the fact that I am making a documentary about the relationship between Christians and gay people.
Until this morning, the word “gay” hadn’t been brought up in the series. But it was yesterday morning.
I should also mention Corey is really conservative, as is most of my family. At the heart of this series is what Corey calls the “sex circle,” which includes a husband, a wife, and nobody else. Go outside the circle, Corey warns, and you’re asking for trouble.
Corey spent five minutes talking about the gay issue, and you can read what he said below. It pretty much falls in line with Central Christian, Newspring and all the other churches I've attended in my life.
 I will post this without further comment.
When it comes to this issue, we’re expected to keep our opinions and our ideas to ourselves. You can have that view, you can have that idea of scripture, as long as you keep your mouth shut and don’t talk about it. That’s the first rule – just shut up.
But the other option is, to actually express what the Bible says about this issue, and then be labeled as somebody who supports hate crimes, as a homophobic. We’re expected to either keep quiet about our convictions, or if you’re vocal about it, you can be accused of a hate crime.
If you’re here today, and you’re gay, or you really struggle with same-sex attraction, there are a few things I want to tell you this morning. The first one is this: I’m glad you’re here. I’m genuinely glad that you felt you could walk into Real Life Church this morning and you could participate in singing and communication and the things we’ve done this morning, I’m glad that you’re here. If this is your first time with us this morning, I’m glad you’re here. If you’ve been coming here for awhile, I ‘m glad that you continue to come. I am glad that you’re here.
The second thing is, I’m not mad at you. I don’t hate you. And maybe some other Christians have, that hate you, or have pushed that on you, I’m sorry for that. But I don’t hate you. The reality is, I’ve got way too many issues in my life that I’ve got to get worked out with my savior to spend my time throwing rocks at you.
The third thing is, I apologize to you, for the way the church has treated you in the past. Because chances are, if you fall into that category, you’ve been made to feel like you’re on trial and that you’ve already been found guilty and everybody wants to throw stones at you. And I’m sorry.
But I also want to tell you, because I love you, that being gay is outside of the circle that Jesus made, that he said was right and good for a husband a and wife, for a man and a woman. And I don’t tell you that because I hate you. I tell you that because I love you, and I think Jesus has better things for you in this life. See, I’m going to tell you the truth about God’s word as accurately and as closely as I possibily can when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, just like I do when it comes to the issue of adultery, or fornication, or sexual immorality of any kind – or stealing, or slander or gossip or any of those things. I’m going to do my best to tell you the truth about all of those issues.
I do the same as a parent. I want to tell my kids about the truth and things they’re going to go through in life and the things that they’ll face in this life – not because it’s easy, not because it’s always a joy to tell the truth to your kids, but because it’s what’s best for them. And just because I may not agree with you on this issue doesn’t mean that I hate you or I’m intolerant, because I’m not mad at you.
In fact, I hope you come back next Sunday. And I hope you keep coming to Real Life. Because just like you, we’ve all got issues. We’ve all got sin. We all need the mercy of a loving Savior. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Our friend Hollis has a new album

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that musician Hollis Smith has a personal connection with us. She flew here from Florida to play a benefit concert for us earlier this year, and her song "Even Angels Bite The Dust" was my first musical selection for our soundtrack.
Hollis, also known as "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," just came out with a new album, and you can check it out here. I encourage you to give it a listen, especially if you're into Southern folk. At least, I think that's how you would describe her sound. The album is called "I Used To Thing I Was Simple, But I Was Wrong," and it's a little more upbeat than the dark, gritty sound I was used to from her.
Soon Hollis will begin to promote the album with a southeast tour of Atlanta, Asheville and Wilmington.
Hollis even gave me a sneak peek of her album cover a couple weeks ago. (That's her and her partner "Skinny" above. I'll let you figure out which one is which.)
I told Hollis she should use the picture of the left. I may be biased, though, since I'm the one who took it. The day after her concert here, I had lunch with Hollis and her friend who had driven in from Denver. Since neither of them had been to Wichita before, we decided to go to Cowtown. This room was one of the exhibits, and it was roped off to visitors.
I dared Hollis to jump over the rope and go in anyway. And if you know anything about Hollis, she cannot resist a good dare.
However, she refused to consider the picture for an album cover because Skinny wasn't in it. Women.