Welcome

Welcome

I’ve had it on my heart to start a blog for years. I have bipolar disorder and have overcome a lot in the past ten years and while doing so have gained a lot of wisdom and strength. I have wanted to write about what I’ve learned but haven’t felt like I was in a place where I was healthy enough to do so; but I am now. I feel like I am now bursting at the seams with information and experience to share with the world. I don’t even know how to summarize what I want to say but I will try.

I have written in journals since I was a child and generally it is just my rambling thoughts on paper. I can’t help it – my mind races and journaling helps me sort out my thoughts. I anticipate my blogs may end up being ramblings but with my educational experience I have learned how to write “essays” and papers with “theses” and main points so I may try to go back and edit my writing to have more structure. I’m not really sure how this is going to play out – public writing is new to me.

I feel that I have a unique perspective on life that some may find interesting and hopefully insightful. I am a 30 year old woman from New Hampshire, a Christian, a single mother of a toddler, divorced, and have bipolar disorder (treated and currently stable). I have been fortunate enough to receive an excellent education, as difficult as it was, while I was trying to find effective treatment for my illness. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology in hopes of becoming a psychiatrist so that I could work towards improving healthcare. Instead of going to medical school after graduating college I got trapped in an abusive marriage and managed to escape after three years with a souvenir, my beautiful little boy.

I have been given immeasurable strength and peace in the midst of my struggles the last ten years – through the manias and depressions, through the many jobs that I couldn’t maintain because of my illness, through the emotional abuse, through the trials of a rigorous education, through becoming a single mother navigating the welfare system and trying to dig her way out of a hole after escaping an abusive marriage – the strength I’ve been given comes from Jesus. I have always been a believer in Jesus but didn’t grow up in church. I still don’t belong to any particular church but have a very strong relationship with God because I have been in such desperate situations that He was willing to meet me in. I have gained a lot of wisdom along the way – and I have a lot of passions and interests. I would like to have a place to share what I have learned and what I am learning.

I don’t pretend to be perfect. I try to be real and vulnerable so that I do not come across as pompous or hypocritical. I don’t believe I know it all – I am always questioning what I’ve learned previously with what I am learning now to see if perhaps there may be a better way of looking at something. And if the new way is not a better way then it only confirms my original belief and makes it stronger. I know that once I publish a blog post on the internet it becomes a snapshot of what I believe or who I am at that point in time but I may grow and my views may evolve and grow as people do and that original belief from a previous post would still be sitting there reflecting an older me. I believe that IT IS OKAY to change our minds because we are growing every day. I am only 30 years old; I am still learning and still gaining wisdom every day forever. So in certain areas that I talk about such as Christianity I will likely face conflict if I say something that is unconventional or discuss a controversial subject. This is why I am disabling comments for now; because I want to feel free and safe to share how I feel without having to anticipate what people will criticize me or argue with me for. I think it’s important for people to be able to express themselves without having to worry about getting tomatoes thrown at them. I am not interested in online debate or controversy; I am more interested in sharing ideas and alternative ways of looking at things. For now, the safest way for me to be able to continue to post without having to second guess everything I write and how it will be received is by disabling comments.

What I hope to achieve with my blog is to bring readers, particularly those in my generation and younger (millennial, gen Z, etc.) to a higher place – above the superficiality of the world, the political this-or-that of each day, whatever is trending on YouTube or Twitter or Instagram, the fleeting things that are less meaningful than the real meaty stuff about life that are not discussed regularly. I want to share my experiences that are unique that I feel many aren’t willing to share or maybe not healthy enough to share – particularly about mental illness and being a survivor of abuse. I don’t always want to talk about heavy things though. I have so many interests and will probably end up writing about many subjects. Here is a list of topics that I intend to write about:

  • Mental illness
    • The state of the mental health care system currently, why is it failing people, how can it be improved – including counseling and medication management
    • Digging through current research being done (that I find on Google Scholar) using what I’ve learned in college as a Biology major to read and understand research papers. Trying to get an idea of where researchers are at with making breakthroughs in the treatment of mental illness
    • I am currently studying Bioinformatics at Northeastern University (online format) and will probably write about what I am learning and how it applies to my interests in the medical field; I just started so this will probably not be a topic I write about for a while
    • What it’s like to be invalidated because of my mental illness; what it’s like to be disabled and deal with the shame that comes with that; wrestling with the stigma that comes from popular movies and TV that portray mental illness inaccurately
    • Compiling a concise set of resources that I think would be helpful for someone who is struggling with mental illness – there are so many resources it can be overwhelming
  • Marital issues/emotional abuse and what I’ve learned and how I’ve overcome that, particularly how abuse relates to separation and divorce and how I dislike how some people in the Church deal with this
  • Christian Theology
  • The intersection of Science and Faith; such as dealing with Christianity and Evolution as I had learned about in college at a Christian university (Re: Language of God – Francis Collins)
  • Book reviews – I am always reading and I feel like a great way to hold myself accountable to finish books is to commit to reviewing and/or summarizing them. Currently I am reading Alan Turing: The Enigma, Atomic Habits, Everybody Always, People of the Lie, Something Needs to Change, Love Wins, Does Jesus Really Love Me? and so many more. I have so many interests that I start reading new books and don’t finish the ones I’ve already read. This is a way that I think I can actually finish them.
  • One particular project that I want to do is study the Bible on SparkNotes and summarize it. I am such a detail-oriented person that I have to try really hard to see the big picture of anything. I have read maybe 3/4 of the bible but still want to have a big picture of it. I think the historical stories bore me the most so my hope is that SparkNotes and other summaries I find can help me see the big picture of some of the more historical books particularly in the Old Testament. I want to create a concise summary of each book and also wrestle with what I’m learning in the books that are more applicable to my life.
  • I also plan to research why the millennial generation is not going to church and write my opinion on the matter; this is obviously a huge topic and it would be more of a collection of ideas that I collect from researching online with a sprinkling of my own opinion. I am hugely interested in the topic as I am not interested in going to church myself – despite being a zealous follower of Jesus – and I hope to find a way to reach people in my generation in ways that the traditional church model has failed. I am one of many who are trying to figure this out so I guess my desire is to find those people, what they are saying, and compile it here

OK. I think that’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

Love Wins & Something Needs to Change – Rob Bell & David Platt: Book Review and Comparison

Love Wins & Something Needs to Change – Rob Bell & David Platt: Book Review and Comparison

I enjoyed Love Wins at some points and at others thought OKAY this is hard to focus on. I wanted Rob to expand more on his thoughts. But Bell is clearly an artist with his writing, a poet, and I shouldn’t criticize him for his unique voice and style. I can’t expect someone to write in a way that everyone else does. Perhaps the way he writes got the attention of some who never would have paid attention before.

I think the line in Rob Bell’s Love Wins that really jumped out to me the most was when he states that if there were a father on this earth that would love a child one moment and then torture them the next they would have social services and the police called on them. I thought OH. He’s right! We are made in God’s image – when we experience parenting on this Earth as humans we are also able to see, when done right, a picture of God parenting us. Sure we need to have discipline for wrong behavior – but to what extent? When does the punishment fit the crime? This consideration of how we would respond to a human father treating a child in the way we have assumed God would treat his children who don’t believe and obey him or never got to learn about him to begin with was a profound thought that I will take with me.

I found myself at times thinking that Rob Bell has wisdom and at other times wondering why he left so much of the gospel out. Keeping the good happy parts and ignoring the parts that are tough to read. Sometimes we can lie by omission. I don’t think Bell was intending to deceive because he was mostly asking questions but he definitely could have addressed the major statements of Jesus that contradict some of his thoughts in his book.

Just a few examples:

Matthew 22:14: “For many are called but few are chosen.”

Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

I think it’s important to be able to read someone’s thoughts and be willing to take some of it and say – yes he’s right about that – even if most of it we don’t agree with. Because the truth is no one is right about everything but everyone has something to bring to the table. Also, I believe that it’s possible for a genuine Christian and lover of Jesus to not have everything right and still be in right standing with God. I don’t believe having incorrect theology automatically means someone is a false teacher in need of repentance who is going to hell. It is clear that Rob loves people tremendously and wrestles with the idea that an all-powerful God wouldn’t allow people enough time and proper opportunity to learn about God’s immense love in order to accept that it is so worth losing our lives for him.

Nothing about this book will turn a curious person who wants to know Jesus away. In fact it will do the opposite. So many Christians who criticize Rob Bell’s ideas think that someone with “false teaching” will lead people to hell or lead people to not follow and obey Jesus with the mindset that those people will think they have a free pass or can deal with it later. The gospel message that is so common that pushes hellfire and God’s wrath and repentance is not working. Those extreme messages do nothing but confuse people. A message of the possibility of a God with such immense love, written in a way that makes it clear that Rob Bell has experienced it and wants desperately to share it with others, is still useful even if it hides some important truths. We have plenty of people sending the message of urgency to escape hell that I don’t see a problem with someone saying “BUT WHAT IF….!” How is it wrong to question things and invite conversation about it? It’s not. If anything, it has over the past nine years brought more people to a willingness to LEARN about Jesus who may have never been willing to before. The messages focusing on the part of God that needs to be feared if we don’t repent may at times stand in the way of the part of God that needs to be loved because of his grace, mercy, blessings and kindness.

One thing that I know is true about people as I have worked towards leading them to know Jesus is that the message that has worked the most is the one where they can see what God does FOR US. I try to show people the peace, joy and love that comes from knowing, sacrificing for, obeying and having a meaningful relationship with Jesus and how these things can lead us to see and be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven NOW in this life. Not just a heaven in the future. That the taste of heaven we can have *today* is so worth what he asks us to give up.

I have never used the message of hell in evangelism because it really just doesn’t work. Fear doesn’t work. And the truth is that the only people Jesus condemned and said were at risk of hellfire (which I believe was a message of destruction and eternal separation from God) were those who were self-righteous and prideful people who thought they were so good but did nothing for God or other people. The ones who oppressed other people and “shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in other peoples faces” as Jesus put it (Mt 22:13). Also, those who didn’t do anything for others – who ignored those who are in need – who Jesus will say “I never knew you – away from me you evildoers” (Mt 7:23).

I wish Rob Bell had talked more about the urgency to love our neighbor and serve God in this way. I think that David Platt does a great job at this in his new book Something Needs to Change. David Platt’s message gets people MOVING whereas Rob Bell’s gets them only thinking.

The message from Something Needs to Change is so different from Love Wins but they do both show the radical love of Jesus just in different ways. The books have different audiences. Rob Bell casts a net towards those who refuse to learn or are confused about the gospel because of the message of eternal torment in hell. There is unfortunately no sense of urgency in Rob Bell’s book despite Jesus’s repeated messages of urgency: to obedience, repentance and staying awake because we never know when he will return. David Platt’s book is focused on urgency and does an excellent job at motivating privileged believers by giving them a clear picture of just how disadvantaged other people are in this world.

When I finished reading Something Needs to Change I didn’t feel condemned but motivated. Platt kindled a fire in me for justice. When I finished Love Wins I felt a desire to learn more about hell but nothing else. So in the end I don’t think I’d recommend Love Wins unless I am talking to someone who struggles with reconciling a loving God and the messages about hell. It would serve as a good starting point to show them that its POSSIBLE to be a Christian and love God even though we don’t have all the answers. It’s still a seed sown and maybe they will even pick up the bible to learn more and discover the love of Jesus.

I WILL however recommend David Platt’s book. I think in the end, it is more important that we are doing things for Jesus than just talking about him. When we are actively loving and serving others we will not need to convince people of a good God because they will SEE him in us.

My 2020 Vision: Healing From My Shopping Addiction

My 2020 Vision: Healing From My Shopping Addiction

I just discovered the online ShoppingAddiction reddit forum and I am THRILLED. This is like a free, convenient support group where I don’t have to force myself to get out of my house. As I mentioned in a recent post my biggest and most detrimental problem in my life right now is my shopping addiction.

Here is how I am going to attack this problem. I’m sure I will come up with more ideas but for now this is my simple method that I derived from years of reading about habits and how to set realistic goals and probably some of it from Dave Ramsay’s teachings.

I’ve learned that one major way to ensure success in overcoming an addiction is to set realistic goals rather than overwhelming ourselves with too big of goals. The reason why is because we will feel like failures when we don’t meet our goals and then give up. I have learned this from self-help books (One I am reading now is Atomic Habits by James Clear). I haven’t yet put it into practice for my shopping because I haven’t yet fully accepted that I want to get better. I haven’t yet fully owned that I don’t want this life anymore but I’m getting there. I guess that is another thing that I will need to accomplish first before I can be successful. I’ve already accepted that I have a problem. But I haven’t yet fully decided that I don’t want to shop anymore. I love to get new things. I don’t want to give it up! It feels too good. So this will certainly be another major factor in my addiction recovery.

Another important thing about changing habits that I learned is that in order for us to be effective at forming a new habit we need to make it measurable. Otherwise we will not be able to truly see our progress. It is a reward in itself to see our progress and we can’t do that if we don’t have a measurement system in place.

Another thing that I think is important is not to feel bad about being “materialistic.” I also ask myself sometimes am I greedy? But the truth is – SO MANY PEOPLE live the same way. It is unfortunately normal and common to be in considerable debt, to live beyond our means, to buy things we can’t afford because consumerism is pushed on us. I am suffering from an addiction. So labeling myself a materialistic person is too simplified and is not useful as I try to get better because it is based on guilt. And guilt is a feeling that for me anyway leads to more shopping.

Guilt and refusal to commit to changing my lifestyle aren’t the only reasons why I’ve been stuck in the cycle of over-spending, returning, and reselling. I am realizing that the real underlying cause of my shopping addiction is perfectionism. I think this will be something I really focus my attention on this year.

I think what I am going to put into practice this year is this:

10/10/20/60

Giving 10% of my income first. This will help me feel less guilty about my spending as I am being charitable.

Saving 10% next. Then I will feel a bit more in control and a bit more safe for having a little bit extra for emergencies. Having a savings account will feel encouraging. Maybe I can even invest some of that money. That may be a psychological trick that helps alter my attitude of “I NEED IT NOW” to seeing the rewards of money that is growing when I don’t spend it on anything. I’ve never had a savings account and the only way to do this is put it in a bank where I don’t have a debit card or online access to so I forget its there.

Paying 20% to debts. I have a lot of debt and very little income because I’m self-employed while I am working on a master’s degree. This degree will hopefully result in an income that will actually help me afford to pay off all my debts. Working on debts even though it feels like a waste of time because it feels like I’m getting nowhere may actually help me feel less guilt and may alter my mindset. For example, if I just paid $200 towards a debt then I will likely think twice about spending $200 on something else the next day.

Spending 60% on everything else including both necessities and things I don’t need. I believe that if I follow this structure of using my money in this order, at least some of the time, then I will have long-term success in overcoming my shopping addiction.

10/10/20/60 is my 2020 vision.

How I Will Respond When Someone Tells Me That They Don't Agree with My "Homosexual" Lifestyle

How I Will Respond When Someone Tells Me That They Don't Agree with My "Homosexual" Lifestyle

I’ve been thinking about how I am going to respond when a person feels the need to rescue me from my queer-ness. I have recently come to terms with my sexuality because I went through a time of healing while I was in deep prayer and study about homosexuality and God showed me who I am and that it’s okay – a part of myself that I was repressing most of my life. And I have been processing the fact that I have always had a preference for females sexually but have never fully accepted this part of myself and have always dated males. In the past month or so as I have been processing this I’ve really had to wrestle with the fact that at some point I will be getting unwelcome comments from people who feel the need to rescue me from my queer-ness. I am drafting a script in my head of how I am going to respond. Here is what I have so far. I like to blindside people – it’s fun. And I think this may both get people to think and also give me a chuckle when I see them get confused and not know how to react.

Here is a hypothetical scenario where someone decides to give me their unsolicited opinion regarding my dating a woman (which I have not yet but will eventually).

Person says to me: “I don’t agree with your lifestyle” or “homosexuality is a sin.”

My response (in a respectful tone):

  1. You are not my savior. God doesn’t need you to rescue me.
  2. God doesn’t care about your opinion on the matter and neither do I.
  3. Please go address and correct the sexual sins of the 95% of the population who are straight and then come back and tell me about mine and the rest of the 5% of queer people.

Number 1 addresses the fact that they feel that it is their duty to rescue me from going to hell as if they are my savior. For some reason Christians have taken it upon themselves to look at people and find the things they believe are flaws and point them out; they do this at times to be hateful and other times because they feel that they are rescuing them. So when queer people and allies preach at them messages that they need to love their neighbor they are thinking “I AM being loving! I’m warning you that you’re going to hell!” And when we tell them that they are being judgmental they clearly aren’t getting that message either. Which brings me to my next point.

Number 2 addresses that their view isn’t God’s opinion but theirs. This is the one that I think will get them to think twice. People who have the view that same-sex monogamous sexual relationships are sinful seem to think that this is God’s view because other people told them so. They believe that the bible says so because their interpretation of Paul’s few sentences from 2,000 years ago says so. They default to this belief but have never asked God how he feels.

I know now how God feels because he told me. In deep prayer Jesus revealed to me that when I was referring to the LGBTQ+ community as “them” that I *am* one of them. I knew that I had same-sex attraction but chose not to accept that this was part of my being because I was pushing it away. I had prayed about it and addressed it with God but didn’t feel the need to really dive into it because I defaulted to the view that it was wrong and repressed it because the culture I grew up in didn’t accept it. I didn’t act on my desires and really never had a situation arise where it would have happened. So, as god revealed to me and healed my heart about my attraction to women I came to understand that it was not God’s opinion that it is wrong to be in a same-sex monogamous relationship but people’s opinions. If it were a sin at one point then he condones it now. Just as he condones us breaking many of the other 612 laws of Moses as we see in the Old Testament.

Most Christians would not deny that God condones the sins regarding the working on the Sabbath and when male followers of Christ do not get circumcised. They may even say that these are no longer considered sins. These were both extremely important commands and expectations of God’s people. So why is it still so unfathomable to people that God would also condone same-sex monogamous relationships that are not based on lust?

Number 3 points to the fact that the minority (LGBTQ+ people) are being pressured and expected to live sexually pure lives but the majority heterosexual people are not. (For more of my opinion on this please read this previous blog entry called Judge Not.) The point is that there is rampant sexual sin in the heterosexual world including adultery, fornication, masturbation, lust and viewing of pornography where people are not being held accountable. I know this because I passed as a straight person and was able to go to church with a few of my boyfriends over the past ten years who I did not live a sexually pure lifestyle with and people never once made me feel unwelcome and I was always allowed to participate, volunteer and partake in communion. I find it ironic that I will be discriminated against and judged as an out queer woman in a way I never was when people thought I was straight.

Because I was allowed to be a part of the Christian community for so long I can point out the irony that I have never witnessed a straight person be addressed outwardly for their sexual sin at least not to the extent that queer people are. I have never witnessed a straight person be asked if they are living in sexual sin. It may be talked about in small groups or private conversations on occasion but it is not addressed in the same way and people are not held accountable. This is hypocrisy at its finest. So – this needs to be addressed first. So I say to the heterosexual community – take the plank out of your own eyes so that you can see clearly to remove the speck of dust from your brothers’ and sisters’ eyes.

I will acknowledge that queer people also struggle with sexual sin but until recently they weren’t even given the opportunity to have sex within the bounds of marriage. I do believe that a licentious and purely lustful lifestyle is sinful. However, it is important to direct people to address their sexuality and keep their sexual life in prayer with God.

This is the proper response when a queer person asks “is homosexuality a sin?”

If the person being asked this question believes it is a sin then it’s fine to be honest about that. You won’t surprise anyone – we all know that this is a thing. Queer people have heard it many times. What they haven’t heard enough is that their sexuality is between them and the Lord. So that is the proper response. That is a more loving response.

Example of how a non-affirming person can respond in a more loving way to a question from a queer person (note that this is a solicited opinion):

“I personally believe it is a sin but I encourage you to seek God’s opinion and he will let you know. But regardless – I love you anyway and so does he. We are all sinners and nobody is perfect.”

Example of how a non-affirming person should react when they find out that someone is dating, married to, or desire to be in a relationship with a person who is of the same gender but that person did not ask their opinion:

Either say something nice or don’t say anything at all. 🙂

The Ultimate Christian Quiz: What Is Your Stance on Homosexuality?

The Ultimate Christian Quiz: What Is Your Stance on Homosexuality?

I was just thinking about how ridiculous it is that Christians frequently use the topic of homosexuality to determine whether someone is a real Christian or not. As if this one view determines whether a person is a genuine believer and can be trusted to have wisdom and considered a fellow brother or sister in Christ. Just take a few moments to think about the absurdity of this behavior.

….

……

Please tell me, if you are one of those people who “don’t agree with the lifestyle” of a gay person that you can at least admit that the answer to the question “What’s your stance on homosexuality” is not a determining factor of whether someone is a legitimate Christian.

There is literally nothing in the bible that suggests that this is so. The only thing I see as a guide to discern whether someone is a genuine believer is their LOVE for others and their LOVE for God. What do they do for God and others? Are they humble? Do they have a servant heart and attitude? Do they care about the disadvantaged, the poor, the disabled, the mentally ill, the orphans, the foster children, the single mothers, the widows, the prisoners and the abused to the point where they actually DO something about it? That is what I believe Jesus told us to look out for when we are questioning where we stand with God as well as the primary way to determine whether someone else is actually walking with the Lord and not just using the “Christian” label as a moral badge.

“What is your stance on homosexuality”? When a person responds to this with anything other than “it’s a sin” they are instantly invalidated in all other ways Christian. Oh, you didn’t answer correctly. That means you are in error and confused. You have to either be corrected or rejected.

I literally cannot wait until Jesus comes back and sets these people straight. Hey guess what? Gay people are going to be first in the kingdom of heaven. Ya, you heard me right.

The verbal slaughter I will receive for this message! And I couldn’t care less because it’s a message from the Lord himself:

Matthew 20:16: “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”

The first thing people will say to argue against this application of that verse is – well Jesus wasn’t talking about unrepentant SINFUL people. You can’t be first in the Kingdom of Heaven if you are intentionally living in sin. Well, to anyone who eats bacon, lobster and shrimp I want to warn you that you are also not going to inherit the Kingdom of God. To anyone who breaks any of the 613 commands in the Old Testament where that law about homosexual behavior resides I’m sorry that I have to inform you that you also are not going to inherit the Kingdom of God.

I mean really. It’s absurdity. Trying to hold millions of people accountable to one command from the Old Testament law while also giving a pass to all others that are not in the Ten Commandments.

This verse, Matthew 20:16, in context is part of the Parable of the Vineyard Workers spoken by Jesus. The message was that those who had been working all along are angry that the last are getting the same wage as them. “But we worked so hard for you all these years and they didn’t! Why should they get paid the same amount as us?” And the landowner replies, “Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous that I am kind to others?” God is saying here that there will be angry people who won’t like that God has rewarded those they weren’t expecting to get the same reward.

I feel deeply that this applies to the LGBTQI+ community. I can see the Holy Spirit moving in the community. They are receiving healing – not healing from being gay but healing in their hearts from the abuses for their being different, from not being accepted by their own families and communities, and from being lied to that God doesn’t approve of them.

Some of them are chasing after God and loving him with all their heart, soul and mind. Some of them are sacrificial in their lives in so many ways. Many of them are kind, humble, generous, accepting, selfless and loving. These things are all so valuable to God. God doesn’t need us to deny our sexual and gender identities in order to prove we love him. Look at all the other ways we can prove our love and obedience to him.

Think of the fact also that many of those who are straight and don’t have to be concerned with whether it is required of them to deny a very foundational part of their being – do not do much for the Lord. Many of these straight people are living a life mostly for themselves and not doing anything for those who are disadvantaged. Loving others is loving God yet they are more concerned with other people’s identities and sexual preferences. These are the people who Jesus will say “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23).

Another verse where Jesus has a very similar message is Mark 10:31: “But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”

Contextually, it appears Jesus is talking about the poor and powerless being first and the rich and powerful being last because this verse resides within the story about a rich man asking how he could go to heaven. Jesus lists a few laws that are important to follow that are within the ten commandments (funny, not one of them did he say anything about homosexuality). And the rich man says, I have done all those things! And Jesus says, OK then go give all your possessions to the poor and then follow me. And the rich man leaves very sad.

What is important to note here is that although Jesus says it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God as a rich person he also says “but all things are possible with God.”

So we have this contradictory statement of how hard it is for a rich person to become a part of the Kingdom as well as “well all things are possible with God.” Although this has nothing to do with sexuality in context I’d like to imagine if Jesus were before us and we asked him “so Jesus, what is your stance on homosexuality? Can a gay person go to heaven?” I believe he’d answer the exact same way. Do not murder, do not steal, do not lie, honor your father and mother. Care for the poor and disadvantaged. Then you will have treasure in heaven. Those who are the least important now will be the greatest then.

The first will be last and the last will be first.

It’s not directly applicable sure but if we are only looking at the documented words of Jesus we can only use what he DID say to answer some of our questions. We have a very clear picture of what matters to God the most by what Jesus spoke. And all of the things that matter the most to Jesus are things that a “homosexual” can do to be right with God.

We can turn to the bible to begin searching for an answer to our questions but we need to remember that God sent us the Holy Spirit so that we could continually have access to him since we no longer have Jesus physically in front of us to answer them. We can ask God now what he thinks.

As I type out all of these things I can hear the naysayers in my head who will be crying out “BUT PAUL SAID!!!!”

And my response to them is this: I can’t wait for that day when they see those who they told weren’t going to heaven get to be the first to walk through the gates to receive their crowns.

12.21.2019

12.21.2019

I need to start writing everyday on here. I think it is so much easier to write in a journal. I have written in journals the majority of my life. Yet, I won’t open up my browser and write in my blog because I am afraid I guess. As a perfectionist, I want to craft a post before I write it. But that isn’t how I write. I am more of a free thought writer than a planned writer. Generally, I will have an idea of what I want to write about and then just go. But many times I find the best ideas come out when I am not planning anything.

I decided to write tonight about my shopping issues. It has been a problem for a long time. One of the ways bipolar disorder has affected me is through impulsive (or compulsive?) spending. It is so difficult stopping this. I can at times limit myself but I get urges and I literally can’t stop myself. It is almost like I become obsessed with something and want to buy it. It is like how drug or alcohol addicts can’t stop themselves.

I’ve gone to therapy but I didn’t find it helpful. The one thing I learned was that I likely am using shopping to meet a need at that moment. The thing is I am often not trying to meet a need. Unless that need is just distraction and feeling good.

This is something that bothers me because of my Christianity I try not to love things of this world. Also, because spending all of my money and having considerable debt is obviously not a wise way to live. It is destructive behavior. At least I am not suffering from drug or alcohol addiction.

I am trying to figure out what is going through my mind when I am having shopping binge behaviors. There usually is something that starts it off. Maybe I start off with one purchase and I get that high. Then I continue doing it just because I already gave in once so what harm is it shopping more. There is the lack of consequences element that I have at times with the grandiosity from the hypo-mania. There is also the thought of well I am already in an outrageous amount of debt which will be very close to impossible to get out of so why even try. My credit card debit is at about $25,000 – judge me if you want. I racked up this debt years ago when I was very ill and cannot borrow anymore (thankfully). I acknowledge it is wrong and I do take credit for this but also I have an illness that contributes to the irrational spending and I have tried for a decade to get better. I would do anything to not have an illness and be able to have the benefit of being able to NOT be impulsive. At least I’m not addicted to meth or fentanyl.

Another thing that I noticed recently was that when I shop for new clothes I am basically hunting for a new persona. Buying new clothes does that; it is like decorating myself. And I get compliments often on my style. This is one major reason why I can’t stop! I guess part of my value is tied into what I own and what I wear. This is something that is so built into me that it’ll take a long time to re-wire my brain.

I try to understand how much of it is greed, how much of it is want and lust after things of the world. Also, if I were able to maintain a regular job and make a good wage would the amount of money I spend even be something I consider a negative thing? I spend a lot compared to how much I earn but perhaps I don’t spend a lot compared to a $35,000 salaried person which is what I’d have if I were able to maintain work outside of the home. But I know that if I did have one I would likely max out all that money, too.

How do I get better? I have no clue. Shopping is not only socially acceptable but we are exploited by advertising companies and credit cards. All the rewards programs, all the credit card offers, all the manipulation to buy. You NEED THIS messages. And its just cultural and natural to want to measure up to other people. It literally takes so much effort to NOT want things when it’s normal to do so. When keeping up with the Joneses is second nature. It doesn’t help that there is constant temptation of comparison on Instagram and Facebook. And constant ads on social media that are tailored to your desires (thanks to search history, companies selling your information and possibly even Facebook listening to your conversations and gathering information about your interests according to a growing conspiracy theory).

Trying to NOT be a big spender is literally like I’m swimming upstream in a raging current.

The most recent shopping spree was last weekend. I’m pretty sure the reason I shopped was because I had just finished a college semester and I felt “I deserve this.” Also, it’s Christmas time and I anticipate having some extra spending money soon. Another thing that was going through my mind was that I have been a huge thrifter and have been for years so it’s not that bad to splurge. These are all the things I was using to justify my behavior as I was on my way to binge shop.

It was exhilarating to go to an outlet mall and just explore all the retail stores that I haven’t set foot in for two years. I went crazy at Levi’s especially. I think I spent $600 that day total. Is that really that much money??? I am not buying designer! But then the past week I spent a bit more online and then desperately searched for a way to borrow money so I could buy my son and I a Nintendo Switch so we can play some games together. WHY? It was like I got obsessed with the idea and couldn’t let go of it for hours until I gave up. I could have used that time to list items on eBay and Poshmark for sale. I definitely need instant gratification. I so wish I could maintain work outside the home so I could earn a real wage and afford the things I want without feeling guilty.

In addition to the outlet mall I have been shopping on Madewell.com and Amazon a lot. I have been buying books like crazy. And yet, I never finish them and don’t even have time to read all of them. But yet I keep buying more. That is both from the desire to know everything because I have so many interests coupled with some grandiosity and feelings of wanting to better the world with my knowledge and wisdom that I gain from reading. I do see fruits from all the studying I’ve done over the last 10 years of mental health, emotional abuse, theology and so on because I’ve been able to help advise friends recently and have been encouraged to pursue some online coursework in biblical counseling. This is not something I have the money or time for but it was encouraging to know that with my experiences and thirst for knowledge and wisdom I have seen a little bit of a harvest to my labor. I’d rather be addicted to books than meth and fentanyl.

I just wish I was more excited to work and finish my books then I am to shop. But I am only thirty years old. At least I have the desire to improve myself. I am always seeking growth. My health has improved dramatically and I haven’t been hospitalized in 4 years and don’t anticipate it again. I haven’t had depression in years. I can’t fix everything all at once.

Another thing I try to remind myself is that it has only been two years since my divorce. My marriage was horrifying. The emotional abuse was so bad that my self-esteem was degraded, my bipolar symptoms were out of control at times especially my shopping, and my peace and joy were sucked out of me into the emotional black hole that is my ex-husband. I have healed a lot in the past two years but I need to give myself credit for what I did overcome rather than obsessing over the things that I haven’t yet.

I have begun to see the value in a more minimalist lifestyle but not enough so that I stop buying more. Now I just cycle through my things more by selling the older things. Now that I have a smaller apartment with little storage space I am seeing that I really don’t use most of my stuff and don’t need it. I think about how nice it is to have less. The fewer things I own the fewer things I have to think about using to justify the cost. There are so many benefits to living a minimalist lifestyle but it’s just not something I have been able to do at this time. But I’m growing.

If I were able to significantly reduce the spending on things I don’t need then I wouldn’t have to stress out about income. Every dollar saved on something I don’t need is a dollar earned. I am so fed up with buying things I don’t want a month later. Money just burns a hole in my bank account. HABITS!!! I am working on this. It is shameful and brings guilt on me when I spend too much. But at the same time I get pride and excitement from the things I own and get to enjoy nice things. So, I don’t know. It’s a weird conundrum.

Well, over time I will hopefully improve and share my journey of what helped. For now, perhaps someone else will read this and feel like someone else gets it. Sometimes other people can put into words things we are struggling with in a way that we haven’t fully comprehended ourselves and it helps us understand ourselves better.

Judge Not

Judge Not

I have had a burning anger in me the last few days over the debate about homosexuality, whether its a sin or not, what the bible says about it and how people in the churches handle it. I choose not to use the phrase “the Church” because I don’t see one unified church as the bible suggests as ideal. So I will instead talk about churches – because they act differently, because there is so much division that I couldn’t possibly call it “the Church” as if it were one body.

To start I will tell you about myself. I have a very personal relationship with Jesus and have had one since I was 19. I said a prayer as a 7 year old girl to ask Jesus into my heart. I always believed in God and prayed to him occasionally when I desperately needed help but I didn’t grow up in church. I lived a “worldly” life separate from other believers so I did not have the benefit of being a part of a body of believers that edify each other, that taught me the ways of God, how to protect myself from temptation, why that’s even important at all, how to protect myself from being involved with people who are destructive, how much God loves me, how much peace and joy I could have by knowing Jesus despite my flaws, and how much freedom I could have by knowing Jesus. I lived a sad desperate sinful life away from God because I was not brought to church. I was not taught these things. I was not given the chance.

When I was 19, I had just finished my freshman year of college and was in a place where I just wanted to be a better person. I realized in one particular moment that I needed Jesus, that I believed in him but didn’t actually know him, and I asked him into my heart a second time and I was born again. I have since had spiritual growth and have gone through a process of sanctification over the last 11 years. I have grown in wisdom because I desperately search for it. Jesus comforts me and gives me peace when I am hurting (and I have been in some serious pain at times, battling with years of abuse and struggles with mental illness).

I was a great sinner before I came to know him and was able to correct many of my sins easily because of the Holy Spirit and God’s power I received over my flesh; however, this sanctification process isn’t magical and my flesh has at times been so strong when it comes to sexual sin and it has been very difficult to live a life of sexual purity. I have struggled with lust and struggled with having sex outside of marriage – and so have EVERY SINGLE Christian male I have met and dated as well as many Christian women I’ve known.

Heterosexual lust, fornication, and adultery are not addressed regularly on the individual and personal level. It is talked about at church broadly but it is not dealt with on the individual level other than perhaps in small groups devoted to these topics by those who are seeking help. I know because I went to many churches and I was able to sit in the pews, was greeted and was able to have fellowship, despite my sin. No one made me feel unwelcome because of my struggle with these sins. I wrestled with this and continually tried to live a life God wanted me to. I still struggle with lust at times but work to correct it and repent about it. I have not met many Christians who have been completely freed from the fleshly struggle with sexual sin (premarital sex, adultery, masturbation, lust, etc.) If you are a Christian who has been freed from this bondage of sin that our flesh is inflicted with and you have persistently been able to deny these temptations and lived a pure life sexually for a very long time then I commend you. You are a living example that it is possible. However, the majority of Christians I have met have struggled with this. Don’t believe me? Start asking your friends and be honest with each other. Or do a church survey that is completely anonymous so people can feel safe to be honest and see how common it is.

So my anger resides in why heterosexual Christians address the sin of homosexual behavior with such conviction and such force and such condemnation in a way that heterosexual Christians do not address sexual sin among themselves.

I am not just angry at the people in the churches who are excluding a minority group of people from church communities, if not outwardly then in a passive and implied way – I am also angry at God. And that is okay – because it is okay to be angry with someone who we are in a personal relationship with. I asked him WHY does the bible say this is a sin – WHY is this wrong – why does a gay person have to live this life of shame and isolation.

Years ago I talked to a friend of mine who told me that she has prayed to be straight many times and it doesn’t work. That she knew she was gay before she even knew what sex was and before she had sexual feelings. That is her experience – and I don’t deny that. I believe her. So – why does my friend have to live a life feeling like God considers her expression of her loving feelings towards someone of the same sex as an “abomination?” One interpretation of a handful of bible passages leads to a popular belief that God says people who commit homosexual behaviors are doing so against his natural design and that he believes this is detestable. So, I told God I REFUSE to teach anything you want me to teach until you explain why you created these people so different from everyone else in this way – so that they can be cast aside. Why would you create people this way (and YES, they are created this way – their orientation is not a personal “choice”). I told him that I am outraged – this is so unfair! How dare you call them an “abomination!” You mean God, that these people are “especially evil, vile, disgusting, and filthy?!” (I received this definition from a quick Google search.) That doesn’t line up with who I believe you are. Are Christians supposed to consider people who love someone of the same gender and want to express their love for someone in a monogamous relationship as abominations?! That disgusts me! That is so unfair! I looked into the word “abomination” and its meaning and eating pork was also considered an abomination (unclean/taboo/off-limits). I do find it strange that that word is still used outwardly to describe these people among a few groups of particularly hateful Christians yet when was the last time you heard someone call a person who eats pork a sinful person worthy of the description of “abomination.” Anyways!!! That’s a tangent I don’t need to go on.

Perhaps the true test from God is not how they will deny their flesh in order to be considered a faithful Christian but on how everyone else will treat them because they are different. Perhaps the greater judgement will fall on those who cast them aside.

And I personally think that they don’t need another person to tell them that their relationship choices are wrong and unnatural and ungodly and sinful – they’ve heard it 1 million times. I think they need the opposite – to just be able to be in community with Christians and not have to constantly be talking about their sexuality. How unfair is it that this one particular behavior needs to be on display and discussed so frequently. WHAT OTHER BEHAVIOR that we are warned against in the bible do we discuss and debate and convict to this extent? I dare you to name one and give me examples of how it is so.

And yet, this group of people make up such a small minority of the population. A 2017 Gallup poll provided an estimate of 4.5% as the actual number of adults who identify with the “LGBTQ” labels despite American’s perception that it is actually more than 20%. Whether this is an accurate number or not the point is that people who identify with being gay make up a very small portion of the population. So why are Christians so focused on the behavior of the minority and not on the majority? So even though the actual number of people who identify as LGBTQ is much lower our perception is that 80% of the population is heterosexual.

So now let’s consider these numbers as applied to those who belong to Christian churches. Assuming there is an equal distribution of the adult population in the churches with 5% being LGBTQ and 95% being heterosexual why are Christians not focusing on the majority FIRST? Why is there not an equal distribution of conviction and accountability towards sin? And the idea of there being an equal distribution of straight and gay people in actually attending and participating in Christian church is pretty much a joke anyways because when you go to many churches gay people are not there because they don’t feel welcomed.

What I really think Jesus wants to say to many church leaders is this:

Matthew 23:13-14

13 “Woe to you, [church leaders], you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [b]

If that statement bothers you, ask yourself why?

One thing that I am very critical of is how there are often teachings, sermons, and books written by Christians who say they are to love everyone even those they disagree with – but there are no practical steps in how to carry this out. I don’t see anyone giving EXAMPLES of how Christians can do this on a daily basis. I see comments like “let’s start dialogue” but… more dialogue about homosexuality is not what we all need. We clearly have enough of that.

Dialogue is important but focusing on behavior is more important. Not the behavior of those who are considered outsiders but the behavior of those who are included in fellowship, worship and Christian community easily because they were lucky enough to be born straight.

The dialogue that should be taking place is the admitting of how deeply flawed Christian churches have been historically in treating gay people. There is a long history of abusing gay people – including various methods of conversion therapy. I am not interested right now in doing a thorough study of history in the abuse and discrimination of these people but it is easy for anyone to do so if you are just willing to look.

The conflict that comes into play when a person who wants to be a follower of Jesus as a gay person or wants to participate in church is that currently in many churches in order for them to be included in the fellowship and worship of God they have to outwardly deny their desire to be in a loving relationship with someone of the same gender and subject themselves to a life of singleness, celibacy, loneliness without the ability to have children or a family, without the joy of holiday traditions, marriage, and every other blessing God gives to heterosexual couples. They are not able to just switch to loving someone of same gender (unless they are bisexual and have that option still). This is an expectation being cast upon people, an unnecessary and impossible burden that heterosexual Christians place on them either before they decide to become a Christian or after they profess their faith and choose to walk with Jesus. What other “sin” in the bible requires this much sacrifice to turn from?

I say, that the grace given to the people who are gay and choose to walk with Jesus should be matched to the level of sacrifice and the level of difficulty that heterosexual Christians are asking of them when they do so. I don’t see that in many churches. I see shaming and condemnation, if not outwardly then passive aggressively.

I say, that gay people who want to know Jesus and want to fellowship with other Christians should be welcomed and not pressured, expected, reminded regularly to change their ways or else they are cast out. Because what other “sinful” behavior mentioned in the bible do Christians hold people to in the same way?

They should be not only welcomed wholeheartedly when they choose to attend on their own but should be INVITED to church. People should talk with them about their passions, interests, families, experience as if they are of the same moral status as them – because they are. Because all Christians are equally sinful and of the same moral status.

They should not only be welcomed in church but heterosexual Christians should put aside this talk of their sexual behaviors until the churches correct the heterosexual sin first. Why? Because it is rampant and the accountability for heterosexual fornication, adultery, and lustful thoughts and behaviors like masturbation and viewing pornography are not held to the same standards as homosexual behaviors. This would be how heterosexual Christians should practice the teaching of Jesus to “take the plank out of your own eye before removing the speck of dust from another persons eye.”

Church leaders should encourage people not only to invite gay people who want to walk with Jesus to church but to live among them without judgement. Give them the opportunity to know Jesus. Heterosexual Christians shut the door to the Kingdom of Heaven in their faces when they suggest they need to change their ways in order to truly know him. How do I know? Because I have struggled with sexual sin for 11 years since becoming a born-again Christian and I continually work on this and improve but it is not easy. Yet, I am still saved and my relationship with Jesus still grows deeper despite my flaws. My repentant heart, my desire and daily intent to put God first in my life and my flesh last, my acceptance of my need for a savior and understanding that identifying with Jesus is the only way I can possibly make it to heaven is what keeps me in right standing with God. I did not magically lose my fleshly sinful desires when I was saved and when I started going to church – and I can imagine many heterosexual believers have had the same experience. So why do Christians expect that on people who have homosexual desires or behaviors when they want to walk with Jesus and become a part of the body of Christ? Or when they already know Jesus and have the Holy Spirit?

There’s this unspoken idea that heterosexual Christians are to “correct” their behavior and if they don’t correct it they should be cast out. This idea is probably based out of the following bible verse:

Matthew 18:15-17

15 “If your brother or sister sins against you, go to them. Tell them what they did wrong. Keep it between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them back. 16 But what if they won’t listen to you? Then take one or two others with you. Scripture says, ‘Every matter must be proved by the words of two or three witnesses.’ (Deuteronomy 19:15) 17 But what if they also refuse to listen to the witnesses? Then tell it to the church. And what if they refuse to listen even to the church? Then don’t treat them as a brother or sister. Treat them as you would treat an ungodly person or a tax collector.

So we have this picture of how people in churches should cast out people who are unrepentant sinners who refuse to change their ways. Now, please re-read the first sentence. The teaching is for when “your brother or sister SINS AGAINST YOU;” is sexual sin by someone who is not your spouse a sin against you? No! This is not how Christians correct heterosexual sin so why is this done with homosexual sin?

Sexual sin is a sin against God – so it should be dealt with between the person and God. The person should be instructed to seek God about it and that’s that. But they should not be cast aside. They should not be told to leave or ignored or looked down upon.

I say, let them feel they are welcome to know Jesus, encourage them to start a conversation with Jesus and walk daily with him, and show them the way to do this with your own actions, not just individually but collectively as a body of believers, continually inviting them in and treating them as moral equals, giving them grace in the particular way they differ from every other sinner, and let God handle the convicting. Christians are not called to be the gatekeepers to heaven.

11.7.19

11.7.19

I just received a bible study book on the wisdom in Proverbs that I ordered from a Christian organization that focuses on getting women together to study the bible. I can’t help but be frustrated and critical with how expensive materials to join a study are! $25 for a 6-week study book?! I wanted to use this book to help lead a small group but am thinking I probably will have to figure something else out because the people that I want to reach are those who do NOT have $25 for one book. I want to be able to reach those who are in poverty, mentally ill or disabled in another way, struggling with addiction, etc. – these people who can’t just drop $25 for a study book. I was excited to get it because I thought it would be comprehensive but its concise and short. So – that’s great but not for $25!

Obviously, a book about wisdom is worth gold! Right? But shouldn’t it be accessible to everyone? I do understand that people who lead and create content for people to study about God should be paid for their time but also wrestling with whether charging for these resources is making them inaccessible to many. The authors received God’s wisdom for free so why charge so much for others to receive it?

I guess I will just pay more attention to where I can find all of the free resources and bible studies to lead.