The Divisiveness is Breaking My Heart…

I’m just blowing off steam.  I can’t remember a time when I felt so hopeless about the vast majority of  humanity.   No matter who says what, there are legions of people who are at the ready to deliberately be cruel and completely disinterested in the “idea” that those who believe as they do are just as passionate- and free to do so- as I am with my beliefs.  There is absolutely no reason or justification for name calling, belittlement, shaming, or anything else that just makes them sound  ‘holier than thou’ and pathetic  (whether or not they believe an God- or anything higher than themselves).   And yeah, I’m guilty.   I’m writing this from a place of pain- sometimes that comes across as anger – but mostly it just hurts.   The people I grew up with, especially from church, are no longer people I relate with in many areas, and that saddens me deeply.  I know that God knows my heart, and that I’d never opt to go against His will. I do question what humans have done to make Christianity so legalistic.

There is also  hypocrisy about many of  the ‘hot button’ issues.  In this post, I’m focusing on abortion- and being a Christian.  I can’t stand the idea of terminating a pregnancy.   BUT,  I understand why a woman would consider it, after being pregnant as a result of being raped in 1987.  I was very naive for a 23 year old and nearly immobilized by the options I had, for the situation I was in.  I couldn’t go the abortion route.  I just couldn’t do it, because my own values.     I never told  my mom about the pregnancy- the first question my mom asked me after I called to tell them about the rape was “Are you pregnant?”… like 6 hours after getting out of the ER, and 2 hours after leaving the police department, where I talked with the Sex Crimes detectives, in a hospital gown and gnarly raincoat from the hospital lost and found box.   Later, the dementia made it inappropriate to discuss it with my mom.  It would have confused her.   She had already told people I was moving back to my home to be a truck driver, because all she remembered about my moving back was that I was driving a U-Haul truck.

Adoption was a touchy subject as a viable option (though probably would have been the outcome had things not turned out as they did).    I’m an adoptee, and while I landed in a great home, there were always the questions about ‘why’ (I had some idea- young mom, couldn’t keep me… my birth mom and I  have a great relationship now), and the sense of “something” missing.  And what would I tell a kid later on in life, should he/she come looking for me, about the circumstances of their conception?  There is no way to make it sound like they were nothing more than a horrific, felonious mistake.  How does someone bring that into the world?   I realize that God can do a lot to help someone get through things (believe me, I prayed a LOT during the rape, and it was a huge source of comfort).  But what if the kid was not a person of faith, and had no belief system to get through something like that?  I would have done all I could to ease the blow- but I would not have lied.   Lies don’t ultimately soothe catastrophic pain.

I certainly didn’t want the kid, because of the ‘how do I explain the conception?’ issue, “who is my father?”,  and never wanting to have a negative bias towards the child in how I raised and treated it.  I didn’t want the reminders of that disgusting day every time I saw the kid’s face, though the child was never at fault.  I was frozen in terms of making decisions, but mercifully, God took care of it one morning, with some nasty cramping, and an unceremonious expulsion into the toilet.  I saw the placental side, freaked, and hit the flush handle.   I was about 12 weeks along.   When I told my dad about the pregnancy after I moved back to my hometown (16 years after the rape), he told me he would have sent me the money for an abortion… and he was a member of an evangelical church for about 60 years.   He understood the torment of that decision.  

I find using abortion as birth control out of laziness or not wanting to be inconvenienced by a child appalling and inexcusable (call that judgement if you want to- I call trivially expelling a pregnancy out of simple personal convenience horribly irresponsible).   There are plenty of good sources of birth control- the most reliable requiring a prescription (which makes Panned Parenthood a good source of medical care EXcluding abortions; they have doctors who will see a woman to do a physical  exam, do a PAP and screen for STDs,  take her medical history, and recommend the safest options to prevent pregnancy- you know… ‘planned’ ).   There are inexpensive prescription birth control pills out there, but they require a physician.  For those without a family doc, PP is a very good option.   I doubt that many right wing Christians will ever believe that (including family and longtime friends) and that’s fine.  Maybe some of them will open their homes and pay the medical bills for a woman facing an unplanned /unwanted pregnancy, and help place her child for adoption-  maybe keep it until the adoption agency and adoptive parents are sorted out.  That’d be great.  Unless someone will step up when they remove options, and offer their own solution on an active, personal level, I don’t think that they should have much say in what someone else does.

Condoms are good for a lot of ‘safe sex’ reasons… but they’re not %100 for birth control… still better than nothing- and anybody who has ‘frivolous sex’ with either multiple partners, or one with a known STD, is irresponsible if they don’t  keep a stash of more than they think they’ll ever need… At.  All. Times.   They are very good at preventing  many STDs (sexually transmitted diseases- some of which can be fatal, in a prolonged and nasty death, i.e. syphilis is easily treated early on, but can lead to dementia after decades with the  untreated disease).

The “morning after pill” is often misunderstood –  sometimes for deliberate political purposes,  to stoke the fires of misinformation.  The morning after pill DOES NOT TERMINATE pregnancy.  It prevents implantation.  There is no pregnancy without implantation.  There is no life without implantation.  Many women “miscarry” these unattached zygotes throughout their life, and never know that fertilization ever happened.  A fertilized zygote (with the potential to become a baby) is essentially nothing without implantation.

Bottom line:  Women are responsible for what goes on in/with/to their bodies when it comes to sexual activity and pregnancy.   Don’t do the “well, he should have brought the rubbers”.  Nonsense !!  If you’re having sex, you are the one who needs to be responsible for the consequences.   

About late term abortions…  I think this is often misunderstood as well.  There are times when ‘pre-term delivery’ (what it is called medically) to end the pregnancy is the only way to save the mother.  With neonatal intensive care being what it is now, there are  maximum efforts to resuscitate the baby and care for it with the hope that it will survive, and hopefully thrive.  Babies as early as 23 weeks are successfully cared for in NICUs. (I’ve heard of a few at 22 weeks, and seen 24 weekers with my own eyes)  That’s before the third trimester !  Pre-term deliveries are ONLY for medical emergencies.  They are not abortions.  (Could there be heinous individuals out there that do them?   Yeah- there are heinous individuals who do just about anything… but pre-term deliveries aren’t the same as abortions. Period.).   Look at the Duggars and their little Josie… they’re about as conservative as folks come- and they “got it” about the reasons for doing the pre-term delivery because of Mrs. Duggar having eclampsia, which is fatal if the pregnancy is not ended. Pre-term delivery IS the cure.  There was never any thought of Josie not getting care.    But the ‘far right’ loves to use inflammatory terms to garner support for candidates.  Unfortunately, inaccuracies abound, and that just fans the fire. Those that say that the mother dying is “God’s will”,  when there is a way to save, her baffle me… to me that is deliberately letting the mother die.  God doesn’t give us ways to take care of emergencies and then not expect/allow us to use them. Why lose two lives when you can save one pretty much for sure (nothing is every %100 in medicine), and probably both?

But bottom line about abortion, in my eyes?   It’s not my decision to make for someone else.  Legislating morality is muddling the religion and state line.  We are not a “Christian” country.  Many of the founding fathers did have a Christian background, but they were very careful to design our country to separate church and state to avoid legislating morality.   We are a country of freedom OF religion.  Once we impose Christian values into law, we open the doors to have parts of Sharia law, or Buddhist values, or whatever, into laws for everybody.   Laws don’t stop abortion.  And just because something is legal doesn’t mean I have to participate!   The government isn’t responsible for determining my decisions.  I have to answer for my own choices- NOBODY else’s.     Again- I don’t like the idea of termination a pregnancy at all.   But I’m not going to focus on people  I can’t control at the expense of ignoring things that could make a positive difference for more people (cue the “but the baby is a person” folks… yeah, I do believe that there is a blooming human in the uterus- and that’s why I wouldn’t choose to have an abortion myself). What is the benefit of being  judgmental over an issue that is between the woman,  HER conscience, and God?   I can’t live her life. But,  I’m also going to extend to her an ear to listen to her fears and conflicts- and gently talk to her about other options, helping in ways that I can.  And prayer is always going to be heard… God can direct the outcome.

So where do I find hypocrisy?  The same folks who are furiously self-righteous about being pro-life couldn’t care less about the health care availability for the “post-born”.    Jesus was ‘into’ taking care of folks medical issues.  You know- that whole “Great Physician” term?   He didn’t ask if people had a good job with adequate coverage to reimburse Him.   He didn’t ask if they were  purposely out of work just so they could stay home with bills piling up and no hope of a better life.  He didn’t ask if their medical needs were the reason they couldn’t find suitable work.  He didn’t deny ‘medicine’ because someone’s prescription drug plan didn’t cover His ‘medicine’.   He just healed them out of compassion.  Everybody remember that?   I know.  It’s not talked about much anymore.  Compassion isn’t a great political word, so it gets lost.

Matthew 25: 41-46   41“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44“Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Yes- those verses talk about visiting the sick, and not healing…  check this out:
Ezekiel 34: 11-16.    11“ ‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.”       It’s all about care, compassion, and bringing the ‘sheep’ together.  This is talking specifically about Israel- but I can’t imaging God not wanting those who love His Son to be treated differently.  And He will strengthen the weak !  He’ll help the injured.  Because of love for His people.  In the Old Testament that was directed at the Jewish people.  In the New Testament, and after someone makes the choice to believe that Jesus is their Lord and Savior, He extends that to us as Christians as well.

There are SO many other things that are saddening me these days- but this is one of the things that separates me from the people I grew up with.  That’s hard, but I’m not going to simply follow the herd when I have strong feelings and thoughts of my own, based in compassion.  I became a nurse to help people.  I miss that.   It’s hard to feel like an outcast- and I don’t anticipate anybody being willing to have a discussion – not to change minds, but simply be heard and maybe even understand a little of where I’m coming from.  But I know God does.  People who aren’t part of the community I grew up with (at church) understand… but within that church group, I feel like something they’d just as soon throw out with the trash. And that hurts.  Lots of talk.  No action.

But, whatever.  I’m rapidly losing interest with humans in general.  It’s “safer” to write here, or just keep the front door locked, and screen calls.   But I won’t lie.  I’d love to hear someone with the same spiritual background tell me that they ‘get it’.   That they understand.  And that I’m not “bad”.    I realize that in the grand scheme of things, the opinion of a human is pretty meaningless.  But it would still be nice to be understood.  I do find intense comfort in knowing that God hears my cries, and knows my heart.   ❤

 

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Blowing Off Steam About Love and Respect

I need to blow off some steam. Some stuff has been bugging me for a while.  And in some ways, even writing this is making me guilty of what I am so deeply saddened and frustrated by.  For that, I ask God to search my heart for my core beliefs and motives,  that can be so hard to describe in words.  I hope I make sense with this and come from a place that pleases Him.

I’m a fairly conservative Christian,  though I don’t consider myself to be an ‘extremist’ – I don’t believe extremism is beneficial for anything. (Matthew 6:1…”Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven.”… ‘Appearances’, and not compassion, scream hypocrisy, and push people away from us- and the chance to share Jesus….Matthew 5:22 talks about anger, and the emotions that destroy relationships and spirituality – we’re to be in control of our actions, but our thoughts can also degrade our relationships spiritually… Life Application Bible notes).

It’s one thing to have a firm belief in God and His Word, and quite another to use it as a weapon against those who are either struggling, or have different beliefs- or are not Believers at all.   Nothing about God is  a weapon for destruction.  We’re instructed that our relationship with God is to be used for GOOD, not divisiveness.  Divisiveness is a tool of Satan.  James 3:5 “Likewise, consider the tongue as a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”  And it can be incredibly difficult to figure out how to love the sinner and hate the sin, and do it from a place of love and compassion for the person, without being judgmental.

Every week there is something else in the media (not from God) that turns on the “judgement switch” of a lot of Christians… and that’s not our job as Christians. I see it in people I know,  people I don’t know in articles and interviews, and I see it in myself at times, and must stop and ask God to help me deal with the situation in a way that pleases Him. I’m not always very good at that.  Every time ‘WE’ judge ‘the other side’, we do *exactly* what we accuse ‘them’ of doing.  I’m so tired of it!  I strongly believe in having a solid core belief system, and mine happens to be that of a conservative Christian. My goal from my heart is that  I become stronger with the  characteristics of a Biblical Christian (not humanly manufactured judgement spewers).   Living the Fruit of the Spirit is my daily goal (and I fail regularly)  😦  … Galatians 5:22… “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  When I disagree with someone, or feel I’m not being heard or treated fairly, those are the responses I am to have.  And it ain’t easy!

I have enough of my own character defects to work on to have ANY right to call out someone else.  Even if something is in the Bible as sin (and we are ALL sinners), I can only live and grow my own relationship with Jesus.  Even Jesus didn’t come to point fingers and judge- He came to save us; judgement will come at its due time, only known by God.   If Christians are so busy worrying about the actions/thoughts/beliefs of someone else, who is left to love them to the Lord?  Matthew 7 is a great chapter on judgement and forgiveness.

We have all sinned (Romans 3:23).  There is no hierarchy of sin.    I believe we  ALL need Jesus- every single day for our OWN spiritual lives. I understand that not everybody believes that- and God gave us free will to believe or not, so who am I to demand more than God? He wants genuine believers- not robotic, loveless stalkers!   We are commanded to go into the world and spread the word of God… How can we do that if we’re so busy condemning others?  Romans 12:18… “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”   Salvation, and a relationship with God is a choice- we can’t earn it, we can’t lose it… but we must sincerely desire and choose it.  And I can only choose for myself.

Does that mean we condone everything? Of course not !  But we aren’t responsible for the actions and beliefs of others- and if we’re so busy being pious and judgmental, who is left to share the Gospel?  We are known by our actions first.  And there are many Christians who send non-believers running for the hills from the hypocrisy and absolute intolerance of various groups of people, or those who even believe differently. Some send ME running for the ‘hills’, and we’re supposed to believe the same thing !
There is not one person on this planet who can truly know what is in the heart of someone else- their struggles, pain, frustrations, BELIEFS, etc.  Christians are generally taught to appear like everything is wonderful- which is VERY hard to do 24/7.  And it’s disingenuous.  God gave us emotions.  But we do have to be careful about not directing them AT others, and instead using them to encourage and uplift others.   ‘Loathing’ is not from God.  Constant mockery, negative comments, and complaining are in direct contrast to what we are told to do in Philippians 2: 14-16… “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God , without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of Life- in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.”  That’s hard !  But it lets me know that getting involved in negative ‘conversations’ isn’t anything I’m doing to praise God.  It’s purely self-serving when it’s not done out of love, and to offer something positive and encouraging.
I believe that there are a lot of Christians who truly love the Lord, and are still struggling with various issues.  When I worked drug and alcohol rehab, we saw a LOT of Christians… and had a special sub-group of recovery options for them in addition to the traditional  12-step treatment (which is completely spiritually based, and strongly reflective of the Sermon on The Mount).  Christians are not immune from continuing to (or starting another)  sin; for some it’s easier than other to ‘reform’ and/or recover. Some have condemned themselves much more than anybody else could- and are afraid God couldn’t possibly want anything to do with them. (So let’s throw some disdain their way, eh?) And some have lived their entire lives believing that they are guilty of something that was done TO them.
I’m so glad that the  God I know is more loving and forgiving than many of my fellow Christians- known personally or not. And HE knows MY heart!  He has access to the secret corners of my being, and loves me anyway!     Other humans only know what they assume- and that is dangerous ground for basing a relationship (or opinion) with anybody.   John 8: 2-11 is an outstanding example of how Jesus dealt with a woman accused of sexual sins.  He came from a place of love.
I spent many years with severe eating disorders –  clear abuse of the body God gave me, and where the Bible says the Holy Spirit dwells in Christians.  I was living in a state of daily sin by focusing on the flesh– and yet I still loved God deeply, and dealt with the shame of not living fully for Him when I was focused on something so destructive, and felt so stuck.  It’s painful to see Christians assume that because someone is ‘pro’ this or that, or in some sort of addiction (food, drugs, alcohol, etc.)  that they aren’t Believers.  “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”… remember that one?   I’ve met a lot of Christian addicts (recovering, and  just going through detox)… some of the most solid Christians I’ve ever met.   Being a Christian never removes the fact that we’re still human.  We fail. We get up. We move on. And sometimes (a lot of times) we fail again, with the assurance of a loving God catching us in His arms.
Some (a lot of ? ) folks do appear to be clearly anti-Christian.  There’s someone on the news, other TV shows, radio, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  pretty much daily that come  only to verbally mock and shun Christians.  (one program last night had me fairly heated !). God has that covered !  We’ve been told about those who persecute Christians- it’s been going on for a couple of thousands of years now !   And it’s not our fight.  God will take care of those who harass His Children in due time.  I find comfort in that- I don’t have to waste time being angry or even hateful !  I can try and find things to be thankful for.  We’re instructed to be thankful in ALL things.  We’re instructed to have a very specific mindset about our ‘enemies’. ****  It is so much more freeing to not be worn down by things that I have no control over, that will be dealt with by God in HIS timing, and to look at the wonderful things I’ve been blessed with- however great or small… they are more uplifting than the negative people and situations :
****1 Peter 3:9…” Do not repay evil with evil, or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  
Matthew 5:44… “But I command you all, love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.”
Romans 12:14… “Invoke blessings on your persecutors, blessings- not curses.”
1 Peter 3:15…”But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for evil.”    Hmm… ‘in your hearts’ (don’t need a billboard).  Gentleness and respect…. (wow- don’t see much of that).  Is it good or evil to single out assorted ‘hot topics’ and make them a thermometer of morality and gauge of someone else’s heart?  Or would it be more in keeping with Jesus, being the definition of love, to reach out and show compassion?  I don’t have to agree with anybody to  be kind to them.
I can anticipate some who read this getting upset that I’m not focusing on pointing out  specific ‘hot topic’  sins of others  that they feel are clearly stated in the Bible.  I’m really not interested in pointing out someone else’s sin nearly as much as I am showing them the love that Jesus came to show us; the Holy Spirit  will convict someone of sin- I’m not that powerful, so why not show love and compassion?  I’m not always good at it- but that is my goal.   When anything comes across as hate, it will drive someone away who God loves, and wants a relationship with.  That’s not being obedient.  I don’t have to change my beliefs to show someone else what I believe- and I don’t have to do it with condescension or spite.  Neither of those are from God.  I don’t have to jump on every bandwagon that comes along to ‘prove a point’.  I know what I believe… I don’t have to repeatedly and frequently drive the point into the skulls of anyone I encounter.  My friends know what I believe, and IF someone asks me, I will aim for the gentle and respectful explanation.  🙂
Sometimes, there are people who will only know one or two ‘known’ Christians… do you want to show someone the love of God, or tear them down by talking about specific sins?  We are all sinners, and Jesus came for all of us.  There are no prerequisites for loving Jesus.  He takes us as we are.  All of us.  As. We. Are.  The miracles of being new creations happens after someone discovers Jesus, and the ultimate meaning of love.
So, what is my hope that I show people?  It’s very clear…  🙂  And it’s an ongoing process.  So, I’m really not at liberty to judge someone else.  I’ve got my own work to do.
I Corinthians 13:4-8a….”Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, and New Year filled with peace, compassion, and joy of knowing that God supplies all of our needs.

 

 

 

Sharing Christianity With Love and Warmth

Sometimes it’s hard to be taken seriously as a Christian, as so many Christians come across as painfully judgmental in their tone and overall intolerance- towards those who don’t believe exactly in what they do. We can be our own worst enemies when trying to encourage non-Christians see how Christianity really is an amazing way to get through this life, and that it just gets better!   This age of so much communication being done between strangers with no interpersonal connection doesn’t help much. Reading comments about online articles, stories, etc. are horribly mean and hateful- and the Christians are among the worst at times.  It makes me sad.   I try SO hard not to be one of ‘those’ Christians (and also not to judge them– they have their reasons for their beliefs, even if I disagree with how they come across, at least with how I’ve perceived them in specific online conversations or about specific topics… and I’m not good at that).  I want to be used by God, not drive people away from Him.  That can be a lonely place.  The ‘holier-than-thous’ have no tolerance for ME, and I don’t fit in anywhere because I see approaching people out of love and respect being more important than being ‘right’.

I’m very limited physically in how much I can interact with people (Christians and non-Christians), and so much of what I am exposed to is lacking the ‘in-person’ body language and non-verbal subtleties needed for complete communication. I base my fairly open and ‘cleaning my own side of the street’ approach to a lot of topics based on my belief that Jesus spoke much more about love than He did about judgement.  Jesus loves everybody, and took the ragtag bunch of people around Him to be the ones He kept the closest to Him.  He didn’t look for the legalistic Pharisees. He didn’t take the ones who could recite ‘rules’ twenty-five ways to Sunday.   He chose the hookers, thieves, the poor, and later, even those who used to persecute Christians to help spread His message. Paul was a huge factor in the spreading of the message of Christianity in those early years, and he was horrible to Christians prior to his conversion !   Who am I to only seek out the superficially ‘acceptable’ people to care about?  Appearances mean nothing, both good and bad. (I LOOK very unfeminine, and pretty ratty a lot of the time. Because of some medical issues that make having hair actually a safety issue, as it gets me overheated very fast, and that triggers a lot of unpleasantness, up to losing consciousness… so I look stereotypically ‘butch’, because my head is shaved, and I don’t wear a lot of girly clothes… a t-shirt with flowers is about as ‘foo-foo’ as I get… that’s just me.  I’ve gotten a lot of nasty ‘looks’  and comments over the years about that).  God can use anybody who is willing!  Even if they don’t ‘seem’ like they’re capable of a meaningful relationship with Christ, or ‘look’ like a bonafide Christian 😉

It’s kind of a lonely place at times to not ‘tow the line’ in some very rigid manner. God meets us where we are, and I think we, as Christians, need to show the love of God in ways that fit the person we’re interacting with.   I don’t ‘fit in’ with how I view some very controversial topics in the conservative Christian community.  I believe in the Bible, and that it’s the inspired Word of God.  I also look at the social, scientific,  and cultural norms at the time the Bible was written, and look at ways to learn more about how that translates into today’s society. I am very aware that I don’t know everything.  But no matter how I view something or someone, I feel an obligation to love the person as someone God created in the womb first, and do all things in a way that doesn’t make them run from any message I may have about how God can have a real place in their lives, no matter what any person’s beliefs, strengths, or weaknesses may be.  What good does it do to judge someone, and push them away?  That isn’t the goal !  Jesus told Christians to go into all the world and preach the Gospel… not judge those who will benefit from hearing it (as in everybody !).   God didn’t appoint me, or any other human, to be judgmental.  Matthew 7 is very clear on that.  The Bible is also very clear on doing all things in love.  Focusing on the good, and showing everyone the definition of love in I Corinthians 13, and the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians.  Those are our standards.

God has been a huge refuge for me during some really hard times.   When I was raped, He was Who I called out to (silently, in prayer) to give me the strength and wisdom to get through it, and escape.  With the chronic medical disorders I’ve got, God is Who gives me the strength to just deal with another day, even when I just want to curl up and sleep until things get better (problem with that is that the disorders are chronic, progressive, and not going to get better).  When I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, my comfort came in knowing that no matter what happened, I’d go on in eternity if I died.  I’d be able to reunite with fellow believers who have died, such as family, friends, and people I’ve read about over the years.  I’d like to share that comfort with others.  I’d like others to know that no matter how alone they feel, God is always around.  When I was in the middle of the last eating disorder relapse, I’d ask God every night literally to just let me wake up in the morning.  He answered all of my prayers during all of those times.  I’m still here.

I don’t run around with my religion on my sleeve (though I do have a few cool t-shirts with messages on them ),  but I will be specific about my beliefs when asked, or when I decide to write about it.  I strive to live my beliefs (and I can always improve !).  I believe that salvation is  a choice.  It is not possible to be ‘good enough’ or ‘earn’ a place in Heaven.  Believing in Jesus, His death on the cross, and resurrection as a payment for our sinful nature -by simply being human- is how I believe people get in to Heaven.  The Bible is very clear on that.  But, there are no pre-existing criteria to ‘qualify’ as a Christian. It’s simply telling God that I know I’ve sinned (we all have, and anybody who is at the age of accountability- which varies with individuals and developmental stages and capabilities needs to make the choice for themselves to seek forgiveness), I ask for forgiveness, and I believe that Jesus died to pay the price for my very human nature and choices that have grieved God, and separated me from Him.  I believe that  Christ physically rose from the dead. I believe that He’s going to return one day to gather Christians still alive here on earth, as well as those who have already left this earth. A lot of really ‘good’ people will be left behind.  I believe that when my earthly life is over, my eternal life begins. And I know that no matter how other people, including  Pharisee Christians, see me, God knows my heart.  That is more important than human acceptance.  I don’t ‘do’ legalism…  I cherish my relationship with the Lord, and other Christians.

I also believe that people have the right to decline God’s offer, and by not making a choice, they actually do make a choice.   They have the right to their beliefs as  I have the right to mine.  My beliefs mean that I only see one way for someone to be ‘saved’, and eligible for eternal life.  But it’s not my place to ‘judge’ someone for not wanting or believing that (I can be sad they don’t choose the same beliefs, but it is NOT OK for me to judge that person).  Those who don’t believe as I do will say I’m being judgmental for saying that there is only one way to Heaven… my answer is this: what is in the Bible didn’t come from me.  God made it a choice, whether to believe or not.  He didn’t create us to be robotic followers.  He gave us all free will. But He wants everybody… He won’t push anybody away for any reason…. so how could I possibly think it’s OK for me to judge anybody for making their own decisions?  🙂

Humans (often Christians) screw up the Bible, and how Christianity is perceived, more than any other factor on earth.  The Bible itself is fairly straightforward, and with religious and historical scholars having written volumes on the various cultural, social, and scientific things, it’s easy to see that God’s plan for our salvation is timeless.  It was seen as heresy when Jesus died and rose again- a conspiracy of major proportions.  Some people still see it as such. Some just think it’s bogus.  That’s their right.  It saddens me, but I still accept that they have the choice to believe what they will.  Faith comes with continued belief, and it’s different for everyone.  God didn’t make us all identical cookie-cutter people (pretty great, eh?), so we all ‘do’ this journey in our own way.   And, we can pray for those who don’t believe, and continue to be kind and compassionate towards them.  How will they ever find Christ if Christians are the first to bail out on them?

To me, the requirements for salvation are absolute; there is only one way to become a Christian-  BUT there are as many ways to BE a Christian as there are people… . It’s a choice.  It’s an active belief, not a passive assumption.   God can use ALL of us 🙂 

I believe that God can use anyone who makes him/herself available to Him.  He doesn’t demand perfection. He doesn’t demand we ‘speaketh’ in a completely unnatural way when we talk to Him.  I am not a fan of religion at all (mindless rituals and rules)… God wants a relationship with every single person on this planet. 🙂  He waits until we seek Him, but then we are His forever.  He won’t force Himself on anybody.  He gave us free will.  And, He has a single requirement for being with Him forever…. belief.  Faith grows over time, but belief is a choice.

I can’t imagine NOT believing what I do.  I can’t imagine NOT believing in Jesus, or His death and resurrection.  I can’t imagine NOT believing that He is coming back.  I can’t imagine NOT having the absolute assurance of Heaven when I die. To me, it takes a lot more faith in “nothing” than it does in a loving God whose Son walked the earth in human form over 2,000 years ago.  I also don’t see humans as a lot who are higher up on the reliability scale.  I couldn’t believe in a mere mortal.  Just wouldn’t work for me.   I’m glad for my upbringing in an evangelical church.  I’m thankful that I had good experiences with how God was taught to me, and that I had several outlets that were wonderful experiences to reinforce what I’d learned (youth groups, summer camp, working at the same camp during 2 1/2 summers, choir, etc).  I’m also very glad I read through the BIble cover-to-cover on my own a few times, so I saw what is in there for myself…. not JUST how a pastor saw it. I’m thankful for study Bibles with amazing notes from reputable Bible scholars to enhance my understanding.

I wish that for everyone. 🙂

Driving Ms. Hazy

Very bad memories of nearly passing out in the drivers seat. While the car was moving. Limitations with sitting upright (and not moving around) for any length of time. Abnormal heart rates as a result of being in one position. Being confined to a sitting position with no chance to take ‘vertical’ breaks. Many, many episodes of actually losing consciousness because of the dysautonomia (dysfunction of the part of my brain that regulates involuntary bodily responses- blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, temperature control, etc.). While I’ve never passed out in the car, the times I’ve bitten the floor on solid ground are literally too many to count. (I don’t count well when I’m not conscious).  Having driven myself more than 5 miles one-way only one time in over 6 years.  Not exactly great associations with driving my car.

But I want to go to a celebration of a friend’s life at the end of this month. I want to be there. She died one week ago today, and the celebration is going to be about all of the good she contributed to the lives of thousands of kids and adults during her ministry at several places. For me, it’s mostly about a wonderful camp I attended as a kid, and then worked at during the summers of 1980, 1981, and half of 1982.  She was a major part of the camp being my spiritual home, then and now.  I want to be with others who are going to celebrate her life. It’s going to be a wonderfully positive gathering.

Yet I’m  quite nervous about driving the 50 miles, give or take, one-way, in order to be there.  I know that I have enough ‘warning’ when my body starts to act in weird ways that signal I’m in trouble and need to pull over. I know that the worst thing that can happen is that I’ll need to put the car seat back, so I can get the blood moving into  my head. I know that I’ve got my cell phone if I should get into major trouble. I know I’ve got my ‘as needed’ medications for many possible problems,  and assorted equipment to prevent getting overheated.  I know that I generally pack enough stuff to prevent or take care of  just about any medical condition known to exist, for the entire population of a small third world country.  I know that I’ve survived up to this point, and that the vast majority of things people worry about never happen.  In my head I know these things…my heart hasn’t caught up.

I know that God won’t abandon me, and that there is comfort in His presence. I know that this celebration is mostly gratitude about how He used this wonderful woman to extend His love for more than 40 years to so many kids. I know that I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).  I do believe that, and so I will go.  And I will still  be prepared for anything that could come up. That’s not a lack of faith, that’s common sense and being responsible. And I will ask God to knock a knot in my head when I get panicky, and bring me back to reality.

Sometimes I need to remember that I drove a 17 foot U-Haul  (total of 23 feet of truck including the cab) from deep in the heart of Texas back to my childhood home near Chicago, with only my dog- so no relief driver.  I had been diagnosed with the dysautonomia prior to that trip, and while I was much more stable then, there were still  risks, but I  made it in two days with no disasters.  Well, I did wipe out part of a McDonald’s drive-thru sign somewhere in Oklahoma, but the insurance took care of that- at least on the truck. 🙂  I need to remember all of the ‘day trips’ around central Texas that I used to take, with my camera and a ‘let’s go’ attitude.  Granted, I was healthier, but my driving skills are solid, and actually a little bit of ‘old fart’ in their adventurousness. Even my 80 year old dad will pull out on the road before I will if making a left turn onto a street without traffic lights.  I’m not a risky driver.  I’m a wuss.  So, I should be just fine.

Between now and then, I’ll get my stuff ready- ice vest, ice vest inserts, ice bandana ice packs, diabetic supply kit with insulin, any ‘as needed’ medicines for a variety of potential issues, a couple of bottles of water, a bottle of Coca Cola for any potential low blood sugar problems, insulated bag and ice packs for all of the cold stuff, wheeled walker with the seat, ad nauseum… I figure the car can serve as a tent if I get stuck somewhere, but I’ve also got a gizmo that will jump my battery if it dies out, so I’ve got that covered, too.   I have to get home in time for  my dog’s heart failure medicine; motivation to make this all go smoothly.

I’ll be so glad I decided to go to the celebration of her life.  She continues to be a role model for reaching out and grabbing opportunities to ‘be able’, and not live in a disabled world.  She continues to encourage me with my memories of her life.  The least I can do is show up to celebrate her. ❤

 

When Forever Breaks

In my nearly 49 year old nursey brain, I know that nobody stays on this earth forever. I’ve seen so many people die, I can’t count them all and I feel badly about that. I do remember some individuals that I’d gotten particularly close to, who had been at the places I’d worked for quite a while,  or who died from something uncommon. But for the most part, they were ‘just’ really sweet people whose bodies had given out.  I do remember feeling that their absence would be incredibly sad for their families and friends.  I spoke to many of them, and sometimes I was the one to give them the news. I always hated those phone calls.  Nothing good comes from a phone call in the middle of the night from a hospital or nursing home.

As I was growing up, I had the incredible fortune to be sent to summer camp for one week each summer to Timber-lee Christian Center in East Troy, WI.  Starting when I was 8 years old, and getting ready to start 4th grade (I was young for my class), I went every summer until I was 15, and getting ready to start my junior year of high school. I met some really neat people, and a few of them left lifelong impressions. When I got to work there in the summers on the ‘summer staff’, I was thrilled. The summer before my senior year in high school, freshmen year of college, and between the spring and fall semesters in college (1/2 of that summer), I spent up to three months working at camp- loving every minute of it. It was my spiritual home, and I learned more  about the love of God through Christians there than anywhere else. I still consider it the place where God became real to me.

I grew up in a solid church. The people there were very nice people, and there were several who were living examples of God’s love- but camp was different. I grew up with a mom who didn’t show much affection. She loved me (it took decades to really understand that), but I didn’t ‘feel’ it. As a kid, I didn’t know if she even liked me. It was all about her own ‘stuff’, and had nothing to do with me, but as a child, I had no frame of reference for what her life had been like- just what I saw in how she related to me.  She had lost two babies a couple of years apart, from the same newborn disorder, and she never even got to see them after they’d been born. That all happened a few years before I was adopted by her and my dad.   The death of a child who was never allowed to bond with a mom  does something to a mom. The bonding isn’t only for the baby. I get that now. But as a kid, I just wanted to feel that I mattered to someone, somewhere. I know my dad loved me- never questioned that. But I needed something different, that I didn’t get from a distant, aloof mother.  I got that for entire weeks at a time at camp.  On summer staff, it was 24/7 for up to three months.  Right or wrong, camp was extremely important to me feeling like my existence mattered.

I guess that’s why the death of a core member of Timber-lee has hit hard. I never really imagined camp without her. She was the constant person year after year- and she made kids feel like they mattered.  On summer staff, I met other people who made me feel like my existence was a good thing, but when I was really young, and into my adolescence, camp is where I really felt like I wasn’t ‘irrelevant’ (not sure what a better word would be), and this one woman was there each year. Camp didn’t exist in my mind without her.  With her death, my frame of reference has been broken.  I know I’m kind of old to still be hanging on to camp memories, but this place had that much of an impact.  It formed a big part of who I am because of the acceptance and understanding I felt there. It’s hard to explain.

So many people have come forward to talk about how Mary Kay impacted their lives. Many spent much more time with her than I did, but there are others who were ‘just’ campers or summer staff members who got the same genuine care and concern from Mary Kay- it’s just how she was.  There wasn’t anything phony about her, and kids can figure that out in a heartbeat. Kids crave adult acceptance. They need that adult to look up to and emulate. They need someone who thinks they are good enough just being a kid.  Those are crucial things to help them along developmentally, as they become their own persons.  And Mary Kay was there every year since 1972, loving every kid (and summer staffer) in a way that most people don’t have the skills and gifts to do; Mary Kay was special.

I don’t mean that I grew up in a vacuum at home. My mom (now deceased) was a ‘good’ person, and had a successful teaching career. Her students felt she was a great teacher, and many loved her. My dad worked hard, and provided for us; I never lacked a good place to live, clothes, etc.  He always had my best interests in mind, even when I didn’t realize it. He’s the person I’m closest to now. There were some key adults when I was a kid that sort of ‘took me in’ emotionally.  But camp was a block of time where I was immersed in love and true Christian living. I thrived on that.  I couldn’t wait to get back to those week long camps where I’d be in a cabin with 5-6 other girls, and a college age summer staff counselor; it was like a week long family based on the love of Jesus. It doesn’t get better than that.

On summer staff, I was surrounded by all sorts of Christians who were also  there for the kids. It was a chance to give back, but I often got so much more than I felt I gave (I worked in the nature center for most of my time on staff- I got worms for the fish and fed rats to snakes, along with doing various nature-related activities, often with a 6 foot boa constrictor wrapped around my waist). Those interactions went on to help me survive some really dark times. Camp formed the core of my beliefs (as did my home church, but it wasn’t the same). It’s something I pictured in my mind as unchanging- however irrational that may sound from someone who will be 50 years old in just over a year.  The core of my beliefs won’t change, no matter whose physically present on earth, and yet there’s a shift with Mary Kay gone.  I’m not sure I can explain it well.

Summers at Timber-lee Christian Center

I’m so glad I was able to reconnect on FaceBook earlier this year, and see Mary Kay and her husband, Greg, at a gathering at the camp this past July. It was the first time I’d been back to Timber-lee in 27 years.  There were changes, but that welcoming, feel-good feeling is still there. I believe it’s a supernatural blessing that presides over the people and property associated with that amazing place. I have never found any other place that immediately brings back the good memories like Timber-lee does. It’s mightily  used by God for so many things, and it touches people’s lives in ways that are for forever.

I’ve been so happy to reconnect with other Timber-lee summer staffers. It’s impossible to explain those summers to people who weren’t there.  I will miss Mary Kay deeply.  But I’m so thankful that I’ve got the memories of her TO miss. She and Timber-lee will be connected in my mind forever.  But now there’s a new frame of reference for Timber-lee moving forward. The ‘old forever’ broke. But I know that in the ultimate forever, it’s all good.

Exit Stage Vertical

Yesterday , Mary Kay Meeker left this earth from an ICU bed at a hospital in Waukesha, WI (USA).   Mary Kay’s hand was taken by her husband, and placed in the hand of God as she took her last breath after being taken off life support.  In that moment, she saw glory and a complete healing of her recent critical medical issues, and the residual effects of polio that she had as a young child. She was released from the stranglehold of sickness into the absolute freedom and peace of God’s love.  With that new health and perfection of her heavenly body, she saw Jesus for the first time, and began her exploration of eternity.  She saw our Lord !  She has spoken to Jesus face to face, and seen Him as He is !  Mary Kay is now part of eternity.

While people here will miss her presence, there are so many stories about Mary Kay that are surfacing to help soothe the wound of her absence. This is a woman who never met someone she couldn’t encourage or build up in some way.  Whether it be through her work in programming at Timber-lee Christian Center, or Awana groups, her church, or as a neighbor or friend, Mary Kay was all about the glass being half full, if not overflowing.

I often saw her on stage when I first met Mary Kay as a camper.  She was doing skits and ventriloquism acts during week long sessions, that continued all summer long.  She made those skits vehicles for how to live as a Christian. Even for elementary school kids, there was something about her that was ‘real’…and she liked kids. There have been numerous accounts of how she and her husband Greg would interact with kids in a way that let them know that being a kid was good enough.  Kids crave being valued by adults.

Mary Kay was an amazing pianist.  Even with her left arm being weakened by polio, she could crank out just about any song in any key at the drop of a hat.  Her ear for music was amazing.  I never saw her play the piano without a big smile while she simultaneously led 300+ campers in various camp songs from that stage in Cross Timber.  Music was a big part of who Mary Kay was.

It is hard to imagine Timber-lee without Mary Kay.  Oh, I know it will continue to be an amazing Christian camp, with so many activities and options for kids. It will still show the love of Jesus to kids of all ages. It will still be a great place for a winter retreat or group meeting.  But one of its core members is gone.  That will hurt, and yet those who know her know that she would want things to go on as scheduled, and for people to keep reaching past what they think they can do- to spread the love of Jesus to everyone who walks along Timber-lee’s paths.

Mary Kay was all about showing people possibilities they hadn’t even considered.  She boosted the good in people, and loved those who were going through not such great times- sometimes when she didn’t even know it.  Her influence didn’t require direct conversation (though she did talk with a lot of people about a lot of things, and really listened).  She lived her life in such a way as to show people ways of relating to each other, and to God. Even when I hadn’t seen her for years, I’d remember something about MK and be encouraged. She was a ‘feel good’ person.

Those of us who are Christians will see her again someday, and know the awe and wonder of seeing Jesus for the first time.  In the meantime, Mary Kay is probably setting up various choirs and singing groups, and seeking out those who always wanted to sing but didn’t think they could when they were alive on earth.  Maybe she’s organizing the angels’ choir into soprano, alto, tenor, and bass sections , and using that new left arm to direct them in some camp songs !! She has probably already met George Beverly Shea and the Goodmans, and has them helping with the choirs !

I can see Mary Kay walking through Heaven, gathering orphaned kids and talking to each of them- praising God for each of them.  She’ll have them singing or doing skits before long, to entertain the other folks up in Heaven. 🙂  If nobody stops her, she’ll have them doing something in Swedish (the Swedes up there will LOVE Mary Kay- yah, you betcha !!).   I can see her being welcomed by former Timber-lee folks who have been up there for a while, and them introducing her to people they know.

Mary Kay’s work here is done, at least directly- she planted countless seeds that will continue to grow.  It was God’s will that she be in Heaven with Him… she may not be working here on earth, but I’m guessing she’s keeping plenty busy.  I can’t imagine her having it any other way !

Into the Hands of God

Unless something extremely supernatural happens very soon, an amazing woman will be leaving this earth.  Her husband will take her hand, that he has been holding with the determination that only comes from lifelong love and endearment, and place it into the hands of God.  From there, she will enter eternity completely healed, and with a new and perfect body that she has gone a lifetime waiting to have.  And, I know the first words from God will be “Well done, my good and faithful servant….well done. Welcome home”.  She will be able to rest in the peace of our Savior and Lord, who has been perfecting His plan in her for decades.

As a Christian, I am comforted a lot by that belief.  I never really say goodbye to a Christian- more of an “I’ll catch you later”, but it’s still sad and I still grieve their physical absence. There is still a void created by the earthly loss of that person. And, yet their pain and suffering are gone. They no longer have the limitations of earth, or their physical conditions. I’ve thought about that when several people I’ve known have passed on…they don’t really ‘die’ per se…they change addresses. 🙂

The doctors have determined that my friend no longer has brain function.  In many ways, those words are even harder than someone ‘simply’ dying a physical death, since it requires decisions that no family member should ever have to make.  Her dear husband is getting another doctor to examine her, to confirm or refute the findings.  And, those of us praying are still hoping for supernatural intervention.  There is nothing too hard for God, and yet He doesn’t always choose to perform miracles when those confined to earthly knowledge want them. His plan will be perfect no matter what happens.  I might not understand His purposes now, but that’s OK.  I still believe He has things moving along to serve His purposes, and that’s good enough for me.

I’ll still cry (and have been), and I’ll still miss Mary Kay Meeker.  I’ll still pray for her dear husband Greg, that he feels some sort of peace as he gets used to a new normal for his life.  I’ll still remember all of the amazing things about MK that I know about her from the time I was a camper, and also on summer staff at Timber-lee Christian Center. We didn’t stay in touch for many years, but her impact didn’t require continuous contact. My life has been made so much better by having known her, and reconnecting this year via FaceBook. I can’t even estimate how many lives she’s touched over the years- but it’s got to be in the tens of thousands.  I first met her as a camper in 1972… I last saw her on July 14, 2012. She was as vibrant as ever, tooling around in a golf cart before coming inside, where we had some time to talk, along with Greg.  It was so wonderful to see them both, as Greg had had some serious health concerns.  I’m so thankful for that time.

So, I’m writing this while Mary Kay is still resting in that ICU bed.  I’m not going to say goodbye.  If I could, I’d let her know everything she has meant to me (and should have done so before now- there’s a life lesson in that for anybody), and how much she’ll be missed, but hold on to a table at the coffee shop in Heaven… I’ll track her down up there one day.  I’d tell her that her ability to introduce people to Jesus in a real way has sustained me during some pretty dark days. She is one of a handful of people who have made my walk with God personal. I learned a lot of ‘real life’ ways to know God.

So, Mary Kay- thank you!  Your impact in my life isn’t measurable.  You made a difference by being yourself.  You touched my life in ways that started 40 years ago, and never stopped (and won’t). You have that amazing combination of humor, compassion, and sincerity that most people don’t begin to understand.  I will miss you.  But I’ll see ya later.  God has His hand outstretched, and He’s ready to take yours when the time is right.  Just as your hand was given to Greg at your wedding, Greg will hand you back to our Heavenly Father.