Monthly Archives: May 2016

Jesus Loves Me This I Know, For the Bible Tells Me So…………

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I’m well aware of the love God has for us. For me. For you. It’s been drilled into my brain since I was a child growing up in church, Christian school, and even into Bible college. And even now as an almost 40-something year old adult (yikes, I’m old!), I still am very keen on the fact that God loves me…..

BUT…..

If God can love us, as sinful and imperfect as we are, why can’t we love other people in the same capacity?

Yes, I understand that there are going to be people that we cannot show love towards.

To the man who raped me 17 years ago, I have no love towards this individual.
To the murderers who take a life or the abortion doctors who steal away the breath of an innocent child, I have no love towards.
To the pedophiles who defile the children who place their trust in them, I have nothing but hatred towards.

And maybe, according to my Christian upbringing, I’m supposed to show those individuals love as well. But that’s not something I will ever be able to change in my heart, no matter how you try to persuade me otherwise.

But, despite my childhood lessons and despite the constant barrage of Biblical teachings, I have a difficult time justifying the hatred that I see coming from so many so called “Christians” towards others.

Now, before you get all up in my face and attack me, let me give you some background.

I was brought up in a very religious background. I was an Independent Fundamental Baptist. Very strict in many aspects. We weren’t allowed to go to the movies, listen to secular music, wearing pants was frowned upon, no premarital touching/relations, total submission to men, no tattoos, no drinking alcohol in any form. In high school I got my ears double pierced and got in trouble for wearing two pairs of earrings. Oh, the horrors!

I was brought up in a religion that declared every other religion was wrong and that the ONLY way to get to God and be saved was through that religion. We were taught to look down on people that were not like us and to cut ties with those that weren’t walking in line with our beliefs and were not in a personal relationship with God. Now, while I understand that many religions teach that THEIR religion is superior and it was the only way to God, I DON’T believe that you have to show hatred and disgust towards those who believe otherwise. Unfortunately, this was taught to us at a very early age, and repeatedly beat into our brains that we must maintain that mindset.

As I’ve grown older, moved on, been on my own, and allowed myself to take a step back and evaluate everything that I was taught, I’ve come to a startling conclusion.

God is a God of LOVE and not HATE. God would not choose for me to hate anyone, despite everything I was taught.

MIND BLOWN! <insert sarcasm>

Here’s what I’ve learned:

It’s not about a particular RELIGION or denomination. It’s about a RELATIONSHIP with God.
It’s not about a list of rules that I have to follow or a smattering of things I can’t partake in. It’s about my own personal convictions and beliefs.
It’s not about looking down on others or judging them for how they approach God. It’s about accepting people for who they are and letting GOD be the judge of their actions and beliefs.
It’s not about breaking ties with and avoiding those that believe opposite than me. It’s about creating relationships with those people so that we can learn from each other.
It’s not about degrading and spewing hatred towards unbelievers or those you deem to be “out of the will of God.” It’s about showing the love of God REGARDLESS of where they are in life.

Here’s some other things that I’ve learned and reminded myself from memorizing scripture growing up that would refute how Christians act inappropriately today:

1 John 4:8-10 (The Message)
“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.”

Matthew 7:1-2 (Amplified Bible)
“Do not judge and criticize and condemn others, so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves. For just as you judge and criticize and condemn others, you will be judged and criticized and condemned, and in accordance with the measure you [use to] deal out to others, it will be dealt out again to you.”

And perhaps the most “damning of the passages:

Romans 14:1-23 (The Message)
“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your helpOr, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience. What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other. So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:

“As I live and breathe,” God says,
    “every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
    that I and only I am God.”

So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God. Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it. If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!

God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you. So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? I said it before and I’ll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.

Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.”

So what it boils down to in life is this:

Love others, despite their beliefs, convictions, lifestyle, choices, religion.
Do not judge others for what they believe to be best for themselves.
Accept others, no matter what their differences are.
Be a friend to those that think and act differently, because they are a human needing affection, just like you.
Do not look down, or demean, or degrade those you look or believe differently than you do.

I am NOT the judge of you. I am not going to hate you because you believe something different. And I sure as heck am not going to demean you because you sin differently than I do. I have NO place to pass judgment on ANYONE as I myself am not blameless. I am not perfect, and neither are you. NO ONE is, save God.

Now, my inner beliefs and convictions and thoughts might be radically changed based on my upbringing. But at the end of the day, those beliefs and convictions are what I have to answer for. Not my parents, not my family, not my pastor, not my boyfriend, not my kids, no one on this earth. GOD is my judge, and He is the one that I’m going to answer to some day. I’m not going to be spiritually bullied by someone who believes the way they do and looks down on others who aren’t the same. I’m not going to let an apparent “cutting of ties” deflect my heart from the TRUE meaning of Christianity.

The word “CHRISTIAN” is defined as “A Follower of Christ.” It’s definition is not one who passes judgment on others. It is a person who FOLLOWS the teachings of Christ. So basically, the main tenants of Christ’s teachings are as follows:

Micah 6:8 (The Message)
“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.”

Matthew 22:37-40 (The Message)
“Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

Maybe I don’t agree with what you do or how you live your life……That’s not my judgment call to make.
Maybe I don’t see God the same way you do (or don’t)……Those are not my beliefs to account for.
Maybe we aren’t going to come to the same conclusion on spirituality or life…..That’s ultimately out of my control and not my “problem.”

What I will choose to do is LOVE. Despite all the costs. Despite all the naysayers and those that would choose to neglect, judge, and demean. I will choose LOVE.

And I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m going to fail. I’m going to falter in my endeavors. I mean, remember, I’m not perfect! But I can take reassurance in this. God loved and loves me still, despite my shortcomings, failures, sin, and neglect. You don’t need my approval or permission to live your life the way you choose and vice versa. You and I are going to have to give account of our actions and our actions alone. And knowing that and truly believing that leaves me with an overwhelming feeling of peace and relief.

And in that moment of sweet, sweet peace, I will choose to LOVE.

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All Rise….Court is in Session

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So, a very close family member has decided to block me on Facebook and therefore remove themselves from my life, which in my opinion is a very immature and inappropriate response. Here’s my take on it, and please allow me my soapbox moment:

Just because I sin differently than you do, because yes, you DO sin, doesn’t mean that I’m any less of a person than you are.

Just because I am not active in church or I don’t read the Bible everyday, does not mean that I’m destined for hell and that I’m an evil person.

Just because I don’t live my life according to your strict standards does not mean that I’m a bad person or that I am horrible.

Just because I say an occasional curse word, or have tattoos or drink alcoholic beverages does not mean that I am any less of a Christian who deserves any more severe of a punishment than any other sinner in this world.

Yes, I’ve made unwise decisions in life. WE ALL HAVE! I’ve not always chosen the best path in life. I’ve not always followed the “prescribed plan” for a Christian. But you know what? Neither have you!

So before you go making judgments about me and my life, take a long hard look at your own heart. Do you look down on someone for being different than you or living a life that is different than you? Do you think you are better than another person because you live a perfect (in your own eyes) life that is fully in line with the Bible?

My boyfriend sent me this text when I told him about the situation, and he summed up pretty quickly my thoughts on this:
“Perhaps you should remind her that Jesus died for everyone’s sins, not just hers. And that Christ was most compassionate to some of the biggest sinners. Christians are supposed to reach a hand out to people “living in sin” not turn their nose. Especially family.”

He hit the nail right on the head! It is not your place or my place to judge the actions or lifestyle of others. Sure, you can have your beliefs and your opinions, but you are not the ultimate judge, God is.

Matthew 7:1-5 (The Message)
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”

Get your own house in order before you start trying to fix other people. Don’t give people advice about how to live their life if you can’t live yours on the straight and narrow.

If you have a problem with me, tell me. If you misunderstand something I have said, ask for clarification. I am only responsible for what I say, not for your interpretation. If I say something perfectly harmless, and you take it the wrong way, that is on YOU. Not me. So if you take offense to what I say, when NO offense was even remotely intended, than you need to look at yourself and deal with your own issues, not project them onto me.

You have made the choice to exclude me from your life. I didn’t make that decision. Instead of talking things out like adults, you have chosen the path of immaturity and insecurity. You have closed the door to reconciliation by removing contact from me. You have made me very well aware of how you are choosing to handle this situation (that I wasn’t fully aware was an actual “situation” but I digress). But also know, that while you have excluded me from your life, you have also chosen to remove my children from your life. Again, this was your choice, not mine. But know this. I will not subject my children to your judgmental attitude and general lack of love to those that are different than you. I will never allow my children to face your spiritual bullying. God loves us just as we are, imperfections included.

And God loves you, despite YOUR sins and imperfections, which you so easily have overlooked in your lifetime. I have peace knowing that I did nothing wrong and am sure of this. I can also have surety and peace in knowing that God loves me. He always has and always will, and I don’t need your approval or blessing to prove that to me otherwise.

Odd Man Out

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Ever feel awkward in your own skin? Feeling odd but you can’t put your finger on it? Like you’re missing something but you have no clue? I feel like this every single day and I’m feeling more and more lost without a map to lead me out! Searching to find my way, my place, my niche’. And I come up empty every single time. Wandering aimlessly through life hoping to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes to me the light isn’t visible. Sometimes the tunnel doesn’t even exist. The train comes barreling down the tracks, unsure of how it’s going to get to the other side.

I don’t fit in. Anywhere. I never really have. Growing up I was always the one that was very outgoing, would talk to anyone, no matter their age, and was overall a very friendly person. Someone who you would imagine had the world on a string and was just full of life and vigor. But I wasn’t.

I was lonely. I was chronically picked on and bullied. I had friends, sure, but never really had a close, personal friend that was my “BFF” to use a very generational term. And this wasn’t how I was just in those “awkward” pre-pubescent years. It was all the time. From kindergarten to present day. I remember getting picked on in kindergarten. I remember my mom having to come to school when I was in 2nd grade to find a way for the kids to stop picking on me. Despite her efforts and the teacher’s efforts, it only got worse.

Summer camp was always a bear. And not to mention it was a CHRISTIAN summer camp. I was still a loner and did my thing. I got along with people, or so I thought, but I still didn’t fit in. I tried, I really did. One year at camp one of the counselors nicknamed me Gabby Abby (hence the name of the blog) because, well, I can talk, a lot. Several of us were making t-shirts in the Arts & Crafts room, and I made one that on the back said “GABBY ABBY”. It was cute and we had our fellow campers sign our shirts. When I went back later that day to pick up the shirt, someone took the paint and painted over the GABBY part of the shirt. My shirt now said “FLABBY ABBY.” I was devastated. Even as an elementary aged child, I was hurt beyond words. Of course, I just laughed it off and painted over it. But I didn’t let them see me crying back in my cabin. No one. No one was going to see me upset by this, because, then they would know they got to me.

Everyone had their cliques in school. In youth group and church, they had their groups they hung out in. I was never in the “popular” crowd. I didn’t play sports. I was a cheerleader, but I think only because they felt bad for me. I didn’t fit in the cheerleading uniform and they had to make one for me specifically. I was the base of the pyramid and had a loud voice, so that was my reasoning why I was on the squad. I wasn’t super spiritual, so I didn’t fit in with the “good kids.” Because I wasn’t the shining star of Christianity, I always seemed to be pushed aside. I never was the girl the guys asked out. I was “one of the guys” so to speak. I had the “cute face” and “great personality.” I was the one the guys went to in order to find out if a certain girl liked them or to find out if they would go out with them.

I was the funny one. I think that some days I still am. My humor was and is my defense mechanism. I would make fun of myself before someone else could. That way, in my warped sense of self, it wouldn’t hurt as much. If I beat someone to the punch line, then it’s not like THEY would be picking on me. And then through that, people “liked” me more because they thought I was funny. Only now do I see that they “liked” me for making fun of myself and it just saved them from having to say the jokes. But if someone beat ME to the punch line, that hurt so bad. It cut like a knife, a very jagged, dull knife.

It’s pretty sad. I have so many memories of my childhood and teen years and growing up. But unfortunately, most of them revolve around the bad things that happened to me. I can remember vividly the bullying. I can remember times and places, situations, even what I was wearing during different instances. But ask me about the fond memories, the happy ones….they are all a hazy, vague memory, one that I’m not sure even really existed.

I don’t fit in when it comes to music. I grew up in a very restricted household. I wasn’t allowed to listen to the radio or buy CD’s or such, so even now, close to 40, there are SO many things I have no idea about, and people just look at me like I have 4 heads. I have a hard time making conversation, with anyone. I say something and then kick myself for being so awkward. I try to keep up with the daily headlines and what’s going on in the world, but I still come across as being ignorant. I’m no akin to the “ways of the world” in so many aspects, and that gets to me.

I don’t fit in when it comes to appearances. I’ve always been the big girl. Even when I look back at school pictures in elementary school, I was never really HUGE, but I was always just a little bit bigger, therefore, I wasn’t like all the other girls, and I was picked on for that. I don’t wear name brand clothes, I don’t FIT into most name brand clothes. I never had the money for expensive, popular clothes. I tried too hard to fit in and ended up looking like a clown at times, I’m sure of it. Even now, as an adult, I don’t buy brand name clothes. I shop thrift stores and bargains and use coupons. I don’t look stylish and don’t have the body type to try.

I see people talking about their big circle of friends and how they did this together, or all their kids had play dates together, or they went out on a girls weekend with their besties. You get the point. And then I look back at my life and realize I don’t have any of that. I see all these people getting married and they have a multitude of bridesmaids and groomsmen, and I think to myself, “Do I even KNOW that many people, let alone LIKE that many people enough for them to stand up for me if I get married?” The answer to that is a resounding no.

I don’t fit in with most of my family. I’m the black sheep of the family….or I’d like to say that I’m the tie-dyed sheep of the family: much more colorful and interesting. But in all reality, I’m not. I grew up in a super religious family. Church since I was 2, went on Sunday morning, Sunday night and youth group on Wednesday nights. I went to the Christian school affiliated with my church. I went and attended Christian college after that. I did everything I was SUPPOSED to do, but still never fit in. I was still getting made fun of. I was still the loner, the odd man out. But no one realized this about me. I hid it well. I still tend to hide it well.

While in Christian college, something very traumatic happened to me, and it changed me at my core, and I can honestly say I’ve never been the same since. In good and bad ways I’ve changed. But, as always, everyone’s idea of good vs. bad is very subjective, and what I believe to be “good” is vile and heinous to other people. And because of certain things that have happened in my life, and certain roads I’ve taken, I again, do not fit in and I’m the “outcast” and have been shunned.

I have tattoos, my nose is pierced, and I drink alcohol on occasion.
I’ve been divorced.
I live with my boyfriend.
I don’t regularly attend church.
I swear sometimes.

So basically, I’M HUMAN! I’m not perfect and I don’t fit all the qualifications of a good Christian human being. So that gives you the right to shun me and keep your distance from me? You’re perfect in your life endeavors and have always done everything according to God’s will? Yeah, what’s that verse in the Bible? John 8:7 “But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” There you go. Please, find the sinless, perfect part of your life to judge me with. So I don’t fit into your mold. If that’s the kind of people you will only allow into your life, then I don’t want any part of it.

It hurts not fitting in. It is painful being the odd man/woman out. It’s a struggle that I face daily, a struggle that slaps me in the face on a continual basis and it stings. It hurts knowing that you have been ostracized from people in your life who you thought would always be there for you. It’s painful to see family members push you aside because of their overwhelming archaic beliefs rather than to love their “enemy.”

I don’t fit in to the popular crowd. I don’t look or play the part of the popular crowd.
I don’t fit in to the religious crowd. I’m too damaged and sinful to play the part of the religious crowd.
I don’t fit in to the trendy crowd. I have no clue what their crowd is all about.
I don’t fit in to the beautiful crowd. Because, well, in so many words, I’m not beautiful enough to play the part of the beautiful crowd.

I guess what it all really comes down to, is this. Do I really WANT to fit in? Well, yes and no. Yes, I want to feel like I’m a part of something. I want to feel that I’m accepted and wanted for who I am and all my eclectic ways. I want to have an overwhelming feeling of love and peaceful interaction from all types of people, similar and different to myself. We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to think alike and be of the same mind. We don’t have to look alike or come from the same background. Life doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately, so many people compartmentalized life and friendships and families into that box. I don’t fit in that box…never have, and God help me, I never will. So in that aspect, not fitting in is probably the best thing for me. Hard in the meanwhile and painful as time passes. But in the end, worth it as my personal identity is not tied to a person or a group or a “type”; my personal identity is exactly that. Personally, ME.

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