Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Moving On...

One of the most surprising things about motherhood, as it turns out, is the loneliness. Like most first-time moms, my pregnancy was filled with many hours of dreaming of what life would be like after giving birth to the precious child God had given to me. I imagined days spent in carefree play, snuggling, feeding, (diaper changing), and living in the best Gerber commercial I had ever seen.

For the most part, I was right. I have to say, life with my baby has been better than I ever could have imagined it being, insofar as our relationship goes. I love my son, he loves me, and we have a great life together.

The one thing I did not anticipate, though, was how lonely motherhood would be, particularly since I am a single mom. Having a baby can be a very isolating event. Friendships change. Some friendships disappear altogether. I experienced both of those events, and neither was easy. Many of my days are spent wishing I had someone to talk to other than my beautiful baby, realizing that the days of carefree socializing are over.

There are times when I feel a lot of sadness over the relationships that have been lost or been changed over the last couple of years, particularly since the birth of my son. I feel so desperately lonely at times, and end up doing ridiculous things like checking Twitter or Facebook endlessly (when I have time to do so), hoping that someone will at least leave a comment for me, helping me feel more connected to the world outside of my apartment.

When I think of where my life is right now, and how I ended up here, it's easy for me to think of my life as an unfortunate derailment of what might have been, if only I had never fallen ill a couple of years ago, then struggled with addiction, then met and married my son's father, and so forth. It is easy for me to look at all of that, then look at where I am now, and think to myself that the current state of my life is just...sad.

It only occurred to me just tonight that perhaps this isn't a sad place to be at all. All of our lives have purpose when we choose for them to have purpose. A person who has been given every advantage in life could still be living a life that is utterly devoid of meaning. Then again, someone who has been kicked around a lot by life, yet still hangs on despite the loneliness and loss, could be living a life of purpose that is far beyond what they can see. We're all left with choices to be made about how we will handle whatever comes to us.

I am not a big believer in the idea that God is in His heaven, connecting all the dots in our lives in order to bring about a predestined outcome. I believe that life happens, and in God's grace, He enables us to infuse those happenings with meaning and purpose. I believe we are faced with the choice of how we will handle what happens to us, what we will do with what we have left after the painful losses we will surely face.

As I think about this, I think about the friendships I have lost over the last couple of years, and realized that many of my friendships were friendships of convenience--both mine and theirs. Those friendships began to change when I became ill and could not go to as many functions as I was once able to, and I saw the impact of those changes after my son was born. Of the friends that remained, a few of them gradually dropped off until only a couple of my friends from my pre-baby days remained.

It's painful, and there are times when I find myself wishing that life had not become so complicated and I could have my social life back. I miss hangin' out with friends, going to movies with them, just sitting around talking about this and that. These days, the only time I get to sit around and talk with an adult is when I'm in the hospital for surgery (which I was a couple of weeks ago), or when Jaden's WIC nurse comes for a home visit. Other than that, adult conversation is sorely lacking in my day to day existence.

I have finally accepted that I will need to develop new relationships that are appropriate for this season of my life. It is going to mean venturing out more, getting to know new people, going in to new places, none of which I am comfortable with. The options, though, are to keep living a lonely life, to have Jaden living a lonely life, since he won't be able to make any friends because we don't "belong" anywhere, and to remain dependent on Facebook and Twitter for social interaction.

Motherhood is lonely, but I'm ready to break out of the lonely. Still liking being a mother, though.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

30 Staples, 10 Days, and One Big Lesson in Humility

By this time Friday night/Saturday morning, I will be able to care for my son completely on my own again, and we can settle back into life as we knew it before my surgery. I mean, the good parts of life as we knew it. The parts about chronic pain from the tennis ball in my gut are parts I am glad we no longer have to deal with.

The good stuff, though...I am really looking forward to getting back to that. I have missed our quiet time together, our night time routines, our snuggle time when he wakes up in the middle of the night and needs a bottle. I've even missed being able to do the more mundane things myself. Bathing him, dressing him, changing his diapers...I am eager to get back to doing all of those "mommy" things that I haven't been able to do for over a week.

I know Jaden misses it, too. I think he's been doing very well in letting other people take care of him, but as I get better and I am able to hold him more, play with him more, and so forth, he clearly prefers that I be the one to give him the care that he needs. I can't deny, it feels good to be both needed and wanted. I am sure that he will miss the people who have been coming into our home for the last week, as he enjoys making new friends. However, I think he will also be glad to have his mom back to full-time mommy duties.

I have learned a few things in this week of humble need. I have learned a lot about the amazing kindness of strangers, particularly when that kindness is going to impact the life of a mother and her child. I have learned that some of the assumptions I made about people based on their particular set of beliefs, the church they attend, or their political affiliations. I have experienced kindness from the most unexpected of places, and I have experienced a chilling silence where I thought I may find more warmth and friendship.

I continue to learn, much as I did when the birth of my son was not met with the loving congratulations from many I once considered friends, that people are fickle. For many, it truly is, "out of sight, out of mind". Regardless of what a person's reasons may be for being "out of sight" (mine, for example, was that I found out I had cancer, needed treatments, treatment made me sick and homebound, etc...), my experience has been that if I am not constantly reminding people of my existence, I am forgotten.

It hurt me deeply when my son was born, and many of the people I still counted among my friends at the time did not visit us in the hospital, call to congratulate me, or even acknowledge that my sweet baby had been born. It was humiliating because, thinking these friends of mine would be excited about the birth of my babe, I had one friend do the calling to make the announcement. I am not sure what kind of a response he received, but I quickly learned that I was delusional about the relationships I had, and whatever friendships may have been there at one time, were now gone. This was my first experience with "out of sight, out of mind", and it was brutal.

So, when I learned I would need surgery, and that recovering from surgery would mean that I could not care for my son without help, I did not anticipate that I would receive a lot of help from my home church. My health had, once again, taken a downward turn after the birth of my son, and my church attendance had been scarce. As the date for my surgery approached, I would occasionally see someone from church at the bank, the grocery store, etc...and I would be asked how much help I needed after surgery. Initially, according to my surgeon, I would need help for six weeks. I was very candid in sharing that I did not have nearly enough help lined up to cover the full six weeks. I was assured repeatedly that people would be calling me to schedule time to help out.

I was skeptical. Maybe it showed. I did not receive any phone calls from those who said they would call. Rather, I received several from people I had never met, who attended churches and/or Bible study groups I had never been to, who were not only willing but happy to help my son and me. One of the primary sources of support came from a group of women at a church I visited once in the summer of 2008, and did not go back to because I was offended by the rough tone of the pastor.

Since that visit, I have become better friends with the woman who first invited me to the church. She and I will never see eye to eye on many things, but one fundamental thing we soundly agree on is the need to show kindness and compassion to people, putting Jesus' love in action. Through her efforts, several other women from her church also came in to help us out, and did so without asking anything of us.

Of particular delight was the woman we had with us today. I was not sure what to expect when my friend told me that this woman wanted to come spend the day with us. I did not give it a lot of thought, but when it did cross my mind, I honestly wondered what sort of conversation may take place throughout the day.

You see, this woman not only attended my friends' church. She was the pastor's wife. In the time since I had visited the church, I was able to see her and her husband at various events throughout the community, and come to realize that they were very loving people. Her husband did have a rough way about him, and my friend often shares with me that his rough way of delivering his message did have a way of giving people the wrong idea about the gentle nature of his heart. Over time, I was able to see that I indeed had the wrong idea about this man and his church.

I had planned on perhaps visiting again, someday. After my son was born and my friend was one of the people who really took the time to visit us and get to know him, I thought I may visit her church again one of these days, and give her pastor another chance. He seemed like a good man, a loving man, despite his rough way of speaking, and I thought I had perhaps judged too harshly. However, life got busy, I got lazy, and "one of these days", never came.

Tragically, the man I had so sorely misjudged was killed in a motorcycle accident this past spring. I would never get the chance to give him another chance.

So, when my friend told me that his wife wanted to spend the day with us, I wasn't entirely comfortable with it. Surely, she did not know my guilty secret. Still, it seemed as though something was coming full circle, and I wasn't sure what to expect.

She was to arrive around noon. About mid-morning, I left my baby in the hands of one of our very capable helpers, and lay down for a nap. I felt sure I would be awake in plenty of time to say goodbye to my morning helper, and greet the afternoon helper that I'd been feeling so anxious about. I fell asleep quickly and easily, and slept until nearly 1 o'clock. My plans to make a good first impression were thwarted.

I opened my bedroom door quietly, expecting to hear my son chattering away. Instead, I heard a lot of quiet. I rounded the corner and saw my sweet baby playing on the floor with his new friend, and she was clearly enjoying their time together. When my son noticed me, he smiled and squealed just a bit, then went back to playing with his friend. She quietly introduced herself, and I could immediately see a gentleness in her that was completely disarming.

The rest of our afternoon was spent playing with my son, and talking quietly about everything from Michelle Duggar's...20th?...pregnancy (how does her body handle it??), to our new friend's understanding of how overwhelming it must be for me as a single mom to get myself and my baby up, fed, and ready for church in time to make it every Sunday. No guilt. No shame. Only compassionate understanding.

It was a very pleasant afternoon, and all of my fears were for naught. I did not share with her what my reasons were for not returning to her church after my initial visit, but I did share with her that my son and I would like to visit after I start feeling stronger. The outpouring of love and compassion we have experienced, from a church I had all but completely written off about a year and a half ago, has been without equal.

Love comes from unexpected places. Healing comes gradually, rarely in one fell swoop. In order to experience these miracles to their fullest, a certain level of humility may be required. Humility, and, perhaps, a surgery that leaves you unable to even care for your own offspring without the generous help of loving strangers.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Home sweet...ah, screw it.

I still have a few days of recovery ahead of me before I can dismiss my nearly 24/7 help, and have my house back. I miss the quiet time that Jaden and I have not been able to have for nearly a week, and I am eager to have our life back. Call me boring, but I like the predictable, business as usual, same-old-same-old kinda life. Jaden and I have our routine, and I like it. I miss it. I want it back.

My mom has been here with us nearly 'round the clock since I got home last Friday evening. It's only been since last Friday, yet it seems so much longer...She and I definitely have different ways of doing things, and there are things that she does that absolutely get under my skin and it is all I can do keep a civil tongue in my head. I am finding that even the small things are getting to me, and Friday (when I will finally be able to pick up my son again) cannot get here soon enough.

For example, as my mom started getting things together for dinner, she says to me, "I'm just gonna throw these out. They're all gunky."

I turned to her just in time to watch her throw away some cubed sweet potatoes I had picked up from the grocery store a couple of days before going into the hospital. On my second day in the hospital, I had called my mother and asked her to eat them or serve them to Jaden, so they didn't go to waste. I didn't think I was making a difficult request, since the potatoes were already cubed and ready to serve, only needing to be heated.

Considering the simplicity of the request, perhaps you can imagine how frustrated I felt as I realized my simple request had been ignored, and the food had spoiled. It's not as though I have a huge grocery budget, either, which made it that much more bothersome.

Then, I recalled that throwing away food...especially fruits and vegetables, which often spoil before being a common practice at my parents' house, and I had perhaps asked too much. It served to put a very fine point on the differences between the way she does things, and the way I do things.

Even writing about it now, I'm frustrated.

I also realized tonight that my chair is broken. I can still use the chair to rock Jaden to sleep, but somehow, the footrest on the chair is now broken, so it is pretty useless for reclining and relaxing in. More frustration.

And this is the part where I start getting frustrated about the "big picture" things, like why I had to have all these health issues to begin with, because it if weren't for these things, my life would be dramatically different and perhaps I would not be so dependent on my mother, with my sanity teetering precariously on the edge. I look at my life, and realize that, apart from any major happenings, Jaden and I will always struggle.

And the pisser is that, whatever we do have, my mom will let spoil and then throw it into the garbage as I watch, and when she's finished with that, she'll break my chair.

Pissy night. Pissy mood.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm home, but still a patient

I arrived home from the hospital around 5:30 yesterday evening. I hobbled into my apartment as quickly as I could, so eager to see my sweet baby. When I walked in, he was sleeping, so after a few minutes of talking with my dear friends who watched him for me, I went in to peek at him. I said hello, and as soon as I did, he began to stir. I ached to pick him up, and he reached for me as he woke up and found his bearings. I still have thirty staples in my belly and strict weight limitations on what I can lift (which he exceeds by about 12 pounds), I called for my mom to come get him. As he woke up, he smiled at me, but did not seem overly excited to see me. It took him a couple of hours to warm up to me again. I think he was upset with me for leaving him for nearly three whole days. I don't blame him.

I am still in a significant amount of pain. This surgery has been considerably more difficult that the last one, perhaps because my body has been through so much since. Radiation therapy, side effects of radiation therapy, pregnancy, childbirth...all of which worked together nicely to weaken my body for this go around with the scalpel. I've had a difficult time staying ahead of the pain, and that became evident quickly while I was in OR recovery. After three doses of IV painkillers, each of which caused my heart rate to drop but did nothing to drop my level of pain, I was put on a pump, allowing me to get the medication myself whenever I needed it (not exceeding a prescribed limit, of course), and only then did my pain level begin to drop.

While in the hospital, I was not able to be nearly as mobile as I was with my last surgery, as each walk hurt terribly. However, I was able to get a lot more rest than I did last time, and that felt wonderful. It was a very pleasant exchange.

My surgery went well, my stay in the hospital was as well as can be expected, and I am glad to be home. I'm counting down the days until I can pick up my little one again...only six to go! I long to snuggle him close and it's all I can do not to pick him up. That is, until I consider the searing pain I would surely experience if I did so, then it becomes easier to wait. Oh, and the possibility of ending up back in the thanks!

Pain meds are kicking in, and it will be back to bed soon.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I've been in need...and then healed...and needy again...then healed...and then nee...Nevermind. You get it.

On Wednesday, I will be having yet another surgery. It's a fairly simple surgery, during which my intestines will be pushed back through a hernia, the hernia will be meshed, and all will be will. Barring any surprise discoveries during surgery, it's really not a big deal. At least, not as far as the procedure itself is concerned.

I have had a lot happen in the last few 2004, I had gastric bypass surgery. In 2007, after going to the ER for a couple of times for some horrible belly pain, a ct scan showed that I had a tumor growing on my left kidney. It had nothing to do with the pain in my belly. That turned out to an internal bowel hernia. A significant one, in fact. Apparently, my entire small bowel had pushed through the hernia, and twisted 180 degrees. The surgeons were impressed!

Okay, so, I had my left kidney taken out, a hernia repaired, and I thought all was well. As it turned out, I had another tumor growing, and this one was causing me quite a lot of pain. So, I needed to go through a round of radiation therapy, which was very difficult to endure. I remember not being able to hold food down, to such a degree that my niece, who was not quite 4 years old at the time, asked me, "Auntie, why do you always throw up after you eat?". How beautifully innocent!

Yes, radiation therapy was tough. I don't know how much it actually helped, because I still have sharp, searing pain where the radiation was done. I also developed colitus as a side effect of the therapy.

I wrapped up radiation therapy in August of 2007, and had several months of recovery ahead of me. In all of this, I had a lot of emotional support, even when I made the most stupid decision of my life, and married a complete asshole of a man (sorry, there just is no other way to say it). I ended up getting pregnant by that man, and leaving him. I have no regrets from making that choice.

I went through my entire pregnancy with the hernia that is being repaired on Wednesday. I had one loop of bowel popped out, easily visible under the surface of my skin, throughout my entire pregnancy. I never had a cute pregnant belly. In fact, when someone touched my belly (why is a pregnant woman's belly considered public property?), they would automatically go for the herniated area, because it was the most apparent. Then they would get an odd expression on their face, recognizing that my belly did not feel like a cute pregnant belly anymore than it looked like one. After the odd expression on their face faded, they would ask ridiculous questions like, "Is the baby kicking? Is that his foot sticking out?" At that point, I would explain in gruesome terms exactly what they had their hand on, and watch as they quickly withdrew their touch. The stranger ones would simply move their hands around on my belly until the found a spot that felt right.

Eventually, I stopped letting people touch me. It's my belly, after all, pregnant or not.

Anyway, despite all of my procedures over the last few years, and many, many trips to the ER, this situation is different. This time, I have a baby.

In addition to preparing myself for Wednesday, I've also had to wonder who is going to take care of my baby for me while I'm in the hospital, and who is going to help me with him when I get home? I won't be able to lift him for six weeks.

Fortunately, a friend of mine is going above and beyond the call of a friend's duty to a friend, and is making sure that I have all the help I need, allowing me to recover in peace. Not only will the women helping me with Jaden be doing all the heavy lifting (Jaden is 22 pounds, and that's a lot to carry around all day), but they will also cook meals to bring with them each time they come over.

I am humbled and amazed as I see the work that is going into making sure everything is taken care of while I am incapacitated. I don't know what I would do without them. My mom and my sister are going to help as much as they can, but they have their own lives to live, too. So, we are all very thankful that these ladies are helping us out.

I am tired of being in a place of need, though. Some people say that God makes things happen in our lives in order to teach us things, and He will keep bringing such situations into our lives until we learn what we need to learn. I don't believe that. We learn from it, or we don't. Perhaps I need to learn to be a good patient, and when I can, be a good caregiver.

I don't know. And now the baby's crying, and I have to go.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Legally Seperated, Divorce Pending

For the last couple of years, I have felt very uncomfortable in the mainstream Christian church. I grew up in an Assembly of God church, where, "God's Word says it, I believe it, That settles it!" was a mantra of sorts, but nobody bothered to question if God's word was saying what we thought it was saying.

The Christianity I grew up with does not make sense to me anymore. It hasn't for a long time, but I am feeling that now more than ever. Perhaps because of ridiculous debates I've engaged in on Facebook, perhaps because it seems that, two years after my initial departure from the church, nothing has changed. The church-at-large has no more compassion or understanding for the world around it than it did two years ago, when I first began to feel that, perhaps, we were missing something by doing things as they have always been done.

"Missing something" is an understatement. The longer I am out of the mainstream, the more I see that there is some truth in what I recently heard a guest on The Rachel Maddow Show say. He wrote a book called "Crazy for God", describing his fundamental right-wing upbringing, his own actions on behalf of the right-wing agenda, and his eventual departure from it. This man said something along the lines of, "There is a village idiot in America, and it is the fundamental Christian church. They talk about being left behind. They have been left behind, by educational, technology, art, and science. So while they stand at the hillside and wait for the rapture, the rest of us are going to get on with our lives."

Harsh words, to be sure. I would not have phrased it in such terminology myself. Still, it does reflect some of what I am feeling as I try...oh, how I've get back into the...habit?...of going to church. Habit. Like smoking. Or checking and re-checking to make sure I've definitely got my keys when I leave the house. Or checking Twitter or Facebook a bizillion times a day, looking for conversation outside of what I have with my 9 month old son. Honestly, going to church feels a lot like any one of these habits. I don't smoke anymore, and don't want to take it up again. Sadly, I feel the same way about church.

Why is this? Simply put, it's because my time away from church has allowed me to explore points of view other than what I grew up with, and it has given me reason to question mainstream Christianity to such a degree that I honestly am not sure I can be a part of it anymore.

My points of view on other religions has changed. My points of view on homosexuality has changed. My points of view on how Christians have conducted themselves in the public arena has changed significantly, to the degree that I do not want to be associated with it.

Yet, as I write this with such tremendous conviction, I also write it with a lot of sadness and confusion. My parents are still part of the brand of Christianity I grew up with, and I am not sure where to draw the line with them insofar as what they discuss with my son. I have friends who are still part of that brand of Christianity, and I am not sure how to relate to them in a real and honest way, without offending them or appearing to challenge their heart for people.

Some of the conflict comes from the ridiculous debates regarding some hot button topics, and I see what I consider to be an abundance of ignorance, blatant attempts to twist my words to make me appear as though I support things that I most definitely do not, and so on. I need to stop engaging in such debates, but it is beyond my ability to fathom how people can behave and believe so horridly, and still claim that they are emulating Christ.

Another factor is that I am seeing a tremendous outpouring of love from another group of Christians, and I am humbled. These Christians hold beliefs that certainly are not mine, I do not even go to their church, yet they are doing something amazing for me and my son.

I am getting surgery this Wednesday that is going to require me to stay in the hospital for at least a couple of days, and will leave me unable to lift my son for about six weeks. Obviously, I am going to need some help. A friend of mine, who attends a fundamentalist church, did not hesitate to tell those at her church about my need, and they are making sure that I have the help I need. They are not asking anything of me, in the way of attending their church, asking me what I believe about this or that, etc. They are simply meeting a need, doing so out of love. I see Jesus in that.

So, I am torn. While I do not want to raise my son in an environment that would immerse him in the same toxins I grew up with, I cannot keep us hidden away from everyone else, either. I am kinda thinkin' we should be around other people, yet something in me bristles at the thought of him being indoctrinated as I was. My parents meant well, but I grew up hating church and all it stood for. I don't want that for my son.

What to do...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

We Need Each Other

(I first wrote this two years ago, and it was published in Christian Family Health. Unfortunately, it was published under the wrong name. In the Men's Health section... See blog entry "I Was Published...Sort of". The John Winthrop quote is newly added.)

We must delight in each other, make other's conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body.
-John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1630

It is amazing how one day can change everything. One day, life seems to be going well. It seems that life could not be any better, and everything you have worked for is in the palm of your hand. One day, you have the life you wanted, the life you hoped for, and it seems that nothing can take that away from you.

Sure, you realize that all sorts of things could potentially alter your reality. Still, you believe those are the things that happen to other people, and your life is safe. You never imagine that it is your life that is about to be turned upside down. You never think that you are the one who is about to go through something that is going to try you to your very core, and you are just going to hope you come out of it on your feet.

In April of 2007, I experienced just such a reality. After experiencing a series of unrelated symptoms, it was learned that I had renal carcinoid cancer. Due to other health problems, I would require surgery very shortly after my diagnosis.

As quickly as the diagnosis came, my world as I knew it fell apart. It was not the diagnosis of cancer that so disturbed me. There is a long history of cancer in my family, so the diagnosis did not come as any surprise to me. The reality that my whole life, the life that I had worked so hard for, was slipping through my fingers was the reality that hit me the hardest.

You see, before all of this...the hospital, the cancer, the surgery, the recovery...I had experienced many other heartaches and losses in my life. These were losses that challenged me over and over again to rise above the despair and live a full life.

It took every ounce of strength and determination I had to build a life for myself, and now, all of that was being swept away. I had no financial means to fall back on to see me through the recovery period. Everything I knew was about to change.

It was through this experience that I began to realize the importance and vitality of community. None of us belong wholly to ourselves. We are made to need God, and we are made to need each other. This became more real to me than ever before as the season of pain began to unfold in my life.

Throughout the months of recovery, I began to receive bills from the wonderful medical professionals who had helped save my life. While I had received donations of cash, gift cards, and so forth along the way, none of it was enough to meet my basic needs and pay my bills at the same time. I appreciated the help I was given, but I knew that more needed to be done.

We hear a lot of talk about community. We are encouraged to get involved in the communities we live in by doing volunteer work, attending high school events, becoming part of Rotary or Lions clubs. There are online communities such as MySpace and Facebook, allowing common bonds to be formed between people who may never actually meet face to face. We are encouraged to be part of this thing called community, but really, what’s the big deal? Why is community important?

As my journey continues, I continue to learn why community is so important.

As the bills started coming in, I realized I had no way to pay these bills. I could not ask my family for money. I had applied for assistance from the government, but was informed that it would take several months to reach a decision on my case, and I could not expect any funds anytime soon. Something had to happen, and fast. The bills were piling up.

I shared all of this with my community at Antioch Church, and no sooner was the need expressed than a plan of action began falling into place. Within two weeks of first mentioning the need to raise funds, the strategy and supplies were in place, along with people to move the operation forward. Coffee cans bearing my picture and a synopsis of my story began appearing in businesses around Elk Rapids, Bellaire, Rapid City, and Eastport.

We were about to be amazed by what God would do through a small community of believers who came together with a purpose. Within a few days of placing the first cans in Elk Rapids, about three hundred dollars had been raised. After placing the coffee cans around Bellaire, about four hundred dollars more would be raised. With the cans in Rapid City and Eastport, nearly $1000 dollars would be raised to put toward my bills.

That may not seem like a lot of money in light of what medical care costs these days. However, the truly amazing part is what God did beyond our efforts. It was as though God was waiting for us to come together as a community with purpose, and then He would move in ways that would surprise us all.

Within a week of placing the cans in Bellaire, I received a phone call from my caseworker at Michigan Department of Human Services, informing me that I would begin receiving Medicaid, and that the Medicaid would be made retroactive to June. This meant that the majority of my medical bills would be taken care of by the state, so the money raised from the coffee cans would be ample to cover whatever bills were left over.
Beyond this, I was also informed that I was deemed disabled, and would be receiving a retroactive check within the next couple of weeks, as well as monthly checks beginning in October. This came as a surprise, because I had been informed at the time of my application that a decision may not be made until October or November. Imagine my relief when the decision came so quickly. I knew it was something only God could do. God had clearly given me favor with the decision makers handling my case, and brought a quick resolution.

Just as my community shared my pain, they also shared my joy at this turn of events. I decided that no further fundraising efforts needed to be done at this time, as God has more than provided for my needs. God took the small effort of our little community, and multiplied it above and beyond what we were expecting.

As this season in my life continues, I continue to understand why God made us to live in community with each other. There are days when my thoughts are dark, my heart is sad, and I do not understand what all the suffering is for. There are days when life seems bleak, and I do not know if I can continue on, or if I even want to. It is in those moments that God reminds me that I do not belong wholly to myself. I belong to Him, and I belong to the community He has placed me in.
It is in this community that I can find hope when I feel that all hope is lost. Through this community, I find strength when my own strength has failed. We are made to need each other. All of life’s ups and downs are a shared experience, and when we cannot see the way clearly, God gives us a brother or a sister who can see for us. God speaks and moves through community in a way that He doesn’t often do when we are trying to fly solo.

I watch my three year old niece, and I see that she has a strong sense of what it means to belong in a community. She could not imagine life without her friends from daycare and preschool, or her family. She knows she does not belong wholly to herself, and she looks at the world around her with eyes that can see the miracle of the everyday.

When we are young, we do that. We can look at the world, and see the miracle of the sunrise every morning, the beauty of the rainfall, and we know with certainty that there is something of the eternal in those we love. We can feel God speaking to us through the world He created for us.
As we get older, we lose that sense of awe and wonder. Instead of being a source of delight, the world we live in becomes something to be analyzed, questioned, evaluated for purpose, etc. We begin to intellectualize even the most miraculous of events, whittling them down to text book cases of the unremarkable. We look at those around us, and cannot see the miracle of who Jesus is in them. We may see their shortcomings, we may see the things about them that irritate us or prevent us from achieving our own goals or desires, but we rarely see the miracle of who God is making them to be.

I am learning that it is in community with others that I can regain that sense of awe. The world seems a little sweeter when I can share it with others. People seem more beautiful, and I can watch in amazement as Jesus reveals more of Himself through my interactions with others. We are all getting through this life the best way we know how, and being in community with each other makes the burden a little lighter to carry. We can see God’s grace in each other as He expresses Himself through us.

In this season of my life, I am learning a lot about God’s grace expressed through others. God never promised us an easy road; He only promised we would never walk that road alone. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us, and part of His presence in my life rests in those in my community. It is through these vessels of grace, in this community of grace, that I see His hand move.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


So, I was watching Dr. Phil today, and in the beginning of the show, they made a big deal about a family announcement they needed to make. It was determined that this family announcement was so huge that it required the presence of the whole McGraw family (Dr. Phil, Robin, their sons, and daughter-in-law), and I thought perhaps the rumors were true, and they were going to announce that their divorce proceedings had begun.

I was wrong. In one sense, I was relieved. If Dr. Phil and Robin can't make it, nobody can.

No, there was no divorce in store for Dr. Phil and Robin. Rather, his son, Jay, and his son's wife (my apologies, I do not recall her name) are expecting their first baby. This, of course, was cause for pride and celebration within the McGraw family, and it was something they wanted to share with the viewers.

Dr. Phil asked Jay to explain how they found out. I don't recall all of the details, but Jay's wife said that they had been on vacation in France and she had not been feeling well. She had been feeling nauseated, very tired, somewhat bloated, etc. She told her husband they needed to get a pregnancy test, and they both went walking all through town from store to store, desperately searching for what they needed in order to explain her fatigue and nausea.

I felt sad as I watched this, as memories of my own "pregnancy discovery" played in my mind. In the days before my pregnancy test confirmed what I already suspected, my home had been one of tension, and explosive anger on the part of my husband...not the blissful expectation described by the McGraw family.

I had been feeling sick for a long time, not having a day of feeling completely well since cancer treatments, surgery, numerous trips to the ER, and so forth, had been the highlight events during the last two years. However, now I was feeling more sick than usual, so when I received a phone call telling me that the ct scans my oncologist ordered showed there was something small growing in my uterus, I was not aglow with dreamy anticipation of motherhood. Rather, I was a little terrified, and wanted to know what that small thing was.

By the time the phone call came, I had figured out that my marriage was an abysmal failure. I was terrified of my husband, and rarely spoke to him unless I needed to, finding that even the most innocuous of things could set off a verbal tyrade. While my husband never raised a hand to me, the mental and emotional abuse he doled out was brutal, and he never let me forget that he was more than capable of killing me with one hit. Where he was once compassionate regarding my health issues, he made it a habit to verbally tear me apart for having health issues, calling me a drug addict because I needed medication to manage pain. By the time the small something had been found in my uterus, I did not feel safe sleeping in my own bed, and used over the counter medicine to help me sleep. My fear was so great, however, that I rarely slept even with that help. By the time the mass in my uterus showed up on the ct scan, I was afraid to breathe, lest I do it incorrectly. Raising a child with the monster I was married to was the furthest thing from my mind when I thought about our future together.

So, when the mass in my uterus showed up on the ct scan, I closed further and further into myself. Emotionally, I curled into a ball so I could contemplate all the implications of that mass, absorbing the emotional blows he dealt in the least damaging way possible.

As usual, he was angry with me for talking so little. In his anger, he sought to hurt me as deeply as he could, sharing with me many stories about an ex-girlfriend that he wished he could have worked things out with so they could still be together. He even shared with me about stories about his ex-wife, never failing to remind me that she was an excellent cook, had her masters degree, had a high paying job...all of which were the precise opposite of what I had to offer. He told me repeatedly that I am a lazy cook, I should be going to college (even though he didn't, and won't), and I should be making more money (even though I brought more money into the home than he did). In the days before my pregnancy test, I was terrified...terrified of raising a child with this monster I had so foolishly married.

Back to the McGraw's...When Jay's wife took the pregnancy test and it was positive, they took a sweet picture of the two of them smiling with pure exhileration, and holding up the pregnancy test. This was a truly happy moment that they both shared.

When I told my husband I wanted to take a pregnancy test, he laughed a smug laugh and told me I was pregnant. I told him I wanted to take a test, and he told me we couldn't afford to buy one. He came home the next day with beer and whisky, but we still couldn't afford a pregnancy test. My mom told me about a place that would give me a free pregnancy test, and I called my husband at work and told him that we could go on his lunch break. (I had my own car, but he made a habit of making up excuses why he couldn't drive his, and he needed to have mine. He would give it back to me when it was out of gas and I couldn't go anywhere, which was the case on this occasion.)

He told me we couldn't go, because he hadn't been planning on doing it and didn't bring a lunch. Then he said, "What's the rush? It's not like it's going anywhere."


A couple of days later, he grudingly gave me money for the test. When I took the test and it came back positive, his response wasn't thrill or even the least bit of excitement. It was simply, "Good. Can I have my wife back now?"

I did go to the pregnancy care center to do another test, and of course, it was positive. I remember feeling devastated. The counselor talked with me a bit, asking me if my husband was happy about the baby. I said he was. Shame on me for lying.

I left him about two weeks later, and never went back.

Since then, it's been difficult for me to watch other couples happily celebrate bringing their child into the world. In fact, a friend of mine announced that he and his wife were expecting a baby, shortly before my son was born. On Facebook, they often posted sweet little things to each other, and it was so difficult for me to watch, I had to block the posts. It was so incredibly painful to see how things should have been, and then remember the hell I lived with.

I wonder if healing will ever come. I wonder if I will ever be able to look at happy couples without feeling jealous of their happiness. I wonder if I will ever be able to see a couple preparing to welcome their child into the world, without wondering why the hell I ended up with a man like my ex-husband, who didn't love me, and surely would not have loved our child. Even as I write about this now, I feel the tears ready to flow. I was not with my ex-husband very long. Our whole relationship, start to finish, was just over three months. I was a foolishly hopeful romantic when I met and, shortly thereafter, married my husband. Our marriage only lasted two months and one day before I left. Not long enough to build a lifetime of memories, thankfully. Still, the pain of broken dreams runs deep, and I wonder if the pain will ever stop.

There are many days when I feel the weight of being a single mother. I do not miss my ex-husband, and wouldn't invite him back into our lives for anything. Still, being a single mother is incredibly difficult, and there are many days when I wish I was not doing this alone. We weren't meant to raise our kids by ourselves. If nothing else, having someone doing this with me would mean that my entire day is not dominated by singing baby songs.

Perhaps I am feeling all of this so keenly because of the other circumstances in my life. With surgery coming up next week, I am working with my mom to coordinate care for Jaden while I am in the hospital, and to coordinate care for both of us after I come home. I won't be able to lift him for several weeks, which means I am going to need help with everything.

I feel angry as I think about it, because none of this would be happening if I had been more selective in my choice of a mate. Then again, had I chosen someone else, I might not have Jaden. Of course, I wouldn't know the difference, so that's a poor argument for justifying my ex's intrusion into my life.

Anyway, since my ex was part of my life, I feel angry that his response to my admission that I am terrified of him was, "Grow the fuck up and deal with it, or leave. I'm not going to change." While I appreciated his honesty, I often feel so angry that he made such a selfish choice.

I don't miss him. I just really hate this single mom gig, sometiemes. If I had someone doing this with me, I wouldn't have to find volunteers to take care of my son for me after surgery. If I wasn't doing this alone, we could probably get away with a couple of people bringing us a casserole now and then. I feel angry and cheated, and I want to stomp my feet like a four year old and yell that it's just not fair!

It is times like this that cause me to feel the depth of the loss that took place, not in losing my abusive husband, but in losing the dreams I used to have of living my life with someone who loved me, who would love our children, and who would work in partnership with me to give our family the best life we could possibly have. As it is, I am exhausted, and sometimes the best I can give my son is just to get the basics done during the day.

I hate days when I have strong flashbacks, like I've had all day today. I was supposed to go to Divorce Care tonight, but I was not feeling well physically, so I stayed home with my baby. I enjoyed the time with him, as I always do. Still, despite the joy, there is always that shadowy spectre of loss that hangs around in the back drop of my life, threatening to make its presence known during my most vulnerable moments.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Funny Jesus Pictures

Everytime Jesus looks in the mirror, He is reminded that He is watching Himself, so He should always consider what He would do in any given situation. Then, He gets confused and blacks out all the mirrors.

I love a Lord with a sense of humor!

Hey, lookin' good!


This came from Rob Bell, via Twitter:

Blessed are those who don't have it all together.

Blessed are those who have run out of strength, ideas, will power, resolve, or energy.

Blessed are those who ache because of how severely out of whack the world is.

Blessed are those who stumble, trip, and fall in the same place again and again.

Blessed are those who on a regular basis have a dark day in which despair seems to be a step behind them wherever they go.

Blessed are you, for God is with you, God is on your side, God meets you in that place.

The gospel is the counterintuitive, joyous, exuberant news that Jesus brought the unending, limitless, stunning love of God to even us.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


This is from my Facebook page, but the overall ideas still apply:

As some of you may have noticed, I have some very strong opinions on some things that are happening in our country right now. There are decisions being made that are going to greatly impact all of us, no matter how Congress ultimately decides to proceed. We are dealing with things right now that should have been dealt with a long time ago, and there are strong opinions on both sides of these debates regarding what needs to be done.

I often post things that I know will ignite discussion, because I think we need to have a dialogue about these things and really examine why we think what we think, and if we are thinking for ourselves or letting someone else do our thinking for us.

I have one friend in particular that often debates with me about these subjects. We are each coming at things from very different places. I am decidedly more liberal than I was even one or two years ago, and abandoned portions of my conservative upbringing a long time ago. My friend is more conservative...much more...than I am, and approaches world issues from that perspective.

If you have ever read the "conversations" we have about these issues, each of us is passionate about our opinions of the matter at hand, and each of us presents what we believe are valid reasons for believing as we do. Our convictions are strong, and neither of us wavers much as our conversations go on.

These conversations can become heated, more often than not because it is so hard to judge the intention of someone's words simply by reading them. Also, as the conversations develop and it's clear that neither of us is budging, I think it's easy to pull out all the stops and give the most heavy hitting arguments for our positions, perhaps hoping to punch a gaping hole in the other's rationale.

Sometimes, even after the conversations have wrapped, I feel frustrated just reading the threads!

As I read them, though, I find something else. When each of us had made our case, and had time to simmer down and really attempt to understand the other's point of view, the one thing that becomes clear is that we're both working on reaching the same goal. While we may not agree at all about the methodology, the outcome each of us hopes for is to make the world a better place to be in by showing people love, unconditionally. We are both mothers who love our children and want to make the world the best place it can possibly be for them. We each understand that there is a world of people who are hurting and in need, and while we can't seem to agree on precisely how to handle that, we both understand that something has to be done. People cannot be left to suffer.

I also notice that we don't resort to tactics often used by the political pundits on several media outlets, which is to call names, condescend to those on the other side of the debate, and mock those whose ideas oppose our own. Our conversations remain respectful, with a sincere desire to understand the opposing view, even if we don't agree with it.

(Before anyone says it, yes, I do enjoy watching those pundits. I just think those tactics are best left for television or radio, as a form of entertainment of sorts.)

This makes me wonder what would happen if we, collectively, could put aside our political differences, religious differences, personal differences, and so forth, how much more could we accomplish to alleviate the suffering in the world around us? Whether we are looking at the immediate world around us, in our own home towns, or looking across the ocean to places in Africa, Indonesia, etc...people are hurting. People are dying when they could survive if they could get the help they needed. Women and children are being targeted for assault and exploitation to a degree we've never seen before. If we could put aside all the crap that divides us, what could we accomplish?

Perhaps that's idealistic. Maybe not, though. We don't have to change the whole world, just our own neighborhoods. We can manage that.

Thanks, Maurine, for helping me to see that the answers don't lie in an "us and them" mentality, but in the understanding that we're all in this together. We have to coexist, no matter what our differences are, so we may as well find a way to do it peacefully and productively. Our conversations get fiery and feisty, but have given me a lot of insight. Thanks!

Elizabeth Esther's Saturday Evening Blog Post, Vol. 2

Elizabeth Esther ( has a great idea to encourage the readers of her blog to share their own blogs: Pick one post from your blog, and post a link to it for other readers. This gives us all an opporutunity to learn more about each other, and to invite others to our blog by picking one of our favorite posts to demonstrate our flash blogging skills. :)

I chose the post "The Success of Failure". This post was written out of a bit of pain, and the struggle to see my life not as a series of failures, but as a series of life saying to me, "No, this isn't where you are supposed to be, so I'm closing this door so you are free to explore other things."

Hmm...Adopting that kind of logic is easier said than done, when we live in a world that doesn't like to admit that the road we traveled turned out to be the wrong road. We don't like to call it an inviitation to try a different road. We like to call it failure.

Which is interesting, because our society has come to value science so highly that we almost refuse to believe anything that doesn't have some sort of scientfic support. In science, if an experiement fails, the scientists don't look at it as an abysmal failure. They see it as an indication that they need to try something else in order to achieve the result they are looking for. Furthermore, they look at the outcome of the "failed" experiment, glean from it what they can in terms of new information, and take another go at things utilizing what they learned from the "failed" experiment.

Yet, in life, in our science-dependent culture, we see our failures as a reason to crumple into a self-loathing heap and sulk for awhile. Could you imagine if the scientists who were working on effective cancer treatments would have done that? "Well, we didn't achieve the results we were hoping for. We're useless. Stupid. Probably too stupid to every get this figured out. We were so foolish to think we could ever do this..."

Seems silly, doesn't it? Yet, this is what I...and many, many when we encounter a failure in our lives.

So, let's stop calling it failure. Let's call it...well, I have no succinct term for it, but let's think of it as an experiment that didn't yield the results we were hoping for, but taught us a lot about where we need to go from here.


My conservative friend and I wrapped up our latest Facebook debate today, concluding that we are each passionate about our own positions, neither one of us is entirely understanding each other's point of view, and we have rehashed it over and over again and it's time to let it go.

By the way, this debate was in regard to the Christians who were "witnessing" to the Muslims who had gathered in Washington D.C. for a day of prayer and unity, with the purpose being to express the beauty and diversity of Islam in the United States. It was a peaceful gathering, which brought approximately 3,000 Muslims to our nation's capitol.

It also brought out several Christians who carried signs that urged th Muslims to repent, turn to Jesus, and so on. At one point, the Christians were praying so loudly that they were asked to quiet down so the Muslim's prayer service could continue without distraction.

You can read the whole story here: Muslims Gather at Capitol for a Day of Prayer and Unity.

I thought the Christians were out of line for being there at all, and "witnessing" at such a gathering was completely inappropriate. In my opinion, it was disrespectful of the Muslim's beliefs and traditions, and was abolutely boorish. I argued that Christians are notorious for such actions, and that is why we have the reputation we do in the media of being disprespectful, pushy with our beliefs, uneducated, lacking in savvy and decorum in how we relate to the world around one guest on the Rachel Maddow Show recently said, in the eyes of the world, "there is a village idiot in the United States, and it is the Christian fundamentalists."

I am not comfortable with Christians having this reputation in the eyes of the world, but I do not buy the opinion of ClusterFox News and its die-hard fans that says there is "an elite liberal media" that is biased against Christians, and intentionally portray us in a bad light. I think the reality is that we portray ourselves that way, and the media just films it.

Her argument was that the Christians were fulfilling Jesus' commandment to preach the gospel, and they were there to show the love of Jesus by telling the Muslims about their need for salvation. She argued that since they had gathered in a public place, it was not an issue that the Christians also chose to be there, with their signs and verbal shouts of "repent!" and so on. She said that the reason it was offensive to people is not because the behavior is wrong, but because they are resisting salvation.

Our dialogue on the issue went back and forth for two days, becoming rather heated at times, and finally ending with an impasse of ideologies.

To be honest, I was upset with the way the conversation ended. We were civil to each other, and mutually concluded that it was time to wrap it up. However, I was upset because I did not understand who someone could completely miss my point, and defend the tactics used by the conservative Christians during the event in D.C., and many other events that also portrayed Christians in such a poor light. I did not see how someone could be so foolish in believing that those tactics had any merit at all.

So, our dialogue ended this morning, and now that I've had some time to simmer down and see the heart of her convictions, I can see that her intentions are pure, and she has a heart that loves the world. Her expression of that doesn't look like mine, not even a little bit, but that doesn't change its sincerity.

We are all so much more alike than we are different. If we could listen to each other and find that common ground, imagine how much more we could accomplish in trying to make the world a better place.

I will never be one to carry a sign reading "REPENT" or anything of the sort, believing that someone reading will see the love of Jesus in my sign, or hear it in my shouts of "YOU'RE ON YOUR WAY TO HELL! TURN OR BURN!", and so on. It will always be difficult for me to be understanding and tolerant of Christians who choose to use that sort of tactic to demonstrate the love of Jesus to the world. I do not see love in it, so I don't understand the logic behind it. The conservative Christian movement that is going on in the United States right now is making all followers of Christ look foolish, and I tend to distance myself from it as much as possible.

That said, I think we are all coming from a place of wanting to make the world around us a better place, and we are each finding our own way of doing that. It won't look the same, nor should it. God created an amazing diversity among people. We each understand God in our own unique way, therefore we each have a different belief on what our expression of him should look like. It is not my place to pass judment on those who do not do things the way I think they need to be done.

In order to maintain peace, the divine in me must recognize and honor the divine in them, trusting that God--the Divine from whom we both seek guidance and whom we both seek to honor--will raise the banner of love and truth, no matter how much we may mess up the delivery of the message.

Friday, October 02, 2009

A little somethin' I wrote...

I wrote this article, published in the online magazine, MomStyle News. I hope you enjoy it: They Don't Tell You This in the Books

Whosoever, My Transforming Faith, and This Very Long Blog Post

I was raised in a politically conservative but spiritually charismatic church. Three times a week, my family and I attended an Assembly of God church that dealt harshly with sin, encouraged everyone to pass out tracts to everyone they saw so we could hopefully lead them to Christ through the artistry and imagery of the ubiquitous Chick Tract. The youth of the church participated in events that allowed us to pass out tracts to hundreds of people throughout the day, and attempt to mask our dismay when we found those same tracts in the gutters or in the garbage bins hours later. Our church had a mime team, as every good church did at the time. Our church rallied against the "gay agenda", showing videos of gay pride parades that featured the most lascivious acts displayed in the parade, claiming these things were an example of what every gay person in America wanted the right to do at any place, any time, with anyone--gay or not--and we had to put a stop to it before they corrupted our children, and possibly ourselves.

Our church rallied against abortion, referring to it as murder, calling the women and doctors who did it "murderers" and "killers". Our church passed out little plastic babies that represented an 8 week old unborn baby, along with a fact sheet about the development of that baby. For the record, I am pro-life, but I do not think protesting outside of abortion clinics is the way to give women in difficult situations hope that they have viable options available to them that do not include abortion.

Anyway, my point is that I grew up in a very conservative church, and grew up believing that the only political party that could do anything right was the Republican party, and the only people who knew what was right for the world were Christians, and it was our job to persuade everyone around us to be like us so we could make the world a holier place.

As I grew up, certain parts of my belief system didn't fit well anymore, but I still carried them around with me like they were old clothes I didn't like and never wore anymore, but couldn't get rid of, just in case I wanted to wear them again someday.

Over the last couple of years, my faith has gone through a transformation. Many events in my life lead to this, including cancer, addiction, a horrible marriage, a seperation from my abusive husband. Consequently, I had to go through my pregnancy alone and rather terrified that he would surface in my life when I gave birth to the child he threatened to take from me. I divorced my husband, and he never contested it or my request for sole custody of my son. Our divorce was finalized in March of this year. Now, I am a single mother, learning all the ups and downs of raising a child alone. I have not seen my husband in a year and a half, and he's never met my son.

In all of this, I have had to evaluate the faith I grew up with, and the God I thought I knew. I grew up believing that God really didn't like me all that much, and if I didn't do exactly as He said, when He said it, then I was toast. When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I thought of all the things I had done that more than likely upset God, and this was His way of letting me know. I was further convinced of this when my illness left me unable to work, thus unable to afford my apartment, therefore requiring me to move in with my family. Again.

As bad became worse, I was ever more convinced that there must have been something horrible in my heart that God needed to change, and the only way He could do that was to put me through this bit of hell on earth. I even told people that I believed He had to tear me down so He could rebuild me as He needed me to be. Sadly, people were inspired by this. I'm not sure what they were inspired to do, but they told me they were inspired.

At any rate, during all of this, I began to explore other ideas on faith through writers who were definitely not going to be on the Assembly of God's "required reading" list, but who were decidedly Christian. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller was the first book I read, after which I thought, "Hmm. So, I am not the only one wondering how faith is relevant and where it fits in this world. Cool."

After that came Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. After I read this book, I thought that it was a pretty novel idea to tell people that maybe, up to this point, their image of God was all wrong, and God wasn't angry and hateful toward us...He actually loved us. Not the obligatory love that He has to have because He's God and He made us, so He has to love us. No, the kind of love you have for your friends. Your best friends. Your closest, most intimate friends. He loves you like that. And, He likes you, too.

Wow. This was new information.

Somewhere along the line, I started reading Anne Lamott's books. I adored her honesty about her insecurities about herself, her faith, her relationships...I felt as though I was reading my own journals. She had a sense of humor that was, at times, irreverant but still very much on point. She possesses a healthy mix of cynicism and wonder at the world God has given us.

My friend, Craig, often told me that she reminded him of me. It was a sort of foreshadowing, I think. Like Anne, I would give birth to a son, without the benefit of having a partner to raise that son with. She was 35, I believe, when Sam was born. I was 33 when Jaden was born. One of the first books recommended to me after he was born was Anne's book Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year. As I read the book, I once again identified with the sentiments, experiences, feelings, and realities of being a single mom experiencing the amazing joy of my son's first year of life. I laughed and cried, and, for the first time in my life, felt the twin fears of something happening to my son that would leave me alone in the world, or something happening to me that could possibly leave him in his father's custody. Nothing in this world terrifies me more than those two things, particularly the idea of my sweet son being subjected to his father's abuse if I were not here to protect him.

But, I digress.

The common thread among all of these authors is that these people have an undoubtedly strong relationship with Christ, but are not confined to the list of rules, fears, and self-loathing-driven kind of faith I had grown up with. These people had tapped into something that I think had been missing in my faith. They had tapped into one thing that I had never been told as I grew up: Love wins.

Surprisingly, this is an idea that people in the mainstream Christian church seem to fear. There aren't enough rules. There aren't enough threats. It is too permissive and liberal to say that the key ingredient in our relationship with God, and in our relationship with the world around us, is love. Not judgment. Not the arrogant belief that we were right and had to make everyone else believe as we do, and if they didn't agree with us it is because they hate us and want to control us with their own evil agenda. Not rules. Not signs protesting gay marriage, abortion, the use of "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas", etc.


Now, among all of the authors mentioned, their interpretation of it looks a bit different, and their beliefs certainly do not meet at certain points. Still, the one common theme I found in all of their books was that God loves us unconditionally, and we need to love others the same way. No matter what race, creed, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, we needed to show love.

Why is this part of the Bible so easily forgotten, in favor of the more regimental teachings of Paul?

As my faith has morphed, so have my politial beliefs. I have been reading a lot more of what "the elite liberal media" has to say about things, and I have to tell you...the way Christians have chosen to relate to the world is not making a good impression. Now, Christians will say that this is because we talk about Jesus, and for those who do not know Jesus and are rebelling against Him, our message seems foolish and it is going to ruffle feathers.

No. I'm sorry, but no. The truth is that the way Christians have chosen to relate to the world has been very condescending, at times hateful, not very loving, rather judgmental, and, far too often, just stupid looking.

That is why we look like fools in the media. It's not a liberal conspiracy.

Anyway, tonight, I was clicking around through political stories, and I saw something that intrigued me. I don't remember the headline, but it referred to an online community for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Christians. Always interested in reading different points of view, I visited the site.

It's a beautiful site called Whosoever. The theme throughout the site was that, despite the hate and marginalization these people received, they must always respond with the love that Christ demonstrated to those who persecuted them. No matter what opposition they were met with as they lived their lives, as Christians, they must always respond with love.

I was intrigued, and wanted to read their thoughts on what the Bible says about homosexuality. For a long time, I have had a difficult time reconciling the unconditional love of God with the alleged hate He has reserved for homosexual behavior, so disgusted by it that He would turn them over to a depraved mind and physical destruction through disease. That never made sense to me. I never understood why God would condemn someone for living out a life that they believe they were born into. With as much as homosexuals suffer within our society, I always thought it was silly to say someone "chooses" to be gay. Why would someone choose to be part of the most marginalized, hated, violently opposed, mocked segment of our society? WHO WOULD CHOOSE THAT???

So, I was especially interested in reading some of the letters from readers, particularly one that asked for an explanation of the passages in Leviticus that seemed to condemn homosexuality. The letter was answered by a reverend who had extensive knowledge of Biblical history, context, language, etc. Here is the letter, and the response.

Rev. Turner:

I do not by any means claim to be a scholar when it comes to the Bible. I fell upon this Web site while I was trying to learn more about the Bible.

I come to you to pose a question, not to arouse an argument. I was very curious to understand your point of view on the law of sexual morality that states, "A man should not lie with a man as he lies with a woman. It is an abomination." Leviticus 18:22.

Now, again, I do not claim to understand the true meaning of this, but it sounds pretty clearly to be in regard to homosexuality. This is in the same passage that states man should not sleep with animals or their daughters, not that I am comparing homosexuality to pedophiles, but I am really wondering if I should. The language in the Bible does not become bold or harsh when discussing children or animals, and it does not become meek when discussing homosexuality.

I would really love to have a response back from you. I would really like to have a complete understanding of the Bible and as a pastor, you certainly do have much more knowledge on the subject. Please respond. Again, this email is not to insult, just to understand.

Thanks for your time,


Dear Brandy,

I do not take your questions as an insult, as it seems to me you are trying very hard to understand the issues. My dear child of God, let me give you a several of answers from writings, notes, teachings and my own thoughts over the years of ministry.

In Leviticus 18:22 it is written: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." (NIV) That in face does seem very clear. But look at the surrounding context, and something else comes to light in this verse. Leviticus 18:6-18 deals with having sexual relations with relatives. Verse 19 says a man shall not have sexual relations with a woman during the "uncleanness of her monthly period." (How many of today's Christians actually obey this?) Verse 20 condemns having sexual relations with another man's wife.

Then, verse 21 changes directions and begins a sermon-like discourse on sexual relations that are associated with the worship of Molech. Molech, like many false gods of the day, had temple prostitutes, and Molech's followers believed that having sex of any kind in the temple would please Molech and increase the fertility of themselves, their spouses, their livestock, and their fields. Verse 21 mentions the sacrifice of children to Molech. Verse 22 should more accurately read "Do not have sex with the male temple prostitutes," which would continue the admonition in idolatry. In fact, the entire Chapter is about idolatry. Consider Chapters 17 and 19, which both speak of idolatry. Why would a writing about sex be inserted here out of the blue in between two chapters on idolatry unless it also is meant to address idolatry? If we look at Chapter 18 as a whole, and verse 22 in context to the whole chapter, then this verse must speak of idolatry and false worship in some manner. Therefore, it is not a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, but rather a condemnation of the sexual promiscuity of the many idol-worshipping sects in the land the Israelites were coming into.

If you hold Leviticus' statements as being a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, do you also obey the rest of the old law? It is written: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it [all of the law]" (James 2:10). So a person who adheres to the law must adhere to the whole law, which is contained in the whole of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Those three books contain the core of God's laws.

So let's look at some of those laws:

If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married. (Deut. 24:5)

Does anyone keep this law? Could you manage a whole year without a paycheck?

The war effort in Iraq might have a problem when a soldier comes up to his commander and says, "Sorry, sir, but my wife is pregnant and the book of Deuteronomy demands that I go home for a whole year now." Any man whose wife becomes pregnant is here told that he must stay home for a year without working or else he is guilty of breaking the law!

Do not hate your brother in your heart. (Lev. 19:17)

Don't hate your siblings, even while growing up, or else you have broken the entirety of the law.

Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. (Lev 19:27)

Don't shave! Ever!

Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD. (Lev 19:32)

If you do not stand in the presence of your elders, or get rude or disrespectful with someone older than you, you have broken the law.

No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation. (Deut. 23:2)

So no one who has been born out of wedlock or born from a marriage that was not approved of may enter a church, nor may any of his or her descendants for ten whole generations after. Who checks this? Who would know? How could this one ever be kept?

This is where it becomes more interesting:

If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or mother, and his blood will be on his own head. If a man commits adultery with another man's wife -- with the wife of his neighbor -- both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. (Lev. 20:9-10)

Anyone who talks back to their parents must be killed for it according to the law!

Anyone caught in adultery must be put to death also! It is in the law!

Yet it seems Jesus attempted to change the understanding of the law as he practiced his ministry on earth. In John 8:3-11 we see Jesus show what law we are truly under:

"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?' They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.

But Jesus bent over and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?'

'No one, sir,' she said.

'Then neither do I condemn you,' (my italics to point out she was in fact guilty but...) Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin.'"

In this Jesus shows us that the law saves no one; all are guilty of breaking the law of Moses. The fact of the matter is simple: nowhere does Christ Himself say anything against homosexuality. He speaks of the Ten Commandments, lifting the Sabbath commandment, as it had become a yoke upon the people. Consider Matthew 22:36-40:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

So while the verse you mention and ask about appears to be devastating to gay folks, it really has nothing to do with gay people as we know them today. Further, to take this one verse or law and ignore all the rest seems just a bit hypocritical don't you think?

Finally I would refer you to this page of the Whosoever website that deal with homosexuality and the Bible.You'll find an abundance of information and links to help you in your further studies and understanding of this issue.

God Bless,

Pastor Paul

I found this a very intelligent and informative response. If we are to condemn people for not following one portion of the Law, must we not also condemn people...ourselves included...for not following all of it? We don't do that, and the reason we don't is because we took it in context and realized it wasn't relevant to our modern life. For whatever reason, the only portion of the Leviticus text that mainstream Christian churches seem to think still applies is the part about the condemnation of homosexuality.


Makes me wonder what else is a little out of whack regarding what I've been taught over the years...

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Right On

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Other than hyperbolic language in his apology, I think he is right on. This is exactly what Americans are being offered, if the health care reform doesn't go through.

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