Abstract cross

What if I don’t believe in Jesus?

I was 12 years old when I accepted Jesus into my heart. Choosing Jesus as my Lord had nothing to do with my salvation. At the time I wasn’t thinking about how sinful I was or staying out of eternal Hell. I was thinking about how lonely and awkward I felt in the midst of the peers and adults around me. It had finally come to my attention that who I was didn’t fit with the crowds in which I found myself at school or church or my neighborhood. The youth pastor at our family church retreat told a group of us kids that Jesus wanted to be our friend. That He loved us. If I wanted to know that love, that acceptance, that friendship, all I had to do was accept Jesus into my heart and follow Him. I chose Jesus because I wanted to be loved, not because I wanted to be saved.

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My relationship with Christ the last 24 years has never been about my salvation from Hell. I also have never worried about anyone else’s future in Heaven or Hell either. As I have grown in knowledge and experience with Jesus, there’s been confusion in my heart as to why so many Christians worry and argue and dictate over other people’s repentance and afterlife in Heaven or Hell.

A couple years ago when a dear loved one in our family passed away, a friend asked me if this loved one was a Believer (one who’s accepted Jesus as his Lord). No, he wasn’t a Believer. My friend, with a wince in her face and tension in her body, asked, “How do you feel about that? The Bible is clear about what happens to those who aren’t saved.” I bristled inside. I told my friend I had to believe my dear, sweet loved one was dancing in Heaven with his beloved wife who had passed before him.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized the general belief in current Christian culture about salvation and eternal Hell is completely and shockingly different than what I believe… what I have always considered to be true since I was 12 but never explored until now. Generally speaking, Christianity says if you don’t believe in God, then you’re going to Hell. If you want a place in Heaven, then you must be made right with God by repenting and choosing Jesus. If this is true then that means over half the world is going to burn in Hell for eternity and only a select few will enter the gates of Heaven.

Geez. God’s house must be pretty small.

It would also mean we have a cruel and exclusive God. I don’t believe this at all. This general theology doesn’t match the character of the God I have come to know and love.

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The moment Jesus died on that precious and wretched cross, everyone became saved. Whether you believe in God or not, Jesus died for you and you are welcome as a citizen in God’s kingdom. The death and Resurrection of Jesus is so significant that it was for every single person on this planet, regardless of religion, sin, sexual orientation, race, crimes, belief and unbelief. “For God so loved this world, He sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” I don’t see that second half–“that whoever believes in Him”–as a condition for the entry of Heaven. It’s an invitation to believe in a love so big and existential that our life becomes transformed and alive in a way that is supernatural here on Earth yet completely natural in the spiritual realm. If we don’t accept the invitation, we risk perishing in the consequences of our human nature, choices we make driven by natural human desire and selfishness.

The love of Jesus and the result of his sacrifice on the cross is 100% inclusive, all-encompassing and scandalous. His love and gift of salvation for all God’s children includes those whom I personally cannot even fathom loving–such as murderers, terrorists, sex traffickers, child abusers, animal abusers, (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump! 😛 )–and people who have hurt me so badly they aren’t even safe to be in my life anymore.  But every single person in this world is painstakingly and purposefully knitted into existence by the hand of God, making each one of us His child–loved and welcomed to the gift of life He has for us through Jesus.

I believe there is Heaven and Hell, and I believe there is justice and consequences for those who choose to live a life hurting others. I also believe in the power of repentance. However, my point here today is to say God does not toss into eternal Hell those who don’t believe in Jesus. I have heard it asked that if everyone is welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven, if there is no eternal Hell, then what’s the point?  I say, take away both Heaven and Hell and God still matters. If all we’re left with is God, isn’t He enough? 

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If you’re feeling alone, cast aside, and awkward in a world where you don’t fit, please know that Jesus loves you and wants you. You’re already saved. He’s just waiting for you to take his hand and accept Him. Choose Jesus for love and watch how your life changes. A simple prayer grasps His hand, “Dear Jesus, I choose you to lead my life. Show me the way and I will follow You.” And if you’re an unBeliever in Christ–atheist or agnostic or a parishioner of another religion–that’s okay. I still believe Jesus loves you and welcomes you if you ever want to meet Him.

For my friends and family who are reading this, worried about my theology and/or think my belief is wildly misled and filled with lies of the enemy: If believing God’s love is so big that it allows for Jesus’ death to mean life for all His people, not just Believers, makes me ludicrous, then so be it. You can pray that God changes my mind, but what would it mean for your theology if He doesn’t?

 

 

Sugar is not bad for you

The following information is not meant to diagnose, treat, or even suggest a medical condition. Always talk to your doctor about your health and any questions/concerns you have about your health and diet.  The statements made in this post are strictly what I learned in anorexia recovery from specialists who worked hard to keep my alive after I starved myself to near death, and what I have subsequently experienced on my road to personal health. If the information doesn’t resonate with you, that’s okay. If it helps you, great. Enjoy!

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The human body runs on sugar.  Sugar is an energy source, the main and most preferable energy source, that our bodies use for every bodily function from thinking and moving to digestion and hormone production. If the human body doesn’t have sugar, it doesn’t survive.

When I was in the thick of my disease, I strove to be sugar free, and what little sugar I did eat, I immediately “burned off” with exercise. I believed the lies that sugar was evil, and that I would be fat, unhealthy, and sick if I ate any.

Here are some general cultural beliefs about sugar and the biological truths from the body’s perspective that negate those beliefs.

Culture: The sugar crash is bad and you are bad for having eaten the sugar that is now making you crash.

Body: Because sugar is the body’s main energy source, that’s the first thing it burns to do anything. So the “sugar crash” is simply your body out of gas. What happens when you’re car is out of gas? It lurches, shakes and comes to a halt. What happens when your body is out of sugar–out of energy? You get the shakes, maybe a little lightheaded and you stop.

If you’re crashing it’s because your body needs more nutrients, especially sugar, to keep running. Crashing is a natural biological reaction to running out out energy and not a bad reaction to sugar. The sugar is not at fault.  To keep your body running longer and to avoid crashing, eat sugar with a little protein and fat. These three energy sources work together to give you energy and sustain it through whatever activity you’re demanding of your body.

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Culture: Sugar/carbs makes you fat.

Body: Carbs don’t make you fat. Carbohydrate is a fancy word for sugar.  I repeat. Sugar is an energy source, so it’s getting used all the time. If you are alive, your body is burning energy. You are using energy right now reading this sentence.

If you eat more sugar than your body needs, three things will happen. The body will:

1) excrete what it doesn’t need.

2) store some as fat.

3) tell you that it’s had enough. 

Don’t let number two scare you. Our bodies need fat for a plethora of body functions, including nutrient absorption. You can eat green and “healthy” all you want, but if you don’t have fat stores, your body isn’t absorbing those nutrients. Secondly, the body won’t store more fat than it needs. Once the body has had enough of any nutrient, it will tell you. It is imperative that you listen to what your body is asking for. Pay attention to those cravings and pay close attention to what doesn’t sound good. Oblige your body and respect it when it’s says, “I’m done” or “I need more.”

My body asks for potato chips. A lot. Culture says to eat carrots instead because those are healthier. Carrots have fiber, water, and vitamin A. When my body is craving potato chips, it’s asking for complex sugar (sugar with oomph) and salt. Carrots don’t  fit the bill and that’s why they don’t sound good nor do they satisfy me in a potato chip moment. I usually pair my potato chips with a protein–typically sardines because I love sardines. Why? Because it sounds good! And because I know my body will run a little longer and better with the added nutrients.

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Culture: Natural sugars are healthier than processed sugars.

Body: Sugar is sugar to the body. It reads it all as energy  and uses it all as energy. I want to shy away from muddling up your brain with a lesson in glucose, fructose, and sucrose because the chemistry and biology gets complicated. The bottom line is the body needs a variety of all three. You won’t function well if you’re only eating fruit and honey. Likewise your body won’t function well if you’re only feeding it candy and cake.

ApplepieSeveral weeks ago, I got a bunch of apples from a friend of mine. I went crazy in the kitchen, and for a week we ate apple pie, apple crisp and apple sauce. One day, none of that sounded good. For about five days my body wanted nothing to do with anything sweet. Not even honey turkey on my sandwich. My body had had enough sugar (fruit sugar and table sugar) and I listened. I wasn’t bad for eating all that sugar. I wasn’t unhealthy for eating all those treats. The sugar wasn’t evil for turning off my sweet tooth. I ate and I enjoyed; my body was happy and kindly told me when it had plenty to work with for a while. Simple as that.

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The human body is designed to run on a combination of all nutrients. Sugar is a necessary nutrient; sugar is not bad for you. What’s even cooler is the body comes with a built in communication system that tells you which foods it needs more of and which it needs less of so you don’t have to control, restrict or omit sugar. If you’ve had too much, which is what everyone worries about, your body will cue you in. The trick is to be in tune with your body and listen to what it’s telling you. That’s true health.

Enjoy your food today and eat what sounds good! <3

Three rap singers band on the roof

What gangsta rap taught me about my husband

There’s this thing going around on Facebook called the “7-day love your spouse challenge” where, for seven days, people post pictures of themselves with their spouses along with loving commentary to help spread support for love and marriage as a whole. To keep the meme going and the love spreading, people tag friends as an invitation into the challenge.

I have been tagged several times but haven’t participated because, while I adore the idea of spreading the message of love, I’m questioning what message I’m really sending if I post my pictures. Frankly, love is hard and mine doesn’t look like those lovey pictures I see coming across my feed.

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I’ll give you an example. Hubz and I are celebrating our 12-year wedding anniversary this weekend, and we’ve been together for almost 15 years. For the last 15 years I have totally judged and even at times criticized Hubz for not being a very “deep” person. One of his greatest loves in life is old school gangsta rap followed closely by old school country songs. I’m talking N.W.A to Kieth Whitley; the more gangsta and more tragic the song the better. If I had a nickle for every time I rolled my eyes, “tsk”ed my tongue, and made a snarky comment about his music I’d be a bazillionaire in Tahiti right now. Never mind the fact that not only does Hubz listen to the songs of these artists, he knows everything there is to know about the artists themselves. He knows their stories inside and out.

Last weekend I suggested we watch the movie Straight Outta Compton, which was really weird given my absolute distaste and foul attitude for gangsta rap music and lifestyle. But Hubz has wanted to see that movie since it came out, and God had something to show me about my heart.

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I’ve been a judgmental ass. I’ve always viewed the “gangsta style” (life, music, culture, etc.) as boobs, booze, and violence. What Straight Outta Compton showed me was the deeper stories of struggle, danger, humiliation, racism, and cultural dissonance between blacks, whites and cops suffered by the black community. I was so fascinated by what I learned in the film that I watched every second of extras–interviews with Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and the rest of N.W.A; behind the scenes footage and interviews with the director and movie crew; deleted scenes that never made the movie–all of it. I soaked in every ounce of perspective that film offered.

Then I looked over at my husband and realized what a jerk I’d been to him for the last 15 years. I associated his love for gangsta rap with boobs, booze, and violence and cut his character off at the surface. However, it’s the cultural and personal reality the music speaks of that touches my husband–something I never even bothered to hear let alone understand. It’s more than the beat and tune of the music that draws Hubz to these lyrics and artists; it’s the stories of struggles and triumphs and perspectives that move him. He values story.

And because I was so blinded by my haughty short-sightedness, I completely missed that Hubz and I have something very special and deep in common–the understanding of the importance of personal stories and the effect they have on us as individuals and as a culture. That’s why he spends so much time learning about the artists themselves–it makes the music that much more meaningful and inspiring for him.

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Love is admitting that I’ve been judgmental and unfair, confessing and apologizing to my husband’s face, and seeing/adoring my spouse in a completely new light. But on Facebook all you’ll see is this:20160812_195051

 

 

 

 

 

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True love cannot be captured in a snapshot because it’s a bigger picture made up of many moments of humility. Gangsta rap revealed a shortcoming in my own heart and a depth to my husband’s heart neither of which I knew existed. And in that humility of growth, love rooted deeper between us both. How do you post that on Facebook?

 

 

When my daughter was called “fat”

The neighbor kiddo called my daughter fat. They are both only 8-years-old. As a recovering anorexia patient, of course I was triggered. Thankfully my healthy voice is dominant right now, and this is how the conversation with my daughter unfolded:

“Hmm. How did it make you feel when she said that?” I asked.

*shrugs shoulders* “I don’t know,” Daughter said sheepishly. “Is it true? I feel like maybe it’s true. I don’t understand because she said she didn’t know why she said it. She said she ‘just felt like saying it to me.'”

“That sounds confusing,” I said.

“Yeah.”

I explained, “Her comment doesn’t make sense for two reasons. One, you aren’t fat, so the comment is wrong. It isn’t true. Number two, and most importantly, even if you did live in a larger body, your size has no bearing on who you are. You would still be the same creative, compassionate, funny, gracious person you are in the size you live in now. While your body can be lots of different sizes, your heart stays the same. So her effort to try to make you feel bad doesn’t even make sense. It’s confusing.”

“Why did she say it? She said she didn’t know why and she just felt like it.”

“Sometimes when people get a bad or hard feeling in their hearts,  like sad, mad, jealous, disappointed, hurt, or scared, they want to get rid of that bad feeling so they can feel good. One way people do that is to make someone around them feel bad. It’s like taking off the bad feeling and putting it on someone else to feel. It makes them feel better to see someone else feeling sad or mad or hurt or whatever the feeling. A lot of times, unfortunately, people don’t even know they’re doing this.

Your friend, rather than telling you she had a bad feeling in her own heart, tried to make you feel bad instead by calling you fat. My guess is she didn’t even realize she had a yucky feeling inside and that’s why she didn’t understand why she said it.”

“I wasn’t going to tell you what happened. But it was growing and growing in my chest and I thought it was going to explode outside of me!”

“Yes! That is a great explanation of feelings, Baby Girl. When we don’t talk about our feelings, for you the feelings were confusion and maybe hurt, they sit inside our bodies and they grow and grow until they have to come out. Your friend’s feelings exploded on you in the form of a hurtful comment, that ultimately didn’t make sense. It’s always better to talk about how you’re feeling in the moment so they don’t explode later.

You did the absolute right thing in telling me. Do you feel better?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. If this happens again, then come tell me and I’ll help you. I’ll talk to your friend and her mom. It’s not okay that she was trying to hurt you.”

“She might hate me if you talk to her.”

“Well, if she hates you because of her own actions, then that’s on her and she isn’t a good friend in the first place. Would you rather me not talk to her?”

“I want you to. I need help.”

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My daughter came to me a few days later and said it happened again. This little girl called my daughter fat and tried to cover it with “I’m only kidding” when my daughter tried to stand up for herself. As promised, I pulled this young girl aside and gently explained that her comment isn’t true and that it isn’t okay joke around about people’s body size because it’s hurtful.  It isn’t funny.

I texted her mother and let her know of the situation and my words to her daughter. We had a positive face-to-face conversation about it later. She confessed her daughter keeps all feelings inside despite her attempts to draw her daughter out; often this little girl comes off as just plain mean. I offered my understanding and support, mom-to-mom, friend-to-friend; she gave me permission to talk to her daughter anytime a situation warrants adult intervention.

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Here’s what I want you to know dear reader. Everything I said to my 8-year-old applies to any age, and any gender for that matter. Feelings are human and not age dependent; personal character is human not body size dependent.  Joking or making comments about body size doesn’t make sense at any age for any gender. So if anyone has ever insulted you about your body size, large or small, try to remember there is/was something negative growing inside of them and it’s exploding on to you.

In the spirit of grace and love, and if the situation lends itself, let them know their comment doesn’t make sense. See if you can navigate the conversation deeper, beyond body size, and pin point what’s really going on for the person who is trying to hurt you.

 

 

Stormy sky over flooded lighthouse

Rendered Silent

The world suffers loudly, enduring violence, injustice, fear, ridicule. People with names, faces, families–with purposes and reasons for living–suffer. There is injustice afflicted on black lives, Christian lives, LGBTQ lives, mentally ill lives, women’s lives, children’s lives… The discrimination, persecution, and exploitation of particular groups of humans is undeniable.

In the midst of the madness and loss, loathing arguments fling across social media, pelting the intelligence and opinions of well-intentioned people who try to speak up for what feels right in their hearts.

Me? I am rendered silent. Silence isn’t safe in our culture; is is almost as unsafe, or even more so, as shouting the wrong opinion. I see/hear the judgement from many who shake their cyber-fists at those of us who choose not to speak up.

I cannot stand up for all the issues and all the people. I cannot feel the hurt and advocate for the safety, recovery, equality of all who suffer. You see, when I think about all the people and all the issues and all the injustice and all the pain and all the inequality, I freeze. There is too much, and it all sits on my chest like a boulder. No injustice or forced pain is greater or less than another in my heart. The loss of black brothers is just as tragic as the thousands of children lost in the sex industry– is just as tragic as the thousands of Christians massacred across the world– is just as tragic as the transgender teen who dies by suicide– is just as tragic as the police shot during a protest– is just as tragic the father so weighed down by depression he can’t get out of bed– is just as tragic as the young girl who is blamed for her own rape…The list goes on dear reader.

I am rendered silent because screaming into a raging storm is hopeless. But reaching out my hand for someone seeking shelter from the storm–I am rendered empowered. Staying alert and sensitive and curious to the people and situations around me, that’s helpful. Teaching my children to be curious, compassionate, inclusive, sensitive, and loving toward all people–that’s helpful.  And when the Spirit leads me to take action, to get involved, to speak up and to stand up for someone who’s hurting, I do. And that is good. It is enough. The cyber-fist shakers won’t agree and that’s okay. I don’t answer to them. And if I did, I’d only be contributing to the widening chasm that keeps us from connecting in a way that makes a genuine difference to those who suffer. I answer to Love–to those who seek love in their suffering and the One who is Love.