A Place to Start

​I suck at being vulnerable. But I’m willing to practice speaking even when I feel uncertain; for my own growth, and for solidarity with others.

If you have been low, or anxious (or way too consumed) with the events leading up to the change in administration, you’re not alone. I’m still struggling to take it all in.

What you may or may not have done in a voting booth is irrelevant now. We’re all in this together.

However, from how we’ve been acting, that truth is far removed from the present reality. It is nothing short of a tragedy that we became so focused on ourselves. To the point that we don’t recognize our sister or brother. How are we to be one body, one nation, or survive at all if we are wriggling useless and dismembered?

We must reconnect our sinews. But… how?

Consistency. Service. Loving-kindness. And, one other thing we are starving for.

Matthew 18:23-35 contains a parable Jesus uses in response to Peter asking “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Seven times?”

Our Lord and Savior famously replies: “Nah… multiply that by seven, friend.” (artistic license taken) 😉 The parable goes like this:

Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  

But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  

When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

Notice how the wronged servant’s witnesses go to their master and report the offenses he endured! They don’t walk away and pretend the attack didn’t happen. He is powerless to advocate for himself while jailed, so they selflessly act in his stead. They also don’t shout at his offender, assault him in return, or spread slander. They do the right thing by reporting the injustice and standing up for their friend without responding in vengeance. That takes so much self-control! That is mercy.

Donald Trump is about to be my president. I think we all need to own him. He is a product of our culture. Did we really think narcissism, crude language, racism and greed had no consequences?

Learning the hard way is a painful and accelerated course. The most important lesson these past two years have taught me is that it is fatal to act as if my beliefs are bulletproof, especially when my actions withhold the mercy that is available to me in excess. For the literal love of God, let’s all drop the superiority complexes and tone-deaf attitudes.

We must listen up and report to God first. We must advocate for our fellow citizens when we see them in danger. We must accept mercy for ourselves.

And then? Give it freely!

Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight. 

-Psalms 119:77 ESV

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Summer ’16 Update

Y’all. I am spent. And I’m just kinda tired of acting put together.

Between MTD (ministry team development, otherwise known as support raising) and Clif’s mom (Janice) suffering a heart attack, we have been out of town for 29 total days since our first anniversary.

Janice’s arteries aren’t ideal for stents and the cardiac surgeon in Waco wasn’t confident enough about her health to perform surgery. By his recommendation, Janice was transferred from Providence Hospital in Waco to Baylor Medical in Dallas on Saturday July 9th to be assessed by the cardiologists there. After a week of observation and testing, they unanimously voted down open-heart bypass surgery for her. While we’re glad she’s spared the trauma of that surgery, especially considering the mortality rate for that procedure in cases like hers is 10-15%, we are anxious for the unknown. We will know more once she’s able to check out of Baylor Medical and schedule a follow-up appointment with her regular cardiologist in Waco.

I’m waiting to hear back from a job at San Marcos High School that I applied to in the middle of all that. If they don’t call, I am unsure of my next steps for a career. I’ve spent the last year filling out applications, going to counseling bi-weekly, working part-time at Textbook Solutions, and resting after 5 busy years of college and 18 challenging years before that. I’ve also been feeling strong calls to join Clif on staff which, honestly, terrifies and excites me at the same time.

On top of my circumstances, for the past few months, I’ve been wrestling with resentment at all the hardship I was shouldered with from a tiny age. I’ve seen things no child should see. I’ve lived through pitying glances and public embarrassment while simply trying to fit in at church. I made a vow in elementary school that I would never feel sorry for myself. And that got me through. But as my counselor told me yesterday, “Liz… you’re incredibly persistent.” And I wept. Because all along, I just wanted someone to acknowledge that I shouldn’t have been forced to be.

I am so grateful for my story. I am so relieved to be where I am! Sometimes, my sorrow is stronger than my joy. But I’m the most excited about little sneak peeks into my future that refresh my hope and refill my desire to keep fighting this battle that is life. I’m almost to the end of The Two Towers and I empathize with Frodo- a refreshing stop at Henneth Annûn is what Clif and I need right about now (and no, I did not just try to slot Clif as Sam… but it works, I suppose. *shrug*)

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Please pray specifically for:
  • Janice’s heart to heal and to be protected from another heart attack.
  • Mike (Clif’s dad) to be given wisdom in all his decisions on behalf of Janice.
  • Clif to feel great comfort and peace mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  • Bravery for myself as I make important life decisions and courage to find my voice.
  • Clif and I to allow God’s love to bring us closer to Jesus and to one another!

The time to do right is always now (pt. 2)

Yesterday’s post was a dizzying swirl of introspection. I was mostly consumed with my reaction to the events in Orlando, not the events and the people themselves. I have continued to mull over everything, and I wanted to put more emphasis on all those affected by this evil attack, and less on my personal realizations.

First: It is absolutely inexcusable that it took the largest mass shooting in U.S. history to finally motivate me to speak out against the abuse LGBTQ people live with. I should have taken it seriously. I should have listened. I should not have assumed that the motive behind all the Facebook rainbow banners was arrogance, insecurity, or a particular brand of social progress that would barrel forward without me.

The truth is, it shouldn’t have to be spelled out for me: the hatred and condescension and violence targeted towards the LGBTQ community has existed thousands of years before the inception of this country, and is massive. I remained silent out of fear when real people, people who have opened up to me, were the ones who had real reason to be afraid.

Second: I want to focus on the implications of the massacre in Pulse Night Club. The victims were attending Pulse’s Latin Night– an evening dedicated to celebrating Latin culture. This means the shooter specifically targeted LGBTQ poc (people of color). This is a direct quote from the above article:

“Amidst speculation that Mateen was motivated by Islamic extremism and renewed conversations about gun control, the media has failed to report that this attack targeted LGBTQ communities of color. A 2012 report on hate violence against the gay community found that LGBTQ people of color were 1.82 times more likely to experience physical violence. In 2012, 73.1 percent of anti-LGBTQ homicide victims were people of color – with black/African Americans accounting for 54 percent and Latinos for 15 percent, according toColorlines.”

Could the racist and homophobic motives in this mass murder be any clearer? So now the LGBTQ community is left reeling. All those who were brutally killed. All those who must now somehow keep living when bullets flew around them and pierced their friends. All those who would do and give anything for a loved one who is irreversibly beyond reach.

Consider what all people who identify as LGBTQ are experiencing right now. Consider having one true home, a place where people yell hello and smile when you walk in the door, suddenly transformed into a potential slaughterhouse. Nowhere is safe anymore.

I have a question for you. Who will you be, now that you know? Your actions towards gay, lesbian, trans*, bisexual, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and questioning persons will fall into two main categories: benevolent or malicious. You may think that you can be neutral towards them… but that is a misconception. They need love, acceptance, and the knowledge that you are safe. Even a simple assurance that you are fighting for them is radical compared to the silence they resign themselves to.

It’s your choice. Please, make it now. For them.

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The time to do right is always now

US-CRIME-SHOOTING

A police vehicle outside the Pulse nightclub, the scene of a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016. Fifty people died in the worst mass shooting in US history June 12 when a gunman opened fire at the Pulse, a packed gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. / AFP / Gregg NEWTON

I didn’t want to get out of bed and face the world this morning. The thought of those 49 the world lost yesterday weighed heavily over me.

I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt- have I had a part in shaping this hatred, hatred that bore death, for the LGBTQ community? I felt deep anger at the religious community’s indifference. Then, it became painfully obvious- I am part of the problem.

I’ve tried to toe the “moral” line between the two extremes that are modeled for me: Erasing LGBTQ people, or endorsing sexual expression wholeheartedly. But indecision doesn’t help. Feeling uncomfortable while hoping “Maybe one day those above me will say something. Maybe one day I can speak up without worrying about my reputation, or how those in power will react to my beliefs” does absolutely nothing.

Meanwhile, LGBTQ people live with this fear (and real danger) every day, from the moment they realize that they are “different”. I have no idea what that’s like.

So I’m not waiting any more for someone more powerful than me to do the right thing. It starts with me.

Orlando, I am mourning for you. I am heartbroken. I am deeply sorry for all those whose lives were stolen, disrupted, and broken. I’m sorry that your safe place was violated. I’m sorry for my cowardice. I’m sorry for my anger. I’m sorry for all the times I brazenly compared gays to prostitutes and thieves in a sloppy attempt to sweep everyone into a more comfortable label of “sinner”.

Yes, all humans are sinners. But we are not all treated equally by this society. Some sinners are punished lightly on earth- in fact, they are celebrated, while swathed in their greed and corruption. They will know little discomfort and few obstacles in the way of a good life.

Others, society deems as unworthy. They are the ones who slip through the cracks of social insurance. We look on them with pity the first time we must be burdened with a reminder of their existence. The second time, we scoff in irritation. “Haven’t we been over this? Their family is a wreck- of course they’d turn out like them.” or “It’s time we move on as a culture. Are we going to have this guilt hanging over us forever? It’s not my fault.” When those trodden join together, and their voices rise out of silence, our demeanor fully sours. “You’re wrong!”

I was wrong. Hiding behind my flimsy righteousness and (as Elphaba rightfully accuses Galinda in ‘Wicked’) groveling to those in charge to feed my own ambition gets me ahead- but who all do I leave behind?

Enough explaining. My guilt pales in importance to the suffering of LGBTQ persons today. Yesterday. For centuries.

Hear this: You will never be alone. I am here. It doesn’t matter whether you just realized you’re gay, you have a partner, or whether you’ve decided to not mess with a relationship because it’s just too hard. In the spirit of honesty, I do still have conservative views on sexual behavior. But I will never drive you out or make you feel less than because we disagree. YOU are what I care about, not hypothetical scenarios. You are a whole, full being. You are divine, and you can always lean on the imperfect love that I have, and the perfect love God gushes for you.

This hymn gives me hope. Music is a beautiful reminder of what humanity sounds like when we commit to each other and willingly choose love and harmonize in the face of our differences.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” -1 John 4:7-12

Do I Really Need to Worry About Hillary’s Emails? Yes. She Should Be Indicted.

Check out this incredibly detailed collection of evidence written by Chetan Hebbale.

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Hillary Clinton’s email scandal is one of the most important, yet undiscussed issues of the 2016 election. Despite how long the media has been covering it, I don’t think most people really un…

Source: Do I Really Need to Worry About Hillary’s Emails? Yes. She Should Be Indicted.

Ashes, Frankincense & Myrrh

Today is a day of fasting and mourning for me. No, literally.

I chose today to not eat breakfast or lunch and dedicate time to reflection and inspiration for a breakout session I need to finish writing. Earlier, as I was walking past my coffee table, I bumped this cute wooden incense-holder Clif and I bought not too long ago. It spilled light gray ashes on our carpet, and the visual struck me.

Pride and shame have been my life long companions. Pride helped me in the midst of hardship; it kept me from getting overwhelmed and helped me avoid what I didn’t like to feel or think about. Shame was there, too. I didn’t know it, but shame was what protected me from potential rejection… at the cost of experiencing success.

Growing accustomed to life as an adult with the after-affects of their presence on my brain has been awkward and difficult. How do you say goodbye to your companions when they’re no longer needed? How do I break up with them without rejecting their role in shaping me?

As I thought about what ashes symbolized, I snorted inwardly at the tired metaphor of a phoenix rising. Even though the Lord does speak to me in cheesy symbolism, I knew the significance of ashes meant more specifically for me. Pouring ashes over one’s head is a biblical act of humiliation and grief, like in 2 Samuel 13:19.

Next to the wooden incense burner is a bottle of Frankincense & Myrrh lotion I own. How serendipitous.

Jesus was gifted gold, Frankincense and Myrrh at the beginning of his life. God is giving me new gifts as I finally am able to face the sorrows he gave me when I was young. Losing my father was such an elusive concept until now. What does a toddler know of death? It didn’t slow me down.

I decided to mix ashes with the Frankincense & Myrrh lotion and massaged it into my skin. I can finally have true life when I do just that: allow all the sorrows and joys I’ve experienced to mix and join together; almost like a glue to piece myself together again.

While praying, I somehow heard Lanny (my dad) speak these words to me: “Keep going. Embrace life. Don’t let it get the best of you.”

I won’t, dad. Look at how far I’ve come!

Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)

Well Spent Journey

I’m writing this post primarily for my own convenience. During my online journeys to r/atheism, “freethought” blogs, and beyond, I encounter the following arguments so frequently that it seems sensible to fact-check them all at once.

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The Claim: “Religion has been the primary cause of war and oppression throughout the history of mankind.”

photo source: http://radiomankc.blogspot.com/

The Truth: In their comprehensive Encyclopedia of Wars, Phillips and Axelrod document the recorded history of warfare. Of the 1,763 wars presented, a mere 7% involved a religious cause. When Islam is subtracted from the equation, that number drops to 3.2%.

In terms of casualties, religious wars account for only 2% of all people killed by warfare. This pales in comparison to the number of people who have been killed by secular dictators in the 20th century alone.

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The Claim: “Thanks to modern science, the days of religion are numbered. Humanity’s superstitious…

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