Fourth of July

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I’m so thankful to God for the blessings of family, freedom and fireworks. Here’s just a couple snapshots from my Independence weekend. I hope you enjoyed yours and that it was safe, fun and brought you closer to an understanding of just how unique our freedoms are. Don’t take them for granted. Don’t allow goons to trample over them. Don’t allow Satan to steal the freedom of peace from you by telling you that God’s grace is not sufficient.

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“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” ~ Proverbs 16:18

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The world has proclaimed that silence is golden. Well, I have remained silent concerning the supreme court’s ruling on gay marriage since it went historically viral, but I desire to remain quiet no longer. I have friends who sit on both sides of the fence in this moral debate. I see the world split in two. Therefore, I am going to say some things. First, because I am a born-again Christian who believes that God’s word is final and inerrant, I believe that homosexuality is a sin. I do, and this places me on one side of the fence. This statement will shock some of my friends who have heard me say otherwise in the past or because I have remained voiceless about my true feelings on the issue to avoid being “offensive”. I am sorry, but my Savior was spit upon. My Savior was lashed and beaten because he was offensive to people who did not wish to face their internal demons. Because of his offense, I am free. Because of his bravery, I will be brave enough to speak truth. But, I refuse to throw stones. Instead, I have decided to straddle this fence of offense and offer salvation, just as I believe Jesus would. I believe the homosexual lifestyle is a sin and I believe that the supreme court has disrupted a standard for marriage set in place by God in the garden of Eden, but I also know that Jesus died for all sinners. Just because I think your lifestyle is morally wrong, does not mean that I hate you. How could I be so presumptuous? God does not accept the homosexual lifestyle either, but he sent his son to die for those who practice it just the same as he sent his son to die for me. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Despite all the little, big and in-between things we do that go against what God has proclaimed as good and righteous, God loves us. He knows that we struggle. He knows that we defy him. He knows that we do not like to admit when we are wrong. And still he loves us. And still he died for us. And still he conquered death. For you. For me. For everyone who has ever struggled with any sin in his or her life ~

When I posted this on facebook, someone with a differing opinion commented. I want to share our micro-debate with you:

 Jim: I support your rights to religious freedom; however, your religion does not belong in government. Otherwise there would be no divorce (Mark 10-2), or tatoos (laviticus 19) or eating shrimp. But how is it the sin of homosexuality is not listed as one of the Ten Commandments but adultery (committed by many Christians) is?
Honey, I love you dearly and think you are a wonderful person, but when it comes to marriage, it’s not a religious concept so really, do we only count certain sins or all sins? Let people live the way they are born and take care if the poor, the sick and needy.
 Rachel: Let me address the points you have made. First, you say that marriage is not a religious concept and I disagree. Considering the fact that my religious freedom grants me the right to believe that the Bible is truth and inerrant, I believe that marriage was instituted by God in the garden of Eden when God placed one man with one woman who became one flesh and were given the responsibility of filling the earth. This is a union established by God and therefore, I see an earthly court ruling of redefining something eternally defined by God as a concept that is against a core foundation of my faith. Second, I can understand your stance concerning divorce and the ten commandments, but consider that homosexuality falls under the category of adultery. Yes, Jim, Christians get divorced. Christians have sex before marriage. Christians get tattoos. Christians cuss and flip people off and murder others through vile, hateful speech. Christians are not perfect. Perfection within Christianity is not required. Perfection is not attainable through the self. We all fall short of God’s glory. The beauty of believing in Christ is that though I make mistakes, though I blunder and am a hypocrite and though I struggle with sin daily, I am forgiven. This does not mean that egregious actions should be taken lightly. This does mean however that when I see my fellow man believing a lie and when I see the world and people I love satisfied to rejoice in sin that I am to be a voice for reason and truth and love. The greatest love I can do for someone is to show through my actions and words that God loves them and does not wish to see them wallowing in the darkness of sin no matter how colorful it proclaims itself to be. Third, to address your question concerning certain/all sins. Every person – proud and humble, rich and poor, black and white, faithful and unfaithful – will give an account for everything they have done in this life. We are physically, mentally and spiritually incapable of being perfect. God knows this, but he has also sent us an advocate. We do not have be defined by our actions or mistakes or slip-ups and accusations and pride because Christ took the burden. He has set you free from the burden of self-righteousness and self-preservation. He has set you free from guilt and anger. He has set us free to care for others without doing so in a manner designed to gain eternal brownie points but rather to do so solely in love.
 Jim: But Honey, you are using your religious laws that don’t apply to US laws. It would be one thing if we lived in Israel or followed sharia laws but we don’t unless you are saying we should invoke sharia laws which follow the Old Testament?
 Rachel: Jim, you are missing the key point I am making. I understand that the Ten Commandments and sharia law are not the law of the U.S. The supreme court does not have the right to make the decision it has made however by violating the 10th amendment and acting outside of its bounds as a judicial branch and political branch of government, so yes, I disagree with the decision made beyond the proclamations of faith I have addressed, but the main point I am emphasizing is: the grace of God, His forgiveness. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice fulfilled the law. Before his heart burst and lungs collapsed as he hung upon the cross, He said, “It is finished!” This is an exclamation. Just because God fulfilled the law through Christ’s death and resurrection which conquered spiritual death does not mean that it is okay to continue to sin or to not speak up when we see sin hurting the lives of others. “Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very though of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. ‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:6-9
 Jim: You do realize Muslims follow the same portions if the bible? Just saying
 Rachel:  The Muslim religion stems from the same history, yes. But it boils down to a dispute between two half brothers and God preserving the blessing upon Jacob’s descendants and not Ishmael’s. Through Jacob’s lineage was born Jesus Christ who fulfills the law and provides salvation to all of mankind. I have a question, however. Why do you only battle the Christian faith in its stance for what it believes to be truth and not also battle the Muslim faith when they hurl homosexual men from rooftops or be-head them publicly? I speak out in love towards the gays because I want them to know the grace of God and overwhelming love that washes away the stain of sexual struggles. I want them to spend eternity in the glory of God’s love because God intended forgiveness. I do not scream out that they should be murdered. I call out sin for what it is: sin. But there is no sin too great that God is not willing to forgive someone and guide them in a path of new life.
 Jim: Baby I battle all religions that claim to be the only true religion.
 Rachel: “This is what the Lord says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: ‘I am the First and the Last; there is no other God. Who is like me? Let him step forward and prove to you his power. Let him do as I have done since ancient times when I established a people and explained its future. Do not tremble; do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim my purposes for you long ago? You are my witnesses – is there any other God? No! There is no other Rock – not one!’” Isaiah 44:6-8

Steam Vent

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Steam Vent

I am tired of the world. I’m tired of the despair, the darkness, the misery, the obsession with “things”, the false faiths, the violence, the perverseness, war, disease, snotty attitudes, lack of care or stewardship, vicious words and curses…I’m tired of all the corruption that man’s sin has wrought on the earth. We are so vile on the inside that we are leaving a physical effect on our planet. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of it. And what I hate most of all is how sin parades itself around like a prize, something to be envied and killed for. Sin haughtily flaunts its feathers in musical lyrics, books, news, cartoons, daily conversation…It is the most prevalent, vicious disease and the world is okay with it. We are okay with it! We love it! We cry when people die or get burned alive or are beaten to a pulp by their husbands or for war in other countries or sex slavery…we cry, but then, we go back to our tablets and magazines and sugary foods and laugh about which celebrity is caught in scandal or praise Bruce Jenner for his sickness. I’m disgusted. We care little, do nothing, and are satisfied to waste our lives here as eternity hangs in the balance. We think this life no longer matters because we’ve taught that we are evolved slime. We disregard babies and humanity and oxygen because depravity is just the “survival of the fittest”. Satan loves it. He lavishes temporal glory and riches and power to those who would caste aside their inheritance like a bowl of lentil soup. And we have been lied to, that this…all of THIS…is normal, progress, natural. A young girl being burned to death in a public square in Honduras is natural? Millions of infants with no voice being ripped from women’s wombs by surgical instruments is normal? Sodomy, pervasive greed, sexual torture and rape and slavery of children, rampant drug use, gang and military violence, worshiping trees and stone and wood and metal and gold is progress? Do we not see how we are no less better than every generation before us who has earned the judgment of God? Oh right…I forgot, Jesus Christ was only a prophet. He didn’t really love you enough to die and rise again so that you can escape this hell. I’m sorry. You are welcome to stay here. You are welcome to remain blind. You are welcome to be selfish. You are welcome to not care because evolution is going to weed out the weak, afterall. You are welcome to be your personalized version of “free”.

Wake up…

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” ~ 1 John 2:15-17

Father’s Day Fun

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I love my Dad. I love my grandpa. I love my boyfriend.

These three men are all fathers. They are good fathers, and I enjoyed celebrating them yesterday. I appreciate the men in my life. We did not do anything extremely special. We did not host a huge bbq party or take a trip. We simply went to church, then a Chinese buffet for lunch, passed out cards and watched a movie. It was simple. It was memorable. I think that a lot of folks try to overdo certain “special” days, attempting to make up for the rest of the year. The truth is, in my family, we are pretty alright to each other most every day of the year. We spend a lot of time together. We talk a lot. We share laughter, and consider how blessed we all are to have each other. To be able to include my precious boyfriend in a family affair was wonderful. His son was there too, and it felt like I had brought my own immediate family to the mix. It is these simply things that I like to dwell on during “special” days.

Life Update: Transitions

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“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” ~ Dr. Seuss

Time

Time is like fragrant nitrogen gas. It is always present in our atmosphere, but we only smell its sweetness after rain. Then it flees, fades but lingers beyond our perception until it rains again. It has been raining frequently at home these past few months, and time feels like it is sweeping my feet from beneath me. The world is spinning it out of control; the second law of thermodynamics is taking its toll; humanity is crumbling while so few stop to smell the nitrogen of time. Before we realize, time will cease to be understood as we understand it. There will be only eternity – a negative and positive. Still so many are unsure on which side they land. Time – a constant force – is both with us and against us, but the world has forgotten its sense of urgency. We have settled into our depravity, praying that a genius somewhere in our generation will create immortality. This way, we nullify God. We nullify, reject the truth that we are already immortal. Souls are eternal. Time is eternal. God is eternal. Hell is eternal. Love is eternal.

These revelations are of God – truth revealed slowly, with each new rain, as the fleeting nature of time is unveiled secretly to me as a smell of nitrogen. Yet, life still continues. It is plummeting to the depths of a chasm, to its finality, and I chase dreams, hopes and assurance like a pro surfer atop roaring waves. We all chase what we desire, forgetting that God loves to bless us with the desires of our hearts if we only draw near.

I remember how ignorant of time I used to be. My senses were dull. I was blind, mute, calloused on my hands and feet, deaf, and allergies of deception had clogged my nose. The rain was not sweet. It did not tell me secrets. It was floods and disaster and annoyance and mud. Time dragged. Sin was acceptable, forgivable, a choice. I did all that I wanted to do because it temporarily felt amazing, but like a serpent that slithers, depression, anger, loneliness, jealousy, greed, lust lurked in the grass at my ankles. Till I finally said, “Enough.” Suddenly like a flood, nitrogen filled my lungs. Elohim opened my eyes. Yahweh opened my mouth. Jesus whispered truth in my ears. These arthritic knuckles began to love others. My nose cleared, and time came rushing at me in full force. Clarity brought purpose. Learning to love God brought fulfillment of hopes, reality of dreams, and assurance of positive eternity.

My life has shifted. It has turned from drug use, foul language, pregnancy scares and hatred of mankind to driven clarity towards learning what God has to tell me about who I am, my soul, the world, to purer speech, to desires for sexual purity, and to love for all of mankind. The transition is overwhelming. My goals in life have changed, and I have never felt more satisfied to let the Lord of the universe direct my path because the path that He is sending me down is beautiful, difficult, aware and glorious. My soul is at peace even as I watch the world slumber in sin – its senses dull to the urgency of time. Plus, having drawn near, I recognize the desires of my heart having been given to me. I have a wonderful boyfriend now who loves the Lord. His son is beautiful and loves me. Jesus is using me to love my best friend to show her how much He loves her even more than I do. I have a summer job where I am not persecuted for my faith. My immediate family is growing stronger and builds me up.

Time is no longer silent or frightening. It is a whirring river. It is a bottomless ocean. It is thunder and echoes of orchestral crickets.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” ~ Hebrews 11:1

Many [A Poem]

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butterfly spirit

I think that true love reveals itself within many versions: with god; in motherly affection; with brotherly affection; and in romance.

We make bonds with people. It’s nature’s way. It feels like we are created for love and for affection. It’s like the rhythm of the earth is two heartbeats working as one and in multitude.

Can’t you feel it?

It’s a steady hum, plus drum.

New Year, New Hope

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I wanted to start off the new year by saying that if you have never read anything I had written in 2014, don’t worry because all you need to know is that for the year 2015 I will be proclaiming Jesus Christ as redeemer of my life and will be keeping you updated on all the amazing blessings and transformations he has planned for me throughout the next 364 days. This past year definitely had its ups and downs, and I have goals for this year. But, the past is not important and I cannot determine my future despite all the plans I may form and attempt to execute. What matters to me now is the present and the fact that I have this unreal pressing on my heart to proclaim the validity of my Christian faith to the world and especially my friends.

My friends…Oh man, how I love them!

My number one goal for the new year is to see God work in the lives of my friends. My number one goal is to show them how really real God is and how true his love and forgiveness are by living an example. This is the hard part. I have not been the ideal Christian. I have smoked weed. I have had sex outside of marriage. I have cursed like a sailor. I have lied. I have done and written many things that contradict the principles laid out in the Bible – the spiritual foundation of Truth. I am the ultimate hypocrite and my friends are my eye-witnesses. But if I can prove anything, I can prove that I have changed and this change was not something I accomplished on my own. I have changed because God woke me up and saved me. I thought I was a Christian before, but I wasn’t. I thought I knew what I believed and could stand up for it, but I didn’t and couldn’t. I couldn’t even tell my friends the honest truth. How is that love?

I know for certain now that belief in Christ is the only way to truth and understanding and life after death, and he has placed an urgency in my soul to see my friends understand him and accept love even when they don’t feel deserving. I’m not deserving either, but I’m not afraid to show how the truth has changed my life so drastically even in the last 3 months. I proclaimed my faith to my bestfriend and told her that I would stand firm because I know she deserve to hear the truth despite the fear that coursed through me when I did. I broke the heart of someone I cared for intensely because I knew we were sinning and I would not allow myself to continue bringing sin into his life because he deserves to know what true love is. I smashed my pipe and threw my dope in the trash because I knew that it was at the heart of my spiritual issues and was forcing me to cling to my past mistakes.

No matter the political unrest in the world – the violence, the hatred, the anger and war – my friends are more important to me. To know that I have been given the key to life and to see them still in dark…cuts me deep. One of my friends actually reads this blog because he’s just that supportive and awesome, and he would say I have the right to believe what I believe, but he doesn’t believe that I speak truth…only personal opinion. It is the same with my bestfriend. A few nights ago, she and I had a very heated discussion about God and faith and truth. What came to light is the fact that we love each other immensely and have both been hurt immensely. I love her so much, but I can’t heal her wounds. That kills me more than anything, I think. I love all my friends. I would give my life for my friends – for them to see the truth of God’s love. But…it seems that I cannot help them see that my love stems from the all-encompassing love of God. I wish they could see how much more God loves them than even I do. I wish that truth more than opinion to them. I wish that they could experience the knee-buckling peace that comes with understanding God’s grace.

I wish that for you too.

For everyone. And, I am going to do my best in the grand year 2015 to help God reveal himself by physically and verbally expressing the change I have experienced. This change has made me free! God has made me free! Free to love and hope and weep and endure because I know that he “works all things towards good for those who love God”. I can no longer remain silent because to be silent would do more harm than good even if my friends can’t see it yet. I love them more by making them face truth eye-to-eye through me than by hoping someone else comes along who maybe has the balls to speak honestly with them. If I won’t rip the band-aid off, God can’t heal the wound.

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Romans 5: 1-11

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God though our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained accessed by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in the while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

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The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge is entitled: “Twinkle.” I love this idea because it instantly brought to mind a holiday tradition my family does every Christmas season. When my parents bought their first Christmas tree, twenty-seven years ago, they only had a few red ornaments and twinkling yellow lights. Because money was slim, they decided that they would purchase one unique, special ornament to represent their new life together. Every year since that first, as their family grew to include myself and my little brother, they continued to purchase one unique ornament that represented each person in the family.

I am twenty-four now and this practice of buying “our special” ornament is my favorite tradition. It trumps Christmas Eve chicken noodle dinner. It even makes me more excited than our habit of watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas and munching on candy from stockings while we recline in new holiday pajamas. This simple act of choosing a special ornament to put on the tree each year, lets me express myself as an individual while still contributing to my family’s overall holiday joy. Because of this tradition, our family Christmas tree has grown to bursting with color and expression and love and represents perfectly the different personalities of each of us – me, my brother, my mother, my father – as a single unit. Because of this tradition, our Christmas tree represents us as a family who has grown together to fill our house with twinkling light.

Terri Tucker Karp's photo.

My brother and Dad add ornaments that are masculine and represent hobbies typically, and I usually add flair through feathers and vibrant colors or sparkling gems. My Mom, on the other hand, has developed her own tradition. Each year, she buys an angel ornament. Most are gorgeous, but a few are quirky or adorable. When my brother and I marry, we will take our cherished ornaments with us to our new homes to share with our future families. When that time comes, my mother will be left with a tree covered in angels and all the oddities that make my father lovable.

When I decorate my Christmas tree for the first time with my future husband, I am going to remember all the love, happiness and faith provided to me while living with my parents, and I will be excited to share the same with my own children.

A Holiday Tradition

I’m Holding Out My Hand

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More than anything in this life, I hope that my friends – who I love so dearly – will come to understand how much more God loves them than even I do. It may be an unpopular opinion to believe that (1) there is a God and (2) He loves not only me, but everyone I hold dear to my heart and (3) He wants to love us for eternity so he literally sent someone to give us a way to reach Him and believe in His reality. Sure, I can see how it seems like a stretch. And, I know it’s so easy to get caught up in all the confusion that religion and science and popular opinion provide by screaming at us from all directions, pleading for us to figure everything out on our own about our existence and origin and future and how to raise our children, etc. But, I’ve come to understand that God doesn’t need to scream at us or plead. He has provided an answer for all life’s questions and concerns and confusing moments. He has provided a way to save us when we land at rock-bottom physically, mentally, emotionally. When we least expect it, he whispers. And when we finally hear what he has to say, the truth seems so clear. Faith in something greater than myself – a greater purpose, a greater calling, a greater peace, a greater understanding and acceptance – is revealed in the quiet moments when His whisper is the loudest voice in the room. All other voices drown out and this overwhelming sense of “knowing” becomes apparent and faith becomes so easy because I can simply give up all control, all worries, all self-doubt and struggle and just believe that I am loved and protected. I want – seriously, more than anything I could ask for during my lifetime – my friends to know the knee-buckling peace that comes with understanding that God loves them fully and completely with no strings…despite its being an unpopular opinion.

Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

Redefining Moments

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Jeremiah 33:2-3 “Thus says the Lord who made earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it – the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”

I have asked myself ten times over: Who am I? In the past, I would banish any self-doubt by rushing into an ill-prepared answer without over-thinking the truth behind that question. Frankly, I did not want to be honest with myself. I wanted to find a quick definition that would connect me with those I was trying to impress. Have you not ever tried to press yourself into two or three molds in order to reflect back the same visage or personality embodied by the environment of people you wish to impress or be accepted by? Whether you have or not, I have. And, it began to wear me thin. I became obsessed with defining myself as others may see me, and in the process, I forgot that only one set of eyes are worthy of my impression.

Not everyone who reads my blog will believe in God, but I do and I can’t deny that fact anymore. Because…God is the only one I should be worrying about impressing. And to impress God means that I don’t conform to how others would want me to act or look or define myself, but rather conform to the image represented by God – love of others, purity, self-control, slow to anger, etc. These are qualities that keep me focused on developing a gentle spirit that longs to see the world come to understand saving grace and acceptance and eventually joy with the understanding that there is life after death – a triumphant life with God – worth pursuing without fear of what others may think.

All that being said, you are going to see a pretty drastic change in the subject matter represented in my blog. I won’t be deleting any posts because I think it is wise to know from what state my heart, perceptions and words have developed and grown. I am not dissatisfied with the words I have been sharing with you thus far; I am just dissatisfied with their content. I’m not ashamed of anything, but I think God has a bigger purpose for this little blurp of space occupying the internet and so I’m planning on making my words count for a higher purpose.

I’m not planning on everyone agreeing with me, but maybe, together we will see how words can truly affect people’s lives for the better. That is why we write in the first place, isn’t it? To persuade people to view life differently. To highlight alternate perceptions of the reality we all share. I hope that you will join me and we can debate issues and conquer questions that plague our hearts. Hopefully, through sharing with you my faith and unaltered opinions on truth and love, we can discover real truth after scraping away all that seems convoluted by jargon and deception.