Stop Praising God :: I Don't Mean What You Think



The last week brought me many difficult conversations with friends and acquaintances. I want to share one while keeping my friend’s identity and story rather vague for privacy. Bear with me if you will.

I have this friend that likes to call me. Like, she truly calls me on the phone. *gasp* Not a text. Not a Facebook message. She literally calls me. *the horror* She knows that I hate to talk on the phone, but once told me outright, “Look, I like to talk on the phone. If we’re going to be friends, you have to be okay with this.” And so, when her name shows up on my phone, I answer it. Every. Single. Time. After all, friendship means meeting your friends halfway, even when it means getting out of your comfort zone.

So, my friend calls during a lull in school and wants to bounce some thoughts off of me. It’s been bothering her that people use the phrase, “Praise God for hearing our prayers,” because God (in their eyes) did what they wanted Him to do. It was bothering her because she has dear friends that were also praying for desperate things—children to be healed, for instance—and their answers hadn’t been “heard” or “answered.” Had they not done something right? Why had God seemed to hear her prayers and not the prayers of her friends who were then forced to bury their child, feeling they hadn’t done enough to be granted God’s favor?

She said, “Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the power of prayer."

And a light bulb went off.

Prayer isn’t some handy tool.

Prayer is not a ritual that we carry out with grave importance and work desperately to get the formula right so that we are heard and granted our request.

Maybe that’s where the disconnect happens?

God is listening to all of us. He’s listening to us even when we don’t pray. He sees us. He loves us. And he hates that we have pain and sometimes are forced into incredibly painful and dark times where all hope is lost. He doesn’t want us to have to bury our loves…or to feel like He isn’t there…saving us. And what's more, He doesn't only love "Christians." He sees ALL of us. He sees ALL of us. *just in case you doubted that*

When I realized that this wasn’t actually helping my friend, I said that I thought prayer was too convenient a tool for Christians to use, and that praise for the prayers being answered, was also too easy. Where is the praise when things don’t go the way we want them to? Where is the praise when we stand at the grave yard? Where is the praise when we are scared and lonely and lost? 

And maybe that’s it? We get hung up on religious terms. We get hung up on religious acts. Maybe God isn’t so much concerned about us praising Him in the good times? Maybe He is more about our genuine love and faithfulness to Him when the times are good and the times are bad?

Like marriage.


Maybe God just wants us to not give up on Him?

Like marriage.


Maybe He can’t fix everything (I know that someone is going to rally against me on that, but just assume that we don’t know everything about God and that maybe SOME things are out of His hands. Otherwise, wouldn’t He have made sure Eve never ate the apple?)?

Like marriage, we don’t have a perfect story. We have adventures. We have love. We have pain and fear and jobs that are lost. We have life altering moments of sheer joy, and we have moments of crushing terror and loneliness.

But does it break you? Do you run? Do you cheat or throw in the towel? Some of us do. Yet, I think that’s the sort of relationship God wants us to have with Him? He wants a real and committed relationship. And just like me answering my friend's phone call when I don't like it, a real and committed relationship with God doesn't need our flowery prayers, but simply us and our time--both good and bad.

Like marriage, it isn't always perfect. I think God needs us to start talking about that a bit more. If we can't, then we end up hurting our friends who are being deeply wounded because their relationship isn't measuring up to ours. They're standing by a grave while we are "praising God" for coming through for us. God needs us to shut up sometimes, and talk more about the dark parts, the scary parts, that parts where nothing is going right and we're alone and lost. Do that a bit more so that people to bail on Him. Let them know they're aren't alone in their own painful story. Let them understand that they didn't do anything wrong...

God isn’t religion.

God isn’t our prayers.

God isn’t our praise.

He is us.

He is the other half of us.

Without Him, we are not whole. 


And so, dear hearts, might we be careful about how we speak and praise and define Him with cold and empty religious terms?

~Gia

Note: Roger said that this might come off judgemental towards divorced and single readers. So, I would like to pause and explain that I do not mean to say that if you are not married, that your relationship with God is not healthy. I know that many people try and try at marriage and it still ends, or they have been betrayed in their marriage and it ends. This does not reflect your relationship with God. I know that many people have not yet found someone they want to marry. This does not reflect your relationship with God. Some of you might have been married for decades, but know that it isn't always great and hard times are had by all. Some of you may never have a desire to marry at all.  I only used "marriage" as an example of the ultimate commitment within a relationship. Please forgive me if this offended in anyway. 
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Reversing Franklin Graham's Tweets :: Gia Gets Sassy

Yesterday, while painting trim for London’s bedroom, I began to ponder why Christians, a religion that embraces unconditional love (or claim it does), despises the Islamic faith the way it does. Why are Christians so hell-bent that they have it right while offering no grace for anyone else. The only time, it seems, that they offer grace is when they are trying to “save” them.

But people don’t want to be projects, do they?

Take Franklin Graham, for example. He is a leading voice among Evangelicals, and possibly, he’s just the leading voice because of his last name and his father’s popularity. However, Franklin is not his father, and that is growing painfully evident when you read his Facebook posts and tweets. It makes me sick to my stomach to read the comments his posts spur on a great deal of hatred. It almost reads like a rally—him spouting off false truths and his audience hungrily raging with “Preach it!,” and “Amen!”

But what if his statements were reversed? What would it sound like if the bitterness was turned back onto Christianity instead of Islam and homosexuals? What does it look like when we take a step back and realize that faith is personal and not something to use to regulate law or bend our constitution? Let’s find out:

((I have rewritten Franklin’s posts and replaced the religious aspect of Islam with that of Christianity and reversed the language towards homosexuals. I only did February’s posts but plan to later do his January posts and more.))


“The Washington Supreme Court has ruled against Barronelle Stutzman, a 71 year-old grandmother who began working in the floral business 30 years ago. She served and befriended straights at her florist shop, but when her conscience would not allow her to participate in a opposite-sex marriage by creating the arrangements for it, she became a target of the Straight agenda. She told the couple that she couldn’t provide the flowers because opposite-sex was incompatible with her religious beliefs. Where are her personal religious freedoms? Where are her personal rights of conscience? This case underscores the importance of every federal judicial appointment, including the U.S. Supreme Court. There are over 100 federal court judge vacancies right now—pray for President Donald J. Trump to full every court vacancy with our personal God Of Choice—fearing constitutionalist judges who respect and defend our personal religious liberties and the rights of our individual conscience. I met Borronelle last summer in Olympia, Washington, and told her how proud I was of her for standing up for her personal religious beliefspersonal religious beliefs that I happen to share and are of more value and other American’s freedoms.”
~February 17, 2017


“Football season is over and the Super Bowl is behind us. But the NFL is trying to push Straightness through a new pro-opposite sex ad. In this ad they show a man and a woman kissing each other on a “kiss cam.” They’re trying to define sin as a love and make it acceptable. This generation is being bombarded with an upside-down version of truth and love. Don’t fall for it. We have to love people enough to tell them the truth about sin and warn them of it’s consequences as defined by My God Of Choice, not man. My Book And Law tells us, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” ((Which I guess means we talk about the sins of other humans ALL the time in a condemning manner))

~February 16, 2017


“A lot of people are talking about immigration and President Trump’s 7-country ban. At Samaritan's Purse we work in over 100 countries and have worked in most of those on the banned list, so I feel I have something to say about this issue. For example, right now with our Emergency Field Trauma Hospital outside Mosul, Iraq, we are treating Christians, wounded civilians—men, women, and children—many of whom were shot by Extremists That Claim A Warped Version of Christianity (ECS will be “Extreme Christian State) snipers as they fled Mosul. At the same time, we are treating badly wounded ECS fighters. Our medical teams take them in, perform surgery, bind up their wounds, and give everyone the same compassionate, Muslim care—helping them in Muhammad’s Name. We are working to help thousands of refugees every day in different countries. Like the Good Samaritan Muhammad told about in the Quran, we help those who have been hurt along life’s road. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to make the borders of our own country secure. We shouldn’t be na├»ve. Just because we give medical care to ECS fighters doesn’t mean I would want to allow any one of them to immigrate to the United States. That would be crazy. Taking time to vet who we’re allowing to enter America isn’t too much to ask—we need to know who they are. Allah does tell us to help the stranger and those in need; but Allah doesn’t tell us to expose our cities, homes, and lives to hostile people. Remember, Mecca had walls and gates, and when they had a threat, the gates were closed. Many Christian groups have made no secret of their deep and deadly hatred for this country. There is a fundamental incompatibility between Christian's Legalistic Law and our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Pray for wisdom for President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the new administration as they try to work through the challenges to find the best ways to keep America safe and secure.”
~February 11, 2017

“Tonight was the first night of the Festival de Esperanza (Festival of Hope) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Hundreds of mosques from across the island have been praying for this Sharia Crusade. It was a privilege to share with the over 11,000 people who came tonight the Good News that Allah loves them and that their sins can be forgiven. The Quran tells us, “All have sinned” and “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of Allah is eternal life through Muhammad.” That same message—that same Good News—is what changes lives and saves souls in every country around the world, in any language. I’m looking forward to preaching again Saturday and Sunday. Thank you for praying.”
~February 10, 2017

This one here made my breath catch in my throat. The elitist hatred towards others is palpable:



“I’m on my way to Puerto Rico—to warn people that Allah uses extreme vetting. What do I mean by that? I want the people of Puerto Rico to know that Allah loves them and that there is only one way to enter the gates of Paradise—and that is through faith in Muhammad, and Him alone. Good works can’t get you into paradise. Religion can’t either—being a Christian or Jew can’t save you. Muhammad said, “Allah, you are the Light of the Heavens and the Earth. Your Word is the Truth, and Your Promise is the Truth, and the Meeting with You is the Truth, and Paradise is the Truth, and the (Hell) Fire is the Truth, and the Hour is the Truth..” Thousands of Muslims have been praying across the island for this weekend. I’ll be preaching the Good News that Allah loves sinners and sent Muhammad to reveal Himself to His children. My purpose for going is to help Puerto Ricans “immigrate” from earth to Paradise one day. I want Puerto Ricans by the thousands—and people everywhere—to have their immigration status in Paradise stamped and sealed by Allah for all eternity.”
~February 8, 2017


“Today it was my privilege to attend the 65th Annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC. President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were there, along with a packed room of some 3,000 people. There were many prayers lifted up during this event. I thought you would like to hear some of the president’s remarks. He said, “America will thrive as long as we continue to have faith in each other and faith in Allah.” I was also very glad to hear him tell the group, “for those of us in Washington, we must never stop asking Allah for the wisdom to do His will.” He’s exactly right—that’s the key. He closed by saying we are, “one nation under Allah—that’s where we are and that’s where we will be.” I hope you will keep the president and vice president on your prayer list every day.”
~February 2, 2017

****


I realize that most people will read this and loudly declare, “Yes! THAT is why I am fighting tooth and nail to stop those gays and Muslims from taking over our nation! That’s not what I want my children to grow up in!”

But you are wrong.
Why should anyone, you included, be forced to live under the beliefs of an individual's personal faith? In the same way you honestly believe your faith is the ONLY TRUE faith, so do Muslims believe the same about their faith. They have the right as an individual human to believe such things and live out your faith, and so do Muslims. In the same way there are countless denominations in the Christian faith (all living their version of Christianity in different ways), Muslims are also living out their faith in individual and cultural ways. You do not get to define the rights and wrongs of their religion, as I am sure you would not have them do to you.


“But Gia,” you might ask, “what about ISIS. They’re Muslims and they’re killers!”

ISIS are not true Muslims and Muslims all over the world have denounced them and their movement of terror. Please do stop associating all Muslims with a terror group. It is mature or intelligent.

Fellow Christians, we have used our personal faith of choice to single out other humans—our neighbors—to lift ourselves above them. It is not okay. We have become militant in our tactics—speaking of Muslims in terms such as “invade” and “overrun” when they are simply us, but with their own personal faith of choice. We cannot continue to do spiritual battle against our neighbors. If we do, we will constantly be at odds and watching others suffer under hatred, bigotry, and shame. The same applies for how we treat homosexuals and those in the trans community. 

Let’s be what faith is supposed to be: Unconditional Love and Acceptance. Let’s lead a better way.

~Gia
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The Bardo Of Our Memories :: Gia Reads

I am currently reading "Lincoln In The Bardo" by George Saunders. I've just started but have quickly become enchanted by the unusual writing style. I didn't peruse it at all before purchasing it, so when I opened the cover and noticed all the white space and dialogue delivered like a play, I was a little scared and disappointed. This was not going to be a novel like I was used to.

Now, this isn’t a review because I haven’t finished, instead, I want to share (from time-to-time) little things that catch my attention and make it hard for me to keep up the pace of reading. Does that happen to anyone else out there? Do you pause in the middle of a section and get lost in thoughts the printed word stirred up in your mind? Then do find yourself blinking and looking down at the book, completely lost and unable to find where you left off?

Just me?

Oh well.

Back to what I was meaning to share…

*Shakes my head, blinks, and stares down at the keyboard in confusion*

Ah, yes...

Lincoln.



In the early stages of the book, Saunders tells the reader what's happen in “present day” (when Lincoln’s son, Willie, died) by including accounts from real-life people and papers of the day. This, I thought, was going to be rather confusing but turned out to be fascinating. For instance, the night Willie died, the guests of the dinner party held at the White House all described it in different ways. Most people said there was a big, beautiful moon, but once in a while, a guest would say it was a cloudless night, dark and heavy.

I’m not sure why this was of such great interest to me. I suppose I was shocked by how an ordinary detail of the night could be reported so differently. Either there was a big, beautiful moon that lit up the night sky, or there wasn’t. How could anyone miss this detail? And if nights of historical significance, then what else throughout history has been skewed and tainted with poor, liquored-up memories (I suppose the death of Willie Lincoln was a sidebar in history)? Who else was too full of cakes and roasted partridge to remember the details, yet eager to give them anyway to whomever would listen and report?

It’s not just the death of Willie Lincoln. It’s everything.

It’s the bible—the supposed inerrant word of God. Which parts did the author apply their current culture without intending for the future Christians of distant time periods to try to apply it to their modern lives? Where did they indulge in beautiful, descriptive language without understanding how it would be manipulated by powers-that-be in the future?

The disconnect also takes place in our interpretation of how the Muslim and Christian faith are polar opposites when, in truth, they are siblings—blood relatives—not even step-siblings.

It’s our nation’s wretched memory of slavery in the United States. We still don’t want to truly look at that part of our history and swallow the hard truths of it’s deep, and dark evil. We happily pretend to understand and acknowledge it, yet cringe and grow uncomfortable when African Americans feel they are still not equal even today.

All of this diluted mess of history and truth reminds me of the scientific studies that prove that our DNA passes on memories from generation to generation. Scientists believe this might be why we have unreasonable phobias that make little since to us in our present condition, but made perfect since to the first owner of that fear.

I suppose our account of history now is little more than the tidbits—mostly fear—of the generations past. We absorb a small fraction and record it in a way that makes sense to us.

But it’s all skewed, isn’t it?

In the end, it didn’t matter if there was a full moon hanging over the White House; it only mattered that eleven year-old William Wallace Lincoln died much too early. From that moment on, the story of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln changed course. With their son placed within his sick box, their DNA was forever imprinted with melancholy and a depth of sadness all parents hope to never experience.

*Blinks...and sighs...and stares down at the computer, once again lost*


I’m still not sure where I left off, so I will start the chapter over again.

~Gia


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My Story of Depression :: You Are Not Alone



I haven’t blogged in a while. There has been plenty that I’ve wanted to write. My head is bursting with ideas and words and stories…

But I have been very depressed.

*sigh*

It comes in waves.

Well, now, not exactly waves. “Coming in waves” makes it sound like I barely have time to stand up before another wave hits me and knocks me off my feet when it truly is more like a cycle. Maybe it/s like a moon cycle? But even that is too frequent. I would wager that my depression hits hard twice a year. Sometimes more frequently depending on what is happening in my life. I’m sure there are times that it rolls in like ripples after a giant boulder has fallen in a lake, but in the grand scheme of things, the deep, dark, terrible blues come fewer and farther between.

Which is good, I suppose.

However, when I fall into the big pit, it is really tough to get out.

This week, I smoked two cigarettes; it just felt like the thing to do. After the world stopped spinning underneath my feet, I tasted like an ashtray and my hair smelled bad.

That didn’t work (well, I mean, it sorta did, but it's not healthy).

Some folks might recommend turning to God for a respite from the darkness. That just aggravates me. I didn’t turn away from God to begin with.

Turn on worship music. That’s what I’ve seen some people comment to other friends suffering.

Nah.

No.

Not even a little.

Turning on worship music at any point these days makes my skin hurt. When you break up with the church, any reminders of the church kinda feel like what it must be like when a marriage dissolves and you get a whiff of a man wearing a cologne like your ex-husband wore (I really don’t know because I’ve not divorced or suffered through a breakup). But in either case, I’m not turning on worship music.

And that brings us to another point:

I know that my granny is probably praying that I return to church. I’m sure there are some well-meaning people out there that would try to gently tell me that I am suffering this depression because I’ve walked away….

That’s not the answer, either.

Deep down, I know what the answer is, but I’m not about to tell you in a blog post. I’ve just shared enough of my storm-clouded-feelings so that you know I’m depressed—so you know that you’re not alone.

Let’s be honest, we all fall into the hole from time-to-time. Sometimes, you might feel like it comes in waves, battering you. You might feel as if you barely spit out the sea water and wipe the salt from your eyes before another wave hits you hard. Maybe you feel caught in an undertow—a fierce, urderous, violent grasp that you might not recover from? Maybe it feels like this might kill you?

You’re not alone.


Dear heart, you are not alone.


That’s what’s important, right? Knowing that we aren’t the only ones feeling this way; that there is someone that will sit beside us and smoke a cigarette with us and gently touch our hand (because if you’re like me, you don’t want touched too much when you’re in the pit)? They’ll make you a drink and find a way to make you laugh for a little while. They won’t give up on you when the sun comes out the next day and the darkness is still there, maybe even thicker this time around. They will keep walking with you, standing with you, loving you no matter what…

And if you don’t have that, let me know. Don’t sit in the pit alone. Don’t fight the darkness alone. We all need to know we are not alone….

Even when the darkness tells us we really want to be alone.

~Gia
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