Do Something Today That Your Future Self Will Thank You For

Inspirational quote of the day. 🙂

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My review and thoughts on Grace For The Good Girl

Hello to all of you out there reading this. Sorry about my two day hiatus from blogging. I’ve been working insanely hard on composing a song that I wrote. I’m going to be in an upcoming talent show and I want to sing a song that I wrote two years ago called On The Line. I’ve been working on this song for a while, but I think I’m finally getting it to a place where it sounds good (Yay!).

Anyways, my blog post today is going to be on the book Grace For The Good Girl: Letting Go of The Try Hard Life by Emily P. Freeman. I read this book towards the end of last school year and it was amazing. It’s a non-fiction book that I found to be very relatable and thought-provoking. Basically, the target audience for this book is all of the Christian perfectionists and “good girls” of the world. In this book, she refers to herself as a “recovering good girl”. Now this might sound weird, after all, isn’t it good to be good, and to try hard in life?

Absolutely, but sometimes, we can cross a line from trying to do the right things and doing our best at things to becoming paranoid of failure. Sometimes, perfection can even become an idol. I can think of countless examples of perfectionism throughout my own life. A good example of this is my younger, elementary school self. There were times that I’d take a spelling test and get the all of the words correct except for one or two. I should have felt proud of myself for getting an A, but instead, I was disappointed in myself. In the back of my mind, I felt that it could have been a 100% instead of a 95%.

If only I had tried a little harder.

That mentality didn’t just plague elementary school self. It’s a mindset that I carried with me for years (And still struggle with at times). I’d get paranoid when playing a sports game, wanting so badly to win. I’d obsess over grades, trying to get an A in everything. I avoided asking difficult questions about the Bible that I felt I was supposed to know. I started to view devotional books as sort of a checklist. Do this, and don’t do this. It even got to a point where life seemed like a checklist.

Emily Freeman describes this mentality as a mask, trying so hard to conceal weakness, and vulnerability. Though I never thought of it that way, I did realize a couple of years ago that while I still want to strive for my best in everything that I do, I need to let go of some of this stress, and embrace authenticity. I wanted to stop defining myself by things that I strived for and just be myself. Little by little, I’ve gotten better about that, but admittedly, still sometimes fall back into old patterns. Nonetheless, I’ve gotten up the courage to ask hard questions that don’t have simple answers. I’ve gotten better about not defining myself by academic achievement. And while I’m still competitive, I don’t define myself my how many basketball or checker games I win.

If any of this resonates with you, then I encourage you to open up about your questions and your weaknesses. To take off the mask, realize that you’re a work in progress, and realize that only Jesus is perfect. To stop defining yourself by achievement but instead realize that your worth was embedded in you at birth by God. While you should always strive for your best and work hard, don’t let your weaknesses define you. Sometimes, as the apostle Paul says

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV)

Sometimes, it’s in the areas that we’re the weakest in that we need to rely on God the most. This isn’t always taken well by the good girl (Or guy). We want to be strong, independent, and in control. But sometimes, we can’t control life. It’s in the areas that we’re weak that we’re often the most humbled. This is still a lesson that I’m learning myself. Nonetheless, I urge you to not feel discouraged by this. We’re all strong in some ways, and we’re all weak in others. You’re not any less because of those weakness, you’re just human. Sometimes, when we trust God and we’re honest with others, we end up doing a lot of growing. When you look at it this way, life becomes a journey. A storyline. Not a checklist. Not one giant report card, grading you in how well you’re doing at this thing called life.

Life becomes real, and we begin living it. We come out of our places of hiding and our masks of perfection and achievement and become authentic. In the end, I’d rather be honest about my life as it really is than just have awards of achievement handed to me, because the growth is achievement in itself.

If you want to read more on this topic, than I highly recommend reading the book Grace For The Good Girl: Letting Go of The Try Hard Life for yourself.

A song at the end seems to be the usual way that I end blog posts, so I’m going to conclude this one with the song Perfect People by Natalie Grant. I think that many of you out there who have struggled with the self imposed pressure to be perfect will relate to the lyrics of this song.

Note: Many of the points made in this blog post were from the book Grace For The Good Girl: Letting Go of The Try Hard Life, so I owe credit to the author Emily P. Freeman.

Pray For Charleston

By now, you’ve likely heard about the tragedy of the Charleston Church massacre. I found out about it yesterday, from a news article online as well as a post from a fellow blogger. Since then, I took the time to read an article detailing the events of the massacre. Speculations say that the shooter, Dylann Roof, has been planning this shooting for a long time, and that the shooting was race-related.

It’s a very frightening event for America. In the past, we have heard about school shootings, but now the violence is entering our churches as well. I urge churches across America to have security, to prevent something like this from happening again. I also find it sad to hear about another race related hate crime. It seems that a sharp division is developing between races in America, which is something that should have ended with Martin Luther King Jr. Thus, I ask you to pray for reconciliation in America, the people who attend the Charleston church, and for God’s hand of protection over churches throughout America.

A Better Way (Part Two)

Jesus payed much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come-Casting Crowns

Good morning fellow bloggers and readers. Sorry I did not get a chance to blog yesterday. I had insomnia the night before, and thus, was pretty exhausted yesterday, with little energy to think in-depth about my current blog two-parter. 

Nonetheless, I’m feeling good today and I’m going to pick up where I left off. In my last blog post, I talked about a way for Christians to have a more compassionate response to the LGBT Community, and information and conclusions that I’ve personally come to find. Thus, today I’m going to be talking about what we, as the church, can do.

1. Accept singleness as a viable option. I think that is one that can apply to both gay and straight people. There have been times when the response to being single in the church seemed to be “What’s wrong with you?” In not so many words. If churches solely focus on marriage and the nuclear family, it can leave a gay celibate person in a very awkward position. If you look through the Bible, singleness is actually commended, not discouraged. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:8. “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” Nevertheless, the single person in the congregation should be looked at in the same way that the married couple with kids is looked at. Valued members of church and society.

2. Be a family.The last thing that I’d ever want to tell a gay person is to be lonely. This was a big reason why I struggled with my response to this topic for a while. Because whether you’re an introvert or an extravert, we all need people. We all need love, acceptance, and community. Someone to vent to after a long day and someone who we can share a pizza with. In the words of Bill Withers (I’m actually listening to a cover of this song right now!) “We all need somebody to lean on.” Nonetheless, I believe that if we, as Christians begin outreaching to this community and acknowledging these genuine needs, gay oriented people can find this love they need in friendships. Wesley Hill even has a book on this concept, called Spiritual Friendship. I believe that there are a lot of steps that we can take to show Jesus’ command to love your neighbor to the LGBT Community. Julie Rodgers recalls an experience once had in the video that I posted to my last blog entry. She said that her friend once told her that if she ever gets to a place in her life where she feels she’s not known, she’s welcome to live at her house and be Aunt Julie to her kids. Now, I recognize that we can’t all have someone live in our house, but I really love the aunt and uncle concept. What if nuclear families in the church did have an honorary aunt or uncle? I feel that this could be a blessing to both single people and nuclear families. The single people would have a place to go for Easter and Christmas, and a family to call their own. Meanwhile, the nuclear family would have someone to help watch the kids when they go out, or when they simply need an extra hand.

3. Don’t be afraid. I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to have at least some fear of gay people. However, I believe that once we become more informed, the topic no longer becomes one to be afraid of, but rather a people group that aren’t that different from you and me. I believe that pastors need to be especially careful about what they say from the pulpit. It would do immense good to create an atmosphere where gay people feel welcomed and loved, not outcasted and hated. I’ve read that gay people aren’t just out there somewhere in the world, they can be in your church, silent about their struggle.

4. Never Stand For Gay Bullying. http://www.bullyingstatistics.org says, “According to recent gay bullying statistics, gay and lesbian teens are two to three times as more likely to commit teen suicide than other youths. About 30 percent of all completed suicides have been related to sexual identity crisis. Students who also fall into the gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgendered identity groups report being five times as more likely to miss school because they feel unsafe after being bullied due to their sexual orientation. About 28 percent out of those groups feel forced to drop out of school altogether.” This is devastating. Gay people deserve to be treated like people. They do not deserve hate crimes or hate speech. No one does. If you see a gay person being bullied, stand up for them. Though this one ought to be somewhat obvious, we should never condone people being bullied. For orientation or for other reasons.

5. Don’t push for a universal mold-Though there are likely many gay guys who are athletes or soldiers, and many lesbian girls who are supermodels or fashion designers, some may not fit the stereotypical mold of what a guy is “supposed” to be or what a girl is “supposed” to be. Julie Rodgers wrote in one of her blog posts about being paranoid that someone would find out that she was gay, and how she’d even question if she was sitting gay. Granted, I’m sure there are many straight guys and girls who deviate from gender stereotypes as well. Basically, what I’m getting at, is to not freak out or turn your nose in disgust to someone who isn’t your typical model of “guy” or “girl”. If you look through the Bible, there is not one place that says that a guy can’t take ballet or that a girl can’t play sports. In fact, if you look at 2 Samuel 6:16, you see King David leaping and dancing before God. Furthermore, 1 Samuel 16:7 says “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”” (NIV) Furthermore, according to http://www.theguardian.com, in 1890, the Ladies’ Home Journal advised blue for girls, and pink for boys. “In the UK the Women’s Institute was still recommending pink for boys up until 1921.” Thus, I urge you to not make jokes about a guy acting “girly” or a girl acting too guy-ish. It would seem to me, that God looks more at the heart than what a person takes up as a hobby or their mannerisms. If we take the focus off stereotypes, and embrace people’s wonderful and unique personalities, I believe it will take a lot of pressure off of a lot of people and allow us to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.

This is the final post for my A Better Way two-parter, nonetheless, I hope that the information that I have posted within the last two blogs has been interesting and beneficial to you. I believe that we all have the opportunity to create a better way for gay oriented people. Change starts right where you are, as you interact with people everyday. I urge you to show kindness and God’s love to LGBT oriented people and people in general. Who knows, you could make a new friend, and you could impact a life.

I have no idea what the band Tenth Avenue North had in mind when they wrote their recent hit, No Man Is An Island, but this song has always seemed to fit very well with what I just blogged about. Thus, I feel it is fitting to post this song as a final conclusion to my two part series.

A Better Way (Part One)

Nobody knows what we’re for only what we’re against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did-Casting Crowns

Today I’m going to be addressing a topic that’s difficult, yet one of the most pressing issues in Christian circles right now. It’s a sensitive topic, so admittedly, I’ve been a little apprehensive about blogging on this subject. Thus, I’m going to ask you to put biases and preconceived notions aside and listen objectively to what I’m going to say.

We live in a generation with a lot of big topics and news articles popping up. Nonetheless, one that seems to be especially reoccurring is the topic of homosexuality. According to williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu, there are approximately nine million adult Americans who identify as LGBT, not including teenagers. While the LGBT crowd is still technically a minority, nine million is a pretty huge amount of people.

Homosexuality is still a fairly new topic in American culture. Though it’s been around since the Biblical days, and though there were likely “closeted” gay oriented people throughout American history, it’s only been openly discussed since roughly the 1980s. Nonetheless, the newness of it in American culture hasn’t stopped people from speaking out very loudly on the topic. The best analogy that I can think of to describe the conversation surrounding this issue would have to be a game of ping pong. Both stances, hurling insults back and forth. Often, the shouting match is so loud that neither side can really hear what the other is saying.

I remember I was about fourteen when I first really started having serious questions about the topic. As many young teenage girls do, I read articles by my favorite singers and actors. By doing so, I was exposed to a pretty good deal of information on homosexuality, as many of them spoke out in support of the LGBT Community. I heard statistics of gay suicide rates and some of the legitimate struggles of gay oriented people. Hearing about how often gay oriented people struggle with depression stirred up a lot of compassion in me. I than thought back to things that I heard on the topic from Christian circles, and felt seriously conflicted. What was my view on the topic?

For a long time, my view simply bounced back and forth, whichever seemed right at the time. To some degree, I tried to avoid the topic as hearing about it only seemed to cause more confusion. One problem with that method. I couldn’t escape hearing about it. The harder I tried to avoid the topic, the more it popped up. I remember hanging out with some of my friends one day, and one friend telling us how her friend recently came out of the closet to her. None of us had any real advice. One friend simply said she disagreed with it and my other friend and I merely sat back and said nothing. Another thing that triggered questions was a character on a long running TV show. Throughout the show, it is speculated that one of the characters is gay. Interesting thing is, it’s never even hinted that the character is with someone of the same gender. So it made me wonder, what about people who are just attracted to people of the same gender? What are the rules when it comes to mere orientation?

Finally, I confessed my questions to my Mom, who told me to go research it. I had thought about that before, but was always a little hesitant, worried that I wouldn’t like the answer that I would find. Reluctantly, I googled Christian view on homosexuality, expecting to see somewhat homophobic answers. To my surprise, I found a very lengthy article on the subject. It said something that really struck a chord with me. It said that just as an alcoholic can stand up in an AA meeting and say that they’re an alcoholic, but through God’s grace, not drinking, so can a gay person stand up in a prayer meeting and say that they have a gay orientation (Same sex attraction), but through God’s grace, they’re living chastely. That one sentence, though relatively simplistic, was packed with a lot of information to me.

One, that having a gay orientation is not a sin, two that churches should allow gay oriented people to be open and honest about that part of themselves. I really liked that stance there. It allowed me to hold to both my understanding of scripture and my compassion for the LGBT Community.

I didn’t have to compromise anything.

That article prompted me to research the topic even further, spending hours reading books and articles on having a compassionate, understanding, Christian approach to homosexuality. I found some articles and videos by awesome, wise, Christian gay and lesbian people such as Julie Rodgers and Wesley Hill who helped me better understand this issue.

I’ve been asked why this is such an important topic to me, being that I’m not gay myself. I suppose that a big reason that this topic is so important to me, is because gay people have often been outcasted for being different. While I can’t relate to being attracted to other girls, there have been times in the past that I’ve felt like an outcast. I’ve been in classes where I didn’t have any friends, forcing me to sit awkwardly by myself. There have been other times that I’ve been the “odd one out” because my taste in movies or television has been different than what’s popular, because I don’t share in the same hobbies as the people that I’m hanging out with, etc. I’m not saying this to have a pity party but rather to explain why this is an important topic to me and how many of us, in that way, can find common ground with gay oriented people.

To sum up this blog post, what if there’s a better way to handle this topic than merely saying “I don’t support gay marriage”. What if, we loved this group of people unconditionally, the way that Jesus loves all of us? What if we took the time to try to understand their struggles and listen to their stories? What if we befriended them, looking deeper than gay and seeing them as one of God’s beautiful creations? I understand that this is a topic that isn’t often addressed and that it can be somewhat complex, so if you have any questions about what I said in this article, I urge you you to post them in the comments section. I’ll do the best that I can to answer them.

This is a very thought insightful and thought provoking video by a woman who is both gay and Christian, Julie Rodgers. Julie has a blog on WordPress as well if you would like to know more about this topic from someone who has lived it first hand.