Not Pro-Choice, Nor Pro-Life

There’s way too much rhetoric out there about this topic already, and I think most people who’ve formed their opinions on it are set and not willing to consider the public facts, stories, etc., available to them (though I hope that’s not the case). But education is our best weapon when it comes to making informed decisions on what we do or do not support.

I’m not pro-choice. But I’m not pro-life either. I’m not either of these because I feel like they boil down an issue to the bare minimum and position both sides as positive, when neither side is really positive if you think about it with a wide-angle view.

I’m not pro-choice because I don’t think abortion is a choice someone makes because they want to make it. No one is excited to have an abortion. It’s not Plan A when it comes to birth control tactics. It’s not a spa treatment or other luxury in which we partake on a relaxing weekend.

I’m not pro-life because that implies I support enacting legislation dictating someone’s personal health decisions based on my personal faith. I don’t believe I have a say in whether a woman or a couple makes the decision to terminate a pregnancy because they’re in financial strife, they’re homeless, they’re teenagers, they’re struggling with their physical or mental health, etc. I also believe that if one truly wants to call him/herself “pro-life,” they need to be actively supporting legislation and services that aid single mothers, young mothers, young families, homeless mothers/fathers, foster care systems, and child-care systems.

Both the pro-choice and pro-life terms are hypocritical. Both terms imply we are using abortion as our only form of birth control and it’s a choice we make like what we’re going to have for breakfast.

I am, however, pro-Planned Parenthood and pro-health clinic. I’m pro-Planned Parenthood because just 3 percent of the services they provide are abortions and the rest (97%) of what they do is provide healthcare for women and men who need it and can’t afford or don’t have insurance to visit a traditional doctor’s office.

Reproductive rights encompass so much more than having the choice to have an abortion. Reproductive health includes breast exams and referrals to screening facilities when necessary, vasectomies, pap smears, STD screenings and treatment or prevention, birth control, prostate, colon and testicular cancer screenings, and male infertility screenings. All of these are services Planned Parenthood provides. They also refer patients to adoption service providers and counselors.

So when you vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood, you’re voting to de-fund an organization that does so much more than provide abortions. When you protest the right to choose, you’re protesting against a man or woman walking into a Planned Parenthood to get checked for reproductive cancer or infertility because, remember, 97% of what Planned Parenthood provides are services other than abortions. You’re protesting someone being proactive in securing their reproductive health. You’re lumping an entire organization and the people it helps into a protest against 3 percent.

Maybe there are other things you might want to consider getting up-in-arms about instead of a 3 percent. Did you know child trafficking and human trafficking (selling humans for the purpose of exploitation) are real issues globally and in the United States?

This post is not meant to instigate a pro-or-anti abortion argument. This post is meant to encourage education and dispel myths while helping readers understand what Planned Parenthood and reproductive health clinics actually do. I would not personally get an abortion because I do not believe it aligns with my faith. I believe life is a precious gift and that God personally creates each of us. However, I do not think creating legislation based on faith aligns with my faith, either.

The Post-Truth Era

Like it or not, we’re in the post-truth era. Fake news is rampant and we need to do our due diligence to ensure what we’re seeing and hearing is factual so we can make informed decisions. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to discern truth and fact even with due diligence. Did you know that video about Planned Parenthood selling fetus parts has been proven inaccurate because fetuses can be donated (with patient consent) to researchers and the recipients (the researchers) can choose to reimburse the expense to the healthcare facility for preservation, transportation, etc.? There have also been state-specific investigations that have proven Planned Parenthood is complicit with the laws against selling fetus parts.

Did you know partial-birth abortion is a political, not medical, term? And that dilation and extraction, to which partial-birth abortion refers, is a rare procedure conducted when the fetus has a fatal defect and will not survive or the mother is at risk herself?

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The Case for Claus

Christmas is over. We’ve bought, wrapped, eaten, sung, eaten, unwrapped, eaten. We’ve taken part in our respective holiday traditions, which, for a lot of us, includes a visit from Santa Claus.

me-as-santa
That’s me. Doing my best bowl-full-of-jelly Santa impression.

I know there are people who choose not to partake in the Santa Claus tradition. And that’s fine. But the people who grind my gears are those who ruin it for the Santa believers. Many who choose to not include in Santa in their Christmas traditions claim he isn’t biblical. Yes, Santa in our modern-day society has come to represent commercialism, but his origin is about generosity and Jesus. And while Santa isn’t actually mentioned explicitly in the Bible, all the things he stood for are there.

St. Nicholas, the fourth century bishop of Myra (modern-day Turkey) on whom the Santa Claus we know today is based, showed his devotion to God through kindness and generosity to those in need. Yep, you read that right: fourth century. That’s like, a long-ass time ago.

St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, modeled true giving and faithfulness and is known as a lover of the poor and patron saint of children. He was devoted to Jesus and he did a lot of Jesus-y things. When Myra experienced a famine in AD 311, 312 and 333, Bishop Nicholas convinced sailors carrying wheat cargo to give a measure of grain from each ship so the people could eat. The sailors gave the wheat, and then continued to Alexandria where the full amount of wheat was accounted for.

In AD 325 he confronted and slapped a man teaching that the Son Jesus was not equal to Father God. Nicholas was stripped of his office and placed in prison, where he encountered Jesus bringing him the book of the Gospels and Mary bringing him his stole. This miracle had him reinstated. When three soldiers on leave in a port that served Myra were arrested and sentenced to death during a mob situation, Bishop Nicholas grabbed the sword from the executioner’s hands and had the innocent soldiers cleared of their charges. He successfully implored Constantine to have the high taxes of Myra greatly reduced. After Constantine declared tolerance for Christianity, Nicholas destroyed idol shrines, drove away demons and built churches in Myra.

That back-in-the-day “Santa” was a pretty cool dude. And while our Santa tradition has evolved to be more kid-friendly, he still represents generosity and good will.

In the end, each parent has to decide whether they want to have the Santa tradition. But maybe your Santa tradition can be more about teaching devotion to Jesus, generosity and love instead of greed and commercialism.

We are all refugees

Neighbors NightWhile a few radical (and misguided) Christians were ranting about some red cups, and most of us were like “huh?” terrorists were attacking. Every minute of every day someone is committing unprovoked attack on others.

A lot of immediate reactions were posted on social media, spoken about on political platforms, or blogged about in newspaper columns and personal sites. And unfortunately, a lot of the immediate reactions have been at the expense of refugees.

Is it possible for terrorists to exploit a refugee status to enter a country for their own evil agenda? Of course. They’re terrorists, they’re going to take advantage of every system and every kindness to inflict harm on those not conforming to their ways. What’s unfair is blaming those seeking refuge from these terrorists.

There are always going to be those who use the system to their own advantage. Always. And yes, there are some systems that could be better with a little tweaking. But should we do away with a whole system that’s providing solace to innocents because terrorists may be exploiting it?

As children of God, we don’t have the privilege to decide who does and doesn’t deserve help. If this were true, and I were the prophet encountering Saul of Tarsus after he was blinded, I would have declined helping him. God would have used someone else (because He’s God), but what if he hadn’t? A huge chunk of the New Testament (and Paul’s ministry) would be missing because I took it upon myself to decide Saul didn’t deserve help. Who am I to say no to a person God created in His image?

Should we use discernment and recognize when we’re being taken advantage of? Of course. That’s where setting healthy boundaries comes into play. But we have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus. We’re here to spread love and help people understand God’s love for them. And, quite frankly, the current cry that only Christian refugees be helped isn’t Christian at all because then we are playing God and deciding who gets accepted into His family.

While in Budapest, I had the opportunity of meeting a family that served the refugees coming into Europe through Hungary. While talking, the topic of “what if” came up because David, the husband and father, said they encountered that question often. “What if you are helping a terrorist?” His answer was basically: “What if, in the simple act of handing a banana to a person in need, I’ve changed his entire perspective of the world, and they choose a different path?”

We’re all refugees. Adam and Eve’s sin banned us from the original world and plan God had, propelling us into a world where we constantly face the struggle between Good and evil. The Good News is that evil has already lost this war. The bad news is that we still have to decide how we respond to evil in our midst. Do we increase our love, kindness and compassion, heaping coals on evil, glorifying the Kingdom, or do we ourselves fall victim to our refugee status and believe Satan’s lies, closing ourselves off to people because they “might be” terrorists?

For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. Matthew 25:35-36

In December, my community is hosting an evening of dinner and music to raise funds to support a refugee family’s move to the United States. Visit the website for more information or to donate to Neighbors Night: Refugee Fundraiser.

Unplugging to Recharge

“You have permission to say no to something and give yourself a break.” –My Therapist.

As she said this I physically felt my shoulders relax and air enter my lungs. It felt like the first real breath I’ve taken since before
my crazy whirlwind mission trip in Budapest. Which is so, so, so, so silly. Ridiculous, actually.

Because I’m rest’s biggest advocate. I have an unhealthy attachment to rest. I get mad at people who don’t give themselves breaks.

But for some reason I’ve gotten into a rhythm where I get the bare minimum to keep me running for the next day, and the cycle perpetuates itself even though I can feel myself draining. I can feel my joy, enthusiasm for life, and closeness to God draining.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, guys. As in, this isn’t Biblical, and not at all what God wants for us. Does he want us to work hard? Damn right. But he doesn’t want us to kill ourselves, to drain ourselves to the point of becoming robotic. He wants us to have close, personal relationships with each other and with Him. We can’t do that if we’re pushing ourselves to do rather than to be.

If we’re made in God’s likeness, then it goes without saying that we should be trying to be like God. And guess what? God rested!

This weekend was my Sabbath. I turned off my computer, silenced my phone, and only spoke to the person behind the counter when I picked up my pizza. I napped, Netflix binged, and, most importantly, spent some time with God, whom I’ve been neglecting.

And despite the fact that I still got a migraine at the tail-end, I feel better. I feel rejuvenated. I feel like I can now work out of a place of rest, rather than pushing myself to extend past exhaustion. I can return to my relationships more wholeheartedly.

Most importantly, I feel realigned with my God.

When was the last time you really rested?

Budapest 2015: The Three-Fer Trip

It seems that 2015 has been the lead-up year. I’ve been raising support, talking to people and writing about my mission trip to Budapest. Well, I’m back from Budapest. And I’m exhausted. But in a good way.

In July, we learned that the official Bringing in the Hungarian Harvest (BHHP) week-long program was canceled. The CRU missionaries on-the-ground in Budapest had had a rough year and needed a break to recharge. Because we’d already been really busy fundraising and still felt God was pulling us to Budapest, we refocused our attention on serving and ministering to the missionaries. Originally, BHHP is a week-long blitz in public and private school English classes to build relationships with students and encourage them to connect with CRU (Fèk) for life-application resources. We also brought large, heavy suitcases full of blankets, underwear and socks (among other supplies) for the Syrian refugees, and spent an evening learning more about the Europe refugee crisis with a family that is actively involved in helping the refugees.

Long story short, we ended up being able to go to English classes AND minister to the missionaries AND serve the refugees. Which made for a crazy hectic week for us. But the missionaries were so thrilled and grateful to have us cooking for them and spending time in fellowship, and the students were incredibly responsive to having us in their classes.

And now, I’m in recovery. While I technically took two weeks of vacation from work, and we took a mini-vacation to Croatia before coming home, this was hard, draining work. But so, so worth it.

As I’m processing, I’ll share more of what we did and my own revelations I’m sure I’ll be working through for the rest of my life, but I wanted to share some photos and ask for continued prayers for the Youth at the Threshold of Life program (which is what Fèk stands for in Hungarian) and the missionaries dedicating their lives to being the hands and feet of Jesus in Budapest and Europe, along with the refugees and those putting their lives on hold to provide comfort, safety and medical care to them.

Here's me attempting to
Here’s me attempting to “teach” by drawing a map of the U.S. to show where I’m from. I will not be sharing a photo of my sad map.
classroom small group
After introducing ourselves and playing a game to encourage interaction, we broke into small groups and listened to a lesson. This year’s lesson was about Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ). Then we would discuss with our groups. Sometimes they wanted to talk about EQ, sometimes they didn’t. Regardless of what we talked about, this gave us some time to build rapport with the students and invite them to the FEK outreach event on Friday night.
FEK Friday Outreach event for high school students. The theme was The Maze Runner. We showed clips of the movie, but it was in Hungarian. So now I'll have to watch it in English!
FEK Friday Outreach event for high school students. The theme was The Maze Runner. We showed clips of the movie, but it was in Hungarian. So now I’ll have to watch it in English!
At the outreach event, the students completed an obstacle maze. At my station they had to work as a team to build something creative using dominoes.
At the outreach event, the students completed an obstacle maze. At my station they had to work as a team to build something creative using dominoes.
This team was awesome! They worked together to build a Domino Unicorn.
This team was awesome! They worked together to build a Domino Unicorn.
Here's us! We dubbed ourselves the
Here’s us! We dubbed ourselves the “rebels” because we decided to still come to Budapest and serve.

Ew, the high road

Taking the high road sucks. I’m in a season where I’ve been particularly tested in this, and while I’m actually doing ok, I’m internally suffering that I can’t be Batman, the justice vigilante.

A few years ago, I was at Bennigan’s with my mom, standing in line to be seated. I watched an older gentlemen with two small children berate the host after the host explained that the restaurant was short-staffed that day and it would take a little longer for their food to get to their tables. I watched this guy make a fool of himself by blaming a teenager for the fact that they had a few staff members call in sick and TGIFriday’s down the block was closed. He did this in front of a line of people waiting for a table, and in front of his small children.

As he walked past in a huff, I called him an “asshole.” When he turned around to ask what I said, I think he thought I’d turtle-up and say “nothing.” Instead, I told him he had no right to treat the host the way he did, it’s not the kid’s fault the restaurant is short-staffed or that TGIFriday’s is closed. He walked directly toward me as if he was going to smack me. I stood my ground and he thought better of it. He then turned and tried to backhandedly apologize to the host by saying he didn’t mean to imply all this was his fault. Poor kid.

I’m both proud and disappointed in myself when I think about that moment. I stood up for someone who wasn’t able to stand up for himself. I recognized injustice and boldly called  out entitled behavior. I stood my ground and didn’t flinch as he approached to hit me. I hope his children remember that moment and treat others with respect because of it. I hope he remembers that moment and treats other with respect because of it.

I’m disappointed because I handled the situation poorly using foul language in front of children and strangers. I mean, let’s be honest here. I use foul language on a regular basis. But I try to not do it in front of kids, and I try to be a good witness to Jesus because life is just one big mission trip. I behaved rashly and emotionally, and tried to fight negativity with more negativity—which is not at all effective.

This month, I was sexually harassed by a middle school boy, I watched a man on a bicycle hit an elderly woman while attempting to ride through a crowd on the sidewalk, and I watched a feed of comments on a Facebook community board turn into ugly, personal, racist attacks. And now we, as a nation, are experiencing how ugly people can be to each other, watching potential presidential candidates belittle each other and stigmatize large groups of people.

What am I doing? I mean, what am I doing besides writing this post and praying?

Nothing. I’m not at the point yet where I’ve figured out how to respond to injustice maturely, without resorting to foul language, violence or personal attacks.

Please note: I’m in no way advocating those who’ve experienced injustice to just lay down and take it. Remember, we’re not door mats.

But I do think sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing, especially when you’re fighting the urge to reenact Peter lopping off people’s ears. Sometimes, no matter how hard it is, it’s best to take the high road.

I don’t believe in Karma, but I do believe God is our ultimate Judge and the One in control. He’ll take care of it. Even that little middle school turd who made kissy faces at me.

Forbidden Fruit. Actually, Forbidden Cake.

glutenfreeBecause of a multitude of health issues that don’t seem explainable by any one diagnosis, I am now gluten-free at the advice of my doctor.

Yes, I’ve become THAT person. The one at the restaurant who has to talk to the server about her options. The one who has to spend extra time at the grocery store figuring out what she can buy. The one who has to ask if a company party will have gluten-free food and drink choices. Seriously.

I’ve never been annoyed by THOSE people before. I more felt bad for what they have to miss out on. Pasta?! Bread?! Donuts?! BEER?! But I’m finding myself really annoying. Because now I feel like I’m imposing on others. I seem to have copious amounts of grace for others in this situation, just not for myself.

I’m trying to look at this as an adventure. “Think of how much healthier you’ll feel!” “Think of all the stuff you can still eat and drink!” “Maybe you won’t feel sick anymore!” But really. Ugh.

I know I can’t apologize for this, because it’s who I am and I’m not going to compromise my health for the sake of convenience. Just thinking about what gluten is probably doing to my body strengthens my resolve. But I can’t seem to help internally cringing every time I have to mention it or talk about it, and I’m only eight days in! This isn’t just a diet, it’s a whole new lifestyle.

Thank you, Jesus, that Reese’s Pieces are gluten-free.

My Rainbow Soap Box

The news right now is full of people speaking out for or against civil liberties for the LGBTQ community.
Here’s the thing. Why is this still a thing? Why do people feel like they are entitled to dictate how others should live? Unless these people are physically, spiritually, emotionally or otherwise directly causing harm to another person, WHO CARES!?
Maybe I’m radical, but I strive to stay true to Jesus when He instructs us not to judge one another but to love one another. And no amount of explanation can justify hate crimes or legislature that criminalizes people’s personal choices that aren’t endangering others.
I’m weary of the Pharisaical atmosphere the world has taken, with individuals pushing their ideas of what lifestyles are “right” and “wrong” onto others. You know what the Pharisees did? They created laws and standards of living that forced people to abide by their ideas of right and wrong. How is this different than what some are doing today to make gay marriage illegal or publicly shame those embracing their own identities?
I’m weary of people citing the Bible and God to justify their acts of hate. I must have missed the part where it said to push your beliefs on others and make them feel less-than-human when I skipped to the part where Jesus said to love your neighbor as you love yourself as the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-40).
Hate is never justified.
But, Sodom and Gomorrah, you say? Yes, God took out Sodom and Gomorrah. Because they were living like heathens, having sex with everything that moved (I mean, they tried to rape Angels, for Pete’s sake). God didn’t wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah because it was full of people entering into committed, monogamous relationships with one another, he wiped them out because they were willful, disobedient jerks who just wanted to have mass orgies.
But, slippery slope, you say? Maybe it is a slippery slope. But I highly doubt allowing two consenting adults to enter into committed, monogamous relationships will result in global pedophilic, Bacchanalian mania. Maybe, but, really? If I’m wrong, please do come and find me and rub it in, though, because you’d totally have the right to claim “told ya’s” over me.
In the end, if you’re a believer, then you believe God is in control. You’ve surrendered control to God, so please let God continue to reign, and just respond obediently to Jesus’ instructions to love God and love one another.

Beauty from Ashes

This week, my Fusion Church family had the opportunity to celebrate the life of one of our own who recently took her own life. Yes, I said we had the opportunity.

We are mourning, our hearts are hurting and we are struggling to make sense of tragedy.

But we’re joyful. Because we got to do life with her, and we got to see her accept Jesus as her Savior, claiming her true identity as a daughter of our Creator. We got to see her radiance as she worshipped at service, and her smile as she served her community.

The memorial service was a combination of sadness and happy memory sharing, and a combination of this woman’s old and new lives. It was beautiful, and a perfect example of what church should always be.

While we are created in God’s image, with his imprint, we aren’t created to all fit in the same one-size-fits-all box. This week we celebrated the life of an artist who had already walked a long, difficult road at the young age of 22. But the lives she touched were well-represented by the diverse group that gathered on Monday evening.

Monday’s memorial was a true testament to God’s goodness. Satan might think he scored a goal, preying on this woman’s weaknesses by feeding her lies she ultimately succumbed to, but God prevailed with beauty from ashes, uniting believers and non-believers. Giving us an opportunity to serve God. To comfort, empathize and just give a simple hug or handshake.

This death was not in vain, and the Enemy did not win. He simply succeeded in renewing the raising up of Heaven’s Armies to unify, strengthen and demonstrate God’s true presence on Earth. God doesn’t desire bad to happen on Earth, but He does use it to sow seeds of good.

I’m Just a Girl

Guys, my spidey senses are tingling. A video circulating the internet features a pastor in Florida claiming that male leadership is “the only kind of leadership.” Whew, thank goodness someone said it, because now I’m free from the burden of leading…?

In the video, he tells his church to not be afraid to go to a church with male leadership, and that “every church that’s right with God should have a sign claiming ‘Male Leadership.’ Because that’s the only kind of leadership, both from Adam all the way to the last part of the Bible. It’s all been male. This is a man’s world!”

I’m not going to link to this video because my aim here is not to draw attention to this man spewing nonsense, but to raise the flag that women, and diversity, are so so so very important in the church.

If you’re posting a sign outside your church lauding leadership by a specific group of people with a specific trait, you’re limiting the power of your church body. Not to mention promoting a stereotype of Christians as exclusive, sexist elitists.

Women play a key role in the history laid out in the Bible. Let’s start from the beginning and work our way to today.

  • In Genesis, the original Hebrew wording describes Eve as a coworker of equal status to Adam.
  • Miriam, the daughter of Aaron, was a prophet and one of the three leaders of Israel in the Exodus from Egypt.
  • Esther married King Xerxes and used her logic and courage to hinder a planned slaughter of the Jewish people.
  • Deborah was a prophet-judge and headed the army of ancient Israel.
  • Jesus found fit to reveal his true identity as the Messiah to the woman at the well, who then ran back to her town to spread the word, leading many to Jesus and rebirth.
  • Women were the first to find the empty tomb and bring the news to the other disciples.

Or maybe we can just look at our own competent, capable female leaders of today: Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady, a U.S. Senator, and candidate for President of the U.S. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who currently serves on the U.S. Supreme Court. Mary McAleese is the President of the Republic of Ireland. Veronica Michelle Bachelet is the President of Chile. Sonia Gandhi is the President of the Indian National Congress and leader of the United Progressive Alliance.

Mind you, these are high profile leaders, and just a handful of the women leaders we have among us today. Embracing male and female co-leadership is vital because men and women are different in a lot of important ways. Creating a diverse, flourishing church means putting value on the different experiences that bring unique perspectives together. That means embracing both men and women of a variety of ages and races as members and leaders.

I shouldn’t feel lucky that my church community and my workplace embrace me as a leader and want me to grow in it. But I do, because of people like this pastor in Florida, and the old school thinking that women need to be quiet and have babies. Ugh. Why are we still talking about this? Why is this still a thing?

Jesus wasn’t about sameness, and he wasn’t about following the accepted norms of society. He broke barriers between men and women, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, elite and lower class. He broke the barrier between humanity and deity, for Pete’s sake. So if the biggest barrier of all is broken (between God and human), why are we still facing barriers for as women leaders?